September 25, 2017

The "Living Life" Part of the Writing Life

Artwork from the Botanical Gardens in Delft
This space has been quiet for the past couple of months because I've been deeply engaged in the "Living Life" part of the writing life. In the past few months I've:

-Celebrated my 50th birthday, and coordinated a book-related service project in honor of this momentous occasion

-Engaged in the political process more actively (and read more political news!) than I've ever done in my adult life

-Experienced the range of emotions associated with my oldest child graduating from high school

-Watched dozens and dozens of sporting events

-Coordinated several big social gatherings (including milestone birthdays, graduation parties, and sports-related gatherings for my kids' tennis and cross country teams)

-Hosted out of town guests

-Played tourist in my own town

-Said final farewells to a longtime family pet

-Parented, loved, and then said farewell to an amazing exchange student who lived in our home for five months and became a part of our family

-Traveled to the Netherlands for an absolutely glorious family vacation that included museum visits, bicycle rides, breathtaking views, meandering walks, and cultural immersion

-Helped my parents and parents-in-law navigate multiple health issues and related doctor visits and hospice care

-Shared stories with my dearest friend's adult daughter while we waited for my friend to successfully pull through a major, all-day surgery

-Delivered my oldest child to college (and said farewell to her close-knit circle of friends who have spent countless hours in our home and around our dinner table, and who have also gone off to college)

-Hosted dinner parties with friends, and hosted an extended visit with my dear friend who is still recovering from her major surgery

-Harvested bountiful amounts of fresh tomatoes all summer long, from the patio planters I planted this past spring

-Filled my soul with sounds of live music at small venues around town

-Watched in awe as gymnasts and ariel artists contorted their bodies at a Cirque du Soleil show

-Baked, read, took long walks, watched a few movies, went on a few happy hour dates with my husband and coffee dates with my girl friends

-Grocery shopped, did laundry, cleaned the cat box, attended to a few emotionally charged situations related to parenting teenagers, and took my car for an oil change or two (it can't all be fun and games)

I've also watched, listened, tasted, touched, breathed in deeply, reflected, and written my heart out.

Living fully inspires me to write more fully. I've been amazed with where the muse has taken me this past few months. Next up: Taking time out to submit the ready work that has been filed away waiting for me to put it out into the world. More on that, soon.


July 17, 2017

School and Library Visits Feed My Creative Soul, Cont.

In previous posts, I've shared how much I enjoy school and library visits, and how I particularly enjoy getting cards and letters from the students I meet at these visits. The image to the right is a sampling of the artwork that arrived in my mailbox soon after my author visits to Raleigh Park Elementary School in May, 2017. I love them, don't you?

As I've mentioned before, whenever students write to me after an author visit, I do my best to write back. In my last post, I shared the letter I wrote to Ms. Baumgartner's class. Here, I share my letter to Ms. Robert's class:

*****

Dear Ms. Roberts’ Class, 

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting me know what you learned when I visited your school.  Pickle and I have read and re-read each of your thank you letters, and we have greatly enjoyed your artwork. I especially liked how many of you included pictures or mention of my chicken hat, my reading trophy, and Pickle the Cat in your letters. Pickle is sitting right by me as I write to you today. 

I’m delighted that so many of you are excited about writing and sharing your own stories, and I’m happy that you enjoyed learning some sign language.  I hope you continue to read, write, and sign regularly and with enthusiasm!   

Many of you had additional comments and questions.  My responses are below:

Mahmoud: I’m glad you liked my suggestion to write at least one idea in your idea book every day. I hope you do that all summer long! 

Tate, Sam, and Geovanny: I’m happy you liked my trophy. I think it’s pretty cool, too. 

Perrin: Pickle liked hearing that you enjoyed seeing pictures of her. She is sitting on my desk right now peeking over my shoulder to see what I am writing to your class. 

Bella: I’m glad you liked my chicken hat. It’s fun to wear.  

Melaniee: I think it’s great that you want to be an author when you grow up. Keep reading, reading, reading and writing, writing, writing!

Miguel: You suggested that I should write a sports book. I think YOU should write a sports book!  

