Monthly Archives: January 2011

Impressions of SCBWI’s Winter Conference 2011

By Rana DiOrio, Founder of Little Pickle Press

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) 12th Annual Winter Conference in New York, NY. If I had to choose a single word to describe the experience it would have to be inspiring. If I could add another word to the description the experience it would have to be funny! These people know how to have a good time!

Since not all of you were able to join me and the other 1,100+ attendees at the conference, I thought I would share with you some of the pearls of wisdom (and funny quips) I garnered from the titans of the children’s book publishing industry as well as a fact or two you may not have known about them. This is, of course, only a subset of the many talented presenters at the conference.

Lois Lowry. This 2x Newbery Award winner fabricated a brother in college (Princeton no less) who drove a blue convertible to get more favorable treatment from her summer camp counselors. She based her award-winning character, Anastasia Krupnick, on 10-year old Amy Carter.

“Reach into your past. Give your happiness, sorrow, anxiety words.”

Smart marketing idea: At school visits, Lois Lowry would hold lookalike contests for her characters. The winners got a free book.

Mark Teague. Quipped that children’s authors should write about their dogs since fans most often ask authors about their dogs. NOTE: Kids don’t care much about cats.

“The first task for an illustrator is to be a good reader.”

“Learn to illustrate through trial and error.”

“Remember that as an illustrator, you are always in service to the story.”

In a picture book, think about what’s happening beyond the page, in the extended scene.

R.L. Stine. This master of the creepy tale is nicknamed “Jovial Bob Stine.” His life aspiration was to write for a humor magazine, which he did for 10 years–Bananas for Scholastic. He has typed all 300+ of his books using his left index finger, which is now irreparably bent! His hero is Ray Bradbury, who he encountered with butterflies in his stomach and with whom he shared a magical moment.

His worst review (written by a 12-year-old): “I’ve read 40 of your books, and I think they’re really boring.”

“I’ve sold 300M books, and I’ve had to write 300M books to do it!”

Advice to writers and illustrators: “Just say yes!” to any and all opportunities.

Jules Feiffer. This profoundly prolific author and illustrator just turned 82 and proudly proclaims that “his drawing table is his playpen.” (Alliterations intended.) He has a second home on (my beloved) Martha’s Vineyard where his daughter, Kate (who is also a children’s book author), lives year-round. Jules has never done anything he planned to do–it just made sense.

“Norton [Juster] neglected to tell me he was writing a classic.” on using cheap paper for The Phantom Tollbooth artwork.

Whenever Jules dives into a project he refers to his masters for inspiration and creative ideas.

Mo Willems. This winner of 3 Caldecott Honors, 2 Geisel Medals, 2 Carnegie Medals, and 6 Emmys creates a sketch book each year that he distributes to family and friends. He threw a handful of these precious sketch books into the audience on Sunday! He is even more adorable in person than he is in print or on screen.

“Humor is a form of athletics. You need to work at it to be good.”

“Nobody knows what’s funny. Funny people know what’s not funny.”

I do believe if you’re going to be funny that you need a New York/LA joke and a urine joke.

Rewriting is taking words out. Each draft is 20 percent less words.

Linda Sue Park. Even though she has written 8 picture books and 9 novels, many with critical acclaim, Linda Sue is extremely self-deprecating. She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom, a writer, and a puppy sitter to Malcolm, her friend’s pet.

Reading is the training for writing. To write effectively, you must read A LOT.

Books are just about the only place left where young people can encounter written language with the luxury of time.

“If you’re not afraid of the challenge that’s not courage; its a chemical malfunction in your brain.”

“Voice is word choice for meaning and nuance and sound, word order for structure and rhythm.”

“Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in the work.”

When I write, I need to remember: “It’s not about me; it’s about the story.”

Linda Sue Park’s keynote was amazing, so if you want to read more highlights, please check out the scbwi blog team’s account at http://bit.ly/gYkkfD.

I am ever so grateful to be a member of this vibrant community and to have attended this conference. I am grateful to SCBWI for organizing such a fabulous experience for us. And I am especially grateful to the speakers for being so prepared, funny, helpful, and inspirational. Thank you!

Impressions of SCBWI’s Winter Conference 2011

By Rana DiOrio, Founder of Little Pickle Press

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) 12th Annual Winter Conference in New York, NY. If I had to choose a single word to describe the experience it would have to be inspiring. If I could add another word to the description the experience it would have to be funny! These people know how to have a good time!

