It’s the Mother of All Reading Weekends!

Every once in awhile I find new bloggers on my favorite topic, YA and Children’s Books, and I get a warm fuzzy. I’ve got more than a warm fuzzy now, I’ve got The Mother of All Challenges for a book reading/reviewing extravaganza. (Yes, I, too, am prone to hyperbole. I even like spelling the word. Wheee!) How many books can you read and review in 48 hours?! Game to find out? Some of the participants are professional reviewers, ALA types, junior librarians, etc., and your honor as a complete weekend slacker and constant-reader-of-YA-novels-while-eating-in-bed is at stake. The person who started this thinks she can read/review, count ’em, 40. Four-Oh. Are you in?

Final rules and information will be available on Thursday, June 15th, and then it’s on. And here’s a review of the rules so far:

The weekend is June 16–18th, 2006. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the 15th and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday… or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But the 48 hours do need to be in a row.

The books should be about fourth-grade level and up. Adult books are fine, especially if any adult book bloggers want to play.

It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. If you want to skip sleep and showers to do this, go for it (but don’t stand next to me). If you want to be a bit more laid back, fine. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge.

The length of the reviews are not an issue. You can write a sentence, paragraph, or a full-length review.

For promotion/solidarity purposes, let your readers know when you are starting the challenge with a specific entry on that day. When you write your final summary on Monday, let that be the last thing you write that day, so for one day, we’ll all be on the same page, so to speak.

Your final summary should be posted online after 8:00 on Monday morning, even if you finished your 48 hours on Sunday. Include the number of books read, the approximate hours you spent reading, and any other comments you want to make on the experience.

Hit the link here to sign up, and start stockpiling food in your bedroom. Good luck!

Marketing the YA Reader

(I should warn you that this is the Web equivalent of drunk-dialing: blogging about writing while in depressing Edit Hell. I apologize in advance for the negative tone.)
I have been thinking I should get a real job.
There’s got to be millions to be made in marketing, but I’ve never been interested in creating consumerism and pandering to corporations. I want to be a writer, and do boring things like connect with people and help YA readers and middle grade kids know that, whatever their home life or school situation is, they’re not alone.
How silly of me.

Today I read Kate Brian’s Lucky T and realize that a ‘real’ job is just inches away. I can now engage in my chosen profession AND siphon some of the cash to be had in marketing jobs. Product placement is the key! Kate Brian is living the dream: she’s a marketing guru disguised as a YA writer.

I knew it by the time I got to the third chapter of her novel. I stopped, picked up pen and paper, and went back to the beginning of her novel, so I could take notes on her awesome huckster technique. This is what I found:

In the first chapter of her novel, Brian mentioned:
Victoria’s Secret, Miss Sixty low-riders, Red Bull, Diet Coke, (Anne of Green Gables, Tolkien, Beauty & the Beast) Hubba Bubba, Hello Kitty & “Micky-D’s.” Chapter 2 listed the Escape Hybrid, Pizza Hut Express, and McDonalds. Chapter 3: American Eagle, FCUK, BBQ Lays, Proactiv, The Matrix, NBA Blazers, (Pier 39 – a place, so that’s iffy) Advil, Cosmo Magazine. Chapter 4 gave me Fudge-Covered Oreos, Snapple, Febreze, Travel Network, DKNY Jeans, Hilton, Discman; Ch. 5 inserted Avon’s Skin-So-Soft, Mack trucks, Kill Bill, and Wes Craven, the movie-maker, and led to Chapter 6 with Oral B Brush-ups, J-Crew, Collin Farrell, NCAA College Basketball 2K3 on Xbox and SportCenter. It goes on. By Chapter 9, I had to get another pad of paper. It included: 49ers, BCBG, Abercrombie, (Captain Underpants) Shape Magazine, Power Rangers, Maxim Magazine, Lindsay Lohan, iPod, WNBA, Tom Hanks,( the movie, Castaway) Ch. 12: Kodak, FedEx, Barbie, Pacific Sunwear, Hollister Co., Haagen-Dazs, The Gap, Yoo-Hoo, Birkenstocks, InStyle Magazine, BlackBerry, Starbucks, Polo Sport Cologne.

