Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa Baby for Writers

I've finally made an actual VIDEO of my "Santa Baby for Writers" song parody. I know; no one is going to give me a job in Hollywood as a movie editor. Blame the dancing stockings' lack of rhythm on my limited cinematography skills.


I've added videos to my website, too. A couple of song videos and one recorded while I was visiting Coventry Elementary School last year.


Happy holidays!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An oldie but goodie

Here's a song parody I recorded a couple of years ago. It disappeared off my website when I redesigned it, so I offer it here, just in time for the holidays!

Kim Norman

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When IS a good time to submit?

“Nobody reads anything in December. They’re busy planning holiday parties.”

“It’s summer. Don’t even bother to submit anything now. Editors are all away on vacation, and nobody is reading anything until the fall.”

This is the sort of talk I’ve heard over the years about the futility of submitting manuscripts over the holidays or in the summer... or a half-dozen other times of the year. It’s frustrating advice because there seem to be so many other times of the year when submissions are discouraged.

“All the publishers are in Bologna right now. No sense in submitting anything.”

One publisher even specifies a single month of the year when they will accept submissions. (And I'm not sure they even do that anymore.) For goodness sakes. When ISN’T it a bad time to submit?

Well, here’s good news – about December and summer, anyway. Some big sales have happened during those months, so don’t be daunted by nay sayers.
Sue Corbett, author of the recently released THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA, has told me that her first novel, TWELVE AGAIN, was first read and noticed during the holidays.

Jennifer Mattson, an associate agent with the highly-regarded Andrea Brown Literary Agency, believes there is really no bad time to submit. “June and July submissions can be quite nice because editors have a little more leisure to empty their in-boxes, (many officially have half-day Fridays for summer hours, but stick around into the quiet afternoons to get caught up) and some even bring manuscripts on their vacations.”

She does agree that late summer can be a little slower. “August isn't such a great time because many bigwigs go away on long trips, so it's hard to get deals formalized. But in general, I would say, don't write off summertime submissions!”

Besides, since manuscripts often sit in slush piles for months, there is almost no correlation between when a manuscript is mailed and when it is read.

Authors I talked with have similar summertime stories to tell. Jennifer Ward, (jenniferwardbooks.com), is happy to report: “Most of my published books were summer sales. Keeping with the trend, I just sold a picture book to Marshall Cavendish; signed the contract just a few weeks ago.”

There is also activity in subsidiary sales during the summer. Alex Flinn, (alexflinn.com), whose novel BEASTLY is now in production with a hot young cast from CBS Films, tells me she sold audio book rights in June to three books: BEASTLY, KISS IN TIME and her upcoming book.

When Jennifer Mattson consulted her colleagues at the Andrea Brown agency, she heard opinions similar to her own. “Several of us have made major sales in the summertime. The consensus is that there are no off seasons in publishing anymore – so let that be motivation to authors to overcome those doldrums!”


Kim Norman's first picture book, JACK OF ALL TAILS, was released by Dutton, a Penguin imprint, in 2007.  CROCODADDY, (Sterling, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble), debuted as the May 2009 feature for the Children's Book of the Month Club. She is looking forward to the release of two Sterling titles in 2010: TEN ON THE SLED, (illustrated by Liza Woodruff), and ALL KINDS OF KITTENS, a "Storytime Sticker" title. I KNOW A WEE PIGGY WHO WALLOWED IN BROWN, illustrated by Henry Cole, will be published by Dutton in 2012. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Website: kimnorman.com

This article first appeared in Kim Norman's "Outside the Lines" column in the summer 2009 issue of the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI's newsletter, "The Highlighter."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A squeaky clean visit with Elizabeth Dulemba

Wow, time flies! Nearly half a year ago, I spent happy hours in a car with Elizabeth Dulemba as we traveled together to a school in Clanton, Alabama. We had been hired as the visiting author and illustrator of the day. We were a bit early for checking into our hotel rooms, so we found some great shopping nearby where Elizabeth bought that DIVINE wrap you see her wearing below and on her School Visits page. (In fact, the video was shot during that same visit)
I wish had transcribed all the wonderful things we talked about during that car trip and our marvelous meals together. Ah well, in lieu of sharing that conversation with you, I'll share this one, instead...

Hi Elizabeth! Congratulations on the "birth" of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP! Having enjoyed many hours with you in an authentic Mexican restaurant, *I* already know the answer to this question, but my readers might not, so can you tell us a little something about your decision to learn Spanish when you took on this project?

