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Christy Catherine Marshall

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August 31, 2010



I’m excited to welcome a brave and talented guest today whose writing has led her to read with the wolves! Robyn Hood Black is the author of two children’s books, Wolves (Dalmatian/Intervisual Books) and Sir Mike (Scholastic/Children’s Press). She’s had poetry published in Welcome Home and Hopscotch for Girls, and she also has poems slated to appear in Berry Blue Haiku and Ladybug. In addition, Highlights Magazine will publish Robyn’s short story in 2011. I met Robyn at an SCBWI conference, and I’m thrilled she’s come to share with us her expertise!

Hi Robyn. How did you get started writing books for children?

As soon as I was old enough to put crayons to paper, I was making up and illustrating stories. I’ve always wanted to write children’s books. I made a (not so good) one as an art project in high school, and I think my first submission to a publisher was while I was in college. That manuscript was not so good, either!

I sought out opportunities to write at every stage of life, from school newspapers to community newspapers to church newsletters and local magazines, and I’m grateful for what I learned with those bylines.

It sounds like you’ve experienced it all in the world of writing! Do you think it’s helpful to build up a variety of writing experiences before tackling books?

For me, it was. When writing for any kind of publication, you have to think about audience and deadlines and making every word count — and working with an editor. When I got the contract to write WOLVES, which was part of a series, it had a very tight deadline. A writer friend looked at what the publisher wanted and the time frame, and she shook her head, saying, “I would be so overwhelmed…!”

I laughed and said I would be drawing upon my inner newspaper reporter — I knew the person who could crank out eight or more feature stories in a week in her 20s was still inside somewhere. And she was.

Wow — writing eight stories a week is a lot to keep up with! Were you influenced by any particular authors of children’s books along your writing journey? Who were your favorite authors when you were a child?

I remember riding my bike to the library as a kid growing up in Florida, and it always seemed like a magical destination. When I was very little, I loved P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? and The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey. I loved Jean de Brunhoff’s Babar books.

Oh, my kids love those same books too!

Also, I would play those Disney storybook albums (kids today might not even know what an LP looks like!) and act out the stories as I turned the pages and took in that wonderful art. I remember appreciating Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was the right age for it, and Emily Neville’s It’s Like This, Cat.

I collected fiction and nonfiction books about animals, too, such as Walt Morley’s Kavik the Wolf Dog, all kinds of cat books, and Joy Adamson’s lion books. I still have most of those books, and the records!

What a wonderful collection you must have! OK. Let’s talk about WOLVES! Over the summer, I read Jean Craighead George’s 1973 Newbery winner, Julie of the Wolves. How did you begin working with wolves?



Jean Craighead George has always been one of my heroes. She turned 91 this summer, I believe. Getting the contract to write a book about wolves was a dream come true. I learned so much during the research (and I’m still learning!).

While writing the book, I wanted to observe/photograph/sketch real wolves. I discovered that the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia — not far from my home — had a couple of wolves at that time. I visited them, and the next spring (2008) met two female pups born there, Juno and Luna.

They were four weeks old, and I immediately filled out the paperwork to volunteer there. I’ve worked with animals my whole life — mostly my own and also as a volunteer — and I’ve been lucky to have friends who are professional trainers.

I see the cover of your book, which is WOW KINDA SCARY, and then I see pictures of you hanging out with wolves. Have you ever felt like you were in any danger?



That is a striking picture, huh?! Illustrator Colin Howard did a terrific job. To answer your question, No, BUT — I always stress to kids that wolves are not dogs! Our dogs came from wolf ancestors, but wolves are still wild, even those in captivity. I respect that about them and am conscious about things like body language, the tone of my voice, energy level, and personal space.

We used to have horses — one was particularly difficult; hence the relationship with one particular trainer friend! — and I find working with wolves is more like working with horses than with pet dogs. Instincts are always at the forefront. Dogs have been domesticated over thousands of years; wolves have not.

As an example, one of the worst things about tearing my Achilles this past spring was that I could only interact with Juno and Luna through a fence when I finally made it back out there. My dogs at home were happy to hang out with me on the couch and not count my weakness and vulnerability against me. But around predators, even socialized ones, you have to respect their natures.

I’m confident with the wolves at the preserve because I’ve volunteered with them since they were young pups, but I keep in mind that they are wolves. By the way, a male wolf pup came to the preserve this summer, and he’s been a joy to work with.



Can you tell us a few interesting facts you learned while writing your book on wolves?

Wolves and people have much in common. Both live in social groups with dominance hierarchies, and they work (hunt) cooperatively. They are fiercely loyal to their families. In a wolf pack, usually the top male and female are the only ones who breed, and their pack is really an extended family, usually including pups from previous litters who haven’t struck out on their own yet to form new packs, and sometime an outside member or two.

All the pack members help raise the litter of pups born in the spring. Wolves are wild about pups! The older pack members tolerate their antics and help discipline them when necessary. Another interesting fact — did you know most wolf hunts don’t result in a meal for the wolves? Wolves offer lessons in persistence, something very helpful for writers seeking publication!

Hey, that is so cool! I’m going to have you and your wolves to thank if I ever persist long enough to publish a children’s book! Robyn, I know your school visits are very popular. What’s it like for you to give a workshop at a school?

I LOVE school visits. They take a lot of preparation and energy, but something magical happens during that sharing time with young readers and writers. It’s always a privilege to explore stories and the creative process with kids.

Can you give us any tips on what makes a good school visit?

Starting small is a good way to get your feet wet — volunteering to lead a writing activity in your child’s classroom, for instance. Teachers usually love exposing their students to folks who are passionate about reading and writing and who have something to offer which reinforces what they are teaching.

Your first school visit doesn’t have to be a full-fledged paying author visit with 400 kids on a gym floor. Those are fun, too, but you can work up to that! I always enjoy tailoring programs to specific things the kids are learning. If I can present concepts in a fun and different way, everybody wins!

In a memorable school visit, the author’s passions — for writing and for subject matter — shine through, and he or she is comfortable leading a group of enthusiastic children. Kids, like wolves, thrive on leadership and mutual respect!