Avery: I’m glad you enjoyed when I visited your classroom. I also enjoyed when I visited your classroom. 

Ben: I liked hearing about your cat, Leila, and your English Bulldog, Anei Beussel. I hope you will write a story about them some day! 

Claire:  You asked me to tell you my favorite book that I’ve written. The story I wrote for Oregon Reads Aloud (called First Day Jitters) is the story I’m most excited about right now because I’m so happy to be part of the team of authors and illustrators that have contributed to this book and helped the organization SMART (Start Making a Reader Today). 

Lucy: You asked why I decided to write about sign language. When my daughter (who recently graduated from high school) was born, I taught her how to use sign language before she could talk. Eventually, I started teaching classes that incorporated sign language, and when I couldn’t personally meet with all of the people I wanted to help learn sign language I started writing books that incorporated sign language. All 17 of the books that I have published incorporate sign language.

Mason, Charlotte, and Angelica: You asked if you might have a chance to meet Pickle. Unfortunately, I can’t bring Pickle to school with me, but you can see a picture of Pickle at this link: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2012/04/why-do-i-like-to-write.html

Hendy and Elan: I’m so glad you enjoyed learning some sign language. I hope you will keep practicing the signs that you learned.  

Kartikeya: It sounds like you are really interested in learning more sign language. If you’re interested in doing some sign language activities, you can find some ideas here: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2016/04/ideas-for-incorporating-alphabet-signs.html 

Aiden: You asked if my reading trophy was gold or silver or bronze. I think it is gold plastic. You can see a picture of it at this link if you’d like to check for yourself: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2012/06/read-and-read-and-read-some-more.html

Emily: It sounds like you missed out on seeing my reading trophy and my chicken hat. See my note to Aiden if you’d like to see a picture of my trophy. You can see a picture of my chicken hat at this link: http://www.smalltalklearning.com/dawnprochovnic/books/Past_Events.html#25

Antonia: You asked me to tell you some more about where I get my ideas. You can read more about this topic at this blog post: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2013/04/gotcha-how-to-find-and-capture-great.html

Thank you again for all of your letters and pictures, and thank you to Ms. Roberts for inviting me to visit.  I hope I get to visit your school again in the future.

Sincerely,


Dawn Babb Prochovnic (and Pickle) 

*****

I'd love to visit your school. If you'd like more information about author visits, click here, or send me a message using the contact form to the left. 

July 10, 2017

School and Library Visits Feed My Creative Soul

As I've said before, one of the supreme delights in my work is being invited to schools and libraries as a visiting author.

Back in May, I had the pleasure of presenting two different young writers' workshops to second grade students at Raleigh Park Elementary. During my first round of classroom visits I presented, "Write On!" a workshop about why I write and some of the amazing experiences I've had because I'm an author. During the second round of visits I presented, "Gotcha! How to Find and Capture Great Writing Ideas."

One of my favorite parts of school visits is receiving letters and pictures from the students. The image to the right is a sampling of letters that arrived in my mail box soon after my visits.

Whenever students write to me after an author visit, I do my very best to write back to them. I thought it might be fun to share the letters I wrote back to the Raleigh Park students. Here is the first of two:

*****
Dear Mrs. Baumgartner’s Class,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting me know what you learned when I visited your school.  Pickle and I have read and re-read each of your letters, and we have greatly enjoyed your artwork. I especially liked how many of you included pictures or mention of my chicken hat, my reading trophy, and Pickle the Cat in your notes! Pickle is sitting right next to me as I write to you today.

I’m delighted that so many of you are excited about writing and sharing your own stories, and I’m happy that you enjoyed learning some sign language.  I hope you continue to read, write, and sign regularly and with enthusiasm!  

Many of you had additional comments and questions.  My responses are below:

Isabelle: You asked if I have a dog. I do. Her name is Sophie. She is a white Chihuahua. You also asked where I go on vacation. One of my favorite places to go on vacation is Sunriver, in Central Oregon. Lastly, you asked what books I would recommend to an eight year old. What I would recommend is that you visit the West Slope Library and make friends with the youth librarian. Let her know what interests you and she will keep you well-supplied in great ideas for books you will enjoy!