I took French in High School and college (and was an exchange student in Paris), but don't get much chance to practice in Georgia. Here, it's all about Spanish, which I've wanted to learn for years. My 40th birthday was looming and I LOVE Jack Tales, so when Raven Tree Press approached me to illustrate Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, a bilingual adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk," I jumped at the chance. Here was my excuse to finally learn Spanish! I signed up for classes at the Latin American Association in Atlanta thinking, no biggie, I'll take lessons. Little did I know what a life-changing impact the LAA and the people there would have on my life!!

Luckily, Paco did so well (it won a Moonbeam Children's Book Award Bronze Medal), my publisher wanted more. It seemed a natural fit to do another Jack Tale adaptation - this time with a slightly less well-known story, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP (now also bilingual: SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON!)

SOAP isn't your first multi-cultural book. How did you happen to find yourself in the multi-cultural market?

It's funny, since Paco I've received many, many jobs creating multi-cultural illustrations - I must have done something right! In fact, the three books I did for the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series feature Hispanic, African American and Asian characters. I love creating multi-cultural characters - the different bone structures are challenging, so perhaps they slow me down a bit to make sure I'm getting everything right.

I know you work on a computer, (I've seen that marvelous 2-screen setup on your desk) but to me, your work is very painterly. It also has a sort of collage quality to it, as though you cut out the images and collaged them onto paper. Can you talk a little bit about how you give your work its distinctive look?

Thank you! I make a point of making sure people can't tell how I work, and try hard to include as much texture as possible (challenging in the 2-D digital world). That's where the collage elements come in. To me, texture (and color) with all their various nuances are downright fascinating!

You're a marvelous, energetic school presenter who really connects with students. What do you like students to take away from your school presentations?
You are too kind! I have a blast sharing my work with kids - probably because I still am one. But I'm a kid who had a dream and made it happen. I hope I get that across the most - that anybody can make their dream come true with hard work, dedication, and pure stubbornness! (Yes, there is a good side to that trait.)

I know you're also a savvy marketer with a large email list of subscribers to your newsletter. Can you offer any advice to new authors looking to promote themselves and their books?

I have to admit I stumbled into the secret - which is to GIVE. I was already writing articles for the SCBWI Bulletin, teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School and basically trying to pay it forward as much as possible. But when I started giving away coloring pages on my blog (for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to share with their kids), things really took off. The collection has grown quite large over the last two years and people can now sign up to receive Coloring Page Tuesday alerts in their in-box every week. I love seeing the new subscriptions come in - from libraries, schools, children's hospitals, even nursing homes - it's a thrill to know my work is being shared to spread a little joy like that.

Thanks Kim!

Thank YOU, e! (You have probably noticed by now that Elizabeth likes to just go by "e" in her online posts.) You can read more about our visit to Clanton, and see photos of "e" in action THIS ARTICLE and photo collection published by the Clanton Advertiser.

And if you can't get enough of "e," (I can't!), click HERE to see her full SOAP, SOAP, SOAP blog tour schedule


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My "Tread-Desk!"

Or maybe I should call it my "Treadesk?" Nah. Too hard to read. So here's what I rigged up as a treadmill desk for my laptop. "Rigged" being the operative word. Lotta bungee cords, I know!

I wish it were a little higher, for reading and typing comfort, but it's not bad, for free, compared to the cost of the ones I've head were designed by the May clinic.

The desk top is a length of left-over closet shelving. I set it at a slight angle, then ran two bungee cords from a wire in the middle of the shelf, up and over, to grab the backside of the treadmill's console. Then, to make sure the cord tension wouldn't make the whole think flip over, I also fastened the desk to each arm of the treadmill with small bungees.
Needed one more jury rig: a pair of thick, round, adhesive felt floor protectors I happened to have near the treadmill. The sort of things you stick to the bottom of kitchen chairs to keep them from marring the floor. I stuck the pads on the face of the console to keep the top of the desk, (the far edge from me when treading), from touching and accidentally activating the buttons. I stacked two on top of each other, like a pair of checkers that have been "kinged" on both sides. Don't want the desk to suddenly push a button and send me flying into the laundry room behind me! That almost happened when I was rigging it up, so I now wear the safety clip for quick stops, although I haven't had to use it since I raised the desk away from the buttons with those round floor protectors.

Also, using the wire shelving rather than a solid piece of wood allows me access to the buttons when I want to increase the speed, change the display, or whatever.

I've walked off 2 inches from my waist in the past 5 weeks, (yay!!!) so this will provide an additional way for me to walk when I'm trying to plead heat and humidity as an excuse not to walk.