You make school visits sound like fun! Do you have any advice for moms who would love to write books for children, but need to carve out a little time and space to create?

First, don’t give up! When I was a stay-at-home mom with small children, sometimes the best I could do was keep my little toe in the waters of writing. But parenting is the most important job on the planet, and when kids are small, it doesn’t leave room for much else (unless maybe you have lots of family members around who love to babysit). Even though my kids are teenagers now, that family-work balance can still be a challenge.

That said, it’s important to take your talents/gifts/interests seriously, or nobody else will. (They still might not even if you do!) If you can leave Dad or Grandma or a trusted friend in charge for a weekend, a conference can be a wonderful break from your daily demands and source of inspiration, for now or for later.

Just think — 24 to 48 hours of adult conversation about children’s books? Ahhhhh. I’ve been a regular conference attendee since my kids were little, and the focused attention to craft not only helps my work, but the networking and friendships continue to enrich my life.

On the home front, even if you can eke out only a few minutes a day to write a paragraph or jot down project ideas or read an article on publishing, take that time. And know that some other “stuff” will not get done. But you’ll be modeling the nurturing of your own gifts for your children, and that’s valuable.

Your husband and children, wonderful as they are, are probably not going to tell you, “Honey/Mom — the world really needs your creative vision. Here, we’ll do all the laundry and grocery shopping and remain quietly in the background while you finish your story.” So you have to believe in yourself and claim a little territory!


Ha! You’re too funny! That does sound like a dream conversation! Can you tell us your number one secret for getting published?

Still working on that …. Actually, speaking of conferences, I have to say getting involved in SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is my number one piece of advice to anyone who wants to jump into the world of writing and/or illustrating for children.

Our Southern Breeze region is very active with lots of dedicated, generous folks. Having said that, it’s important to remember that all the networking in the world — all the blogging, web-surfing, book reviewing — is not a substitute for actually writing.

The most important thing to do if you are serious about writing for children is to develop your craft by reading lots of books in the genres you want to write, and then to write, write, write.

Thanks for this great advice! Here’s one last question, and then I’ll let you get back to your own writing! What are you working on these days?

I recently finished my first novel (round one, anyway) and have sent it off to the first editor on my list. It’s historical fiction and required tons of research! I’ll keep you posted if it receives any interest.

I have a couple of picture book projects I’m hoping to find homes for, and I continue to write and submit poetry. I’m fortunate to have some great critique group partners, and my husband and kids are used to my shoving new works under their noses for feedback. My daughter just left for college, and I’ve already emailed her some works-in-progress!

Thank you SO much, Robyn! You’ve given all of us some wonderful, practical ideas on how to give our creative life the push it needs to meet the real world of publishing. We wish you the best with your future endeavors!

Thank you again for having me, and best wishes in your parenting and writing!

Please visit Robyn Hood Black’s website to keep up with her exciting world of writing. You can also hear Robyn speak IN PERSON at the upcoming SCBWI Southern Breeze Writing & Illustrating for Kids Conference! She’ll be co-presenting two workshops with writer and media specialist Sharon Wright Mitchell on breaking into magazines and how to create successful school visits that tie into curriculum.




August 27, 2010



We went and saw Eat Pray Love last weekend. I just had to see it, even though I haven’t read the book yet. (I’ve got it on hold at the library, so it should be coming soon.) I was so curious about this story — a woman’s year-long spiritual memoir, as she travels through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Eat Pray Love. What a great title.

The book, which came out four years ago, is a true phenomenon. It’s #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in paperback nonfiction, and it’s made the list for 180 consecutive weeks. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, has appeared on Oprah Winfrey telling her story, and of course now it’s a blockbuster movie starring Julia Roberts.

But I went to the movie not knowing much about the book, so I confess it was a little messy and confusing for me — real life is never as neat and tidy as fiction. This movie is a woman’s true story — a very brave woman in my opinion, and I admire her for being a writer willing to share it.

The film opens showing us the glamorous life Julia Roberts/Liz Gilbert is leading: she’s a travel writer based in New York who seemingly has it all: a cute husband who’s crazy about her, a beautiful home, career success with travel assignments around the world. What more could she want?

Yet something is amiss — Liz is unhappy. Although it’s not clear in the movie, she apparently doesn’t want to have a baby. She holds her friend’s baby and asks her, “How did you know you wanted this?” and her friend shows her a box full of little baby clothes that she’s kept for years. Liz then discloses that she’s kept this same type of box … full of magazine clips about travel destinations she longs to visit. She’s confused, and so are we, the movie watchers.

Liz decides to divorce her husband, and this bothered me the whole movie. It was the first time I can remember not sympathizing with a main character. I kept wanting her to wake up and realize she’d made a mistake — but she leaves her old life behind to embark on new adventures. She has a fling with an actor, who’s not quite as tantalizing when they’re in the laundry mat, broke, folding clothes together.

So Liz decides to see the world — these three “I” countries, Italy, India, Indonesia, as she explores her inner “I” and tries to heal from the mess she’s made of her life. Here’s something else that confused me — the movie doesn’t make it clear where she gets the money to do this. There was no scene where Liz approaches her agent or editor and snags a six-figure advance (as she does in real life) to finance her travels. The whole movie I kept wondering, “How does she have enough money to do this?” But in reality, she’s been paid up front to write a book.



So it’s a little similar to the Julie and Julia story and movie, except Julie Powell wrote her year-long blog first, which got picked up by a publisher and turned into a book, then a movie. Gilbert’s book idea was sold before she left, then her travels became a book, which became a movie. OK. See, I’m making this easy for you, so you won’t be as confused as I was.

The film itself is gorgeous. I loved traveling right along with Liz/Julia as she experiences the world far from the madding crowd of New York. (And oh, you’ll want to dive head-first into that Italian pasta!) I looked around the packed theater at people of all sizes and ages, realizing most of us couldn’t afford to travel even for a week to one of these countries. Yet for less than 10 bucks, we’re getting to eat, pray, and love our way through three. Pizza and gelato in Italy, silence and prayer in India, and fresh air and romance in Bali. *sigh.*



There are many reasons for seeing a movie, and here’s one where you’ll spend your money to escape, and that’s OK. For all of us scribblers, the fun part is that Liz is writing the whole time — emails back home, journal entries, tap-tap-tap into her laptop, as she’s forming her thoughts into a book. We can relate to this.

