Posts Tagged critique giveaway

Giveaways & Interview with Author Lindsay H. Metcalf

I’d like to welcome Lindsay H. Metcalf to the Mixed-Up Files blog to celebrate the launch of her MG, Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices.

Photo credit: Anna Jackson

Credit: Anna Jackson

Lindsay H. Metcalf is a journalist and author of nonfiction picture books: Beatrix Potter, Scientist, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (Calkins Creek, 2020); and No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetry anthology co-edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020). Lindsay lives in north-central Kansas, not far from the farm where she grew up, with her husband, two sons, and a variety of pets. You can reach her at lindsayhmetcalf.com.

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This is such an amazing, unique, and emotional story, Lindsay. I’ll never look at food the same way again. How did you come up with the idea for Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices and did anything surprise you along path to publication?

Family combine at corn harvest

Family combine at corn harvest

Thank you! I suppose this is the story I was meant to write. I grew up on a farm in Kansas. During wheat harvest, my mom would drive a grain truck with me and my little brother fighting over who had to straddle the gear shift in the middle. We would chop weeds out of the soybean fields and lay irrigation pipe along the corn fields. I know I complained, but looking back, I see a family working together, leaning on one another.

The photo that sparked FARMERS UNITE! came via text from my dad:

Here I was, someone intimately connected to agriculture through my family, and I’d never heard the story of the farmers who had driven their tractors cross-country to Washington, DC, to demand action from Congress. They were losing their farms because market prices had bottomed out, and they needed to get the attention of the public, who relied on the farmers to eat.

A lot surprised me along the path to publication—namely how many forms this story took. During the course of my many revisions, everything changed, including the main character, length, target audience, tone, title, and illustration style. At its core, this story was always about a group of hardworking people coming together to seek a change that would improve their lives and the lives of those they served. It’s about a grassroots group of people working together, leaning on one another, just as my family does out in the field.

 

Wow! I love hearing about your connection to this story. I’m so glad your dad texted you that photo. It’s amazing how much changed during revisions, but now that I read it, I can’t imagine it any other way.  

What type of research did you have to do—and do you have any research tips to share with our readers?

You know I love research! I read everything I could find on the tractorcades. There was one self-published book on the topic, which helped me understand the timeline. I also conducted interviews myself, read oral histories transcribed by a small-town library, and scoured newspaper archives. Then, when Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek bought the story, I had to start the research process again. She had seen some dynamic archival photos of the tractor protests and thought they should illustrate the book. Oh, and she wanted me to find them. I found that idea intimidating, but by the end of the process, I was having fun.

During my research, I had to reconcile two opposing perspectives. On one hand, the newspaper stories and national photo archives focused on a handful of days in which the farmers’ protests on the National Mall turned sour. The American Agriculture Movement had driven thousands of tractors into DC during rush hour, snarling traffic. Police literally penned them in by ringing the Mall with buses, police cruisers—any city-owned vehicles they could find. Some of the protesters got upset and lit an old tractor on fire. What I learned from reading oral histories and actually talking to people was that the vast majority of protesters had come to speak with lawmakers and earn their respect. So my advice is to keep researching until you have a good idea of the full picture. Each source is created from a certain perspective, and it’s the researcher’s job to root out the gaps in information.

 

Thanks for your amazing tips, Lindsay! I feel like I just took a research workshop. And I love the tractor protest photos you found.

Do you have any favorite quotes in the book? One that jumped out at me is: These first “tractorcades” energized farmers for the next step—to remind lawmakers in Washington, DC, that food doesn’t grow in grocery stores.

