Thursday, July 30, 2009

Great Birthday Ideas

Today is my little sister's birthday so I have to give her a shout out. "Happy Birthday, Colyn!"

Speaking of birthdays, we went to the most creative kid's birthday party the other weekend. The little boy's b-day party had a theme of getting dirty. (How appropriate.)
Upon arrival, the children took off their shoes and socks so they could walk in paint and then put their footprints on a piece of butcher paper. The paper was hung to dry with each child's name on it so they could take it home with them. (Little K's footprints are now hanging on our laundry room door, which also is the entrance to our art supply room.) I've just got to remember to write the date on the paper so I have a reference point in the future.

Kids then could dig in a wheelbarrow to find small toys. The dad helped the kids put Mentos in a bottle of soda and then watch the soda fountain erupt upward feet in the air. (See the photo to the left for an idea of how this display really comes together for some entertainment. It will make you think twice before eating Mentos and drinking soda again for sure.)
One grandmother helped the children make homemade slime. Silly string was plentiful. I can't forget the big paper that hung on the fence, inviting friends and family to add a personal note with paint.

Still, my absolute favorite was the human sundae. Despite my teasing, I promised NOT to post pictures of the victims but let me describe this one for you. It was awesome!
One aunt and uncle of the birthday boy (my great friend & her husband) wore all white clothes and sat down on the bottom of a refrigerator box that was carefully placed outside. Then, all the guests (yes, even the adults) were invited to decorate these two people with ice cream sundae makings. Imagine these adults COVERED in whip cream, colored sprinkles, chocolate syrup and cherries. Luckily, they both wore goggles because they were soaked in dessert. Boy, was it a riot.

If you can convince a family member to do this at your next party, try it. Just realize that paybacks are guaranteed. Until the next nap time...

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Write and Publish a Book

I've received questions about how to publish a book from a few friends so I thought I'd post my notes here. These are in no way a guarantee that your book will get published, but these are my tips and notes. If you live in Houston, I also recommend Roger Leslie's one-day class through Leisure Learning Unlimited. See

Book Publishing Resources

So you want to publish a book? First, you need to buy or borrow the annual book called Writer's Market, which tells you the types of books that each publishing house is planning to fund within the given year. Find several that are closely related to your book topic. Send them either a copy of your manuscript or an outline. The book usually tells you what each publishing house wants (manuscript, outline, etc.) The publishing houses receive tons of requests so allow for several months before they respond. Some writers believe in hiring a literary agent, who can help you find the right publishing house but realize you have to pay the literary agent as well. See more details on literary agents below.

Below are some notes that I’ve taken over the years that might help you, too.


- Association of Authors’ Representation at
a. Has code of ethics for literary agents
b. Can use free, searchable database to find info on literary agents by name; can search “children” to pull up list of possible literary agents & whether they’re accepting new clients
c. Also has list of recommended resources from copyright info to book fairs

- Literary Agent Research & Evaluation at
- Publishing Scams by Professor Jim Fisher at
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at
- Writer Beware

Types of Books

-board books and novelty: age ~2-5
- picture books or early readers: age ~ 4-8
- middle grade reads: age ~ 8-12
- books for teens: age ~10-14

Recommended Books
- How to Write & Sell Children’s Picture Books
- Writer's Market
- Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market: includes payment info for publishers, contact info, etc.
- Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by Professor Jim Fisher

Some Children’s Book Publishers
- Scholastic 212-343-6100
a. Publishes Harry Potter and Clifford the Big Red Dog series
- HarperCollins and 212-261-6500
a. Publishes Berenstain Bears series and Goodnight Moon & Where the Wild Things Are
- Kane Miller;
- Hyperion and
a. Publishes Baby Einstein book series
- Random House
a. Publishes Dr. Seuss

Questions for literary agents:
1. Will you provide a list of recent sales including author, title and publisher? (AAR recommends 10 books within 18 months.)
2. Will you provide info on your experience and background? (resume or CV)
3. Are you listed in Bill Martin’s Agent Research & Evaluation (AR&E)?