One more confusing thing I’ll clear up: the actress Julia Roberts is 42, although the woman she’s playing was only 31 when she took off on her journey. I think that’s an important point. As I watched the film, I personally felt relieved that I’d gotten most of my traveling out of my system in my early to mid-20s before marriage.

So back to that point I made in the beginning — I couldn’t sympathize with Liz who left her husband because she was unhappy. I kept thinking — why didn’t she and her husband travel together? That seems like more fun to me. When I watched Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, I sympathized with her the whole movie, as did everybody. Liz is a more complex character, that’s for sure.

If you want to find out more nitty-gritty details about the PG-13 rating, check out the Plugged-In review. I definitely wouldn’t take any of my kids to see it. This is a movie you go see on a girls-night-out, in my opinion. But be prepared — the ending is a surprise for those who haven’t read the book.

Which I plan to do very soon!




August 25, 2010



My children have been praying every day for the 33 miners who’ve been trapped inside a gold and copper mine in Chile since August 5. I can’t get this story out of my mind. We pray for them together every afternoon and every night, and their classmates are all praying for them every morning at school.

Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” How in the world can these 33 men hold on to hope when they’ve been stuck in a dark hole a half-mile beneath the earth’s surface for nearly three weeks?

I love this photo, showing the president of Chile holding a note that was scribbled by one of the miners, and sent up by a drill. It says
Estamos bien en el refugio los 33 which translates to “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter.” Oh wow. The note was sent up after they’d been missing for 17 days.

This story will continue, and we’ll continue to pray for their safe rescue. I don’t know how to answer all the questions my 7-year-old asks, but he’s completely in awe of these men’s struggle to survive. I think God speaks to the tender hearts of children to remind us busy adults what’s really important in life.

Engineers are estimating it may take four months to bring each man back to the surface safely. Until that moment, we’ll keep praying together.

*photo source: Hector Retamal, Associated Press

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)



August 20, 2010



It’s taken me a while to write this post, as I’ve tried to process everything I learned and experienced at Hutchmoot a couple of weeks ago in Nashville. If you’re not familiar with The Rabbit Room, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about.

The Rabbit Room is a group blog founded by musician/writer Andrew Peterson, composed of like-minded souls who share a common interest in art, film, books, and music as expressions of the Christian faith. After three years of online fellowship, the group decided to congregate in the flesh in Nashville; hence the “hutch” of rabbit roomers holding a “moot” or meeting.

My husband and I decided to attend together, since his brother and a couple of old friends would also be there. And since the date coincided with our 16th wedding anniversary, we thought we’d spend a day at the conference, then a day hiking outdoors, celebrating our marriage.

I signed up quickly (with a little encouragement from Lanier), checking it off my to-do list back in early May, but then I began to feel guilty once I read the news that “the hutch was full” after only a few days. The conference organizers decided to limit the attendees to around 100 people, due to space limitations and to foster a more intimate fellowship. There were people from around the world writing in dismay that they’d wanted to come, but now couldn’t.

Why me? I wanted to know. Why did God open the door for me to go when others couldn’t?

As the date neared, I had major second thoughts. It was the weekend right after my son started a new high school — how could we just skip out of town during his major life transition? My other kids were in the midst of needing me to shop for new fall shoes and other last-minute supplies. Plus, we’d be missing their school orientation as well.

“Maybe we should stay home,” I told my husband at least 20 times.

“No, let’s go,” he said. “You need a break. The kids will be fine.” We’re surrounded by doting grandparents, so childcare wasn’t a problem.

So we went, with me agonizing the whole way there that I’d snagged someone else more worthy’s spot. A serious Rabbit Room contributor, instead of me, who skims posts while taking a break from washing dishes and folding clothes.

I thought maybe I could hide in the back shadows, scribbling a few notes, hoping no one would ask me any questions. There was a reading list, and I never got around to any of the books, save the few I’d read years ago. What if there’s a discussion session? I worried. I’m not in the same league with these people. I wore a black sweater and black skirt, all the better for disappearing into quiet corners.

But here came the surprise.

The Hutch was full of incredibly NICE people.

Everyone I talked to was so interesting, and some were like me, mostly lovers of great literature without any significant works of our own. I met a lady from Texas, who confessed she “blogged a little” now and then, while raising and schooling her children. I got to tell Father Thomas McKenzie how much I enjoy his One-Minute movie reviews, and how I took our kids to see three movies this summer based on his reviews.

I met both Peterson brothers: Andrew and Pete, who put this event together. Andrew kindly signed his two Wingfeather Saga books for my son, including North! Or Be Eaten, which won the Christy award back in June. That assuaged my mother-guilt, since I’d be bringing something home.

We attended sessions discussing the works of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Flannery O’Conner, and Annie Dillard. We listened to Walt Wangerin, Jr, author of The Book of the Dun Cow, give an awe-inspiring Saturday evening keynote address. The Church of the Redeemer, where the conference met, was a gorgeous building, with a sanctuary full of light streaming in through stained glass windows. Every wall displayed unique pieces of artwork. The quiet, candlelit rooms helped me feel less anxious.

I found myself having a great time! I shopped in the Rabbit Room store and picked up two handmade coffee mugs and a stack of beloved new and used books. And the food … the food was out of this world, catered by artist/chef Evie Coates, who made every dish both beautiful and tasty.

We missed a couple of the concerts, and instead of returning for more great teaching and fellowship on Sunday, we headed for the hills of Tennessee, hiking along the waterfalls of Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park. The sound of rushing water felt like God speaking to me, reminding me how awesome is His love for each of us. Even if we don’t consider ourselves worthy.

More than anything, Hutchmoot helped me have a greater definition of what it means to be a Christian Artist. Pastor Russ Ramsey shared with us a quote from Annie Dillard, who says in The Writing Life: “There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.”