Oh, thank you! Many of my favorite quotes came from the farmers themselves, so when Carolyn suggested I add more, I couldn’t help myself. Some advice that’s always stuck with me since journalism school: Quote someone only when you can’t say it better yourself. Behold…

“You bet we started crying in our milk.” – Marjory Scheufler, a Kansas farmer

“We’re going to stay here (in Washington) until the snow stops and the songbirds go to singing.” – Gerald McCathern, a Texas farmer

“It’s just as silly for a tractor to be in the streets of Washington as a skyscraper in my cornfield.” – Leonard Cox of Kansas

 

What are some of the differences between middle grade and picture book nonfiction?

This book is kind of a genre buster. Traditional middle grade nonfiction is sometimes novel-length and goes into a lot more detail. You’re going to laugh, but you know I wrote FARMERS UNITE! as a picture book for young readers because you critiqued it! After acquisition, Carolyn and I worked through a couple big revisions, and she encouraged me to make the story more “vivid.” I didn’t hold back and included details about tear gas and the fallout of financial troubles facing farmers. Those themes, plus the longer text, at 2,000 or 2,500 words, pushed the audience into middle-grade territory. We also included 12 pages of back matter.

 

You’re right—I did laugh. I was surprised when I first found out your picture book morphed into middle grade, but it was such a fantastic decision. Your book and discussion and activity guide are perfect for grades 3 – 7! In addition to those amazing questions and activities, do you have a writing or research exercise to share with our readers?

I do! I just created a handout for a National Council of Teachers of English presentation this month. With the questions provided in my “Detecting Bias in Sources” handout, students can test the credibility of each source and discover ways to deepen their research. These are techniques I use as a journalist as well as an author. Readers can also go to my website to browse some of the sources I used in the book — oral histories and images of the tractorcades from the Smithsonian.

 

What’s something unique people don’t know about you?

I was a cheerleader in high school. I surprised my mother-in-law with this fact when it came up in conversation today. I surprised myself with the realization that I had never told her this in the 17 years that I have known her. So there you go.

 

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

This story went through 27 drafts, plus or minus a couple, before we arrived at the polished final version. I say we, because so many people had a hand in the process, including you, Mindy, as one of my critique partners. Say it with me: Writing is revising.

 

Writing is revising! You do such an amazing job with both of those—and you’re a research queen. Thank you again for stopping by the Mixed-Up Files to celebrate your launch with us, Lindsay.

Thanks for having me, and thanks for helping me bring the farmers’ story to young readers!

You’re welcome. I’m sure they’ll love the farmers’ story as much as I do!

 

Enter this Rafflecopter for a chance to win a copy of Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (US Only).

In the late 1970s, grain prices had tanked, farm auction notices filled newspapers, and people had forgotten that food didn’t grow in grocery stores. So, on February 5, 1979, thousands of tractors from all parts of the US flooded Washington, DC, in protest.

Author Lindsay H. Metcalf, a journalist who grew up on a family farm, shares this rarely told story of grassroots perseverance and economic justice. In 1979, US farmers traveled to Washington, DC to protest unfair prices for their products. Farmers wanted fair prices for their products and demanded action from Congress. After police corralled the tractors on the National Mall, the farmers and their tractors stayed through a snowstorm and dug out the city. Americans were now convinced they needed farmers, but the law took longer. Boldly told and highlighted with stunning archival images, this is the story of the struggle and triumph of the American farmer that still resonates today.
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Enter this Rafflecopter for a chance to win a 5 page middle grade or picture book critique from Lindsay H. Metcalf! (Lindsay’s critiques are amazing!)

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Winners will be announced on Thursday, November 19. Good luck!

Everything You Need to Know About Teacher’s Guides-Plus Book & Critique Giveaways!

