Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Official Scientist Badges

Our students really enjoy science projects. As teachers, we try to create multiple opportunities for conducting experiments in the classroom. After completing whole group instruction or sample experiments, it’s great to follow-up with independent or small group activities. Throughout the year whenever students are making observations, collecting data, suggesting hypotheses, etc., we tell our students that they are scientists. Sometimes to help our students really feel like scientists we give them these badges to wear.


We print these on cardstock and insert them in plastic badge holders (with clips). This allows for extra durability and longevity. They clip the badges on at the start of each experiment and return them to our basket at the conclusion of each experiment. If you are using these at a center or small group, it is fun to add goggles, lab coats and clipboards too! Our students look forward to feeling official and important!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Robots and Fairies and Cars, Oh My! An Interview with Sue Fliess

Looking for a great author study or a new selection of children’s books for your young ones? We have just the solution: Sue Fliess! This talented writer has books about bugs, cars, ballerinas, robots, and more! In a recent interview, we found out all about Sue and the books she has written. Check it out!

How long have you been an author? 
I’ve been a children’s book author since 2009, when I sold my first book, Shoes for Me! Before that, I authored many parenting articles for a company called Education.com, and wrote for a travel company called TravelMuse, and a few other online publications.

What made you want to become an author?
It was never this lifelong dream of mine. I always loved writing, and it was really more of an outlet. Sure, I thought publishing something one day would be exciting, but I didn’t set my sights on being an author until I started taking classes to see what writing for children was all about. I had a few stories I was writing, but I didn’t really know how to go about submitting them. I attended conferences and workshops, paid for critiques and joined a writing group and SCBWI. I began to get feedback from industry professionals that I had the talent to get published. That’s when it became a mission!

Tell us about your first book.
Shoes for Me! is the story of a hippo who, upon realizing her feet have grown and she needs new shoes, gets to go on a shoe-shopping outing with her mom.

          Feet got bigger, heel to toe.
          Time for new shoes. Off we go!

She’s a big girl now, so her mom lets her pick out the pair she wants (within reason, of course):

          Shiny zigzags—these are nice.
          Mom says, “No, not at that price!”

After trying nearly every shoe style in the store, she finally finds the perfect pair. This story was rejected nearly 25 times before finding the perfect editor! Whew!


Oh my! We know authors get rejected a lot. What do you do when you get rejected?
I’ve received so many rejections it actually hardly fazes me anymore. Except when I know in my heart ‘this manuscript would be perfect for this editor/publishing house’ and then having to face that it wasn’t. I have a few manuscripts that I still love so much and can’t understand why nobody wants them. But I don’t fall into the pity party thing. I accept it and move on to the new project I’m working on. If I dwelled on every rejection, I wouldn’t have written much by now.

Can you tell us anything about what you are working on now?
I am working on a chapter book, a fractured fairytale, and I’m revisiting a story about a cow that I started almost 7 years ago, for which I am (still) trying to find the right ending!

Where do you get your ideas for books?

This is always so tough to answer because my answer sounds so ‘woo-woo.’ Of course I read a lot of children’s books and news stories, but I’ve also trained myself to be almost hyper-aware of my surroundings. Everything is a possible story. I like playing the “What if?” game and putting everyday things into compromising situations. Just the other day I got an idea for a story when I observed something while I was watering the flowers in my backyard.

Which one of your books is your favorite? 
That’s like choosing my favorite child. I love all of my books because each has a unique backstory. Probably the one that was the most fun to work on, which just recently published, was A Fairy Friend, because I got to research fairies and miniature worlds, and magic. I got to spend time on Pinterest for this book! Writing that story did not feel like work—the whole manuscript flew out onto the page. It was pure joy. And my editor only needed one tiny edit, which was also quite magical!



You have a lot of books written in rhyme. What is it about rhyme that you like so much?
Rhyming comes naturally to me, and I think it may be because I have a musical background. I played instruments, sang in choirs, got singing roles in musicals, and in general love singing and music. Rhyming books are basically songs on a page. And if you lived with me, you’d know I often break out into song at a moment’s notice. My family loves that.

What’s the hardest part about writing?
Discipline for sure. And because I mostly write from my house, it’s easy to use household appointments (garage door repair, A/C inspection, etc.) as a valid excuse for why no writing got done on a given day. When I start to get into one of those cycles, I try to round up some other writers to go to a local writing spot, or I just go there alone, to focus on writing, and not the fact that my dog may need a walk.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
My family likes to go explore our region on the weekends. Parks, wineries, museums, new restaurants. We love entertaining, and hanging out with friends. That is, if we’re not taking turns driving our kids to sports practices. We put in a porch and pool last year and this is the first summer we are enjoying it—so that may be where you find me when I’m not writing this summer.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author too?
Find/join a writing group to get feedback on your work from other writers. For children’s books, join SCBWI. For adult books, there are other organizations, but join one. Attend conferences. Learn about the industry. Hone your skills by writing as much as you can, or taking classes to practice and try new strategies. Read. Network. Write, write, write! Only when you think you have your best work ready, submit it. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. There will be rejection—it’s part of the process. Embrace it—it means you’re working. It only takes one yes.