I am living the Good Life now. My art may be nothing more than arranging blueberries on top of steaming oatmeal eaten by children who are dashing off to school … but for me, that’s a display of my love, and it’s what I’ve created. I can collect great works of literature and hand them to young growing minds who will outlive me, and will carry the words of these masters into the next century.

That’s what I brought home from the Hutchmoot fellowship.

If you’d like to read what others who were there have to say about it, check out the Hutchmoot Hub.




August 17, 2010

Over the summer, while browsing through my Auburn University alumni magazine, I was surprised to learn that all 4,000 incoming freshmen are being encouraged to read a book together: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.


Wow. That’s a major book club, don’t you think?

It’s part of the Common Book program that more than 100 universities are starting to participate in. This reminds me of our own community’s Big Read last spring, when we all read To Kill a Mockingbird together. Can you see how a bookish person likes me gets excited about these types of programs?

So, I had Three Cups of Tea on my mind all summer, wondering what’s so great about it that an entire university would be reading it together. Sure, it was a #1 New Times Bestseller for months, but just because it’s selling millions of copies doesn’t mean I’m going to fall in love with it.

But I did. Oh … there is something rich between the covers of this book that reached the core of me. It’s changed the way I view the world. I hope you’ll get a chance to read it, if you haven’t yet. Especially if you’re a woman. Read it, and you’ll understand.

The story begins with Greg Mortenson’s failure to climb the K2 mountain in Pakistan, the second highest mountain in the world. He almost froze to death one night when the porter carrying his heavy backpacks disappeared far ahead. Greg wandered around lost for a while, and ended up in a village called Korphe.

While staying in this village a while to recover his strength, he was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people. There were children everywhere, and when he asked the elders where these kids go to school, he got some sad looks.

He discovered dozens of children huddled together in the freezing cold scribbling their math equations into the dirt with sticks. From this point on, he vowed that he would someday return to this village and build them a school.

The book is a page turner. He goes from one hard time to another — living out of his car trying to scrape together his own meager living and keep his dream alive. He writes 300 letters on a rented typewriter until some kind soul shows him how to use the “cut and paste” option on a computer, and then he sends out 280 more. At last he finds a person willing to back him up financially so he can build that first school, Dr. Jean Hoerni.

The rest of the book recounts the trials and adventures Mortenson encounters as he builds that first school in Korphe — which leads to launching a whole organization, Central Asia Institute, dedicated to promoting world peace through education. He builds not only schools, but also relationships with people in the war-torn regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


As you’re reading, you suddenly get the big picture that schools lead to educated minds who are less likely to be recruited by terrorists, and who are less likely to strap bombs to themselves and blow things up.

You realize books lead to peace. And so Mortenson’s mission becomes your own.

There’s now a Young Reader’s edition, which has full-color pictures and a simplified text. I think this would be a fantastic book for teachers or parents to read out loud. Students can also participate in the Pennies for Peace program.



The title of the book comes from the way in which the people in central Asia conduct business. Mortenson’s mentor, Haji Ali, teaches him:

The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.

If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to watch this short interview with Greg Mortenson. You’ll be amazed. I can definitely understand why an entire campus will be reading and discussing this book together, and who knows how many new dreams will be launched from this shared experience.

(I’ve heard the story continues, with the 2009 published sequel, Stones into Schools.)

All photos are complements of Central Asia Institute.




August 16, 2010

I’ve written about this before, but I thought I’d periodically update you on overseas teaching jobs. It’s a topic I feel passionate about, and I’m praying there’s a young 20-something woman out there who might discover my post and find a calling in teaching overseas. It’s one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I’d also like to remind mothers of teenagers there’s a huge world out there, and if their kids work hard, they can see it! I tell my kids this all the time, reminding them they’ll need a good education and work skills in order to have the means to travel.

According to Joy Jobs, there are nearly 5,000 overseas teaching vacancies right now. Recruitment for the 2011-12 school year has already begun, as it takes a while for a teacher to tie up loose ends and move overseas.

These jobs do not require raising financial support; the teachers are paid by the school. I know there are many opportunities for young men and women to go into missions, but most of the time, they require raising support.

I received information today about the following jobs. If reading through this list fascinates you (as it does me!), please contact Joy Jobs. There’s a process where you submit your resume and find out how recruitment works.

***************

LAST-MINUTE POSITIONS FOR IMMEDIATE START!

———————————————————
Málaga, Spain

Tutoring Center in Málaga city is looking for full-time and
part-time Native English Teachers. We are seeking motivated and
well-organized applicants with comprehensive communication
skills.

REQUIREMENTS

– Bachelor’s degree: Education, Languages or related field.
(TEFL and other certificates are valuable).
– Only residents in Málaga or nearby.
– Availability from Monday to Saturday (9:00 – 21:00).
– Previous experience will be valued
– Computer skills: Intermediate (Microsoft Office package,
Proficient in Internet and E-mail)
– Work permit for non EU citizens.
– Candidate needs to be flexible, a fast learner, high spirits,
open minded, and optimistic.
– Fluent in Spanish

SALARY

Negotiable, depending on the candidate skills and
qualifications.

Apply today!
———————————————————

St. Vincent & The Grenadines – Carribean

A Primary School Teacher is wanted for a 10 pupil English company
primary school (Pelican School) on a beautiful small Caribbean
island – Canouan.

It is a wonderful experience for someone seeking an adventure,
looking to enrich their career and life experiences and wanting
to make a difference.

• The successful applicant should have experience teaching at
all levels and must demonstrate commitment to equality and
diversity.
• Having varied teaching experiences, teaching science and
social studies, and also having some knowledge of distance
learning techniques would be an asset.
• He/she will be required to work together with 2 other staff,
teach a class of mixed aged pupils, bring a fresh approach to
this small school of very high potentials and great resources.

Minimum Qualifications:
• A first degree or 5 years teaching experience
• Educational training relevant to your home territory
• A passion for teaching
• Vision and enthusiasm

Families and couples welcome.
We offer accommodation, flights and an attractive salary
package.