It's also easy to disassemble the whole thing if my husband wants to use the treadmill.

Oh, and one other item I employed: A roll of that non-slip rubber you can buy at the dollar store. It works great to keep the laptop from slipping; it really feels quite secure. I rolled up the lower end, to raise the bottom of the laptop a bit, for better keyboard and screen position.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Barnes & Noble display

I had a book signing at a nearby Barnes and Noble yesterday. My thanks to Samantha Bass, the kind and efficient community relations manager who arranged the visit along with the Sterling publicity department. Some of my friends and writing colleagues took the time to stop by, which I REALLY appreciated, and I even saw one friend whom I hadn't seen in ages (she's still gorgeous!) who just happened to be in the store. I love serendipitous meetings like that.

To quote P. D. Eastman: "Do you like my hat?" (photo below.) I thought it seemed appropriate for reading about the brave young Crocodaddy hunter. It's an old pith helmet that belonged to my late father-in-law. I also wore my FAB lime green "crocodile shoes." Too bad you can't see them in the picture, so I've pasted them in separately.

I signed all the remaining stock which they set up on a nice display at the entrance to the children's section labeled "local favorites." (above.) They also placed some near the front door, I think, under Father's Day suggestions. It was nice feeling like a mini-celebrity for a day.

Crocodaddy seems to be doing well. Aside from that fabulous blog book tour on Kidzbookbuzz, it was also written up in the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend in a list of suggested Father's Day books. I got the happy news from the Sterling publicity dept that it appeared not only online, but in the PAPER paper, as well. Yay! Here's the online article: (CLICK HERE.)

A funny aside: Samantha also asked me to bring Jack of All Tails, (my first book which came out in 2007), in case any customers wanted that. (It's been remaindered by Penguin so I possess most of the remaining stock.) I did a couple of readings of Crocodaddy during the signing, and also read Jack once. I had brought balloons which I had set out for children to take. I displayed the balloons in that "biting" croc head toy I found at the 2nd hand store years ago. (Still works! Although I mostly leave it turned off because when it's turned on -- light activated, I think -- it tries to "bite" you when you put your hand in its mouth. Might be too scary for little ones, although elementary school aged boys LOVE it.)

Anyway, a little girl was playing with a balloon while I read Jack. Just as I got to the line, "passing gas during commercials," she happened to let go of the balloon which flew off with a perfectly-timed blatting noise. So funny!

I'm enjoying my "Croco-summer of '09." My first book was so sadly invisible that it's nice to see Crocodaddy bask in the sun, at least for a while.

Kim Norman

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Croc on tour!

Crocodaddy survived his first book signing on Saturday and is now on a blog book tour sponsored by KidzBookBuzz! Thank you to Sally Apokedak for arranging the tour, as well as a sincere thanks to all her marvelous, dedicated bloggers. I would also like to thank my publisher, Sterling Children's Books, which got behind the tour and shipped out a collection of review copies.

Visit these blogs for reviews, interviews, craft projects and giveaways. (Yes, giveaways! Jump in!)

A Christian Worldview of Fiction
A Mom Speaks
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children’s Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Booking Mama
Cafe of Dreams
Dolce Bellezza
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Fireside Musings
Looking Glass Reviews
Maw Books Blog
Never Jam Today
Olive Tree
Our Big Earth
Reading is My Superpower
SMS Book Reviews
The 160 Acrewoods
Through a Child’s Eyes

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to Crocodaddy!

How cute is this?! My son's girlfriend made this adorable cake over the weekend to celebrate my first CROCODADDY book signing, which was held at the Isle of Wight County Museum -- blissfully sheltered from the day's heat and humidity. I spent a couple of minutes putting up a sandwich board outside, so my hair had completely wilted before I managed to get set up the table at 9am.

We scheduled it for the same time as the "Mother's Day Farmer's Market," right next door to the museum. I love having a summer farmer's market within walking distance of my house. Wait, that was a confusing sentence. I don't live at the museum. I live a couple of blocks from there. I can look over the hill and see the museum from my backdoor.

Crocodaddy's really, truly, official birthday seems to have slid around, so I'm not sure what date, exactly, counts as his birthday. All the Barnes & Noble stores seem to have put it out early, as soon as they received their shipments, which I am happy about, of course! My friends have been sending me photos from around the country of B&N Croc sightings. So sweet of them!

Anyhow, Croc is now officially in the building AND he's on a blog book tour. Visit Kidzbookbuzz for interviews, reviews and giveaways over the next 3 days. (Monday, May 11, thru Wednesday, May 13.)