FAQs about Literary Agents – borrowed from AAR:
What can an agent do for you?
Literary and dramatic agents are engaged in the marketing of rights to literary properties.
They serve as their clients' representatives with respect to the clients' literary work. They review their clients' work and advise them about its quality and potential marketability, nd the possible strategy for securing its publication. An agent's relationship to a client is fiduciary and includes fiscal responsibility for funds collected on the client's behalf.

Your Agent May:
· Offer editorial guidance.
· Establish contacts for you with firms and persons who are acquiring rights to literary and/or dramatic material.
· Advise you about current trends conditions, practices, and contractual terms.
· Market your literary material and rights therein. Negotiate and review licensing agreements.
· Review royalty statements.
· Monitor licensees' marketing of your work.

What does the Author/Agent relationship consist of?
The specifics of the relationship between an author and agent will vary depending on the nature of the work in question, the author's needs, and the agent's policies and practices. At a minimum, the relationship should include:
· An understanding as to what works of the author-and what rights in those works-are covered by the relationship.
· Agreement as to the compensation the agent is to receive for the agent's services.
· Agreement as to what expenses of the agent are to be reimbursed by the author, and how that reimbursement is to be made.

How can you find an agent?
Literary agents are listed in many sources, including Literary Market Place, a directory of the publishing industry, which is available at most libraries. You may also ask for recommendations from editors, writing instructors, or fellow writers.

Most agents will not accept queries by telephone, fax or E-mail. To contact an agent, write a brief letter describing your work and listing your prior publications (if any). You must include a stamped self-addressed envelope for reply. You may approach several agents at the same time. Submit material only when an agent asks you to do so, and agents expect you to inform them when you are submitting to more than one agent simultaneously. Your materials should be unbound, neatly typed and double-spaced. Be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed mailer for return of your manuscript. Always retain a copy of your manuscript.

Once you have found an agent who wants to represent you, you should feel free to discuss such matters as the nature and scope of the agent's responsibilities, the agent's compensation, the expenses for which the agent will be reimbursed, etc. and to inquire about the agency's size, client list and areas of specialization.

The AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, the AAR prohibits its members from charging reading fees.

What should you do if you find an agent?
The following is a suggested list of topics for authors to discuss with literary agents who have offered to represent them:
· Are you a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives?
· How long have you been in business as an agent?
· Do you have specialists at your agency who handle movie and television rights? Foreign rights?
· Do you have subagents or corresponding agents in Hollywood and overseas?
· Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will the other staff members be familiar with my work and the status of my business at your agency? Will you oversee or at least keep me apprised of the work that your agency is doing on my behalf?
· Do you issue an agent-author agreement? May I review the language of the agency clause that appears in contracts you negotiate for your clients?
· How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?
· Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?
· What are your commission rates? What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and disbursing client funds? Do you keep different bank accounts separating author funds from agency revenue? What are your policies about charging clients for expenses incurred by your agency?
· When you issue 1099 tax forms at the end of each year, do you also furnish clients upon request with a detailed account of their financial activity, such as gross income, commissions and other deductions, and net income, for the past year?
· In the event of your death or disability, what provisions exist for my continued representation?
· If we should part company, what is your policy about handling any unsold subsidiary rights in my work?

(Please bear in mind that most agents are NOT going to be willing to spend the time answering these questions unless they have already read your material and wish to represent you.)

Questions for publishers:
1. Does publisher buy all rights?
2. How do you market and promote your children’s books?What are some recent children’s books that you’ve published? (author, title)

Until the next nap time...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Marriage in the Eyes of a Child

Tuesday night, our family was driving a short distance to visit my Grandmother. Her assisted living facility was having a family get-together so we were sure to attend.

From the back seat, Little K said: "Do you know why sometime I'm grouchy?"

My husband & I looked at each other quizzically.
"No, why are you grouchy sometimes?"