It’s so simple it’s blinding. Character-driven fiction isn’t what 13-18’s want to read, anyway. They simply want to be told what to wear and where to get it. And then they can get on with the rest of their fairytales lives and live happily ever after.
Right?
Okay. I know that publishers these days publish some novels to be commercials, books not destined for bookshelves longer than a season, thus okay to be filled with soon-to-be-dated pop culture references and this week’s fashion trends. I realize that in many ways publishing is no longer about the book, or, heck, the reader and it’s all about the money and how best to make it fastest. That’s part of being in a capitalistic culture. And I want to state that I don’t think that eliminating all brand names and popular culture references from a novel is necessary. I know that there are some things that are sort of American icons like Disneyland or well-known landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the names of movies and actors, bands and singers, etc., that can bring a little anchoring to your story, and I’m CERTAINLY all for mentioning the titles of books that the characters are reading or have read. But enough is enough. Am I hoping to sell Proactiv to my acne-scarred reader? Maybe entice them to whine for more allowance to try the newest Starbucks drink or scarf down the flavor of the month at Haagen-Dazs or the newest double cheese burger at Burger King and pack on a few more pounds? If I am… why?

I think my mother kind of created a monster when she used to rip the brand tags off my (secondhand, name brand) jeans and tell me that Mr. Levi-Strauss didn’t pay rent to be advertised on my body. (Too bad I didn’t appreciate this point of view at the time.) I can’t do this pop culture thing. I’m too disbelieving and too cynical and frankly, too slow to keep up with the mercurial ebbs and flows of what’s hot and what’s not. Trying makes me feel like a junior high geek (that ill-concealed persona which lurks beneath my urbane adult self) and also seems to make me Least Likely To Succeed as a writer. And, finally, it makes me feel dishonest to think of putting so many products in a story, as if I’ve cheapened the act of creation it is to write a story. I’d feel like a total sell-out. What does Abercrombie & Fitch or Bayer or Tide or Jenny Craig or NyQuil or NoDoze or any other pharmaceutical, cleaning product, food brand or clothing line have to do with telling a good story? And it always begs the question, to me: what’s the benefit for the writer? Are these people paying her somehow?

Every teen I know is already so self-conscious that what they have isn’t the best thing, the right thing, the things that the leaders of the pack have had for weeks and are about to throw away for the next big thing that they’re halfway insane. If you’re writing for kids because you love that age group, why would you help make them crazier by writing them ad copy in lieu of a story that can take them out of the noise in their heads, for just a blessed minute?

Odds & Ends

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. — W. Somerset Maugham

I don’t know what they are, either. After another round of edits (and a truly horrendous conversation with *S.A.M., resulting in him actually feeling the need to explain emigrate vs. immigrate, and saying the words “show, don’t tell” — the horror!!) I now officially feel that I know nothing about novels, nothing about writing, nothing about my characters, and all too much about the nature of certain people on the East Coast. That’s okay – I know someone else on that side of the world, and she remarked once that she was glad to be back East where she can be rude. This North Bay girl might need to take some lessons from a Jersey Girl and be a little rude…

The Detroit Free Press is following one of their writers through the process of writing and selling a book. Her first installment is a funny piece on readers and writers and that frightening statistic of 80% of Americans who believe they have a book within them (That number comes from Brian Hill and Dee Power, the authors of “The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them” (Kaplan, $19.95).). Well, we have that in common, I suppose, but it’ll be interesting to see if the author perseveres to get it written and actually sold. Anyway, statistics (those lying, twisted things) are always being collected to reveal that there are far more novelists than readers, and writers often have to take a deep breath before committing themselves to the act of creation that is writing. But once you’re in for the lunacy of writing, why stop there? Why not believe that you can win tickets to the Dublin Writing Festival, too? It’s just one more impossible thing to believe before breakfast.