Since not all of you were able to join me and the other 1,100+ attendees at the conference, I thought I would share with you some of the pearls of wisdom (and funny quips) I garnered from the titans of the children’s book publishing industry as well as a fact or two you may not have known about them. This is, of course, only a subset of the many talented presenters at the conference.

Lois Lowry. This 2x Newbery Award winner fabricated a brother in college (Princeton no less) who drove a blue convertible to get more favorable treatment from her summer camp counselors. She based her award-winning character, Anastasia Krupnick, on 10-year old Amy Carter.

“Reach into your past. Give your happiness, sorrow, anxiety words.”

Smart marketing idea: At school visits, Lois Lowry would hold lookalike contests for her characters. The winners got a free book.

Mark Teague. Quipped that children’s authors should write about their dogs since fans most often ask authors about their dogs. NOTE: Kids don’t care much about cats.

“The first task for an illustrator is to be a good reader.”

“Learn to illustrate through trial and error.”

“Remember that as an illustrator, you are always in service to the story.”

In a picture book, think about what’s happening beyond the page, in the extended scene.

R.L. Stine. This master of the creepy tale is nicknamed “Jovial Bob Stine.” His life aspiration was to write for a humor magazine, which he did for 10 years–Bananas for Scholastic. He has typed all 300+ of his books using his left index finger, which is now irreparably bent! His hero is Ray Bradbury, who he encountered with butterflies in his stomach and with whom he shared a magical moment.

His worst review (written by a 12-year-old): “I’ve read 40 of your books, and I think they’re really boring.”

“I’ve sold 300M books, and I’ve had to write 300M books to do it!”

Advice to writers and illustrators: “Just say yes!” to any and all opportunities.

Jules Feiffer. This profoundly prolific author and illustrator just turned 82 and proudly proclaims that “his drawing table is his playpen.” (Alliterations intended.) He has a second home on (my beloved) Martha’s Vineyard where his daughter, Kate (who is also a children’s book author), lives year-round. Jules has never done anything he planned to do–it just made sense.

“Norton [Juster] neglected to tell me he was writing a classic.” on using cheap paper for The Phantom Tollbooth artwork.

Whenever Jules dives into a project he refers to his masters for inspiration and creative ideas.

Mo Willems. This winner of 3 Caldecott Honors, 2 Geisel Medals, 2 Carnegie Medals, and 6 Emmys creates a sketch book each year that he distributes to family and friends. He threw a handful of these precious sketch books into the audience on Sunday! He is even more adorable in person than he is in print or on screen.

“Humor is a form of athletics. You need to work at it to be good.”

“Nobody knows what’s funny. Funny people know what’s not funny.”

I do believe if you’re going to be funny that you need a New York/LA joke and a urine joke.

Rewriting is taking words out. Each draft is 20 percent less words.

Linda Sue Park. Even though she has written 8 picture books and 9 novels, many with critical acclaim, Linda Sue is extremely self-deprecating. She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom, a writer, and a puppy sitter to Malcolm, her friend’s pet.

Reading is the training for writing. To write effectively, you must read A LOT.

Books are just about the only place left where young people can encounter written language with the luxury of time.

“If you’re not afraid of the challenge that’s not courage; its a chemical malfunction in your brain.”

“Voice is word choice for meaning and nuance and sound, word order for structure and rhythm.”

“Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in the work.”

When I write, I need to remember: “It’s not about me; it’s about the story.”

Linda Sue Park’s keynote was amazing, so if you want to read more highlights, please check out the scbwi blog team’s account at http://bit.ly/gYkkfD.

I am ever so grateful to be a member of this vibrant community and to have attended this conference. I am grateful to SCBWI for organizing such a fabulous experience for us. And I am especially grateful to the speakers for being so prepared, funny, helpful, and inspirational. Thank you!

Being Reminded of What Is Most Important

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press

During the month of January we have explored entrepreneurship and what it takes to start a business. We also unveiled our newest release–Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It–and revealed that the more we use our brains, the more capacity they have to grow. Learning, especially from mistakes, is an important part of being a successful entrepreneur.