Kim Norman

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Book launch and tour countdown!!

banner girls code

My newest book, CROCODADDY is now in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide. Yahoo! (Or maybe I should say it's making a splash nationwide.)

To prove it's nationwide, my good friend Shelli snapped a photo of it in her local Austin, TX store. How cute is that? I hope the store employees didn't think she was doing some sort of industrial espionage for Books-a-Million.

Next week will be crazy busy. I've got two out of state school visits, (one in N.C. and one in Maryland) and a book launch/signing at the Isle of Wight Museum on Saturday, May 9th. Looking forward to all of it, of course. It's a morning signing, (9am to noon), to coincide with the farmers' market, I've invited family for lunch after the signing. I'm hoping for nice weather because I'd like to serve lunch outside in my "garden room." (Translation: a lovely, rosy spot under my pecan tree.)

Then I've got a blog book tour sponsored by Kidsbookbuzz, which I'm looking forward, too, also. I'm grateful to the owner of the website, Sally Apokedak, for arranging the tour.

So raise a glass of green Croco-cola for the birth of Crocodaddy!

Kim Norman

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Perils of a Pants-Seat Poet

(This article first appeared in the online magazine www.kidmagwriters.com)

"I enjoyed your poem. You show great facility with iambic tetrameter."

My first response to the above quote from a Carus editor was, "Ah, shucks."

My second was... "Huh?"

I'm a Grandma Moses poet. Like that late-blooming primitive painter, I am self-taught. I once had an art teacher who stated that a true primitive painter is best left untaught. Too much information about composition and perspective, he said, might squelch a true primitive's natural flair. I'm probably the same way with my poetry writing. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to learn.

Either way, I write by the seat of my pants. I've never formally studied poetry except for a few moments in junior high and English 101 in college. Don't know a tetrameter from a tetrahedron; a spondee from a sponge cake. It's not that I haven't tried. I own a wonderful book, a 40-year-old high school textbook called LYRIC VERSE, edited by Edward Rakow. He keeps explaining spondees --and anapests and dactyls--- and I keep forgetting them. (Like the rules to cribbage, which my brother has explained to me at least 6 times.)

I compose mostly rhymed, metered poetry, which we all know is not held in high regard in certain academic circles. A poetry judge once told me that my work was better categorized as "light verse." Some might even call it doggerel.

Whaddevah. Kids don't care about labels. They just like solid, fun, rhythmic poetry.

Oops... I mean verse.

While I'm not heavily schooled in the NAMES of poetic forms, I have read a lot and learned by example. Often I'll encounter a poem, admire its particular rhythms, and borrow that beat to write a poem of my own.

In A TREASURY OF THE FAMILIAR, (Ralph L. Woods, MacMillan, 1943) a dusty old favorite inherited from my father, I came across "Burial of Sir John Moore" by Charles Wolfe. The poem begins this way:

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
as his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

The poem continues in this plodding, dirge-like rhythm, which I found contagious. I was inspired to write a poem of my own, entitled "The Burial of Barnaby Briar." Here are the first three stanzas:

It was merciless midnight on All Hallows Eve,
In the murk of the mud and the mire,
that we hammered the lid on the coffin that hid
the body of Barnaby Briar.

And the rain never slacked on our suffering backs
as his coffin we grudgingly carried.
Not a star was in sight on that horrible night
that Barnaby Briar was buried.

All ‘round were the sounds of the creatures of night,
like the tune of a funeral choir,
while dark in our pockets the gold nuggets clanked
that we’d stolen from Barnaby Briar.

I think I've caught the tone of the earlier poem, thanks to that borrowed meter.

One talent is handy to a pants-seat poet: innate rhythm. When I was a kid, I thought I was just weird. I always wanted to clap along to music on the opposite beat from the -- let's admit it -- mostly white people around me. Anybody remember those circus TV shows in the 60s hosted by Don Ameche? Once, I asked my piano teacher what was wrong with me. Why did I always want to clap on the beat BETWEEN the claps of those European circus audiences?

"Because you've got rhythm," he said.

Then he explained the importance of the 2nd and 4th beat BETWEEN the plodding 1st and 3rd beats of a 4/4 song. You can hear clearly in rock songs. There's the drummer, hammering out that 2nd & 4th beat, between the stronger downbeats. (At least, I THINK the 1st & 3rd beats are called the downbeats. See? I told you I was unschooled.)

When I'm not stealing the rhythms of poets long dead, I enjoy writing within the constraints of specific poetic forms such as sonnets or limericks. Just another type of borrowing, I guess. For me, it's easier to grasp a form by studying an actual poem than by reading the spelled-out rules.