Deadline: 10 October, 2010

Unsuitable applications will not be acknowledged

———————————————————

MEF International School – Istanbul

For August 2010, this is an urgent vacancy:

•MS/HS Chemistry/Science

Come live in glorious and historic Istanbul, the 2010 European
Capital and work at an IB World School!
Deadline: 1 September (unless post remains vacant after this
date)

———————————————————
URGENT FULL-TIME ENGLISH TEACHERS IN NORTH VIETNAM

Shelton English Training Centre is one of the prestigious quality
English centers. It has been well-established from the high
reputation of Technology Transferring & Education Development
Ltd., Co founded in 1997. The company has been well-known in the
education and training industry over the past 13 years.

Initially starting business in Hanoi-the capital of Vietnam,
Shelton English Training Centre has been expanding the business
wise to other Northern provinces of Vietnam such as Hai Phong,
Quang Ninh. We are seeking for experienced English native
speaking teachers from England, Australia, America, Ireland,
Canada, etc.

Shelton English Training Centre offers a highly competitive
financial and benefits package to teachers, which is based on
qualifications and experience

If you are serious in teaching and fun loving children then this
is a great opportunity. What are you waiting for, come and join
us!
———————————————————

Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates

•Math Teacher Advisor/Curriculum Support Specialist for a boys
middle school in Abu Dhabi!
Be a part of Educational Reform in exciting Abu Dhabi! Assist
the local staff in the implementation of a new curriculum, new
teaching and learning methodologies, and make a difference!

The right candidate will have 5 years relevant teaching
experience and

· Hold a teaching qualification of at least graduate level
· Experienced in curriculum management and development
· Experienced in the use and analysis of performance data
· Sound understanding of innovations in teaching and learning.
· Proven commitment to quality
· Evidence of an ability to understand the ethos of partnering
and of delivering in that environment.
· Excellent English communication skills (both oral and
written)
· Competent in the use of IT and willing to develop these
further
· Respectful and sensitive to local culture and heritage
———————————————————

Government Schools in Malaysia

* English Teaching Professionals as English Language Trainer

From contract period 2011 to 2013 – 3 years

– for primary students
– to enhance the local teachers teaching
competency via co-facilitation and training
– to start in end 2010.

Excellent Benefits and rewards to the right candidate. Malaysia
is a fantastic palce to live.

Application Deadline: 28 October 2010
———————————————————

Kingdom of Bahrain

•English Teachers Required Urgently!

Two experienced English teachers (5-10 years) required to teach
English at middle and high school levels leading to GCSE diploma
in a private school in Bahrain:current strength (300 students)
Knowledge of GCSE curriculum would be an added advantage. Masters
degree preferred but not essential but ability to work in a
highly diverse environment with different nationalities is key to
success. Potential joining date is September 1, 2010 and
therefore speed is of essence. Attractive tax free salary, free
furnished accomodation,leave travel and medical and a two year
fixed contract are available for the most deserving candidates.

Bahrain is one of the most desirable places in the Gulf (GCC
States). Considerable saving potential and no restrictions on
expatriate living.

Apply immediately with CV, cover letter, photo and three
references

———————————————————
Bali – Indonesia!

International School in Bali, Indonesia urgently and immediately
requires a Primary Grade 2 teacher.

Degree in primary education and experienced teachers preferred.

Apply ASAP!

By: Heather Ivester in: Education,Travel | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)



August 13, 2010

I found this post that I wrote nearly five years ago, and I felt like the “Prayer for One’s Calling” still applies today. May God bless you with a wonderful weekend.

Prayer for One’s Calling

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
Who declares Your glory and shows forth Your handiwork
in the heavens and in the earth;
Deliver us, we beseech You, in our several callings,
from the service of mammon*
That we may do the work which You give us to do,
in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness,
with singleness of heart as thy servants,
and to the benefit of our fellow men;
For the sake of Him who came among us as One that serves,
Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

–from The Book of Common Prayer

* I looked up mammon — it means “material wealth or possesions.”




August 12, 2010

Well, today is the last day of summer for me … and the end of an era.

After 14 years of being a stay-home mom and having babies, toddlers, and preschoolers all around, this chapter of my life is closing. My youngest daughter starts kindergarten tomorrow, which is a full-day program in our state.

Last year, she attended preschool three mornings a week, and between drop-offs and pick-ups, I only had about two hours to run errands, straighten the house, attend Bible study, and dash through an occasional aerobics. And in the spring, it seemed like every day she had a field trip, party, pet day, or something in which my presence was needed.

I loved it … I really did.

But now she’s joining her siblings in “big school.” And I’m happy for her. It’s time.

So then there’s me. I’ve been praying for God to show me what’s next. As a woman in my 40s, I’ve become a little wiser and more careful with how I spend my time. This seems to be a trend among friends my age. Several of them are starting to pursue dreams that have long been dormant during the busy childbearing and preschool years.

Of course, I also have many homeschooling friends whose children of all ages are still at home. But most of them are trying new things as well: teaching classes for other homeschoolers, adopting children from around the world, foster parenting, taking on leadership roles in church and community. Some are even going on mission trips as far away as Africa.

What about me, Lord?
I ask, several times a day.

I do plan to volunteer at both of my children’s schools. I love being around these wonderful kids. My son’s high school requires all new parent volunteers to go through official substitute teacher training before helping out in the classroom, so I plan to do this. I love chaperoning field trips, which keeps me plenty busy seeing plays, concerts, puppet shows, and farm animals.

Hmmmm … but is there something more?

As I’ve spent the summer in prayer, I’ve asked God to lead me and make it clear to me what He wants me to do. A few days ago, author Keri Wyatt Kent’s monthly newsletter arrived in my in-box at the perfect time. In her column on the topic of “Following God’s Call,” she wrote:

What is God calling you to do? Are you scared to even ask, because then you might have to follow where he leads? I, for one, sometimes hesitate to give God all out devotion, for fear he’d send me to Africa or the inner city. That he’ll upset my apple cart, which is teetering as it is.

