September 20, 2019

Talk Like a Pirate Day Story Time Lesson Plan / Pirate Party Event Plan

Since one of my latest books has a young pirate for a main character, it seemed logical to plan a pirate-themed story time event on International Talk Like a Pirate Day (celebrated on September 19th each year).

Green Bean Books in Portland, Oregon was kind enough to open their doors and welcome me to their beautiful, covered, back patio for a Pirate Party. It was a marrrrvelous time!

I thought it would be fun and helpful to share my activity plan and some photos of the event for folks who intend to host a Talk Like a Pirate Day event and/or pirate-themed program anytime in the future. Here goes:

International Talk Like a Pirate Day Story Time Lesson Plan (and Pirate Party Event Plan)
by Dawn Babb Prochovnic

Props/Supplies:

Pirate Name Generator (see below)
Name Tags
Picture Book: Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?
iPad or Other Device to Play Book Trailer for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?
Paper or Newsprint and Tape to Make Pirate Hats
Props for Photo Booth/Selfie Station, Optional
Costumes, Decorations, and Refreshments, as Desired

Decorations and Costumes

*Since this was a Pirate Party in addition to being a pirate-themed story time, I wore a costume and decorated the display table in the story time area:

Photo Credit, Jennifer Green, Green Bean Books



*The Hannah Anderson store happened to have a promotional offering on pirate gear around the time I was planning this event, so I purchased a children's pirate hat (that happily fit!) from them. My local party store, The Lippman Co., had a good supply of pirate-y items, as I'm sure most party stores do. I got a couple of skull and cross bone bandanas to "pirate-tize" my standard white tablecloth, some pirate flags (which I of course displayed in a roll of TP), and a package of props for a pirate-y photo booth (see below). I also displayed some of my bookmarks (designed by illustrator, Jacob Souva) and some stickers with the image of our book cover (that I purchased through Sticker Mule -- Sticker Mule is GREAT, by the way...highly recommended), and I set out individual packages of Pirates Booty purchased at Target (which was available in their Halloween section, and happened to be on sale for a great price). My Pinterest page has lots of other ideas for decorations and themed refreshments for those who want to go all out!

Welcome, Ice Breaker, and Introductions

*I put several copies of the Pirate Name Generator for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (see below) into protective plastic covers. As participants arrived, I encouraged them to create their Pirate Name. If you typically use name tags in your programming, you could add pirate names to the name tags.

NOTE: Definitely allow participants the freedom to create a different name combination or even to make up their own pirate name, if they don't like the name generated by the Pirate Name Generator.

NOTE: If you have difficulty accessing the image file for the Pirate Name Generator, you can access a printable document here. You are welcome to re-print this resource for use in your programs, but I do request that you retain the credits, as listed.

Read Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? 

Available Everywhere Books Are Sold


*Before reading, invite  participants to join in by saying the words for sounds that appear throughout the story.

Photo Credit, Jennifer Green, Green Bean Books
*Read the story using varied voices for different characters.

NOTE: I use a fairly normal voice for the pirate character, and I alternate between a higher voice and a lower voice for the Razor Clam and Sea Lion. I use a gruff voice for the Rock Crab, and a very high-pitched voice for the Pelican. I go back to a moderately high voice for the Octopus, a low voice for the Gray Whale, and I use a gruff voice for the Deck Hands. I mention these details in case it's helpful to have a ready-to-go "voice map" in place, but definitely feel encouraged to make up your own silly voices without regard to any of these notes.

*As you can see, I really like to get into character!

Photo Credit, Jennifer Green, Green Bean Books

Ask Post-Story Discussion Questions

*For example, "Have you ever needed to use the potty, but you had to wait for the right time or place? What was the situation? How did it turn out?"

NOTE: A detailed Study Guide that includes a variety of discussion questions and curriculum-aligned activities will soon be available for this book. The guide will be available at this link: https://www.westmarginpress.com/study-guides/

Sing Along to the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? Song

*The song is available on YouTube, via the book trailer:




*You can find the words to the song in the "Sign Language Sing-Along Lesson Plan."

