Upcoming Author Visits and JASNA AGM 2011 in Fort Worth, TX

I was scheduled to visit several elementary schools in Fort Worth next week, and when I realized the 2011 JASNA AGM is also in Fort Worth and coincides with my trip, I knew I had to attend. I was too late to obtain an author table for the member book signing, but I’m so excited about the sessions and the Regency Ball Saturday night. The only question is, what will I wear?

Ch 46 of Sense and Sensibility, (Jane Austen N...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been a member of JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America) since 2004, and I’ve attended two other AGM’s (Annual General Meetings), one in Milwaukee, WI (2005) and the other in Vancouver, British Columbia (2007). This event is always a great inspiration for my novel(s), The Crossroads of Highbury (a work in progress since 2002). 2011 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Many of the sessions will focus primarily on that book, but I’m also attending sessions that cover broad topics for the Regency period. Here is a peek at my schedule next week:

Wednesday, October 12th

In the morning I visit Dobbs Elementary, and in the afternoon I go to Springer Elementary school.

That evening, sometime between 4 and 8 pm, I’ll drop by the Renaissance Worthington Hotel and pick up my registration packet for the AGM.

Thursday, October 13th

8:30 am – 10 am English Country Dancing Instruction. This class will prepare me for the Regency Ball Saturday night.

1:30 PM – 2:15 PM “The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen”
From the Chawton Estate, the British crime writer Lindsay Ashford, whose novels have been published on both sides of the Atlantic, will tell a fictional story that follows the relationship of Jane Austen and Anne Sharp. Shocked by Jane’s death, Anne turns detective, determined to discover how Jane died and who may have wanted her dead.  Attendees will learn that it is best not to take things at “face” value.

2:30 PM – 3:15 PM “Managing Muslins in the Modern Millennium”
During this engaging special session, Ms. Bradley will review the nuances of Regency clothing and accessories from head to toe, with particular attention to the class distinctions and the social aspects of dress.  Included in her talk will be an explanation of likely wardrobe choices of various characters in Sense and Sensibility.

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM “A Look to Die For”
After dinner on my own, I will step back into the Regency period with special guest lecturer Jinger Heath, founder of BeautiControl skin care company.  Ms. Heath will enlighten us on the perils of beauty with her presentation “A Look to Die For: Regency Cosmetics and Esthetics,” which examines the various methods and means that women used to enhance their looks in Jane Austen’s time.  I’ll learn which poisons of the past were used for “enhancing” a woman’s looks and what social conventions dictated the sacrifice of health for beauty in Regency England.

9:15 – 10:30 pm Whist for Dummies

Friday, October 14th

In the morning I visit Redeemer Montessori School in Irving, and that afternoon I return to the JASNA AGM.

Image via Wikipedia

The official welcome to the 2011 JASNA AGM is at 1:30 pm.

1:55 pm to 2:55 pm:  Dr. Joan Ray will discuss “Sense and Sensibility as Austen’s Problem Novel”.

Session A2 (3:15 PM) Liz Cooper, Wisconsin Region
Jane Austen, Publisher: Writing herself into money and longing for more
“I am never too busy to think of Sense and Sensibility.  I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her suckling child” – so wrote Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra.  But Austen had to use her own funds to become published.  Learn about the publishing world in Regency times and the royalties Austen received, drawn mostly from her own letters and from those of Austen family members.

Session B1 (4:15 PM)  Jack Laney, Collector and Historian, Kent, WA
Gentlemanly Pursuits: A Brief Discourse on Snuff, Cravats, and Firearms
This interactive session explores snuff and snuff etiquette, the many styles of cravats popular during the period and the firearms of Regency gentlemen. Participants will have an opportunity to try their skills at tying cravats, handling snuff and observing the discharge of a flintlock tinder lighter.  Fun, fun, fun!!!

Session C1 (5:15 PM)  Bill Peirson, Attorney, Dallas, TX
Ports of the Period
The Prince Regent, a man of overindulgence in many ways, liked his punch “strong.”  Join Bill Peirson as he reviews the various ports, sherries, brandies, and other alcoholic beverages that men of Regency England consumed with verve.

Whist Tournament 8:30 to 10 pm or perhaps the Sense and Sensibility Movie Marathon from 7pm to Midnight.

Saturday, October 15th

9:15 am to 10:15 am “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sense and Sensibility” presented by Juliet McMaster, Elaine Bander, Peter Sabor

Session D1 (10:45 AM) Tom Kelly, Jane Austen Society, Scottish Branch, Edinburgh, Scotland
Dads, Cads, and Lads
This session’s primary question asks, what does Jane Austen’s portrayal of male characters say to contemporary male readers?  How do these groups of characters—the “Dads” who head up families, the “Cads” who disrupt them and the “Lads” who heroically wed our heroines—impact the loves and relationships of the two sisters in Sense and Sensibility?  A real Scotman’s perspective!

