Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Working Summer

Some of you are having vacation and enjoying the summer. I am enjoying my summer too, researching and writing. It is my pleasure to say that I am working on a biography of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I'm sure many other writers are doing the same, but it doesn't matter. Each book brings a new flavor to the table, and we should celebrate good books.

I have found plenty of material about the judge in the Internet. Yet, never satisfied I want more. Judge Sotomayor's brother has a list with my questions, but he can't answer them without her permission and, as we all know, she's too busy.

So, if anybody out there knows her or her family, I will like to hear. My questions are not political. I just want to know the names of her cousins and aunts, details of her father's burial, if she asks her mother for her blessing. Anything authentic.

I will be at the ALA conference in Chicago. From there, I'll fly to Puerto Rico. I hope to visit Lajas and Mayaguez, where Judge Sotomayor's family lives. Even if they can't answer my questions, I'll be able to feel the place, smell the smells of the towns that the judge visits twice a year.

I studied in Mayaguez, but we authors use our five senses better when we need to write about a place. I am looking forward to this experience.

I pray Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed. In any case, her story needs to reach children.


Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

I've just returned from camp in Michigan: "Jonathan Rand's Author Quest: the definitive writer's camp for serious young authors." There were ghost stories and campfires and basketball and silly songs, but mostly there was writing. I taught sessions on poetry and book-making. There were also sessions on character development, nonfiction, finding the right word, and being creative. When it came time for these young people to write on their own, it was impressive to look across the campgrounds and see fifty-seven 10 to 12-year-olds, sitting on picnic tables, stretched out beneath trees, perched on the rocks along the lake, all writing intently with only the sound of the wind in the pines and the call of a few passing birds. These were serious writers indeed, and good inspiration for me, when I feel stuck and unable to write.

As we say at Camp Ocqueoc, "Write On!"


This Is My Father's World

Many of our blog group members have scheduling conflicts this summer. I usually blog on Tuesdays, but since Stephanie is under both the weather and a mound of edits, and today is Father's Day, I thought I'd jump in early and celebrate a memory of my dad.

A tiny beam circled the dark corner of our cellar in West Peabody. No Tinker Bell flitting fairy, this was Daddy’s magic—a whole world in HO scale made just for us. Coal cars, flat cars, freight cars, hoppers—climbing, crossing, looping, stopping. My tank car was coupled behind Dave’s diesel locomotive. Next came Jeff’s boxcar and then little John’s caboose. Chug-a-chug-a-choo choo!

Hour upon hour Daddy had bent over a waist-high plywood board large as a bed; working and playing were always the same for him. The four of us watched in wonder, helping whenever possible. At one end of the board Daddy molded plaster mountains covering them with grass, rocks, shrubs, and trees. Using fine tools, model glue, and mighty patience he assembled a farmhouse, barn, water tank, and freight yard. With the addition of a schoolhouse, church, fire station, homes and businesses a small town grew. This was our Main Street with names in decals on the buildings to prove it—Dave’s Auto Parts, Chris’s Gas Station, Jeff’s Diner, and John’s Five and Dime. We were learning our importance.

Eight busy little hands arranged miniature accessories and figures. We positioned stoplights, cars, telephone poles, post boxes, fire hydrants, fences, and crossing gates. There were horses and cows to roam and graze the hills, tractors to plow fields, children to play in the schoolyard, and pedestrians to wander in shops. And railroad station personnel and travelers with suitcases always awaited the next arriving train. All aboard!

The straight tracks along the sides of the board had occasional turnouts or switches. Tracks ran up hills, over bridges and through tunnels then curved around at the ends. Hitched together in age descending order our cars moved as a unit. Daddy pushed the lever and we hummed along, the headlight from Dave’s engine leading the way as we circled our corner of the world.