*Since my earlier books incorporate American Sign Language, it's second nature for me to add a little ASL enrichment into most of my programs. If you want to ramp up the enrichment aspect of your Pirate-Themed Story Time, introduce a few signs to go along with the above Pirate song, as noted in the Sign Language Sign-Along Lesson Plan. If you decide to do this, you will want to introduce the signs to participants and give them an opportunity to practice the signs a few times before you play the song. You may even want to replay the song a couple of different times so participants get to practice and gain a sense of mastery of the selected signs. Three logical signs to incorporate into this song include:

Piratehttps://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=5287 (Boat + Eye Patch)
Potty/Toilethttps://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)
Wherehttps://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)

Note: The sign for potty/toilet (the noun) and the sign for "to use" the potty/toilet (the verb) are the same.

*I use the signs for "Where" and "Potty/Toilet" in the first part of the song, and I use the sign for "Pirate" near the end of the song. I also add the signs for "No," "Oh," and "Not," which are described in the Sign Language Sign-Along Lesson Plan.

Tell Some Pirate Jokes and/or Facilitate a Pirate Glossary Q and A

*I incorporated the Pirate Jokes and Pirate Glossary compiled by Amber Creger on the Monroe County Library System's Wiki. One of my favorite jokes from the list is:

"What is a pirates favorite kind of cookie? Ships Ahoy!" Arrr. Arrr. Arrr. Arrrr!

Additional Learning Extensions: 

1. Read More Books!

*Since this particular event was a book launch celebration, I focused on just this one book (plus gave brief mention to the companion book, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?) For other pirate-themed events, there are many fun pirate books to consider. You can find lots of additional ideas by exploring the "Pirate-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/Resources" linked from this page (after you follow the link, you'll need to scroll down about 1/3 of the way into the post for these resources).

2. Facilitate a Readers' Theatre

*Resources for a Readers' Theatre, including a script, will be available in the previously mentioned study guide that will soon be available at this link: https://www.westmarginpress.com/study-guides/. If you need the script before the study guide is available, please contact Dawn directly via a comment below, a DM on social media, or via the contact form on the left side of the blog, and I will share it with you directly. 

3. Sing Another Pirate Song, or a Potty Song, or Both!

*Pirate Song: Sing to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"

If you're a pirate and you know it, shout, "Ahoy!"
If you're a pirate and you know it, shout, "Ahoy!"
If you're a pirate and you know it, shout, "Ahoy!" and really show it.
If you're a pirate and you know it, shout, "Ahoy!"

Additional Verses: swab the deck... say, "heave-ho" ... say "avast!" ...

*Potty Song: The Potty Dance (Sung to the Tune of The Hokey Pokey) by Dawn Babb Prochovnic (inspired by songs from Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot by Bruce Lansky and Catherine Blake and originally shared in the Potty-Humor-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan)

You hold your bladder (belly) left.
You hold your bladder (belly) right.
You wrap your arms like this, and you hold on super tight.
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

You cross your right foot left.
You cross your left foot right.
You squeeze your knees like this, and you hold on super tight.
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

You search in this place left.
You search in this place right.
You hoot and hop like this, and you hold on super tight.
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

*This song is really fun to share with a group. It was giggles all around. I highly encourage it!

Photo Credit, Jennifer Green, Green Bean Books

4. Create a Pirate Hat

*You can find instructions for making a basic pirate hat out of newspaper here, and you can find instructions for a myriad of pirate-y hats here. For this particular event, I used regular 8 1/2 x 11 paper, and called the activity "Pirate Hat Origami." I can't believe that I neglected to get a single picture of pirate-hat making!

*I encouraged participants to write their Pirate Name (from the icebreaker) on their hats. (It's a great way to sneak in a little bit of writing practice. Yarrr!)

5. Encourage Extending the Learning to the Home Environment

*You can find a variety of pirate-y craft ideas here. I displayed my "Banana Pirate" sample and encouraged participants to try making their own "Banana Pirate" at home. 



Just for Fun

Have a Pirate Photo Booth/Selfie Station

* As noted above, I purchased a set of pirate-themed photo booth props, and set up an area where participants could take pictures or selfies. I didn't happen to get any pictures of this part of the event, but I'm hoping some of the people who took pictures will send them to me. If they do, I'll add them here later.

Here are the photo props (displayed in a roll of toilet paper, of course!)