As an attorney, an investment banker, and a private equity investor, I advised entrepreneurs, many of whom are now friends. Now that I myself am an entrepreneur, they are in a position to advise me. I can feel the smiles of my entrepreneur friends as they nod in a knowing way, understanding that right now I am going through a right of passage as a first-time entrepreneur. Working relentlessly (and happily) to build a company I ardently believe in.
As an entrepreneur (with a growing brain!), it is easy to become engrossed in tasks, objectives, strategies, and goals. It was my husband, however, who sharpened the focus of my perspective by reminding me of a conversation I had with our oldest daughter this past fall. At the dinner table one evening, I asked Ryan, who was new to the 1st grade at that time, what she had learned in school that day. She said that her class had discussed various careers and that her teacher had gone around the room and asked each student what their parents did for a living. I asked Ryan how she responded. She said, “I told my teacher that you are a mommy.”
Although I was able to conceal it, my first reaction was a flash of hurt and a pinch of outrage. Here I am working 12+ hours a day, six days a week, and my daughter thinks I don’t! After I heard her out, I explained what it is I do for a living and related my work to all the books we read at home. It wasn’t until much later when my husband pointed out to me that Ryan’s response was the best possible response, that my perspective changed. All of my efforts to be present with my children to the extent possible despite my long hours working from home and the endless task list of the Founder and CEO of a growth stage company have paid off. My daughter perceives me first and foremost as a mommy! To her, nothing else that I do compromises that vital role and our special relationship. Could it get any better than that?
Parents, I tell you this story to remind you that your most important role in life is that of parent. I know from experience that it is a role that is often challenging and thankless. But to nurture and guide our precious children is the most valuable and rewarding thing we will ever accomplish.

Being Reminded of What Is Most Important

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press

During the month of January we have explored entrepreneurship and what it takes to start a business. We also unveiled our newest release–Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It–and revealed that the more we use our brains, the more capacity they have to grow. Learning, especially from mistakes, is an important part of being a successful entrepreneur.

As an attorney, an investment banker, and a private equity investor, I advised entrepreneurs, many of whom are now friends. Now that I myself am an entrepreneur, they are in a position to advise me. I can feel the smiles of my entrepreneur friends as they nod in a knowing way, understanding that right now I am going through a right of passage as a first-time entrepreneur. Working relentlessly (and happily) to build a company I ardently believe in.
As an entrepreneur (with a growing brain!), it is easy to become engrossed in tasks, objectives, strategies, and goals. It was my husband, however, who sharpened the focus of my perspective by reminding me of a conversation I had with our oldest daughter this past fall. At the dinner table one evening, I asked Ryan, who was new to the 1st grade at that time, what she had learned in school that day. She said that her class had discussed various careers and that her teacher had gone around the room and asked each student what their parents did for a living. I asked Ryan how she responded. She said, “I told my teacher that you are a mommy.”
Although I was able to conceal it, my first reaction was a flash of hurt and a pinch of outrage. Here I am working 12+ hours a day, six days a week, and my daughter thinks I don’t! After I heard her out, I explained what it is I do for a living and related my work to all the books we read at home. It wasn’t until much later when my husband pointed out to me that Ryan’s response was the best possible response, that my perspective changed. All of my efforts to be present with my children to the extent possible despite my long hours working from home and the endless task list of the Founder and CEO of a growth stage company have paid off. My daughter perceives me first and foremost as a mommy! To her, nothing else that I do compromises that vital role and our special relationship. Could it get any better than that?
Parents, I tell you this story to remind you that your most important role in life is that of parent. I know from experience that it is a role that is often challenging and thankless. But to nurture and guide our precious children is the most valuable and rewarding thing we will ever accomplish.

Junior Achievement

by Dani Greer

We’d be remiss in our exploration of entrepreneurship for young people if we didn’t mention Junior Achievement. Founded in 1916 during the The Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts, co-founders Theodore N. Vail, president of AT&T, and Horace A. Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Company had this goal:

“The future of our country depends upon making every individual fully realize the obligations and responsibilities belonging to citizenship. Habits are formed in youth…what we need in this country now … is to teach the growing generations to realize that thrift and economy, coupled with industry, are necessary now as they were in past generations.”  

Originally developed for young people ages 16-21, the program was centered in metropolitan centers and the clubs were called Junior Achievement Companies. JA has since grown to become known as the world’s largest organization dedicated to teaching students about entrepreneurism, workforce readiness, and financial literacy. Programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace.

Courses are taught through schools and today include a curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Textbooks and materials are developed at the national headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which hundreds of metropolitan JA offices then disperse into their area schools via volunteer training programs. Worldwide influence is impressive. Last year alone, almost 4.1 million students participated in 182, 811 classes, all taught by local business volunteers.