A really annoying trip to the bookstore with the Littles (younger sibs) proved to me something I’d long suspected: that there really are very few good chapter books for the transitional group from early readers to longer fiction. There aren’t as many multicultural books as there should be. There aren’t as many great books for middle grade readers as they should be, and there really aren’t as many books for reluctant readers as there could be. This is NOT to say that there aren’t some marvelous books out, but in the huge chain bookstore where I was (yuck, and I usually patronize independents, but I wasn’t near one), I saw huge, thick books that beckoned middle grade readers who were already competent, not interesting books for struggling kids. I saw a lot I didn’t like, and it made me want to go home. Funnily enough, an article I ran across in the School Library Journal website came to the same conclusions! I feel vindicated… but now I’m worried, too. What are we writers going to do about this? I hope publishers are listening, too…
*secret agent man, in case you’d forgotten.

Thursday already?

You can always tell when I’m avoiding work… I come back to ye olde blog like iron filings to magnets. It’s been quiet enough lately so you know I have been working, however; I’ve been in Edit Hell, and it looks like I’m in for a good long stay. Since I’m currently stuck, you lucky thing, you benefit from my misery! Yay!

One of my favorite teachers and writers, Esme Raji Codell has just started a blog in hopes of encouraging kids and their adults to read a book every day. Just one book… and she thinks it might change the world. I agree. If people read ANYTHING it would change the world. I get so tired of hearing people talk about what books are “appropriate” or not for high school students or Christian children, or kids in general, and then hear them admit that they have only read the objectional parts, and they’ve never actually read the book. Um. Would we accept it from lawmakers if they just skimmed bills and amendments? (Don’t answer that – I’m afraid we’ll find out we do that already.) Why are people accepting anything from non-literate adults trying to make rules for students? Also, I am appalled when I realize just how much I got from reading as a kid, and just how many kids are getting by and raising themselves without having books read aloud to them, and without gaining an interest in books as a key to expanding their worldview. At any rate, check out Esme’s website, and I hope to read a couple of her middle grade books and talk about them on our sister site soon…
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I’m a bit late in doing so, but I wanted to point out the fact that Locus magazine did a YA edition in May! I’m pretty sure that back copies of the print magazine can still be found, but there are a couple of interviews online. One of them is an interview with Scott Westerfeld, whose books I find amazing and thoughtful and scary. (Check out Peeps or Pretties… or Uglies) Another interview is with the blindingly fabulous Holly Black, whose novel, Tithe won beaucoup awards and was also deeply spooky and thoughtful. The thing I like best about Holly Black is that she didn’t expect to be successful… so there’s still hope for the rest of us!

~~~~
Meanwhile, a small plug for a YA sci-fi/fantasy and sci-fi nonfiction author whose novel I hope to get into soon – Australian author Justine Larbalestier has written a couple of really complex and intriguing novels about the family…um, genetics of magic. Her first novel, Magic or Madness involves a girl whose mother is institutionalized in a mental asylum. The girl realizes that she has special powers – which makes you wonder about the mother, doesn’t it? The second novel is titled Magic Lessons, and apparently it’s a heckuva sequel, so reserve it at your library or bookstore asap! (PS – Larbalestier is Scott Westerfeld’s wife. Who knew? Okay, they did, but other than them…)
What attracted me to Larbalestier in the first place was her nonfiction work. She delved into a topic I love for a PhD thesis project – she wrote a piece called Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Since I love old 40’s and 50’s sci-fi, with its sternly divided gender roles and High Fantasy action sequences, Larbalestier’s reading of the old magazines like Amazing Stories was interesting to me. She’s edited a sequel (if nonfiction comes with those) in the form of an anthology of stories entitled Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century which includes both stories and critical essays. Okay, it’s nerdish, but I eat up this kind of stuff… I read Jack Zipes essays on fairy tales for fun. Never mind…Let’s not talk about it anymore…
