Category Archives: resources

Use your Interjections!

If you’re an American Gen X-er who’d been a zealous viewer of Saturday morning cartoons, most likely when you hear the word “Interjection” you will spontaneously break into song: “When Reginald was home with the flu, uh-huh-huh, The doctor knew just what to do-hoo…” (and experience a powerful hankering for Ovaltine. What’s up with that???).

Back in the day (the phrase my kids use when referring to that fuzzy period of my life Pre-Them), “Interjections” were an earworm that haunted me day and night. Who would’ve thunk they were actually useful in writing? Interjections convey strong emotion in cute, little, power-packed morsels. Ooh, pff, gah, bah, argh, hmphmwahaha — awwwww, huh?

So be fashionably pithy. Use your Interjections! (Yes, I also picture a wagging finger here.)

And, Gen Z-ers, if you hear your mother make a phlegmy noise that sorta sounds like “ahem,” it’s time to look up from whatever electronic device you’re using and pay attention. It’ll just get ugly from that point on.

Below are two great lists of Interjections. Tuck them away. They will come in handy.

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

Dictionary of Interjections

For those who must satisfy “The Earworm” I’ve awakened or who are looking for a new non-Taylor Swift ditty that will endlessly loop through your head >>> School House Rock! Interjections (Warning: No Auto-tune)

Elise Stokes, author of the Cassidy Jones Adventures series

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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Audiobooks as a Literacy Tool

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

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The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.

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I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

We have a growing selection of kid-friendly audibooks here on Emblazon, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.

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Michelle Isenhoff is a former teacher, current homeschool mom, and reviewer on her award-winning children’s lit blog, Bookworm Blather. Listen to samples of her audibooks here.

 

Chicka Chicka vs. Paper Towns

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In a little over a week’s time, I’ll be sitting down to breakfast with hundreds of other authors who write for “children” at the New York City Book Expo of America “Children’s Book & Author Breakfast.”  I am very excited. Nathan Hale and James Patterson will be there, along with many others.

However, I must admit, when my friend said she and her agent wanted to go to the breakfast, I was confused.

“But you write for Young Adults,” I said. “Why do you want to go to eat breakfast with authors who write children’s  books?”

It was then I was reminded that even in one of the most innovative cities in all of the United States books written for someone under the age of 18 are all still classified as a “children’s books.”

Huh?

It’s true. Young Adult, Middle Grade, Chapter book, and picture book authors are typically lumped together in the same category.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I get a chuckle thinking about the authors of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom having a chat over a coffee and bagel with John Green, author of the edgy YA fiction such as Paper Towns. It seems silly to consider them in the same category, but that is what the industry currently does.

Emblazoners, however, is different. We are a group of writers who call attention to the unique needs and interests of the “tween” reader. Emblazoner authors have all published books for those between the ages of 9 to 12—an age that often gets lost in the “children’s books” category.

So if you know someone who has out grown “little kid stories” but who isn’t ready for the edgy material in some Young Adult books, this is the place for you.

Stop. Take a peek around. You’ll find the works of twenty-five talented authors whom I would love to go to breakfast with someday.

First Impressions-Book Covers

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We often say that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I say that in the case of book cover art “words” could be changed to “readers”. With so many books available and so many thumb-sized images to sort through, one of the best ways to gain readership is to make sure that in the first seconds a reader’s eyes land on your book cover, he/she is enticed enough to peel back that cover. Book covers should hook readers much like the first lines of a book; they should entice them enough to spend additional seconds, turn those into minutes, and ultimately spend hours delving into the story behind that enticing cover.

For those authors who are also expert cover artists, I applaud your skills. It is a talent every bit as refined as authoring a book. For those of us who have no business handling this aspect of book publishing, we benefit from surrendering to the talents of such artists. I had the pleasure of meeting my cover artist through a collective that I joined in 2012. Chelsea Starling has created covers for all 3 of my books published over the past few years, and though she only creates covers for a few exclusive clients, she is also a web designer specializing in author web sites (if you are in need of a site, visit her at Starling Magic).

I had it easy from the start where my covers were concerned. I offered a few key ideas and Chelsea conjured up covers beyond my imaginings. For example, I knew that I wanted the cover for ARROW OF THE MIST to be mostly black, include thorny vines, have Lia—a teen girl with a crossbow and red hair—on one side, and a drop of blood somewhere on the other side to match the hair. That’s all I gave her to go on and she created a cover that pretty much hit the mark the very first go around. Cover number two for ARMS OF ANU had nearly the same quick and wonderful creation process AND I am thrilled to announce has just been nominated for Best Supernatural Cover at the utopYA 2015 Awards in June.

Perhaps my greatest advice to an author with regards to working with an accomplished cover artist is to remember that that person is the artist, the expert, the one with the keen eye and skill set needed for such a task. Having a voice as the author is important, but then follow that with a good measure of surrender to allow the artist’s “muse” to create that oh-so-important first impression your book deserves.