The classes themselves offer an interesting and diverse range of topics. In the elementary school program, for example, the courses accelerate through issues starting with “ourselves” up to “our nation”, and end with JA BizTown™ where children role-play workers and consumers by way of a series of lessons. Through the process they learn:

Concepts– Banking, Business, Careers, Charitable giving, Citizenship, Competition, Conservation, Consumers, Demand, Division of labor, Employment, Exchange, Goods, Marketing, Markets, Money, Needs, Opportunity costs, Producers, Production, Quality, Resources, Saving, Scarcity, Services, Skills, Specialization, Supply, Wants.
Skills– Analysis, Applying information, Budgeting, Cause and effect, Critical thinking, Computation, Data collection, Decision-making, Following directions, Graphing, Interpersonal communication, Listening, Negotiation, Observation, Planning, Predicting outcomes, Problem-solving, Reading, Research, Role-playing, Setting goals, Spending, Taking responsibility, Teamwork.

And this in 5th grade! Middle school and high school programs are developed along the same lines but with increasing complexity to suit the age of the student. By the time the student is in high school, the Junior Achievement Student Center online is provided for teens to explore careers, find a college, manage their money, and even start a business of their own.

Have you ever taken a Junior Achievement class through your school? Have you perhaps taught a course as a business volunteer? It’s a very rewarding experience and I highly encourage you to consider it. Contact a Junior Achievement office near you and find out about their training programs. You’ll be amazed at the fantastic resource materials you’ll share with your students, and how much fun the experience is for everyone involved.

For more information, click over to the Junior Achievement website. By all means if you have a child in a school that doesn’t have the JA programs in place, ask a principal to check into it. There are even programs available for rural and foreign schools. You’ll be glad your children learned these life skills from an early age in a creative and playful environment.

Junior Achievement

by Dani Greer

We’d be remiss in our exploration of entrepreneurship for young people if we didn’t mention Junior Achievement. Founded in 1916 during the The Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts, co-founders Theodore N. Vail, president of AT&T, and Horace A. Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Company had this goal:

“The future of our country depends upon making every individual fully realize the obligations and responsibilities belonging to citizenship. Habits are formed in youth…what we need in this country now … is to teach the growing generations to realize that thrift and economy, coupled with industry, are necessary now as they were in past generations.”  

Originally developed for young people ages 16-21, the program was centered in metropolitan centers and the clubs were called Junior Achievement Companies. JA has since grown to become known as the world’s largest organization dedicated to teaching students about entrepreneurism, workforce readiness, and financial literacy. Programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace.

Courses are taught through schools and today include a curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Textbooks and materials are developed at the national headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which hundreds of metropolitan JA offices then disperse into their area schools via volunteer training programs. Worldwide influence is impressive. Last year alone, almost 4.1 million students participated in 182, 811 classes, all taught by local business volunteers.

The classes themselves offer an interesting and diverse range of topics. In the elementary school program, for example, the courses accelerate through issues starting with “ourselves” up to “our nation”, and end with JA BizTown™ where children role-play workers and consumers by way of a series of lessons. Through the process they learn:

Concepts– Banking, Business, Careers, Charitable giving, Citizenship, Competition, Conservation, Consumers, Demand, Division of labor, Employment, Exchange, Goods, Marketing, Markets, Money, Needs, Opportunity costs, Producers, Production, Quality, Resources, Saving, Scarcity, Services, Skills, Specialization, Supply, Wants.
Skills– Analysis, Applying information, Budgeting, Cause and effect, Critical thinking, Computation, Data collection, Decision-making, Following directions, Graphing, Interpersonal communication, Listening, Negotiation, Observation, Planning, Predicting outcomes, Problem-solving, Reading, Research, Role-playing, Setting goals, Spending, Taking responsibility, Teamwork.

And this in 5th grade! Middle school and high school programs are developed along the same lines but with increasing complexity to suit the age of the student. By the time the student is in high school, the Junior Achievement Student Center online is provided for teens to explore careers, find a college, manage their money, and even start a business of their own.

Have you ever taken a Junior Achievement class through your school? Have you perhaps taught a course as a business volunteer? It’s a very rewarding experience and I highly encourage you to consider it. Contact a Junior Achievement office near you and find out about their training programs. You’ll be amazed at the fantastic resource materials you’ll share with your students, and how much fun the experience is for everyone involved.