Silly Books Can Help Solve Serious Problems

*Although Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? is ridiculously silly, I try to incorporate an opportunity for participants to learn about and/or support more serious issues into most of my events. For example, at a school/author visit, I might talk about World Toilet Day, which aims to raise awareness about the need for universal access to safe toilets. When an event is held at a book store, it's my hope that folks will purchase books, which helps the independent bookstore remain a viable business in the local economy. I also like to use my voice to bring awareness about local non-profit organizations that support reading and literacy. For this reason, I put out a small basket to collect books for the Children's Book Bank (which provides books to local children who need books of their own at home--it's the organization I supported for my 50th birthday... a few years ago!) Of course I'm hopeful participants will support my work and purchase one of my books, but I'm also more than happy to accept donations of any books that are purchased at the store during my visit.

Time for Fond Farewells

*Avast! Before you know it, the mother ship is ready to set sail for home ...  so it's time to wrap up.  I encouraged everyone to take a package of Pirate's Booty to go, and asked that they share one pirate-y word with me as they walked the plank to head back home.

Thanks to everyone who attended this fun event and to the wonderful folks at Green Bean Books who make me feel so welcome and supported each and every time I visit their store!

Here's me, back at home, after a MIGHTY fun afternoon. Yarrr!

Photo Credit: Nikko Prochovnic

September 12, 2019

Get Ready for International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Here's a Pirate-Themed Sign Language Sing-Along Lesson Plan

Hi friends! I’ve been busy, busy, busy developing resources to celebrate the upcoming release of my two latest picture books: Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? Since International Talk Like a Pirate Day is just around the corner, (it's September 19th, every year), I wanted to be sure you have some fun (and educational) lesson plans in hand!



Although these new books don’t incorporate sign language like my Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series, in my experience, most books can be enriched with sign language with just a little bit of advanced planning. You can find several examples and resources here, including a detailed sign language story time lesson plan for folks who are interested in some comic relief while toilet training, and a more general potty-themed sign language story time lesson plan.

Given the titles of my books, I fully anticipate they will appeal to folks in the potty-training age and stage, but they're more accurately categorized as potty-humor books, vs. potty-training books. They are geared for young readers ages 3-8, though I suspect they will bring out the inner-comedian in potty humorists of all ages. Case in point: here is one of the funny photos I received from author, Stephanie Shaw, soon after she received her books via pre-order:

Image Source: Author Stephanie Shaw

The caption Stephanie sent along with this photo: "It's not a strain to love these new books." Bah-ha-ha!!! That cracks me up!

Leaning into the humorous aspects of these books, over the past couple of months, I had the unique opportunity to work with two different musicians to create a catchy children’s song for each book. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the songs turned out!

Kids of all ages love to sing and sign AND they love to laugh. Singing and signing along with these silly songs creates a perfect opportunity to incorporate all three of these fun activities.

I shared resources for singing and signing along with the Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? song and some of the backstory about my experience working with singer, songwriter, and performing musician, Marshall Mitchell, on a recent guest post on Kathy MacMillan’s Stories By Hand blog.

For the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? song, I worked with Annie Lynn, AnnieBirdd Music, LLC. Here is a fun photo of Annie Lynn's studio, with performer, Alexander Wilczewski, when our Pirate song was being recorded:

Image Source: AnnieBirdd Music, LLC

You can read the story of how Annie and I met and developed a friendship on Tara Lazar's blog.

Annie licenses her curriculum-based songs for schools, homeschoolers, choirs, radio, TV, etc. More recently, she has started working with members of the kidlit community to bring children’s literature to life through music. She creates theme songs and karaoke-style sing-along songs that authors can use for school visits, and she creates custom songs for book trailers, like the song she created for the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? book trailer, which was delightfully animated by illustrator, Jacob Souva:



I’ve provided the song lyrics for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? below, noting in bold some of the words you might consider signing along with. TIP: Don’t feel pressured to sign more words than you are comfortable with. It’s perfectly okay to start by signing only one or two key words, (for example, where or potty) that repeat throughout the song. As your sign language vocabulary (and your confidence) develops and grows, you can add more signs each time you sing. Rest assured, kids are likely to ask you to repeat the song again and again!