Session E1 (11:45 AM) Carrie Bebris, Author, Dayton, OH
Gunsmoke: Dueling in Jane Austen’s Time
Since the duel between Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby takes place entirely off the page, modern readers might not realize that a duel occurred at all.  The unwritten drama in which the gentlemen in question risked death and criminal prosecution is brought to life in a multimedia presentation showing how the duel might have unfolded.

2 – 3 pm “Mr. Darcy’s Wet Shirt & Other Embarassments – Some Pleasures and Pitfalls in Austen Adaptations” presented by Andrew Davies

Session F1 (3:30 PM) James Nagle, Attorney, Seattle, WA
Coaches, Barouches and Gigs, Oh My! Land Transportation in Jane Austen’s Time
From Jane’s donkey-cart, to Henry Crawford’s barouche, Regency travelers, like us, hoped for speed, comfort and safety.  Unfortunately, Jane and her contemporaries had to sacrifice speed for safety or vice versa and endure the discomfort of long kidney-rattling journeys which made for extended stays with friends and relatives.  In this session I’ll learn all about Regency travel, and how your mode of transportation illustrated your status in life.

6 – 7 pm  Reception

7-8:30 pm  Banquet and a Toast to Jane Austen.

Jane Austen (Image via Wikipedia)

9pm – 12am Regency Ball

Sunday, October 16th

8am – 10 pm Regency Emporium and Author Book Signing.

10am – 12 pm Brunch featuring video interview of Deirdre Le Faye, a British writer who has specialized in the life and times of Jane Austen for more than forty years.

2011 Fall Retreat

If you want to write for children, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great organization to join. Although it is an international organization with annual meetings in New York City (January) and Los Angeles (August), your membership entitles you to participate in conferences and/or retreats happening in any state or region around the world. Attending a conference or retreat will give you the opportunity to fine tune your manuscript by getting feedback from an editor or literary agent. You will also learn what types of manuscripts editors or literary agents want to publish.

St. Scholastica Monastery

The Arkansas SCBWI writer’s retreat occurs every fall, and in recent years writers from across the state have converged on the Saint Scholastica Retreat Center in Fort Smith for three days of intensive work on their writing. The retreat center, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters, shares a 66 acre wooded area with Saint Scholastica Monastery, and the secluded setting is the perfect spot for contemplation and inspiration. I attended in 2009 and 2010, and during both retreats I made great progress with the revisions for my novel.

Sadly, I will be out of the state during the conference this year, but you may be able to attend! If you submit pages from your manuscript by October 1st, you will receive feedback from the editor at the retreat. The 15th annual Arkansas SCBWI Fall Retreat for Writers of Children’s Literature (November 4th-6th, 2011) will feature hands-on workshops led by Stacy Cantor Abrams, editor at Walker Books for Young Readers, and guidance on craft issues by Anna Myers, an Oklahoma author of nineteen novels for middle-grade and young adults.

You must be an SCBWI member to attend. Registration is usually by invitation only, and reservations are on a first come, first served basis. Email the Retreat Director (retreat @ arkansasscbwi.org) if you are interested in joining SCBWI and attending the retreat.


SCBWI Membership: First year is $85. Annual renewal fee is $70. Join SCBWI

Arkansas Fall Retreat: $280 (Includes meals, snacks, all sessions, and private rooms with a shared bath.)

For more information, visit these websites:

Arkansas SCBWI

Arkansas SCBWI Retreat Page


Anna Myers Main Website

Books Published by Bloomsbury Kids

Charlotte’s Web

Cover of "Charlotte's Web (paper-over-boa...

Cover of Charlotte's Web


And so begins the first meeting between two of the most famous characters in 20th century children’s literature, Wilbur and Charlotte.

I am a great admirer of E. B. White’s work, and Charlotte’s Web is one of my favorite children’s books. Today I caught part of a wonderful interview with Michael Sims’ about his new book, The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. The interview is on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. The book was released June 7, 2011 and is already in its third printing. There are links to more interviews on the author’s website, michaelsimsbooks.com, and I enjoyed reading the insightful article about the book at Smithsonian.com.

I often use Charlotte’s Web in writing workshops with older students (2nd-5th grades) because the plot of the book is a perfect example of a “Hero’s Journey.” I use three questions to begin the discussion. The answers to these questions help define the beginning, middle, and end of the book.


Who is the hero? Wilbur

Many students will name Charlotte as the hero, but she is a supporting character I like to call, “the Teacher Character,” because she helps the hero the most on his journey. Wilbur is the hero because he wants something, but he won’t achieve his goal until the end.


What does the hero want? Wilbur wants to live.

This is the hero’s goal, and it determines the end of the book. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur wants to live, and several supporting characters help make his dream a reality as the story unfolds.


What is the problem, or why is Wilbur’s life in danger? Fern’s uncle, Mr. Zuckerman, wants to eat him!

Several supporting characters, including Charlotte and Templeton the rat, help Wilbur convince Mr. Zuckerman that he is “SOME PIG” and way too “TERRIFIC” to eat.