For more information, click over to the Junior Achievement website. By all means if you have a child in a school that doesn’t have the JA programs in place, ask a principal to check into it. There are even programs available for rural and foreign schools. You’ll be glad your children learned these life skills from an early age in a creative and playful environment.

If you were a song, which one would you be?

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press
The people closest to me know that when I am happy, I listen to music, and I sing. Music makes my spirit soar—it always has, and I hope that it always will. As I drove my daughter to her older sister’s birthday party on Saturday, I turned on the radio and started to flip stations. Truth be told, when I am driving by myself, I listen to KDFC, our local classical music station (which streams live at http://www.kdfc.com/). But Alex doesn’t always like to listen to classical music, so I honored her request to find something else on the radio. We landed on [email protected], the local pop station.

Two songs into our journey, one of my favorite feel-good songs aired—Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten. Alex and I sang and bobbed as we headed to the festivities at In The Kitchen (which BTW is a terrific place in the San Francisco Bay Area to host an event for children or adults). Then, it occurred to me, if I were a song, I’d be this one. Here are the lyrics:

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Oh, oh, oh
I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
Oh, yeah, yeah
Upbeat, positive, unconventional, open-minded, comfortable with change, still learning and growing, better at communicating through the written word than the spoken one, living life to the fullest, one day to the next—this, in a song, represents me at this point in my life. So, my question for you is: if you were a song, which one would you be? And why? Please share your thoughts with us.

If you were a song, which one would you be?

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press
The people closest to me know that when I am happy, I listen to music, and I sing. Music makes my spirit soar—it always has, and I hope that it always will. As I drove my daughter to her older sister’s birthday party on Saturday, I turned on the radio and started to flip stations. Truth be told, when I am driving by myself, I listen to KDFC, our local classical music station (which streams live at http://www.kdfc.com/). But Alex doesn’t always like to listen to classical music, so I honored her request to find something else on the radio. We landed on [email protected], the local pop station.

Two songs into our journey, one of my favorite feel-good songs aired—Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten. Alex and I sang and bobbed as we headed to the festivities at In The Kitchen (which BTW is a terrific place in the San Francisco Bay Area to host an event for children or adults). Then, it occurred to me, if I were a song, I’d be this one. Here are the lyrics:

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Oh, oh, oh
I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
Oh, yeah, yeah
Upbeat, positive, unconventional, open-minded, comfortable with change, still learning and growing, better at communicating through the written word than the spoken one, living life to the fullest, one day to the next—this, in a song, represents me at this point in my life. So, my question for you is: if you were a song, which one would you be? And why? Please share your thoughts with us.

Beginner’s Mind Tip-of-the-Day

By Elizabeth Topp PhD, Co-Founder of ShiftAlliance

Our “original mind” includes everything within itself.
It is always rich and sufficient within itself.

You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind.

This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind.
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities;
in the expert’s mind there are few.


~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Pick one situation or issue you find challenging. How might your perspective shift if you were to approach things from the perspective of beginner’s mind?

Questions and Answers with Dr. JoAnn Deak

Today we have some questions children often ask Dr. JoAnn Deak about the brain when she’s giving her presentations at schools. Here are her answers:

What does the brain feel like?
Well, the best way to describe it: go to the store and buy an uncooked skinless chicken breast and touch it. You’ve got it!

What color is it?
A live brain is kind of pinkish. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that it has a lot of blood going to it. The brain is very needy and greedy. It works so hard that it  uses much of the oxygen and blood glucose (from the nutritious good food we eat) to keep it functioning well. Without the blood supply, it is kind of between a white and light gray color.
Why is it so wrinkled?
This is such and important question. Humans have the most wrinkled brain of all animals. The cortex that forms the big two hemispheric pecan looking brain starts out like a little gray pizza in the fetus. It is only about a centimeter thick. As it grows and hits the skull, if it stopped growing, we would have the intelligence of say, a cat. So, it needs to keep growing and would end up about six feet in diameter. That is too big a head for humans to have. So, the cortex begins to fold in on itself, the more wrinkles, the more complex and smarter the species!

Does the brain grow?
 