Here are the lyrics:

Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?
Lyrics by Dawn Prochovnic
Music written and performed by AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, with Annie Lynn, Walt Wilczewski, and Chris Arms, and starring Red Beard The Pirate, a.k.a. Alexander Wilczewski


(These waves are makin’ me a wee bit uncomfortable!)   

Where does a pirate go potty?

Explorin’ from shoreline to sea.

Where does a pirate go potty?

The pirate who’s wonderin’ is me!

In the sand?

No

In a cave?

Oh

In a tidepool?

That’s NOT a good spot!

Off a pier?

No!

Bottoms up!

Oh!

Past the lighthouse?

Definitely not!

Where does a pirate go potty?

Blimey, I’m ready to burst!

Where does a pirate go potty?

Waitin’ too long is the worst!

Where does a pirate go potty?

Explorin’ from shoreline to sea.

Where does a pirate go potty?

The pirate who’s wonderin’ is me!

Avast, me hearties!

The pirate whose wonderin’ is me


Here are links to some reputable video-based resources for the selected ASL vocabulary words, along with some brief reminder notes to help jog your memory as you are learning the signs:

Burst: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/BURST/3084/1 (Hands make exploding motion)
Explore: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=718 (Palm-down “V” handshapes looks/explores)
Me: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/ME/3864/1 (Point to self)
No! https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/NO/8518/1 (Quickly press first two fingers to thumb)
Not: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=1515 (Thumb brushes chin)
Oh! https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/OH/10071/1 (Fist brushes/punches other palm)
Pirate: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=5287 (Boat + Eye Patch)
Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)
Uncomfortable: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=4433 (Not + Comfortable,  hands brush across each other)
Wait: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WAIT/463/1 (Palms up, fingers wiggle)
Where: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)

Note: The sign for potty/toilet (the noun) and the sign for "to use" the potty/toilet (the verb) are the same.

As I mentioned above, I worked with Annie Lynn of AnnieBirdd Music, LLC for the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? song. Annie Lynn has many award-winning songs about more serious topics such as anti-bullying and STEM-related topics such as the climate crisis. You can learn more about Annie and her work here. If you’re interested in hearing more of Annie Lynn’s music, purchasing and/or licensing her music for personal and/or professional use, or collaborating with Annie to create music for your own creative/educational projects, find out more here.

And, if you loved the book trailer for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? keep an eye on my social media accounts about the release of the book trailer for Where Does A Cowgirl Go Potty?  It’s in production now, and will be available to view, soon!

Want an early release copy of Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? Comment below, and/or share this post on social media, and tag me @DawnProchovnicAuthor (FB) / @DawnProchovnic (Twitter) for chances to win. I have two early release copies along with classroom sets of bookmarks to share. I’ll give them away sometime after International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Pssst....if you live in the Portland, Oregon area, I'll be doing a special Pirate Party story time at Green Bean Books at 3:30 pm on Thursday, September 19, 2019 to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'd love to see you there!

Last but not least, if you're looking for other pirate-themed (and cowgirl and potty-themed) lesson plans and resources, click here, and if you'd like me to visit your bookstore, library, school, or learning community, get in touch via the contact form at the left, or by leaving a comment below or on social media.

Yarrr!

September 9, 2019

Birth Stories for Books: HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER (and other books) by Josh Funk

I'm thrilled to bring you another Birth Stories for Books interview. This week's guest is Josh Funk, award-winning author of many excellent books for children. Today we'll be focusing on his path to publication for his forthcoming book, HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER (illustrated by Sara Palacios, Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019). Buckle up. Let's Go!

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by to talk with us, Josh. It’s been exciting to watch your career take off. You’ve been a vocal advocate for others in the industry, including those with marginalized voices. I’ve appreciated how you shine a light others’ books, especially your  #womeninillustration posts on Twitter. It is privilege to have an opportunity to shine a light on YOUR work. 

Josh Funk: Thank you. I feel that if you’re not actively advocating for change and standing up as an ally, then you might as well be fighting for the status quo.

DP: Again, thank you. I couldn't agree more. 

Your latest book, HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, comes out this month. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? For example, I’d love to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

JF: HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER is the second book in the “How to Code with Pearl and Pascal” series, following HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE. But interestingly enough, I wrote the guts of ROLLERCOASTER first.