Kaya (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): You asked if I like reading or writing better. I have to say that I simply cannot choose between the two. I love to read, and I love to write!

Zachary: You asked when I learned sign language. I first learned about sign language before I started elementary school. I watched Sesame Street on television and learned about sign language from Linda Bove. When I started elementary school, I volunteered to help students with disabilities, and many of those students used sign language.

Dahlia: You asked if Pickle is being good. Pickle rarely behaves, but she is always a good cat (and you are right—she does like to sleep on my soft, cozy, colorful pajama pants).

Isaac: You asked how Pickle got her name. From the time Pickle was a kitten she liked to get into mischief. In fact, we almost named her Mischief. When she would do something mischievous (like get on the kitchen table, or try to sneak outside, or hop up on someone’s shoulders), we would say, “You are such a Pickle.” Pretty soon the name stuck. It fits her well.

Sophia: You asked what my favorite book was as a child. I had many favorite books as a child. One of them was Charolette’s Web.

Gavin: You asked how I met Bruce Hale. Bruce Hale and I both belong to an organization called The Society of Children’s Book Writers andIllustrators. The members of this organization hold educational meetings called a conference (it’s like “school’ for authors and illustrators). I first met Bruce Hale at one of those conferences.

Bradlon (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): You asked if Pickle gets sick from eating my paper. She has not gotten sick from eating my paper, but sometimes she coughs up very big fur balls. Yuck!  You also asked if Pickle is on the floor or on my books right now. Actually, she is on the couch next to my desk, looking out the window at a bird that is teasing her.

Walter: You asked how I met the illustrators for my books. I first met Stephanie Bauer (the illustrator for my Story Time with Signs and Rhymes books), at a writing conference (which is similar to how I met Bruce Hale). I’ve been lucky enough to visit her art studio. The first time I met Abigail Marble (the illustrator for First Day Jitters, the story that is in Oregon Reads Aloud) was last year. We were both at Powell’s Books to celebrate the Book Birthday for Oregon Reads Aloud. You can see examples of Abigail Marble’s work on her website: http://abigailmarble.com/.

Avery: You asked if Pickle is afraid of cucumbers. I do not know if she is or not. I have seen some videos of people who have scared their own cat with a cucumber, but I don’t think Pickle would appreciate me playing a trick like that on her. You asked if my favorite color was pink. Actually, my favorite color is purple. P.S. Did you know your dad is my son’s teacher and tennis coach?

Gwen: You asked if I had any siblings. I do. I have two younger sisters: Angela and Carey. Angela lives in San Diego, California, and Carey lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

Pearl: You asked if I am a cat person or a dog person. I like both cats and dogs, but I think of myself as a cat person. You also asked who is my favorite character in my books. I have a lot of favorite characters in my books. One of my favorites is the dog in Silly Sue. She looks and acts a lot like my dog, Sophie.

Pearl (Are there two Pearls, or one Pearl with lots of questions?): You asked how I got Pickle. We have had Pickle since she was a kitten. She and her sister, Noodle, were stray kittens without a mama cat to take care of them. Our family gave them a safe foster home until they got big enough and strong enough to take care of themselves, but then we decided to adopt them and give them a permanent home.  That was seven years ago.  You also asked if I am from a divorced family. I am. My parents divorced when I was in the 6th grade. I’m sorry you are having some sad feelings about your parents’ divorce. I hope you will write in your journal about your feelings. When I am sad, I always feel better after I share my feelings in my writing journal. 

Jackson: I’m so glad you are planning to look for my booksin the library. You can ask the librarian to help you find them if you are not able to find them on your own.

Alondra: You asked if Pickle is a boy or a girl. Pickle is a girl. You also asked if Pickle likes to roll around on my papers. Pickle likes to roll around on many things, including stacks of paper, my messy desk, and the cool floor in my laundry room.

Abby: You asked if my kids help me write. My kids help me critique my stories. I ask them to read my stories out loud so I can listen to any parts that don’t sound just right when they are read out loud (by someone other than myself). You also asked if I write outside. I do. I write just about everywhere!