You bet! It is designed to grow as long as we live. We have 100 billion neurons, little chemical electrical wires that lead to thinking, feeling, doing… It acts somewhat like a muscle. When parts are used those neurons get bigger, the ends, called dendrites, grow magnificently and literally make that part of our brain bigger. In the brain field, there is a saying related to this: “Use it or lose it!”
 If you have questions for Dr. Deak, by all means leave them in the comments. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Deak’s school presentations please visit her website.

Be sure to visit Sharp Brains today for an inside look at the book, and explore this fascinating site for more information!

Our Grand Prize drawing continues. Leave us a comment with your email address to be eligible.

Questions and Answers with Dr. JoAnn Deak

Today we have some questions children often ask Dr. JoAnn Deak about the brain when she’s giving her presentations at schools. Here are her answers:

What does the brain feel like?
Well, the best way to describe it: go to the store and buy an uncooked skinless chicken breast and touch it. You’ve got it!

What color is it?
A live brain is kind of pinkish. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that it has a lot of blood going to it. The brain is very needy and greedy. It works so hard that it  uses much of the oxygen and blood glucose (from the nutritious good food we eat) to keep it functioning well. Without the blood supply, it is kind of between a white and light gray color.
Why is it so wrinkled?
This is such and important question. Humans have the most wrinkled brain of all animals. The cortex that forms the big two hemispheric pecan looking brain starts out like a little gray pizza in the fetus. It is only about a centimeter thick. As it grows and hits the skull, if it stopped growing, we would have the intelligence of say, a cat. So, it needs to keep growing and would end up about six feet in diameter. That is too big a head for humans to have. So, the cortex begins to fold in on itself, the more wrinkles, the more complex and smarter the species!

Does the brain grow?
 
You bet! It is designed to grow as long as we live. We have 100 billion neurons, little chemical electrical wires that lead to thinking, feeling, doing… It acts somewhat like a muscle. When parts are used those neurons get bigger, the ends, called dendrites, grow magnificently and literally make that part of our brain bigger. In the brain field, there is a saying related to this: “Use it or lose it!”
 If you have questions for Dr. Deak, by all means leave them in the comments. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Deak’s school presentations please visit her website.

Be sure to visit Sharp Brains today for an inside look at the book, and explore this fascinating site for more information!

Our Grand Prize drawing continues. Leave us a comment with your email address to be eligible.

The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Children Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press

Photo by Toni Argueta, Pharm.D.

Cold & Flu Season is upon us. As I know you are acutely aware, when our children are sick, life turns upside down. How then can we keep our children healthy? Here are the strategies we implement in our home:

10. Ask the people in your home to wash their hands regularly
Be consistent (neurotic!) about washing your hands–not only before and after handling food and after using the restroom, but also after touching your face. We have a house rule that you must wash your hands when you enter the house, especially if you are coming home from school or the playground.
9. Wash your hands with CleanWell
We swear by this product. CleanWell all-natural hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps kill 99.99% of germs without the use of toxic chemicals. Safe for kids, 100% biodegradable, and alcohol-free. Meet CleanWell and say goodbye to germs naturally. To find a store near you that sells the products, visit:

http://www.cleanwelltoday.com/storefinder/

Or shop on the company’s website and receive 15% off using our promo code LITTLEP15: http://bit.ly/9ug5W0. Alternatively, you will currently receive free shipping on your order if you enter NYFREE at checkout.

8. Keep a CleanWell hand sanitizer close by
Put one in your purse, car, diaper bag, etc. I even have one in each of my children’s school bags, and they are in the habit of using it. It has the same active ingredient as the antibacterial soap and is a great alternative when hand washing isn’t a possibility.
7. Cough like a vampire (see picture above)
We picked this up from Alex’s Kindergarten teacher. She teaches her students to cough into the crease of their arms, so they look like a vampire. Pretty clever way to reduce the number of germs in her classroom! We’ve adopted the same rule at home.
6. Whenever possible, open swinging doors with your body rather than your hands
Hit the crosswalk signal button with your elbow. Depress the elevator call button with your thumb through your sleeve. You get the point. My kids like identifying opportunities to do this. It has become a game for us all. The less door handles they touch with their hands, the better off your whole family will be.
5. Drink plenty of fluids
Water flushes your system, washing out the toxins as it rehydrates you. My children celebrate when their urine is closer to clear than yellow, which means that they are drinking enough fluids.
4. Get plenty of rest
It is common knowledge that when you are not well rested, your immune system suffers. Support healthy immune system function by making sure your whole family gets plenty of rest this cold and flu season.
3. Eat foods rich with antioxidants
Red, kidney, pinto, and black beans are way up there, so make chili! Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries are also antioxidant-rich. Please share your ideas and recipes with us.
2. Take supplemental vitamins
We all can benefit from taking supplemental vitamins. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation for your children. If your children are like mine, they are rather particular about what supplemental vitamins they like and which they don’t. Our house favorite is Nordic Berries by Nordic Naturals. You can find them in Whole Foods or online from many different vendors.
1. Enjoy a bath or a shower each school evening
We economize on water by putting all three children in the tub at the same time, which translates into big fun. We like to think we are washing off the germs of the day before getting into our clean beds.