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Our high tech world is connected. Advertising works by way of word of mouth, and by way of Internet, and if you try to keep something away from people, they’re going to hear about it, and they’re not going to be happy. It’s sort of an American tradition, as it were. Well, the Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, Minn., may have had to learn this the hard way. During last week’s Young Authors Convention, which was geared for fifth thru eighth graders, the Convention banned the newest Sid Fleischman Humor Awarded YA novel Absolutely, Positively Not…(Scholastic/Levine, 2005), by David LaRochelle,which is about a teen coming to terms with his sexuality. (Or, not coming to terms, as it were.) The writer wasn’t allowed to display his book, and the Conference keynote speaker, in protest, scrapped his notes and held and open discussion with the students about how they felt about the whole thing. I’m sure that did much more for the kids than even showing the book in a display, eh?

Meanwhile, McDonalds is trying their hand at suppressing another book. The YA version of Fast Food Nation, entitled Chew On This is #4 on the New York Times Bestseller List, and has been there for a month! Publishers Weekly talks about how the publishers are fighting back against McDonald’s attempt to discredit the author, the research and the publishers.

Keep writing!

Summer in the …City

The city of Medina, Minnesota, that is. I hadn’t thought of going to a conference this year, but You’re at the Helm! The Business of Writing of Writing and Illustrating For Children, a conference put on by The Children’s Literature Network sounds like it has got some good nuts-and-bolts information about how to manage your writing as a business. The conference is mid-week, Wednesday and Thursday, July 26 and 27, 2006, and if you register before May 31st it’s a lot less expensive. There’s a huge emphasis on marketing — which is something that always makes me feel a bit uneasy — so it might be worth checking out! And somewhere in Minnesota, there’s bound to be a hotel with air conditioning for all that humidity…


Statistics Lie?Bowker, which tracks book publishing in the United States says that publishing books for YA and children is down fifteen to twenty percent since 2004. Of course, School Library Journal is quick to point out that it’s because 2004 was a banner year in children’s books. Sales have increased, despite fewer books published overall.


Speaking of marketing, wouldn’t it be great if you could simply market your book by having a treasure hunt? Oh, someday I’ve got to write a fantasy novel that takes advantage of that! Philanthropist and author Michael Stadther is a man who likes whetting the appetites of his readers. His treasure hunt, which celebrates the completion of his second fantasy novel, is meant for whole families to get involved in — and the jewels are really hidden. The maps are real. This man has a lot of money, and a lot of fun planning and executing these hunts, and people really love playing. The next worldwide treasure hunt begins this September!


It doesn’t seem possible, but the cute little aardvark with the glasses and his bratty little sister, DW, is turning THIRTY this year. Author Marc Brown’s character, now with his own PBS series, has been around forever, even though he’s still only eight. This all goes to show that if you write a really good series of books that are well loved, even if you’re never “famous,’ you’ll be around to touch the lives of a generation. Or two! And what a ‘wonderful kind of day’ that makes!

Viva la Rogers! Or, El Rogers, anyway…

Not really a writing item: Since I was thinking recently about Mr. Rogers, I thought you might want to know that today in 1967, his show debuted, and started us all on the path to being …good neighbors and cool people. Of course, there is a tribute album for his songs… but can anything involving Jon Secada and string orchestras be entirely good!?

Anyway. Here’s to being good neighbors…

Pieces Highlights for Children would like to see:

Those interested in trying to hone your craft of short stories or try your hand at writing for children’s magazines should perk up: you’re needed. This was sent in an open post to members of our list serv:
The editors at Highlights have created a wish list of manuscript needs. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, maybe this will help. Below you will find our special needs in addition to the regular submissions we always like to receive.
If you know someone who might find this information useful, please feel free to pass it along…

Enjoy,
George Brown, Assistant Editor
Highlights for Children
570-251-4510


From Kim Griswell, Coordinating Editor
Travel and Adventure (I imagine stories about CHINA might work here, A.F.!)
Articles that feature adventurous travel. Not the “family vacation” kind of thing, unless your family goes to study turtles in the Galápagos Islands, as does the author of “Stars and Sea Lions” (June 2006). We prefer articles that feature kids in some way. Publishable-quality photos are almost essential for these kinds of articles, since it would be difficult (or impossible) for us to acquire photos if the writer couldn’t provide them. Please remember that even travel and adventure articles need a focus—not simply “We went here and did this,” but something that reveals the meaning behind the travel or the reason for the adventure, etc. 750 words maximum.