"Because Connor is taking a long time to marry me," my four-year-old responded, thinking of her little boyfriend who lives in Denver.

Trent & I howled. Finally, we pulled ourselves together and explained that she needed to be much older to get married but that we were pleased with her selection. Connor is the son of the bestman in our wedding.

How do you explain getting married to your child? Little K sees the Disney movies where Ariel (& the others) gets married at age 16 years old and thinks that's the norm.

Until the next nap time...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Annual Free Child I.D. Kit Day Set for Sat., Aug. 8 at Community National Bank

Annual Free Child I.D. Kit Day Set for Sat., Aug. 8 at Community National Bank

Community National Bank (CNB) will sponsor its eighth annual “Free Child I.D. Kit Day” Saturday, August 8, 9 a.m. to noon, in the bank’s Bellaire Room, 5123 Bellaire Boulevard at South Rice. The bank, along with the Bellaire Police Department, Bellaire Lions Club and McGruff, the Crime Dog, will distribute the free child identification kits to area families as a community service.

"If you don't have a Child I.D. kit for your child, we encourage you to come get one on August 8. If you have a Child I.D. kit, we hope you will come update the photo, which should be done annually,” said Bellaire Police Department Community Resource Officer Tim Quimby. According to Community National Bank CEO Randy Dobbs, the bank has distributed hundreds of kits to help protect local children over the past seven years.

Geared to children from 2-1/2 years to early teens, Free Child I.D. Kit Day will include children's on-site instant photos and fingerprinting for their families' records. The bank will serve complimentary lemonade and donuts and distribute “goody bags” to the children.
Completed Child I.D. kits contain pertinent identification data such as names and contact information of the child's friends and family, blood type, allergy information and DNA hair sample, in a compact, comprehensive, confidential and convenient format.

Bellaire Police Department Officer Quimby notes that having a recent casual photograph of the child (as opposed to a posed portrait) is a major help to law enforcement in search efforts. He will be available to answer crime prevention questions.

The Bellaire Lions Club is a member of Lions International, the world's oldest and largest service club. Its mission is to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. The Bellaire Lions Club is a group of service-minded men and women who serve their community and their state by carrying out the organization’s mission. Service-minded individuals, who can spare an hour or two each month, are invited to join the Bellaire Lions Club. For more information, please contact Lion Morris Dante, 713-843-6323 or

Community National Bank, independently owned and operated, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The drive-through bank, 5235 Bellaire Boulevard at Ferris St., is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to noon. The FDIC insures the deposits of Community National Bank, an equal opportunity lender.

For further information on Community National Bank's Child I.D. community service program, call (713) 664-4777.
Until the next nap time...

Disney Train Enters Houston on August 11

Mark your calendars now for a fun, FREE event. The FREE Disney Train Tour will be promoting a new movie "A Christmas Carol", starring Jim Carrey. The train will consist of several exhibit cars that show kids of all ages the behind-the-scenes making of the new movie. A 3-D theatre tent will show select scenes from the movie, giving guests a sneak peak.

While the movie hits theatres in November, the Disney Train Tour will be in Houston only one day: Tuesday, August 11 from 9 am - 7 pm. Head downtown to the Amtrak Station at 902 Washington Avenue, Houston, TX. 77002. Bring your camera for some great photos. It'll bring new light to the story of Scrooge.

Until the next nap time...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Free Art Workshop for Parents & Kids

Art League Houston and Target Present Dream the Future!


Registration (required) by e-mail: or by phone at 713-523-9530

Dream the Future! A FREE Workshop for Parents and Children (ages 5 to 11) This workshop requires a parent to attend with their children, and there is a limit of four attendees per family.

Date and Time: Saturday, July 25, 2009; 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon (Please note that once instruction begins at 10:00 am, no latecomers can be admitted. Check-in is between 9:30 and 10:00 at which time a continental breakfast will be served.)