But sometimes, God just chips away at your heart until you surrender, and just keeps showing himself trustworthy and kind until you give in and say, Okay, what do you want me to do?

And when he tells you, what do you say? How do you respond? Because he never reveals the whole plan—in fact, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if you heard his call correctly … What if it is not what you expected or what others would even consider a sacrifice or “a calling”? What if Jesus just shines a bit of light on the next step, and tells you—step here. Walk this way. Never mind where we will end up. Just know that I’m walking with you.

I read those paragraphs three or four times, then I had to close my laptop and go walk around for a while, feeling hot tears forming in my eyes, realizing God was trying to speak to me. Keri also wrote:

God’s calling me, so far as I can discern, to make some changes in my life, my career. Pulling me, step by step, out of my comfort zone. It’s still new and uncertain, so I can’t explain all the details yet.

Me too. After reading this, I discovered Keri is giving a keynote address not too far from my house in November, and I’m hoping to go hear her speak. I think God wants me to hear something she has to say. She’s wise. Her books are wise. I want to learn.

That’s all I know for now.

And maybe that’s enough.

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith,Motherhood | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)



August 9, 2010

Note:
I’m delighted to offer you an excerpt from author Peggy Nelson’s new book,
Life with Lord Byron: Laughter, Romance and Lessons Learned From Golf’s Greatest Gentleman. Peggy is the widow of Byron Nelson, a champion golfer who still holds the world record for winning 18 PGA tournaments in 1945, including 11 in a row!

If you’d like to enter a drawing to win a FREE copy of Peggy Nelson’s book, please leave a comment below.
[Update: Congrats to holymama for winning this book!]


Byron showed his sensitivity to my feelings and moods in many ways, and of course one of the most critical was golf. Having been a teacher for more than fifty years by then, he realized women need to be treated differently, and he was always gentle in his suggestions as we played together during the first year of our marriage. However I was something of a special case. I just knew I could figure out this simple game all by myself, thank you. While I certainly respected his experience, when we were on the course, I was forever thinking about my score and would brook very little distraction while I was endeavoring to make a seven instead of an eight or nine. Silly, wasn’t it?

So, even though he made very few suggestions, within the first six months Byron saw there was a little problem. I would skull a chip across the green or chili-dip a pitch shot, and he would say, “Sweetheart, try that again with an eight iron this time.”

I would reply (minus the sweetheart), “No!” Or I would try what he had recommended, and if it didn’t work instantly, I would fling the offending club back into my bag and march on to the next hole without a word. I thought things were going swimmingly, but Lord Byron knew better.

One day in May 1987 I had just come home from Dallas where I had been working on a writing assignment for Scottish Rite Hospital. Byron met me at the door with the latest issue of Golf Digest magazine in his hand.

“Sweetheart, I just read this article called ‘How To Play Golf With Your Spouse,’ and I want you to read it. I underlined everything I’ve been doing wrong, and I’m going to change, because if I don’t change, you’re not going to want to play golf with me any more, and you may not even want to stay married to me!”

I melted, of course, as well as feeling like the world’s biggest idiot. There I was, balking at advice from the greatest golfer/teacher ever, and he’s taking all the blame for my frustration on the course. I took the magazine from his hands and sat down next to him. After a number of hugs and kisses and a few tears on my part, I read the article as he had instructed. Naturally the piece was not written for professional golfer husbands who had won five majors, fifty-four tournaments, eleven in a row, eighteen in a year, and taught other pros like Watson, Venturi, and Ward. No, it was designed more for the eighteen handicappers, who wouldn’t know “you looked up” from U.S. Open rough.

We talked about it a little bit and finally figured out that, as silly as it was, I preferred to play on my own when I was on the course, instead of thinking all the time that he was going to want me to try another club or re-do a shot. So from that moment on, he would only offer advice when I asked him during a round.

Oddly enough, that made it easier for me to ask, which I did a lot more often over the years. The result was that, even playing only once or twice a week, I went from a thirty to a sixteen. And let’s not think about how much better I could have been if I had sat at the feet of this master of golf and tried to learn all I could about the game. As he told me years later, he really wouldn’t have wanted me to get so gung-ho that I would be in single digits. He knew how much work that would take and felt it wouldn’t have made me happy anyway. Byron always felt the happiest golfers he knew were the 80-85 shooters, who made enough pars to keep them happy, an occasional birdie for an extra lift, and the occasional double bogey to keep them humble.

Tagging the Master
Oh, it was so much fun playing with him! Not only could Byron still play very well during the first several years of our marriage, but he seemed to get more kick out of my occasional ripping good shot than he did his own. One time we were playing at Riverhill in Kerrville. I was about a twenty-five, and he was about a ten. So we were on the ninth tee, a great, really tough par four, and the forward tees were only a few yards ahead of the whites. He hit an excellent drive, and for once I tagged one that rolled a few yards past his ball.

After rejoicing about my drive, Byron hit a pure little three-iron that ended up on the green about a foot away from the pin for a kick-in birdie. I, my brilliant drive notwithstanding, hit my three-wood amazingly fat and rolled it about thirty yards. Madder than a wet hen, I took out my four-iron, and thinking fairly murderous thoughts, swung blindly at that wretched white ball. Blinking in amazement I watched it sail up and straight onto the green, where it disappeared into the hole for a three. I got a stroke on the hole from Mr. Nelson that particular day!

You would think he’d be a little crestfallen after hitting two wonderful shots and getting an easy birdie but then getting beat by his floundering wife, thanks to that mysterious fiend known as “the rub of the green.” No, my champion absolutely whooped with joy over it and proudly told the story dozens of times afterwards to anyone who would listen. What a hero! “How to play golf with your spouse” indeed!

About the Author:
Peggy Nelson lived most of her life in Ohio, then moved to Texas in 1986 to marry world-renowned professional golfer Byron Nelson. She assisted Byron in the writing of his autobiography,
How I Played the Game. Peggy delights in her many friends, in visits to and from her sons and their families, and in the thousands of happy memories she has of her life with her beloved Byron.