From Marileta Robinson, Senior Editor
Fiction for Young Readers
We need fun, lively stories as well as quiet, thoughtful stories for young readers at first- and second-grade reading levels. I would like to see more stories with boy appeal, like “Training Wheels” in September 2005 and “Fox and His Halloween Tail” in October 2005. 500 words maximum.

From Carolyn Yoder, Senior Editor
World Cultures
· Intimate looks at other peoples and their traditions—particularly in northern and southern Africa, Asia (other than India), Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (articles on children)
· Holidays—first person
· U.S. History
· Modern history (20th century), particularly the Civil Rights movement
· Holidays, particularly Christmas and Thanksgiving
· Articles that touch on the diversity of people in the United States
· Biographies of U.S. subjects as children
· Anecdotal articles on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
· Articles on patriotic themes
· HUMOROUS articles on U.S. history (review back issues for articles on Lincoln and humor, Washington and his teeth, Jefferson getting his life mask, and Ben Franklin and his love of exercise)

From Judy Burke, Associate Editor
Sports
We’re interested in sports articles that focus either on a known athlete (a squeaky-clean one), on the development of specific skills(for example, fielding a grounder), or on the challenges faced by athletes of any kind (for example, being smaller than your teammates). Successful articles often include quotes gained from personal interviews with athletes or experts and useful tips for readers who play that sport. 800 words maximum.

From Andy Boyles, Science Editor
Science and Nature Articles
Our guidelines state that our word limit is 800, but articles that are even shorter (350–400 words) are especially welcome as possible one-page features. We put a high value on articles that show science as a process—articles that follow a scientist or group of scientists as they try to solve one of nature’s mysteries.
We are always looking for science articles about animals that are of high interest to kids. An article might follow researchers who study such animals. The article may tell the adventures of only one day, but information about the animals and the research will arise naturally in the course of the action, so our readers will learn
something about both.
We currently have enough articles about birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects (especially bees), and volcanoes.

From Joëlle Dujardin Kirkland, Associate Editor
Crafts: Crafts with boy-appeal, games, holiday crafts, and crafts from other cultures (with background included)
Younger Nonfiction: First-person accounts of fieldwork; arts stories; biographies with interesting slants; kids living in other cultures; ancient history; animals; details from urban life(workers, transportation, etc.). These stories should have a clear focus and should be written at a first- or second-grade reading level. 450 words or fewer.
Gallant Kids: Leads (or articles) on kids under thirteen years old doing service in their communities. 350 words

From Linda Rose, Assistant Editor
Full-Page Puzzle Activities
On the inside-back cover, we like to take advantage of the cover-stock surface by using a large illustration or incorporating photos in the puzzle. Often, this is the page on which we can do several activities within one (for example, using one illustration for a number of activities). Submissions to this area ideally include
detailed art directions/notes, as well as succinct and easily understood activity directions for the reader. (Artwork or photos do not need to be submitted with the manuscript.)
Careers Articles
We are always in the market for fresh and interesting articles that take an in-depth look at a career. Our hope is that a career profile will provide kids with information that they cannot easily get elsewhere, such as in a typical “careers” book or in an encyclopedia. Instead, we want our career pieces to be intriguing reads that just happen to be about a person’s career.
As our guidelines point out, “We prefer biographies that are rich in anecdotes.” Substantive and “insider” anecdotes are often critical to the success of these articles; we want kids to feel that they are getting a “behind the scenes” or inside glimpse into the subject.
Focusing on one individual (or, in some cases, a few) often helps to make the manuscript feel more personal. Career pieces that focus on a person within a career tend to be more appealing. We prefer research based on firsthand experience, consultation with experts, or primary sources.

From George Brown, Assistant Editor
Short Activities