Natalie LorenziI’m thrilled to welcome Natalie Dias Lorenzi back to the Mixed-Up Files. Natalie’s first novel for children, Flying the Dragon, was published in 2012 and has been honored on best-of-the-year lists from the International Reading Association, the Cooperative Children’s Books Center, the Bank Street College of Education, and the New York Public Library. Her next novel, Someplace Like Home, will be published in 2016. It’s a companion novel to Flying the Dragon and follows the journey of 10-year-old Ravi as he leaves Pakistan with his mother and sister to live in the United States, not knowing if his father will ever be able to join them. Ravi adapts to a new country and a new school and meets his friend Hiroshi, one of the protagonists from Flying the Dragon. While Hiroshi’s story had kite-making and kite-fighting woven through it, Ravi’s will be filled with the love of his favorite sport back home, cricket, and the one that replaces it in the U.S.: baseball. Natalie has taught elementary school and English for Speakers of Other Languages in Virginia, and in international schools in Italy and Japan. She is currently a librarian at an elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia.

You can visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s website, follow her on Twitter, find out more about both books here, and read her book review blog that shows ways to use books in the classroom.

 

Thanks again for joining us, Natalie. I’d love to know why you think it’s important to have teacher’s guides.

Having a teacher’s guide increases the chances of getting your book into classrooms and into the hands of kids and teachers. With state testing, teachers have loads of paperwork, documentation, data collection and reflection….all of which put a squeeze on their time. Teachers are busy people! But it’s not just teachers who will use your guide—homeschooling parents, book club facilitators, and public librarians use them, too.

As a teacher myself, I use discussion questions and activities that authors and publishers provide on their websites, and it makes my job a lot easier. Especially with novels and longer works of fiction, if I have to choose between two equally-appealing books, I go with the one that has a guide every time.

 

How detailed should they be?

As detailed as you’d like them to be. Some discussion guides come in the form of bookmarks with a few discussion questions, some are more like a pamphlet, and others can be 50 pages long. It really depends on how much time you have, which leads me to the answer to your next question…

 

How did you create the teacher’s guide for your middle grade novel, Flying the Dragon?

The mistake I made with the guide for my own book is that I waited too long to put something up on my website for teachers. I’d envisioned a detailed, activity-packed, standards-based resource that I simply didn’t have time to put together. What I should have done was to start small—a bookmark, or pamphlet-style guide at first, and then added a more detailed guide later on. As it was, it took me over a year to post a completed guide for Flying the Dragon on my site! In the meantime, I gathered links that I thought would be helpful for teachers and created this Pinterest page. It’s a quick and easy way to provide resources for your book–background knowledge, other activities, etc.–while you’re working on your own guide.

 

Wow, I took a peek at your Pinterest page, and I love the videos and the 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes article. You put together such interesting sites and guides. Can you share some tips for creating amazing teacher’s guides?

1. Know the curriculum standards for your audience. Keep in mind that while Common Core has swept the country (except for these states), current testing is based on state standards, not Common Core. No matter which standards you use, find the commonalities and stick with those. For example, every grade studies plot and characterization on some level, so find out how deep this standard goes with your target age group, and go from there.

2. While you want to keep standards in mind while writing activities, don’t feel like you have to list every single Common Core standard addressed for each activity. I’ve seen guides with pages and pages of standards. While I appreciate the time and effort that went into compiling such lists, I can tell you that, as a teacher, I don’t even look at those. Teachers know the standards they’re required to teach. When I preview an activity, I automatically know which standards it addresses, and I decide from there if I’m going to use the activity or not.

3. Create a user-friendly layout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just easy to follow. Have a table of contents for longer guides.

4. Do some research—find guides that you like online and bookmark them. Note the different formats, content, and delivery and then decide what you’re most comfortable with.

 

What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when creating a teacher’s guide?

I know I’ve mentioned lay-out already, but I’ll say again here. If your guide is just a long list of questions, it’s fine to have it written in list format. But if you’ve got chapter-by-chapter guides, or if you have distinct sections like pre-reading questions/predictions, a vocabulary section, etc. then make it easy for a teacher to quickly scan your guide to find what she needs. Have clear labels for each section, leave white space and have a table of contents for longer guides.

 

Can writers create good teacher guides on their own if they don’t have a teaching background?

