Attending SCBWI Beach Retreat in San Simeon Jump Started My Year of Writing

Sunset San Simeon edited

January is a time of new beginnings.  We make promises and resolutions to ourselves that are often broken within the first two weeks. My personal resolution for the 2020 year is to write more often. Or if I am not writing then I must be reading someone else’s writing or studying the business of writing. So, with my resolution in mind and trying to at least keep it for two weeks, I attended the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI) Picture Book from A to Sea Beach Retreat in San Simeon from January 10-12.

The picture book boot camp was directed by a great crew including Rebecca Langston-George, Barbara Bietz and April Halprin Wayland. Like summer camp you arrive with apprehension: who will be there, what will we do and how will I fit in.  At least at this camp if I am unhappy I can drive myself home.  The opposite would prove to be true. Each of the hosts provided outstanding information about writing in general and writing for children’s books in particular. Our schedule of events started on Friday night at the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. We received the usual welcome and made introductions; this would be the only perfunctory event of the weekend.

The rest of the schedule included a packed itinerary of mentoring round tables, critique groups and workshops on using social media, editing your manuscript, writing query letters and submitting to publishers. The food was outstanding and the company of children’s book authors was delightful. I fit in very well and made new friends like you are suppose to at camp, we just call it networking now that we are all over 14 years old.

Participating in the writing retreat was a great way to jump start my 2020 Year of Writing. Since the retreat I have continued to keep my resolution by trying to be very attentive to why I made it in the first place. The more you write and engage in your craft the better you get at doing it. You make your own luck after all. And after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant on January 26, I decided to adopt the Mamba Mentality as a road map on how to spend more time writing. Kobe was the first to arrive and the last to leave practices, we can all learn from that behavior and dedication.

During the beginning of February, I listened to Stephen King’s book On Writing while driving to work.  Hearing the ultimate coach giving a pep talk about how to dedicate more time to writing was a helpful way to stay on track. Throughout the month of February I wrote in my journal about my progress which included studying the children’s book writing market, attending Independent Writers of Southern California meetings, buying a subscription for Publishers Weekly Magazine and editing my second book.

I have now completed my second book. My book started the new year with a total 1400 words. I recognized after the Beach Retreat that was too many words and I needed to really reconsider what I had produced. After many hours of working on drafts, I am submitting my 1000 word manuscript. I have found that this amount of words is a cutoff for many publishers accepting nonfiction children’s picture book manuscripts for children between 4-7 years of age. I feel much better about my book now and hopefully that translates to an offer.

Another thing I learned from the beautiful weekend in San Simeon is that we are all working writers if we are submitting our manuscripts. I am grateful for the guidance I received during the SCBWI Beach Retreat. Rebecca Langston-George, Barbara Bietz and April Halprin Wayland are great cheerleaders who provided a lot of motivational talks and excellent information about writing children’s books. Mamba Forever! RIP Kobe and Gianna.

 

STEM for 4 year olds

Playa Vista Library 1

On April 20, 2019 at 11 AM at Playa Vista Library, I spoke with a group of children and their parents. The goals of my presentation were two-fold including:

  • providing an engaging and edifying experience for the children; and
  • giving the parents an opportunity to recognize that a STEM curriculum can be covered at home through reading their children nonfiction books and setting up activities around these books.

After reading my book, the children had an opportunity to do activities with stamps and stickers representing different animals and their specialties. I had biological samples of feathers, bird eggs, shells, beetles, snake skin, different bones from mammals… The live animals included my pets: a Leopard Gecko and two Firebelly Toads.

For the parents I provided a small binder of articles about STEM Early Childhood Education and Next Generation of Science Standards. I felt really great about the program. I plan to continue to reach out to local librarians to conduct STEM Education Workshops.

 

LA Times Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books 2018
April 21 & 22, 2018

Kindergarten Lessons Ain’t what they use to be. Part III of my blog series about the STEM 5-E Lesson Plan.

The first 3 phases of the 5-E Lesson Plan (Engage, Explore, and Explain) prepare the students for phase 4 – Elaborate. In this stage of the 5 E’s students will expand their conceptual understanding of the content of the lesson. They should develop a deeper understanding of the information. The methods used to provide the avenues for delving deeper should include allowing the students to practice skills and behaviors.

Practicing skills should involve collaborative learning and problem-solving. Collaborative learning is supported by the Theory of Social Constructivism. This theory which is attributed to Lev Vygotsky (1978), emphasizes the importance of the collaborative nature of learning and that all cognitive functions are believed to originate in and are explained as products of social interactions. Students should be encouraged to engage in open-ended discussions with peers and teachers about such things as meaning of terms and procedures, relationship among ideas, and the applications of knowledge to specific contexts (Snowman & McCown, 2013). Problem-based learning (PBL) provides the opportunities for interacting with the content material that emphasize critical thinking skills and not just listening to a lecture. Research has shown that PBL allows students to form a better conceptual understanding and transfer their learning to other situations (Yadav, Lundeberg, Bunting & Subedi, 2011).

Evaluate is the last phase of the 5-E Lesson Plan. This phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities. Students are asked to recognize the key concepts of the lesson and show what skills they developed as part of the lesson. The evaluation should include feedback on the student’s strength and needs.

Each 5-E lesson that a teacher delivers is an opportunity to have the students transform to a higher level. The changes to the students include improved overall achievement toward mastery of the content and increased skills development.