Benjamin: You asked how long it takes to make one book. This is a complicated question, because some stories take a longer time to write than others, and some books take longer to get published than others. I can tell you that I started writing See theColors before my son turned two, and he was seven when it was published.

Darvey: You asked what my favorite game is. Right now my favorite game is a card game called Skip Bo, but I like trying out new games. Did you know that the West Slope Library has lots of games that you can borrow, just like you can borrow books?

Lev: I like the pictures you drew of Pickle and Rose (you did a nice job illustrating that Pickle has green eyes and Rose has yellow eyes).

Alexa: You asked if Pickle has her own bed. She does, but she often sleeps on my pillow (or on my head) in my bed. You also asked if I listen to calm music when I write. I have many writing friends who like to listen to calm music when they write, but I prefer to write when it is quiet.

Chase: I’m glad you think books are cool. I think books are cool, too!

Dalia: I’m glad you liked my funny pajama pants. I like them, too!

Several of you asked how I became an author. I have a detailed answer to that question here: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2012/02/my-path-to-publication.html.

Thank you again for all of your letters and pictures, and thank you to Mrs. Baumgartner for inviting me to visit.  I hope I get to visit your school again in the future.

Sincerely,

Dawn Babb Prochovnic (and Pickle)

*****

I'd love to visit your school, too! If you'd like more information about author visits, click here, or send me a message using the contact form to the left.

Stay tuned. In my next post I will share the second letter I wrote to students I visited at Raleigh Park Elementary in May, 2017.

May 1, 2017

Dawn Pro Five Oh!

Get the candles and cookies ready, because May is my birthday month, and this year is my Big Five-Oh. Ready to celebrate?

Please Join Me in Supporting the Children's Book Bank!

Choose One or More Options Below to Participate

*Spend 50 seconds exploring the Children's Book Bank's website and learning about their mission

*Spend another 50 seconds reading about the Children's Book Bank's Story Like Mine Campaign

*Bring new or gently used books to my house on or before Tuesday, May 23rd (see below for donation guidelines)

* Purchase a book from my inventory, and both the book and the net proceeds will be donated to the Children's Book Bank (purchase from my online store on or before May 23, 2017 and reference #DawnPro50 in the notes . . . or stop by my house on or before Tuesday, May 23rd to make your purchase--send me a direct email/message and we'll coordinate.)

*Spend 50 minutes helping me sort and organize books on Tuesday, May 23rd (comment below, use the contact form to the left, or send me a direct email/message so we can coordinate schedules)

*Donate new or used books directly to the Children's Book Bank (here is a link to their Multicultural Books Wish List)

*Make a monetary donation to the Children's Book Bank:
  • Fun Fact: 50 cents multiplied by my 50 years = $25
  • Fun Fact: 50 dollars multiplied by 1 for my one and only 50th birthday = $50
  • Fun Fact: 50 cents a day multiplied by 365 for each day I'll be 50 = $182.50

*Spend 50 minutes reading to or with a child or grown-up of your choosing, then spread the word by sharing a selfie on social media to celebrate my Big Five-Oh (#DawnPro50, @DawnProchovnic, FB / @PDXBookBank, FB, Instagram)

Here are My Goals for My 50th Birthday Book Drive (Click Here to See How I'm Doing on Reaching My Goals):

*50 books collected and delivered to the Children's Book Bank

*50 empty book bags funded (each $25 donation supplies 25 ready-to-fill bags)

*50 filled book bags funded (each $25 donation fills one book bag for a child who participates in Head Start)

*50 "50-minutes of reading with a child or grown-up" photos posted to social media and tagged: #DawnPro50 @dawnprochovnic @PDXbookbank

*50 shares of this post

*50 friends, family members, and/or fans who participate in this celebration in some fashion

*One friend, family member, or fan inspired to coordinate a book drive (or other service project of their choosing) for their next special occasion.