Location: The Art League Houston House located adjacent to Art League Houston. Please note that Art League Houston is located at 1953 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77009. The ALH House is located at 1003 Bomar. Parking is available in the ALH parking lot. Participants are strongly advised NOT TO PARK in the Texas Art Supply parking lot.

The Dream the Future! workshop is part of Art League Houston's ArtBound! project, sponsored by Target. Artbound! workshops promote family literacy and encourage family interaction through the arts. They are taught by professional artists with activities that can be easily replicated at home.

About the Dream the Future Workshop: Art League Houston and Target are pleased to present Dream the Future!, an ArtBound! workshop led by artist and educator Angela Cook. The workshop is for parents and children (ages five to eleven) and will be held on Saturday, July 25, 2009, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The workshop is FREE, but due to limited space, reservations are required.

Artist/Educator Angela Cook will facilitate the workshop which will have families creating sculpture from everyday objects. All supplies will be provided. The sculptures created during the workshop can also serve as prototypes for things we will need in the future. This workshop is in conjunction with Detritus, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures, which will be on view at Art League Houston from July 17 to August 28, 2009. Painter Angela Berloian joins forces with Jessica Moon Bernstein, a sculptor who makes use of the detritus of others to create art.

Dream the Future! Workshop Schedule: 9:30 am to 10:00 am: registration, continental breakfast, an coloring activity 10 am - Noon: Art Workshop - Due to the nature of the workshop, once instruction begins at 10:00 am, no latecomers can be admitted.

Please note that Art League Houston maintains that creativity at its best takes time, therefore Artbound! workshops are designed to give families an experience that runs counter to fast-paced activities.

Until the next nap time...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

This Weekend: Trek across distant lands in Journey to Mecca

Trek across distant lands in Journey to Mecca
Travel with Ibn Battuta on his famed historic voyage - in IMAX

HOUSTON—Cross through time and thousands of miles of perilous desert in Journey to Mecca, opening July 1, 2009 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science Wortham IMAX® Theatre. Journey alongside Ibn Battuta, the famed Muslim traveler who ventured three times farther than Marco Polo, on an expedition made almost 700 years ago: his pilgrimage to Mecca. Venture into the most sacred sanctuary of Islam, the Grand Mosque – on the IMAX screen, the closest non-Muslims may come to witnessing this extraordinary event.

Journey to Mecca tells the story of Ibn Battuta, a young scholar who leaves Tangier in 1325 on an epic and dangerous journey, traveling alone from his home in Morocco to reach Mecca, some 3,000 miles across the North African desert. Battuta would not return home for almost 30 years, visiting over 40 countries, returning to Mecca five times to perform the Hajj and creating one of the greatest travel journals ever recorded. His perilous journey resonates with adventure while presenting an unforgettable picture of Islamic civilization during the 14th century.

The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that now draws three million Muslims from around the world annually, who come to practice rituals that have taken place for over 1,400 years. In Journey to Mecca, experience the Hajj as Ibn Battuta did over 700 years ago, as well as the Hajj as it is still performed today.

Journey to Mecca was created not just as a documentary about Ibn Battuta’s first Hajj but also as a bridge between the Muslim and Western worlds, built to help develop an understanding of the Hajj and of its ultimate purpose – peace.

In conjunction with the film, the Islamic Dawah Center of Houston presents Sultans of Science. This unique traveling exhibition examines Muslim scholars’ contributions to science and technology, from the explorers of the Middle Ages to Muslim engineers, astronomers and much more.

Now showing in IMAX: Under the Sea 3D, an underwater adventure that transports audiences to uniquely exotic locations for face-to-face encounters with some of the ocean’s most mysterious and unusual creatures. More information on the film is available online at

See more, hear more, feel more in IMAX®. Tickets for Journey to Mecca in the Wortham IMAX® Theater are $11 for adults; $9 for children (3-11), seniors (62+) and students with a valid college ID; and $8 for groups of 20 or more. For tickets, visit or call 713-639-4629.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at One Hermann Circle Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.