For a while I was trying to figure out how to combine my day job as a software engineer with my picture book writing and it took several different drafts of completely different story attempts before I finally landed on the “How to” aspect and put it together with building/coding a sandcastle. One of those previous attempts was about a big sister and her little brother that went to a fair and saw everything through a lens of coding. In addition to coding, it was a sibling story about the little brother ruining the big sister’s day. My critique partners found it too confusing, especially the stuff about variables, which it focused on in addition to sequences, loops, and if-then-else’s (conditionals).

But it turns out variables are still one of the earlier topics one would teach in regards to coding (after sequences, loops, and conditionals, in fact), and once I had the somewhat simpler structure of HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE down, it wasn’t hard to replace the brother with Pascal the robot and fit Pearl in as the big sister and refocus and rebrand the story as HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER (with lots of other major revisions, of course).

DP: I love your SANDCASTLE story, and I found it to be an excellent example of how picture books can be a great place to start (even as an adult!) when you're trying to learn something new. I think it's so exciting that more and more kids will develop a baseline understanding of some key elements of coding because of your books. Yay you!

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, is there anything else that stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

JF: Obviously switching out the little brother for a robot is a pretty big change. But the ending and conflict were always the same. The main characters really wanted to ride the Python Coaster. For me, it’s important to have a clearly defined conflict/goal for the characters to try and reach - and then I throw obstacles in the way as I go.

DP: That's why your books are so much fun to read! 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication?

JF: Probably the nerdy pun of the original title: Hello World’s Fair. Hello World is generally considered the simplest output program one can create - where the words “Hello, World!” are printed to the screen. So combining World’s Fair with Hello World is really what kicked this story off the ground in the first place.

DP: I LOVE this backstory. Thanks for that little morsel! 

You've mentioned the SANDCASTLE book that is the first in this series. When you look back on the publication journey for the earlier book as compared to this latest one, what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

JF: Well, the journey to publications is really the same - as in both books share the journey. I was fortunate to be offered a two-book deal when I sold HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE, where the second book was to also be about coding. And while I didn’t write HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER until afterward, the journey for both was one and the same.

DP: What about your first published book as compared to this latest book? Were there some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

JF: They couldn’t be more different. My first published book (LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST) was a slush pile submission to Sterling Children’s. Soon after I signed with my agent, and along with her help, we submitted the “How to Code with Pearl and Pascal” series to Penguin.


Additionally, this was not the first time I worked with Penguin and the acquiring editor (Leila Sales, who is no longer with Penguin). I’ve enjoyed working with all of my editors, but in this case, it was not the first time working with Leila so there was a level of comfort that wasn’t there with my debut book.

DP: I'll bet Leila was great to work with. I heard her present at a SCBWI conference in Oregon, and she was full of great tips--and had an excellent sense of humor! 

One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at schools, libraries, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. You maintain a very active schedule of book-related events. What advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful events? 

JF: My most important piece of advice is to do what you like. If you love school visits, then do lots. If you don’t enjoy book festivals, then don’t apply to them. If you’d prefer to take part in a bookstore panel event as opposed to a solo storytime and signing, then stick to you preferences. If you enjoy what you do, it’ll show. And if you don’t enjoy what you do, it’ll also show. So don’t do those things.

DP: That's excellent advice--and liberating! Likewise, it seems that you maintain a very active presence on social media. How do you balance the time this requires with the time needed to write new books? 

JF: Social media ebbs and flows. Sometimes I go on once a day. Other times I’m on a lot. The whole “do what you enjoy” thing also applies to social media. But I generally like people, I’m a social dragonfly, so getting out there (in person or digitally) is fun for me.

DP: You have great resources for writers on your blog, including your excellent guide to writing picture books. I suspect developing and maintaining this sort of resource takes time away from the primary work of writing your own picture books, but I also suspect there are many positives for sharing what you’ve learned with others. Can you share some of the most positive (and not-so-positive) aspects of the “extras” you’ve created and maintain for others? Based on your experiences, what advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/illustrators who have an interest in setting up and maintaining some type of a web-based, “extra” for others?  

JF: I wrote those resources as a series of blog posts in 2014-2015 prior to the release of my first book. I was at the point where I knew I had a book coming out, but I, like many others, thought, “What do I have to share on social media? Who is going to care what I ate for lunch or a random deep thought I have?”