*****

Here are Some Book Donation Guidelines from the Children's Book Bank:

We Need:
Books for babies
Board books
Books about letters, numbers, shapes and colors
Picture books--in hard cover and soft cover
Books about animals
Chapter books for readers from grade K-8

We can't use:
Coloring Books
Text Books
Books from school library collections
Teacher "sets" that have been pulled from the classroom
Encyclopedias
Activity Books
Books for Adults
Musty/damaged Books

In terms of what is meant by "gently used," we say that folks can ask themselves if the book is one that they would think of buying for their own child or one that could be passed on to a friend.

Here is a link to a Children's Book Bank Flyer

*****

So, are you in??

If you need more information to participate, please comment below or send a message via the contact form to the left (or send me a direct email/message), and additional information will be supplied.

Feel encouraged to use the comment section below to share how you've participated or plan to participate, or just to wish me a happy birthday!

Thanks for helping me celebrate the Big 5-0!

#DawnPro50

April 21, 2017

Librarians: Protecting our First Amendment Rights, One Book at a Time

Image Source: Amber's Website
This time last year I used this space to share my thoughts about the importance of voice and my thoughts on Amber J. Keyser's book, The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex. In that post, I shared a love letter I wrote to my daughter encouraging her to honor and value her own voice.

Today, I'm using this space to share my thoughts about the importance of using our voices to stand up for our First Amendment rights. The April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily reports that Amber's book is at the center of a controversy at a library in Charleston, South Carolina. I've pasted below the letter I've emailed to the Library Board of Trustees that will hold a meeting about this issue at 8:00 AM on Monday, April 25, 2017. If you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.

*****

-->

April 21, 2017 

Dear Charleston County Library Board of Trustees:

I am a parent, children’s author, and library advocate. In 2015 I was named Oregon Library Supporter of the Year. I believe strongly that libraries have a duty and responsibility to champion First Amendment rights and to ensure that all community members have unrestricted access to the information they seek. I also believe that parents have a duty and responsibility to set appropriate limits for their own children. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

I read in the April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily that your Board of Trustees will be meeting on April 25th to discuss community concerns related to the placement of books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, including, but not limited to The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex.

Our society is filled with an abundance of information and images, much of which may not be age-appropriate for any one particular child. There are provocative photographs on magazine covers in the grocery store, explicit videos that are accessed via the Internet and shared on social media, and graphic news stories and programs shown on television. Again, it is the library’s role to champion freedom of speech and uncensored access to information, and it is a parent’s role to set appropriate limits for their own children.

Each parent will navigate these challenges differently, depending on their own values and the maturity of their particular child. Some parents intentionally refrain from watching graphic news stories while their children are in the room, opting instead to chat about world events at the dinner table. Other parents might watch graphic news stories alongside their child, and have a rich conversation afterwards. Some parents turn off the news completely to protect their children from the troubling truths in our world, and some children hunger for information nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents.

I write books that incorporate AmericanSign Language (ASL), and even this seemingly innocuous subject can stir different comfort levels in different parents. Some parents acknowledge the research that early exposure to sign language enriches and stimulates verbal communication, while other parents fear that sign language is a verbal language inhibitor. Some parents consider ASL as an important part of their family’s culture, and other parents consider ASL an inferior substitute for verbal language. Some parents contend that sign language should only be taught via three-dimensional formats such as in-person or through videos, while other parents strictly forbid screen time. Some parents have never considered teaching their child a second language, and some children are curious about ASL nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents. It would be a disservice* to the general public and an affront to the First Amendment and the ideals of free speech and unrestricted access to information if the library were to avoid displaying my sign language books in a prominent location for fear that they might be seen by a child whose parents were uncomfortable with my treatment on the subject.

I would urge you to resist the temptation to censor controversial materials from your library shelves. I would also urge you to resist the temptation to hide books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, such as The V-Word, effectively making it more difficult for the young people for whom these books are written to find them.

I applaud the librarians who continue to stand up for the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and unrestricted access to information. I encourage you to support them in fulfilling their important role in our democratic society.

Sincerely,

Dawn Prochovnic, MA
Founder of SmallTalk Learning
www.dawnprochovnic.com

*This word was inadvertently mis-spelled in the original letter.
 
*****

Again, if you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.