The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Children Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

By Rana DiOrio, Founder, Little Pickle Press

Photo by Toni Argueta, Pharm.D.

Cold & Flu Season is upon us. As I know you are acutely aware, when our children are sick, life turns upside down. How then can we keep our children healthy? Here are the strategies we implement in our home:

10. Ask the people in your home to wash their hands regularly
Be consistent (neurotic!) about washing your hands–not only before and after handling food and after using the restroom, but also after touching your face. We have a house rule that you must wash your hands when you enter the house, especially if you are coming home from school or the playground.
9. Wash your hands with CleanWell
We swear by this product. CleanWell all-natural hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps kill 99.99% of germs without the use of toxic chemicals. Safe for kids, 100% biodegradable, and alcohol-free. Meet CleanWell and say goodbye to germs naturally. To find a store near you that sells the products, visit:

http://www.cleanwelltoday.com/storefinder/

Or shop on the company’s website and receive 15% off using our promo code LITTLEP15: http://bit.ly/9ug5W0. Alternatively, you will currently receive free shipping on your order if you enter NYFREE at checkout.

8. Keep a CleanWell hand sanitizer close by
Put one in your purse, car, diaper bag, etc. I even have one in each of my children’s school bags, and they are in the habit of using it. It has the same active ingredient as the antibacterial soap and is a great alternative when hand washing isn’t a possibility.
7. Cough like a vampire (see picture above)
We picked this up from Alex’s Kindergarten teacher. She teaches her students to cough into the crease of their arms, so they look like a vampire. Pretty clever way to reduce the number of germs in her classroom! We’ve adopted the same rule at home.
6. Whenever possible, open swinging doors with your body rather than your hands
Hit the crosswalk signal button with your elbow. Depress the elevator call button with your thumb through your sleeve. You get the point. My kids like identifying opportunities to do this. It has become a game for us all. The less door handles they touch with their hands, the better off your whole family will be.
5. Drink plenty of fluids
Water flushes your system, washing out the toxins as it rehydrates you. My children celebrate when their urine is closer to clear than yellow, which means that they are drinking enough fluids.
4. Get plenty of rest
It is common knowledge that when you are not well rested, your immune system suffers. Support healthy immune system function by making sure your whole family gets plenty of rest this cold and flu season.
3. Eat foods rich with antioxidants
Red, kidney, pinto, and black beans are way up there, so make chili! Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries are also antioxidant-rich. Please share your ideas and recipes with us.
2. Take supplemental vitamins
We all can benefit from taking supplemental vitamins. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation for your children. If your children are like mine, they are rather particular about what supplemental vitamins they like and which they don’t. Our house favorite is Nordic Berries by Nordic Naturals. You can find them in Whole Foods or online from many different vendors.
1. Enjoy a bath or a shower each school evening
We economize on water by putting all three children in the tub at the same time, which translates into big fun. We like to think we are washing off the germs of the day before getting into our clean beds.

The Grand Prize Drawing Continues

Today we have a wickedly funny post from the irreverent Mrs. Mimi giving us her views about life, teaching, and books. Go start your week off with a chuckle at probably the most popular teacher blog on the Internet.

Grand Prize Drawing 1/31/2011

Be sure to sign up for our special Grand Prize drawing by leaving a comment and your email address. You could win a collection of all the Little Pickle Press books in one of our gorgeous recycled Global-Green-Present bags! You may sign up once a day for more chances to win the entire library – all printed on recycled or tree-free paper with soy inks.

And if you simply cannot wait and want to buy the books, you can go to the website and order what you like, then enter coupon code BBTBRAIN at check-out for 20% off your entire order.