So I started putting together blog posts containing things I had learned about writing for children in my years leading up to publication. And voila - I had something to share!

A year or two later, I took those blog posts, rearranged them, and placed them on my website’s “Resources for Writers” section. I’ll note that they come in very handy when I get a message from my old college roommate who says his wife’s cousin’s dogsitter has an idea for a picture book and they want me to help them get it published. I just paste the link and say, start there.

I wouldn’t say that I update the resources all that often. While the industry is constantly evolving, most of the information I put up there is pretty basic and high level with links to other external sites and resources.

As far as other authors interested in setting up extras, I would certainly love to read everyone else’s advice. My resources are only one person’s perspective. I would love to learn from all other authors if they post their own tips and best practices!

DP: I love reading others' tips, too...and thanks for the suggestion of where to send my husband's cousin's dogsitter the next time he asks...

You also publish a newsletter, which I’m sure also takes a fair amount of time to keep up with. For those of us who might be pondering if it’s worthwhile to do some type of a newsletter, what are the pluses and minuses of this type of reader outreach, from your perspective? 

JF: I’m not totally sure it’s worth it. But you never know what’s gonna help connect with your readers. My uncle, who isn’t on social media, responds to my newsletter every time I send one out (about 4-6 times a year). And that’s really the only way he hears updates about my books. I think if you’re connecting directly with your readers (YA and above), a newsletter is critical. For picture books, it’s less so.

DP: I appreciate the perspective. Thanks! 

Here's another question: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

JF: Keep writing new things. Don’t get hung up on that first story and revise it over and over and over again without writing something new. You will learn so much from the process of getting that first story critiqued, and revising, and taking workshops and classes, and so on, that your second story will start off in a much better place. And your third story will likely be even better. So keep writing new things.

DP: Yes! Yes! Yes! That is such excellent advice! 

Before we wrap up, do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on, Josh? 

JF: I’m hard at work on the fourth LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST book, which will be called SHORT & SWEET and will be out in the fall of 2020.

DP: That's such a fun series--and what a great, new title! I'll look forward to reading it. 

You have been so generous with your time, Josh. Thank you so much for sharing your Birth Story for Books with us!

JF: Thank you for inviting me to chat.

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Photo Credit: Carter Hasegawa, 2017
Josh Funk writes silly stories such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the It's Not a Fairy Tale series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series in conjunction with the New York Public Library, Dear Dragon, Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, A Night at the Bookstore: A Barnsie & Noble Adventure, and more coming soon!

Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 400 schools, classrooms, and libraries and he is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

September 3, 2019

Birth Stories for Books: THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, by Contributing Author, Patti Richards

According to Harvard Medical School, "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Edited by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Marlena Myles
I think we could all use a bit more gratitude-related benefits, and THANKU: POEMS ABOUT GRATITUDE, seems like a good place to start (edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena MilesMillbrook Press, 2019).

I'm so grateful that one of the contributors, author Patti Richards, offered to share how one of her poems came to be in this beautiful new book for young readers.

Feeling Grateful
by Patti Richards

THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, was born in the heart of the amazing Miranda Paul. The idea for the book came about long before I got involved, and along with being absolutely thrilled to be included, this book-birth story is a testimony to the importance of critique groups, writing partners and always looking out for each other…something for which I am VERY thankful!

I follow lots of writer’s blogs, but I don’t read every post every day. When Miranda announced that she was running a contest to find two more poems/poets for her debut editorial project, THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, I missed the announcement. But my long-time writing partner, Lisa Rose, didn’t! Lisa and I have been in the kidlit trenches together for years, and she knows that writing poetry is one of my favorite things to do. I was working away at my desk when I got an email that read, “YOU SHOULD DO THIS!” in all caps! When Lisa types in all caps, I listen! I read Miranda’s post inviting followers to submit a kid-friendly poem about gratitude, the theme of the anthology, and got to work.

I feel like authenticity is crucial when you’re trying to reflect feelings that, as an adult, are not easy to bring to the surface at a moment’s notice. I remembered how thankful I was for my first dog, a memorable birthday party, my first trip to an amusement park, my bicycle. But then something surfaced that changed my life-- my first pair of glasses.