Read a few sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and you begin to naturally fall into that 10 syllable iambic beat:

As a lark, I knocked out the following sonnet on a dare. The assignment, from one of my critique group members, was to write a sonnet comparing poems to essays. Thus:

Shall I compare an Essay to a Verse?
by Kim Norman

A poem can be short and to the point,
while essays often drag on endlessly.
And essays often teachers disappoint,
but poems merely kill them by degree.

A poem may have rhythm, rhyme or meter,
while essays are most often writ in prose.
Although a poem's lyrics may be sweeter,
an essay often causes sweet repose.

A poem holds surprises like a prism,
obscuring deep emotions in a veil,
while essayists are prone to plagiarism
and other crimes that lead you straight to jail.

So I will pen a poem now and then
instead of writing essays from the "Pen."

I'll admit I broke a few rules. Because of female end-rhymes (rhymes that end in an unstressed syllable) a few lines in the above sonnet have eleven rather than the requisite ten syllables. It does conform to the 14 line, A-B-A-B rules, (3 quatrains & an ending couplet.) Since nobody reads this stuff, who's going to complain?

Do a few internet searches and you'll find a wealth of information about poetic forms. They're a great way to stretch your lyrical ligaments. Find something you like, read it a few times, then try one for yourself.

Happy borrowing!


Kim Norman is the author of JACK OF ALL TAILS, (Dutton, 2007)
CROCODADDY, (Sterling, May 2009)
I KNOW A WEE PIGGY, (Dutton, 2010)
and TEN ON THE SLED, (Sterling, 2010

She writes (and borrows) in southeastern Virginia.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Play my 5W writing card game!

Today I was reminded of a card game I created years ago as writing prompts for my two sons. It took some digging through files from my old Mac, but I found and updated them today.

It's not really a game so much as a collection of 80 illustrated cards which act as writing prompts -- a tweak of the old WHO-WHAT-WHERE-WHEN-WHY rules. I've substituted "with what" (with what object) for "why," to introduce some concrete props to help add layers to the stories.

I created 11 sheets total in PDF format. I also included one sheet of blank cards, in case anyone is inspired to write/drawn their own.

If you're looking for boy-friendly writing prompts, these may prove helpful. My sons were the prime age when Pokemon cards were king. They couldn't get enough of cards in all forms. We also created some cool mythology cards which I may dig up sometime, too.

If you're interested in downloading the cards, (it's a free download), CLICK HERE.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pocket poems!

Here's a photo of a funky little jacket I created from three 2nd-hand jean jackets. This is the back of the jacket, which is basically all that's left. I cut off the front and glued down the collar to make it more lightweight to transport.

I keep meaning to decorate the pockets with stitching or glitter paint, but haven't gotten around to it. Besides, then it would lose its cool "Fonzie" attitude and look more like dorky decorated denim from a 1970s craft magazine. The one effort I made in decorative edging was to pull a few fibers from the edge of the pockets for a frayed look. Come to think of it, I also laundered the pockets after cutting and fraying them, for the same purpose. It does define the edges rather nicely.

I use the jacket for a variety of poetry activities during school visits, all loosely grouped under the title "POCKET POEMS." For one such activity, I print up a bunch of 5-line poems, (you'll find lots about those, including variations, with a quick Google search), cut them up into individual lines, then insert all 1st lines into the top left pocket, all the 2nd lines into top right, and so on. Then I allow students to pull out the lines, one by one, so we end up with a scrambled poem for them to read aloud. Some can be quite funny.

The jacket is tremendously sturdy and easy to carry. I transport it, rolled up, in a shoulder bag where it takes up very little room.

None of the pockets are buttoned in this picture, but those great little metal buttons are all there, and I do button them shut for transport. Keeps the snippets from falling out!

The pockets are simply glued on with craft glue. I asked a friend if I could borrow her sewing machine, and she said, "Sure, but glue would probably work just as well." She was right, clever girl! I hate sewing. Duct tape and glue are my preferred sewing media.

The jacket is just another way to add interest to information, even the most mundane. Kids love discovering what's hidden behind that next mysterious "door."

Kim Norman

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Storytime Boogie!

Just for fun, here's a video I created for my "Storytime Boogie," a song I wrote and often perform for younger students during my school visits. "The Storytime Boogie" promotes bedtime reading. I think it's a lot of fun, if I do say so myself!

Or, you can view my performance of the song at Coventry Elementary School in Yorktown, Virginia, back in the fall of 2008. Click HERE to view that video.

Kim Norman