Be sure to Follow Us at right. Our email newsletter sign-up is at the top of the page, as well as the entire blog book tour schedule with links. We hope to see you all week! Don’t forget to leave us a comment.

The Grand Prize Drawing Continues

Today we have a wickedly funny post from the irreverent Mrs. Mimi giving us her views about life, teaching, and books. Go start your week off with a chuckle at probably the most popular teacher blog on the Internet.

Grand Prize Drawing 1/31/2011

Be sure to sign up for our special Grand Prize drawing by leaving a comment and your email address. You could win a collection of all the Little Pickle Press books in one of our gorgeous recycled Global-Green-Present bags! You may sign up once a day for more chances to win the entire library – all printed on recycled or tree-free paper with soy inks.

And if you simply cannot wait and want to buy the books, you can go to the website and order what you like, then enter coupon code BBTBRAIN at check-out for 20% off your entire order.

Be sure to Follow Us at right. Our email newsletter sign-up is at the top of the page, as well as the entire blog book tour schedule with links. We hope to see you all week! Don’t forget to leave us a comment.

Publishing Challenges

Today we visit the writing blog of Helen Ginger, a long-time editor whose weekly writing e-zine has a ten-year popular history with authors. Helen writes about all things related to writing and publishing. We tell the back-story of using Terraskin, a non-wood-pulp paper made of calcium carbonate. It’s no accident that we’re visiting a blog called Straight From Hel so click over and find out why even the best intentions can go awry.

Welcome to Day 6 of the blog book tour for Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. and illustrated by Sarah Ackerley. This innovative and timely picture book is a fun and engaging way to teach children that they have the ability to stretch and grow their own brains.

Grand Prize Drawing 1/31/2011

Before you leave here though, be sure to sign up for our special Grand Prize drawing by leaving a comment and your email address. You could win a collection of all the Little Pickle Press books in one of our gorgeous recycled Global-Green-Present bags! You may sign up once a day for more chances to win the entire library – all printed on recycled or tree-free paper with soy inks.

And if you simply cannot wait and want to buy the books, you can go to the website and order what you like, then enter coupon code BBTBRAIN at check-out for 20% off your entire order.

Don’t forget to leave us a comment. Click on “comments” below this post.

Publishing Challenges

Today we visit the writing blog of Helen Ginger, a long-time editor whose weekly writing e-zine has a ten-year popular history with authors. Helen writes about all things related to writing and publishing. We tell the back-story of using Terraskin, a non-wood-pulp paper made of calcium carbonate. It’s no accident that we’re visiting a blog called Straight From Hel so click over and find out why even the best intentions can go awry.

Welcome to Day 6 of the blog book tour for Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. and illustrated by Sarah Ackerley. This innovative and timely picture book is a fun and engaging way to teach children that they have the ability to stretch and grow their own brains.

Grand Prize Drawing 1/31/2011

Before you leave here though, be sure to sign up for our special Grand Prize drawing by leaving a comment and your email address. You could win a collection of all the Little Pickle Press books in one of our gorgeous recycled Global-Green-Present bags! You may sign up once a day for more chances to win the entire library – all printed on recycled or tree-free paper with soy inks.

And if you simply cannot wait and want to buy the books, you can go to the website and order what you like, then enter coupon code BBTBRAIN at check-out for 20% off your entire order.

Don’t forget to leave us a comment. Click on “comments” below this post.

Illustrating a Children’s Book

Today we visit the Blood-Red Pencil where Dani Greer interviews artist, Sarah Ackerley, about illustrating the book. It’s always interesting to get the behind-the-scenes story and see an artist’s studio.

Welcome to Day 5 of the blog book tour for Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. and illustrated by Sarah Ackerley. This innovative and timely picture book is a fun and engaging way to teach children that they have the ability to stretch and grow their own brains.

Grand Prize Drawing 1/31/2011

Before you leave here though, be sure to sign up for our special Grand Prize drawing by leaving a comment and your email address. You could win a collection of all the Little Pickle Press books in one of our gorgeous recycled Global-Green-Present bags! You may sign up once a day for more chances to win the entire library – all printed on recycled or tree-free paper with soy inks.

And if you simply cannot wait and want to buy the books, you can go to the website and order what you like, then enter coupon code BBTBRAIN at check-out for 20% off your entire order.

Be sure to Follow Us at right. Our email newsletter sign-up is at the top of the page, as well as the entire blog book tour schedule with links. We hope to see you all week! Don’t forget to leave us a comment.