You might think it a bit of a stretch for a kid to be thankful for her first pair of glasses. Especially a chubby girl that was already struggling with self-image issues at the tender age of 9. But when I started 4th grade, I couldn’t see the chalkboard. My sister got her first pair of glasses when she was 5. I remembered how she and the other kids with glasses got teased on an almost-daily basis, and I didn’t want any part of it. I was so scared about getting glasses that I asked a friend next to me to tell me everything that was on the board so I could write it all down. That way no one else would know my secret. I thought I had figured out the perfect way to avoid ever being called “four eyes.” But when my parents took me for my annual eye exam I was exposed- and devastated. Not only did I need glasses, I needed them all the time. My parents tried to help me get excited about choosing frames- the new wire style would look so nice, you’ll hardly even notice them- but I wasn’t buying it. A few weeks later, it was time to pick up the glasses, I asked God to miraculously make me able to see before the appointment. I told Him He didn’t even have to get me a dog anymore. Just please don’t make me wear glasses.

When we got to the eye doctor I climbed up in the great big chair and waited. He walked in with the tray that held my glasses. I sat back, closed my eyes and felt the wire frames slip lightly over my ears. “Ok, open your eyes!” the doctor said. And then it happened. I. Could. See. I mean really see. There wasn’t a line on the chart- even the tiny one on the bottom- that wasn’t as clear as day. Colors were brighter, lines were crisp and even the clouds in the sky were fluffier. And I was as thankful as my nine-year-old self could possibly be with my limited life’s experiences and brand-new way of seeing. Was I nervous on Monday morning when I had to wear the glasses to school for the first time? You betcha! But was I thankful all over again when I didn’t need anyone’s help seeing what was on the board? Absolutely.

But how to turn this miraculous thankfulness into a poem that young readers could quickly identify with was another thing completely. I started thinking about familiar characters and their experiences with seeing clearly and Alice, popping through her looking glass came to mind. Once she stepped through, she saw things in a totally different- albeit reversed and crazy- way. And once I put on my glasses, I saw everything in a new and different way too! Alice became a vehicle to help young readers connect with my own experience of thankfulness. And what a fun way to share with others the gratitude that can follow when something scary becomes something wonderful.

It didn’t take long for me to write a few drafts of the poem, which was good because Miranda’s deadline was fast approaching. I hit submit, and in a few weeks, I heard back from her that my poem was a front runner and that she really loved how kid-focused the piece was. Then a few weeks after that I heard from her again letting me know that she loved the poem and wanted to include it in the anthology. I was over-the-moon grateful and excited (even more than when I got that first pair of glasses), and when I found out who I would be joining in the pages of this beautiful book I was overwhelmed and humbled to put it mildly.

It took several revisions to get the piece just right, then came contract signing and all the fun stuff of seeing the illustrations for the first time and making final tweaks. Then before I knew it, we had the pre-order link, a release date and final art. It was a whirlwind ride for me, with the entire process taking less than a year, but what a journey! I want to especially thank Miranda Paul for taking a chance and including my work in this anthology. What a gift! And I want to also give a heartfelt “Thank You!” to my friend and writing partner, Lisa Rose. If she hadn’t been watching out for me that day, I never would have had this opportunity.

So, here’s to writing partners, critique groups, authors with vision and new glasses! It took each of these things to make this book birth story happen for me, and I am truly grateful!

This is such a touching backstory, Patti! I'm so grateful you shared it with us. Here's to writing partners, critique groups, authors with vision and new glasses, indeed! (But I must say, I half expected your author photo to show you in glasses!)

THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE is available everywhere books are sold. 

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Writer, teacher, mother, wife, storyteller, Patti Richards has spent more than 25 years spinning yarns and telling tales. Her children’s work includes three nonfiction books, and several magazine articles, including a fiction piece in Highlights Magazine. She was a Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain Honorable Mention winter in 2018 and a finalist in 2014, and she's been a Writer’s Digest Honorable Mention winner three times for her picture book manuscripts. Patti is a freelance writer and editor and offers professional manuscript critique services. As a freelance writer, she provides web content for various clients and has contributed to local newspapers, regional and national parenting and women's magazines. Patti lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan with her husband, Gene, where their three adult children come in and out regularly! Learn more at pattigail1.com.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.