Yes, they can. I’d have an educator or two look it over and provide feedback if you can. When creating questions, familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and let Howard Garner’s Theory of Intelligences guide your activities.

 

Thank you for sharing those links! Do you have any tips for using teacher’s guides?

Every teacher knows what his or her students need. The best way to utilize a guide is to dip in and try out questions or activities that fit the academic, social, and behavioral needs of your students.

 

That’s great advice. How well do teacher’s guides work for book clubs?

I think guides may work even better for book club facilitators than they do for teachers. Oftentimes, book club leaders aren’t teachers—they’re parent volunteers, or even students themselves at the high school level. Having access to questions and activities makes it easier for them to get a discussion started with readers.

 

Do you keep a future teacher’s guide or Common Core in mind when writing or revising a middle grade novel?

Never. I write with readers in mind, not standards. If your book has a science or social studies tie-in, then it may seem like it will fit best with curriculum, but language arts standards apply to any book. Don’t worry about standards as you write; write the best book you can, and teachers will figure out how to use it!

 

What’s the best way to let people know you have a teacher’s guide for your book?

Provide a link to the guide on your website and make that link easy to find. Let your publisher know about your guide and ask that they post it, as well. Send the link to anyone requesting information about author visits. If you have bookmarks or postcards printed, include the fact that there’s a link to a teacher’s guide on your website and make these available at all your author appearances, school visits, and teacher/librarian conferences.

 

Where can teachers find guides to their favorite books? If there isn’t a guide available, is there some way they can request one? 

The first place I’d check is the author’s website, followed by the publisher’s site. If you don’t have any luck there, places like Teachers Pay Teachers often have activities up either for free or for a reasonable price. If you can’t find a guide for a book, by all means email the author and/or publisher! They may have something in the works. If not, hearing from you is good incentive to get started on a guide for educators.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is another author/educator/guide creator, and some of her guides can be found here.

 

Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Natalie. You shared a wealth of knowledge about teacher’s guides, and I’m sure it will be a huge help to writers, teachers, librarians, and many others.

* If anyone has questions for Natalie, ask in a blog comment and she’ll stop by to answer them!

If you’re searching for teacher’s guides for great middle-grade novels, here’s a list of links to check out:

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Ellie McDoodle: Friends Fur-Ever written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina! by Shawn Stout

Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout

Fudge series by Judy Blume

Mallory series by Laurie Friedman

Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Trouble in the Trees by Yolanda Ridge

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

The Multiplying Menace by Amanda Marrone

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Jan L. Coates

The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (you can find magical translations using the runic translation chart here.)

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens (Woman’s History Month Lesson Plan)

Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown (Woman’s History Month Activity Kit included in the link)

 

In addition to the lists of great teacher’s guides for picture books through young adult novels listed on Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s site, you can also find more at these websites:

* Debbie Gonzales has links to guides for middle grade novels and chapter books. To find guides for other genres, click on Sample Educational Guides toward the top of her website.

* Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

*As Natalie said before, don’t forget to check out the websites of your favorite authors and publishers. You should be able to find great teacher’s guides and activities there…and if you don’t it can’t hurt to request them!

 

Thanks again for all your amazing responses, Natalie—and for offering TWO generous giveaways!

* Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Natalie’s novel, Flying the Dragon.

Flying the DragonAmerican-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the United States. Skye and Hiroshi’s lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), suddenly moves to the U.S. Now Skye doesn’t know who she is anymore: at school she’s suddenly too Japanese, but at home she’s not Japanese enough. Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise and Skye’s growing interest in kite making and competitive rokkaku kite flying.

 

* Natalie is also giving away a 10 page critique! It can be up to the first ten pages of an MG/YA or one picture book. Let us know in a comment if you’d like to be entered for the critique giveaway.

The lucky winners will be announced on Thursday, April 24. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the Flying the Dragon paperback giveaway, but anyone can enter for a chance to win the critique.

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Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.