If you are in the market for an expert cover artist (or for many other experts involved in the writing and publishing process), check out Indie-Visible.  As one of the co-founders, I can attest for our PubHub feature where authors can “Build Their Publishing Teams” by utilizing a referral list of Recommended Freelancers (at least one of our crew can vouch for them!). Our goal there is to provide authors a place to find experts with skills either not contained in their own bags of tricks and/or to find experts who can take on tasks authors might simply not have time enough to accomplish on their own.

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Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. Honored titles include Tween Fantasy ARROW OF THE MIST and its sequel ARMS OF ANU, and YA Paranormal Romance HONEY QUEEN. She is also the co-founder of www.indie-visible.com. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit:

ChristinaMercer.com | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

The Teachable Moment

First I was a reader, then an English major, then a high school teacher, then a writer and home schooling mother. As I plot out the curriculum for my kids (aged 12 and 14), I ponder all the stuff I read and taught. I know I should expose them to Great Literature so that they can learn from the inspiring themes of the past poets, playwrights and storytellers.

But then I think, “I’m pretty sure they’d enjoy that indie book by Michelle Isenhoff or Alan Tucker more…”  I’m torn. Do I stick with the famous, or go with what I’m sure will ignite their imagination?

This two-fold message is for the teachers out there—whether you’re in a brick-and-mortar school or sitting around the kitchen table.

#1 ~ Seize the Teachable  Moment

I team-taught an integrated Language Arts/Social Studies class for freshman a million years ago (according to my kids). Because I was the anchor personnel for language arts, I got to work with a few different social studies teachers. One in particular taught me as much as she did the kids. Her name was Casey. She was very tall, totally no-nonsense, and had a voice that could peel paint off the walls. And she was a genius at grabbing the teachable moments. It didn’t matter what had just happened in the news nationally, or in popular media, or school activities; Casey could tie it into the lesson and use it as an analogy to understand the dry world geography lessons we’d otherwise have to present. I never knew which angle she’d take as she presented her portion of the lesson each day because she always grabbed it right out of what was happening now. But I awaited her lessons eagerly. So did the kids. She was just cool that way.

#2 ~ Integrate Subjects

Casey taught me the importance of using a variety of sources and subjects to drive home an idea, and there’s no reason tween literature can’t be one of those. To illustrate, let me grab just a few titles from our own Emblazoners catalog

Cassidy Jones and the Secret FormulaElise Stokes’ books starring Cassidy Jones may seem, on the surface, to be just a fun superhero action series. However, there are healthy doses of science in each (some real, some speculative) that could spark an interest in students to do some further research into the possibilities and probabilities of certain inventions. Students could learn about everything from phlebotomy to animal behavior, and all kinds of things in between.

 

PrincessKandakeFINAL.jpg webStephany Jefferson’s books about Princess Kandake could enhance a unit on Africa’s ancient tribal customs or the wildlife there. Additionally, they provide the opportunity to discuss the changing roles of women in leadership over the centuries. This could even be a way to analyze why different cultures develop based on where they live on the planet.

 

 

ARROWoftheMIST (3)Christina Mercer’s series includes a great deal of information about plants and their various medicinal properties. Though some of the plants are fictional, a unit on how plants are used today in the health industry would be significant for both biology and chemistry students. They could learn the history of how different medicines were discovered and developed, or compare homeopathic/naturalistic remedies to their synthetically produced  counterparts.

 

AMOD_ME1_JF2grn2_200x300Alan Tucker’s fantasy series of Mother Earth provides a great springboard into discussions about the environmental impact made by everything from agriculture to industrial pollution. Students could learn about how one link in the food chain affects the rest of the ecosystem, and how a balance in nature can be restored and/or preserved.

 

 

TheCandleStar_cover_600x900Any of Michelle Isenhoff’s historical novels for tweens will prove extremely engaging and educational. The books immerse the reader in the period by including cultural tidbits from daily life as well as overarching socio-political issues of the time. All of them are sure to stir an interest in a time before video games and speeding cars. Units on either the Revolutionary War or the Civil War in particular would take on new meaning if they included reading her books.

 

Faery SwapSusan Kaye Quinn’s Faery Swap makes it clear that mathematics and physics are magic. Doubt it? Look at all the inventions we have today that would have seemed like magic 100 years ago. They all required a knowledge of numbers and how things move in space and time. The story even addresses the rapid advances made in the last century, and how math and science played a role in creating the “magic” we enjoy today.

 

magian highI’d like to think my own Magian High could be used in a unit about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and what the whole process of desegregation might have been like—even though the story is set in modern times and deals with a different kind of separation altogether. Tweens are full of ideals, but sometimes the logistics of overcoming obstacles to reach those ideals are elusive. This story shows both the good and the bad of dramatic social change and what it takes to make things right.

 

 

Of course, these books do not take the place of science or social studies lessons, but they can certainly enrich them. The stories bring the concepts to life and spark interest in young readers to know more about what inspired the themes in the books. Having taught a variety of subjects in an integrated way, I know that it really works with youth. It ties all the courses of study together in a relevant way and helps them see how all knowledge connects.  That big stumbling block–“What does this have to do with anything? I’m never going to use this!”–goes away.

Stories show knowledge in action, and that makes learning exciting.