Below is an outline I created of the plot in Charlotte’s Web. Teachers, feel free to use this outline in the classroom. It’s a great tool for readers and writers. Seeing how the story unfolds, step-by-step, might help you outline the plot in your own story.

Charlottes Web Plot

Double-click to view and print the full page.

For more information about E. B. White and Charlotte’s Web, try these websites:

E. B. White Official Website

Charlotte’s Web Study Guide

Activities at ABCTeach.com

Charlotte’s Web at Scholastic.com

More Links at eThemes (Missouri.edu)

Hans Christian Andersen

The most famous Danish writer for children, Hans Christian Andersen, died 136 years ago today. He is the father of the modern fairy tale, and I am one of his most dedicated students.

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen in New York City's Central Park. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Of the many authors I admire, Hans Christian Andersen has influenced my children’s writing the most. His timeless stories have a universal appeal, and when I create a picture book, I strive to emulate his style.

Polliwog Book Cover

Polliwog Book Cover

My third picture book, POLLIWOG, was heavily influenced by Andersen’s THE UGLY DUCKLING. “At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying, ‘Peep, peep.'” The large duckling does not know he will become a swan. Likewise, in my story, little Polliwog does not realize she will turn into a frog. In homage to Andersen, the species of my frog is a Spring Peeper. Polliwog does not sing in my story because female spring peepers do not sing. Only the male frogs sing, ‘Peep, peep, peep,’ but Polliwog will lay eggs and hatch more little polliwogs thus continuing the circle of life.

Vilhelm Pedersen illustration for "Ugly Duckling" from Wikimedia Commons.

POLLIWOG is a popular book with boys, but the boys often comment on the fact that Polliwog is female. Several boys asked me to put a male hero in my next book, so I chose to write about a sea horse. Although I was not consciously aware of it, I believe Andersen’s THE LITTLE MERMAID had some influence on my latest book, ‘SEA HORSE, RUN!’.

The opening lines of THE LITTLE MERMAID read: “Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above.”

The first lines of ‘SEA HORSE, RUN!’ are: “Far across the ocean, a reef kissed the surface of the water. Coral covered the reef, and Coral was alive. Coral loved to sing, but the only animal that could hear her song was Sea Horse.”

Pages 4 to 5 of Sea Horse, run! by Tammy Carter Bronson

Hans Christian Andersen was born April 2, 1805 and died August 4, 1875.

136 years later, Hans Christian Andersen’s stories for children endure, and he continues to influence modern literature.

Painting of Andersen, 1836, by Christian Albrecht Jensen (From Wikimedia Commons)


Read an essay about The Father of the Modern Fairy Tale by Terri Windling.

Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Center.

The Ugly Duckling (1844; On-line version annotated by Heidi Anne Heiner).

The Little Mermaid (1837; On-line version annotated by Heidi Anne Heiner).

Find more annotated fairy tales at SurLaLune FairyTales.com.

2011 DallasKidsRead!

Dallas Kids Read Festival Bookmark

DallasKidsRead! Festival Bookmark

I was deeply honored to speak at the DallasKidsRead! children’s book festival at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library (1515 Young Street) in Dallas, Texas on Thursday, July 28th. Big Thought and the Dallas Public Library partnered with the City of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District to provide an educational enrichment event for all 2nd through 5th grade students as part of the Thriving Minds Summer Camp program. Students from four elementary schools came to the central library to hear nine authors and illustrators discuss their children’s books. In addition to me, the authors and illustrators included:

Crystal Allen Author of How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.

Joe Cepeda Award-winning illustrator of more than 35 books including What a Cool World and The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (written by my fellow Arkansas author, Darcy Pattison).

Lydia Gil Author of Mimi’s Parranda.

Darlington Johnson Fourteen-year-old author of Layla the Ladybug.

Jennifer Kindert Illustrator of The Christmas Puppy and Llamas in Pajamas.

Toni Simmons Award-winning author of The Cheese Chase: Why Dogs Chase Cats.

Don Tate Award-winning author and illustrator of more than 40 children’s books including Black All Around!

Willy Welch Children’s entertainer, recording artist and author of Playing Right Field.

Multiple workshops took place in the morning and afternoon. During a brief midday break the branch manager, Sharon Martin, gave us a walking tour of the central library. I saw two amazing and unexpected treasures on the 7th floor: the “Lost Copy” of the Declaration of Independence and a Shakespeare First Folio compiled in 1623.

The event was open to the public from 4 to 7 PM. Each author and illustrator shared their books/art with children and their families while Jokae’s African-American Bookstore sold books for the presenters. It was a fabulous opportunity for children and their families to meet several authors and illustrators from across the country. If you live in the Dallas area, plan to attend the 2012 summer event. It will be a rewarding experience!

Dallas Public Library

J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St., Dallas, TX.

DallasKidsRead! Authors & Illustrators

Dallas Public Library

Dallas Public Library on Facebook

Jokae’s African-American Bookstore: Follow them on Twitter @Jokaesbooks