We’re looking for short puzzles, activities, teasers, and interesting tidbits to go on our mixed pages—those four or five pages per issue with a variety of short activities. These activities, which can be almost anything, have to be powerful to
pull readers into the magazine. However, we do not publish word searches, crossword puzzles, or fill-in-the-blank activities.

Highlights recommends reviewing the magazine’s submission guidelines, available at www.highlights.com, found in the About Us section. Back issues can be found at most local libraries.

Please send submissions to the specific editor listed above, or
Manuscript Coordinator
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431

The manuscript is away! And now the pacing continues apace…

Because whenever I have to wait more than four minutes for something, I start to unspool mentally, I shall regale you with more news from the publishing world. After all, it’s something to do while I’m waiting*, which, I’m assured, is the best way to make the time pass between S.A.M. and the Editor E. hashing out my manuscript for what one hopes is the blessedly last bloody time before it passes inspection…

I came across the story of an amazingly arrogant person who got first an MFA and then a Ph.D in children’s literature, and was so angry that he couldn’t find a university job that he wrote a book about it. Yes, this is what America wants to read. Strange, but I think anyone observant about collegiate life knows that professors have way too much to do to get much publishing done unless they retire for awhile. I look at my brilliant and favorite ex-Mills professor, Dr. Kahn – she had to leave teaching in order to really research and write, because she gave all of her time to us on a daily basis. While I wish this author the best of luck with his work, I suggest he just teach high school for awhile and write — and see if he has any better luck with being brilliant and publishing and being an amazing teacher!!

Publishers Weekly reports that ‘tween’ publisher B*tween Productions is doubling their list this year. B*tween publishes “wholesome” reading for the preteen girls set, and began the popular Beacon Street Girls series in 2004. Admittedly, the word ‘wholesome’ makes my teeth ache, but what that really means is that these books are girl-positive and made to foster independence and action in girls. Their mission statement says “The mission of the company is to provide the kind of positive role models and empowering messages that help girls believe in themselves whatever their challenges. The BSG brand crosses socio-economic barriers and provides problem-solving tools within an entertaining format that girls can apply to their own lives.” Sounds worthwhile to me.

Meanwhile Chronicle Books has expanded their picture book and board book lines into middle grade series. The company expects to move further into older reader categories, and has expressed a desire to expand its list of titles for middle-grade readers to include stand-alone novels and nonfiction as well as series pieces. Their beautifully produced adult books make Chronicle Books a notable local publisher – hopefully one of us will get onto their lists.

Is it just me, or are we seeing more YA books by Australian authors than ever? It’s a trend, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief has helped cement the presence of the Australian voice in the American YA pantheon (and Markus being cute and nice and easy to listen to hasn’t hurt, either). I hope this means more books from Jaclyn Moriarty!!

I haven’t read many good girl-friendly Westerns, have you? This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to put it on my Summer Reading List!

Well, I’ve gotten the flyer in the mail for the 35th Anniversary SCBWI Summer Conference and found out that Our Lady Jane is speaking!! And now I have to decide between new ceiling fans and new flooring in my house, or a week in LA and getting to hear her. It’s 87, and the fans and cool wood floors are winning out at present, but oh! – Lady Jane is the patron saint of Fantasy! It’s a tough choice.

*Isn’t it scary the places your brain reverts to when you’re nervous?!

Patricia Polacco's Pen

Woe to those who cross a writer, for they shall find that writers have big mouths, fast typing speeds and a long, long reach.

At least, that’s what SRA/McGraw-Hill should have realized when they decided to take on children’s writer Patricia Polacco. A Bay Area resident, Polacco has a Ph.D in Art History with an Emphasis on Iconography. After years of thinking that her art lay in other directions, she began writing in her early 40’s, and got her start with SCBWI. A prolific author, she has opened her heart and home to the writing community and is an avid speaker and teacher about the writing process.

Recently, she was asked by what she assumed was simply a booking group, to take part in the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago on May 2 and 3, 2006. The booking group asked Polacco’s staff for a specific outline and information about her talks, and grew more insistent as the date approached.