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Peggy Nelson’s book, complements of Kathy Carlton Willis Communications. It would make a great gift for any golfers in your circle of family and friends. Leave a comment and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy, which also contains a CD interview, “Byron Nelson Remembers 1945: Golf’s Unforgettable Year.”




August 3, 2010



I’m happy to welcome Hester Bass as my guest today. If it’s possible to fall in love with a picture book, I fell head over heels for Hester’s award-winning book, The Secret Life of Walter Anderson. I think you will too, when you hear the story behind it!

Hi Hester. I loved your book! Can you tell us how you got the idea to write it?

Thank you, Heather! This book did percolate for a long while. Here’s the scoop. In the early 1980s, my husband Clayton and I were introduced by a Mississippi friend to the work of Walter Anderson, and we were captivated by his broad range of work and adventurous life.

We first saw an exhibition of his work in the mid-80s in Columbus, Georgia and then in 1992 we visited the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Anderson’s work seemed to vibrate with intensity, we were transfixed by the murals, and the town of Ocean Springs with its warm friendly people and main street lined with ancient live oaks charmed us instantly.

In 1996, my husband accepted the position of executive director of WAMA and we moved our family to Ocean Springs. I got to know the extended Anderson family, learning more and more details about this extraordinary American artist. I performed as a storyteller then and told Anderson’s life story to the school groups who visited WAMA. The children really leaned into the tale of a man who rode a bicycle instead of driving a car, who could draw with a crayon as expertly as with pen and ink, and who had a special relationship with nature.

Wow! I can see how kids are drawn to his unique personality.

I was absolutely compelled to tell the story of a man who lived under his boat on the beach of an uninhabited island, sometimes eating whatever washed ashore, so he could capture in words and pictures the beauty of the Gulf Coast. I wrote the first draft in 2001, sold the manuscript in 2006, and the book came out in 2009 — but, in a way, it took me over 25 years to write this book.


It was definitely worth the wait! In light of the recent Gulf oil spill disaster, what do you think readers can learn from the life of Walter Anderson?

Although Walter Anderson was widely traveled, most of his art represents what surrounded him every day — pelicans, dolphins, and turtles right down to the lizards, dragonflies, and shrimp — and everything he loved on the Gulf Coast has been threatened by this oil spill. It is an unfathomable tragedy, likely to have even more long-term effects than Katrina.

Walter Anderson was as much as naturalist as an artist and a keen observer of nature. He was among the first to sound the alarm in the 1960s against the effects of DDT on the pelicans, since he saw that something was thinning their eggshells and threatening the species.

I didn’t know that about DDT and pelicans. That sounds scary.

Walter Anderson spent his life striving to bring art and nature into one thing, and I think he succeeded. When I look at his art, the vibrancy of the image draws me in and l have a new appreciation for whatever he is showing me. While I hesitate to place a meaning on anyone’s life or art because every reader or viewer brings his or her own interpretation to bear on the work, I can share the meaning that Walter Anderson’s life speaks to me: get outside and experience the infinite beauty of the natural world.

This is especially important for children. The environment and way of life of the American Gulf Coast are treasures that must be preserved and protected for all to enjoy, and I hope stricter safety measures will be placed in effect to secure greater safeguards against environmental degradation in the future.

I agree. In your book, Walter Anderson often visits Horn Island. Where is this island located? Have you ever been able to visit it?

Horn is a barrier island about twelve miles off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The only way to get there is by boat. I’ve been there several times, and it truly is a magical place that makes me feel I am at the edge of the world. It’s now part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and a ranger lives there, but Horn retains the feel of an uninhabited island. There’s no dock so you pull into the shallows and wade ashore as the fish and crabs scurry out of your way. Very quickly though, if you are still and quiet, nature closes back in around you and one begins to realize the appeal of such a place for an artist.

Anderson wrote that he wanted to become a part of nature and not an interruption to it, and this is possible on Horn. Yes, the temperatures can be extreme and the insects are legendary, but Horn is one of my favorite places in the world.

Oh, you make me wish I could go there! Your text goes along beautifully with the amazing illustrations of E.B. Lewis. How did the two of you get matched up to work together?

One of the biggest misconceptions about writing for children is that authors and illustrators work together; usually they don’t talk about the project at all, much less meet, but this case was different. My fabulous editor at Candlewick Press asked my opinion regarding an illustrator, and I felt E. B. Lewis was a superb choice; he’s a gifted watercolorist and someone whom I felt would understand Walter Anderson’s journey as an artist. We met at a conference in 2007 but didn’t talk about the book; we just got to know each other a bit. I learned it was his habit to use photographic references and that he posed models and props to achieve the look he wanted.

In July 2008 I received an invitation to accompany him to Ocean Springs, Mississippi since I knew the people and could help him gain access. We spent a very busy but very fun week in Mississippi, and two of Walter Anderson’s children graciously posed as their parents. His other two children offered their support with locations and getting us to Horn. Many people on the coast have commented to me that E. B. really captured the light and the water accurately, both hallmarks of E. B.’s gorgeous paintings.

Yes, the water is painted so beautifully in the book.

Luckily folks will soon have a chance to see those paintings for themselves in an exhibition called “Creating The Secret World of Walter Anderson” that will open at WAMA in September 2010 and then tour other museums. The show will feature the sketches, photographs, and other aspects of the preliminary work; all the paintings used as illustrations in the book; and originals by Walter Anderson. I’m excited to see all this in one place myself!

I hope this exhibit will travel to a museum near me — I’d love to take my family to see it. Were you surprised when your book won the “Orbus Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children?” What is this award all about? Has it opened any doors for you?

Oh my goodness — yes! — “surprised” is an understatement. The annual NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children is given by the National Council of Teachers of English, established for “promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children” following the literary criteria of accuracy, organization, design, and style. It’s a big deal, to say the least!

I happened to meet the chair of the Orbis Pictus Committee at a conference in New Orleans in November 2009, and she mentioned that she had seen my book and liked it. Well, I was thrilled just to know that the committee was aware of it! The NCTE was set to announce the award on the same day in January as the ALA awards — the American Library Association announces several awards that day, including the other national award for children’s nonfiction: the Sibert Medal — so that day was marked on my calendar as it is every year since it’s considered the “Oscars” of children’s literature. (One hopes but one does not expect, if you know what I mean. 😉 )

The weekend before the announcement I was at a book festival in Texas — Beauty and the Book — rooming with the lovely and talented Kerry Madden. After a very full Friday, I checked my e-mail about 11:30 at night and found one with the simple subject “news” from the Orbis Pictus committee chair.

She said that knowing I was out of town and that ALA’s conference was in Boston — meaning that likely everyone from Candlewick Press was there — she thought I might not hear the “news” in a prompt manner so she suggested I visit the NCTE website since it had been updated a little early. “Congratulations!” she said. Hmmm. When I clicked the link and saw my book cover load in, I screamed — you can check with Kerry — and whooped and hollered with joy! Then I started making the phone calls — yes, at nearly midnight — which continued into the next day.

I really can’t describe the exhilaration of that moment. An award like the Orbis Pictus brings so much attention to the book — and thus to Walter Anderson and his incredible art — that I could never accomplish on my own. I am so deeply grateful, and look forward to thanking everyone in person when I accept the award at the NCTE conference in Orlando in November 2010.

That’s true — all the attention your book gains will help increase awareness of Walter Anderson’s life and work. On a different subject, when I’ve heard you speak at SCBWI conferences, you seem to have a heart for encouraging new writers. What advice would you offer to a writer who has a dream on one day publishing books for children? Is it worth the ups and downs and all the risk?

To answer your second question in a word: yes. It’s worth it. Writing, as any creative pursuit inevitably does, involves the risk of exposing some of your inner life to the opinions of others, which can be very tough to bear. You have to want to write, to be published, to promote, to work hard on every aspect and understand that writing is an art but publishing is a business.

You have to want to succeed and “keep your eyes on the prize” because along the way there will absolutely be setbacks, criticisms, and disappointments to be sure. But. If you work very, very hard to put only your very, very best work in front of an agent or publisher, dreams can absolutely come true; I am living proof.

You’re right, I do love to encourage new writers. I remember very well what it was like to be one because I still am a beginner. I learn new things about myself through writing every day and hope to never lose that beginner’s mind and enthusiasm.

My advice for the dreamers: Go for it. Read constantly, especially in the genre of books that you want to write. Read books on the craft of writing and discover how you work best. Attend conferences to network with writers and be critiqued by professionals. Get out and meet people who love stories — librarians, teachers, and booksellers.

Deconstruct favorite books to see how all the pieces fit together. In my opinion, it is much more important in the beginning to spend time polishing your work until it shines than to spend your time submitting work that is not ready. The greatest mistake most beginners make is to submit a manuscript to an editor or agent before it is the best it can possibly be.

Competition is fierce, but a finely crafted story with vivid characters and a snappy plot that hooks a reader and won’t let go is what every editor is looking for.

Thank you for all of this advice! You’ve encouraged the dreamer living in all of us. Hester, is it true that you once appeared on the TV game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” What was that like? Did you get really nervous or was it mostly fun?

I’ve actually been on two TV game shows and let me tell you, it was fun fun fun! I was on “The $50,000 Pyramid” with Dick Clark when I lived in New York back in 1981. I won a pen and pencil set, some car wax when I didn’t own a car, and some towels. My game went to a tie-breaker and I lost by a few seconds so I didn’t get to the Winner’s Circle.

Then after two-and-a-half years of trying to get on the show, I returned to New York in 2002 to be in the Hot Seat on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in its first season of syndication with Meredith Vieira. I had been writing for a year or so but needed a cash infusion to get serious about it — attend conferences and such — so this would be, as they say, “life-changing money” for me.

What a dream come true!

Being a game show contestant is definitely nerve-wracking, but I’ve been an actress and a singer and was somewhat accustomed to the pressures of performing in front of an audience. Still, being in the Hot Seat is a unique experience — one mistake and you’re out. I relaxed a bit once I’d used all my “lifelines” at $16,000; then it was just me and the questions.

I successfully reasoned or just plain guessed my way to the $250,000 question, and when I saw it was about “Star Trek” I thought I had it for sure — but it was something that was never on the show. Play along!

Lt. Uhura’s name comes from a Swahili word meaning what: Heaven, Freedom, Travel, or Justice. I felt sure it wasn’t “Heaven” or “Travel” but I couldn’t choose between “Freedom” (the obvious answer, I thought — too obvious) or “Justice” (which could also fit the times and the character) so I had to walk away with $125,000. Whee! I couldn’t sleep until I got back home.

That’s still absolutely amazing!

Oh, and the answer? My guess would have been “Justice” and it would have been wrong: the answer was “Freedom.” I’ll never know what my last two questions would have been, and you know what? That’s okay, I’m happy. 🙂

I can see why — you still came home with plenty to get you to that first writer’s conference. One more question — what’s next for you? Are you working on another book or planning a new adventure? Do you still want to be in a movie and go visit New Zealand?

Next up: I’m going on tour again to appear at bookstores and speak at conferences. I’ve got some school and library visits on my calendar. I’m thankful to say the book also won the 2010 SIBA Book Award for Best Children’s Book given by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, so I’ll be headed to their conference to thank all the marvelous book lovers who keep independence alive.

Congratulations!

Of course I still want to be in a movie (hint, hint to Christopher Nolan — my favorite director!), and New Zealand is the #1 place I want to visit (all those locations from the Lord of the Rings movies — wow!) and my list goes on and on.

I am always writing new stories but I don’t like to talk about them until I have a signed contract; then I can barely stop talking about them. Look for more nonfiction — especially picture book biography — and I hope to break into fiction. I’m writing/ rewriting a novel. So I better get back to it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us, Hester, You’ve inspired us with our own writing journeys!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog.

Please visit Hester Bass at her website to learn more about her and her wonderful books. I love this quote she shares from Walter Inglis Anderson:

“True art consists of spreading wide the intervals so that imagination may fill the space between the trees.”