Polacco wondered why. She was told, “They requested my written outline because their “client” wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about the “No Child Left Behind” mandate … as well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company, which manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country.” Polacco, reasonably concerned, did a little deeper digging – and found that the Buchanan Associates are not a booking or advertising firm, they represent… SRA/McGraw-Hill.

Questions as to why SRA/McGraw-Hill would want to invite this woman and pay her to speak… well, they because she is well known, and outspoken and well respected among teachers and writers and librarians. They thought to put her under tremendous pressure to say “upbeat, positive, non-political” things. About them. And then un-invited her when she wouldn’t cave in.
She responded in kind, with lawyers.

And then t r u t h o u t got involved, and reported on a link between the current presidential administration, which implemented the No Child Left Behind laws, and the publishing company.
And because the ‘pen’ is now a mighty fast keyboard, the world passed the word, and now you know, too.

I guess, if fair is fair, these folk had the right to un-invite Polacco because her content disagreed with their requirements, especially since this was a paid gig, but it’s pretty tacky to have invited her and then tried to write her speeches. More questionable is that a publishing company is so sold on trying to promote the flawed No Child Left Behind as a good thing, when it has been described at best as ‘incomplete’ by countless teachers and other educational professionals — the very people with whom SRA/McGraw-Hill wants to work and support — that they were unwilling to allow Polacco to speak if she even referred to the legislation. Possibly a Reading Association Conference was the wrong venue for such flashpoint topics… but then, why would a company representing SRA/McGraw-Hill ask the outspoken Polacco in the first place? Strange.

Patricia Polacco’s Pen

Woe to those who cross a writer, for they shall find that writers have big mouths, fast typing speeds and a long, long reach.

At least, that’s what SRA/McGraw-Hill should have realized when they decided to take on children’s writer Patricia Polacco. A Bay Area resident, Polacco has a Ph.D in Art History with an Emphasis on Iconography. After years of thinking that her art lay in other directions, she began writing in her early 40’s, and got her start with SCBWI. A prolific author, she has opened her heart and home to the writing community and is an avid speaker and teacher about the writing process.

Recently, she was asked by what she assumed was simply a booking group, to take part in the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago on May 2 and 3, 2006. The booking group asked Polacco’s staff for a specific outline and information about her talks, and grew more insistent as the date approached.

Polacco wondered why. She was told, “They requested my written outline because their “client” wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about the “No Child Left Behind” mandate … as well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company, which manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country.” Polacco, reasonably concerned, did a little deeper digging – and found that the Buchanan Associates are not a booking or advertising firm, they represent… SRA/McGraw-Hill.

Questions as to why SRA/McGraw-Hill would want to invite this woman and pay her to speak… well, they because she is well known, and outspoken and well respected among teachers and writers and librarians. They thought to put her under tremendous pressure to say “upbeat, positive, non-political” things. About them. And then un-invited her when she wouldn’t cave in.
She responded in kind, with lawyers.

And then t r u t h o u t got involved, and reported on a link between the current presidential administration, which implemented the No Child Left Behind laws, and the publishing company.
And because the ‘pen’ is now a mighty fast keyboard, the world passed the word, and now you know, too.

I guess, if fair is fair, these folk had the right to un-invite Polacco because her content disagreed with their requirements, especially since this was a paid gig, but it’s pretty tacky to have invited her and then tried to write her speeches. More questionable is that a publishing company is so sold on trying to promote the flawed No Child Left Behind as a good thing, when it has been described at best as ‘incomplete’ by countless teachers and other educational professionals — the very people with whom SRA/McGraw-Hill wants to work and support — that they were unwilling to allow Polacco to speak if she even referred to the legislation. Possibly a Reading Association Conference was the wrong venue for such flashpoint topics… but then, why would a company representing SRA/McGraw-Hill ask the outspoken Polacco in the first place? Strange.