This Makes Sense by Beth Ferry

I recently flew home to NJ from Dallas, TX.

With a sore throat.  In a storm.

As a result, the hearing in my right ear was compromised.

Like I have a cotton ball tucked snugly and constantly in my ear.

Nothing permanent, but pretty darn annoying.

Most people, especially me, take their senses for granted.

Our senses are like five little superheroes to whom we don’t pay much attention, but who really rule our world.

Not being able to hear as I usually do made me think about how our senses affect our writing.

Do we use our senses as we write?

Interesting question.  Our senses surely inspire us.

I know the smell of the salt air at the beach makes me dream of whales and mermaids and deep sea stories.

The feel of the sand gives me ideas about sand castles and buried treasure.

The sight and sound of the crashing waves makes me write about pirates and seagulls and starfish wishes.

But do we use these senses during the writing process?   During the typing and reading and thinking and revising?

The answer is most definitely yes!

And even though you’ve probably heard this advice before, because of my current auditory predicament, I am going to focus on the sense of hearing.

Write your stories.

Read your stories.

Hear your stories.

Reading your stories aloud is critical to the writing and revising process.

When you read your stories aloud and float your words in the air, you are able to perceive them in a completely different way.

You can almost taste them!

Those spicy verbs.                          hjn010212lifespice           

The bland run-on sentences.

The juicy adjectives.

The past-their-expiration-date adverbs.

Something that looks fine on your computer screen and sounds fine in your head, doesn’t always work quite the same way when heard by your ears.

Your ears will pick up the rhythm of your sentence.

The power of your word choices.   The flow of the story.

The mistakes.  The successes.

It is the single most important thing you can do as a writer – read your stories aloud.

It’s how children will hear them.

It makes complete sense!            sbw-cover

 

A Small Blue Whale is releasing in October and is illustrated by Lisa Mundorff.

It is about a whale who sets out to find a friend, but along the way uses his senses to ponder the meaning of friendship.

Have you ever thought about what friendship looks like?

Tastes like?   What it sounds like?   Or feels like?

Probably not, but it is a pretty fun idea to explore.

I like to think that friendship tastes like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

That it sounds like those waves crashing on the sand and smells like that salty air.

That it feels like soft, fluffy cotton balls.

An image that I love.

Only not in my ear!

bethFerry Headshot 500Beth Ferry lives and writes by the beach in New Jersey where she is influenced by the sea and the sand and the salt. She is the author of Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and A Small Blue Whale which swims into print on October 24, 2017. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

 

 

Arrrr…Beth Ferry Talks Like a Pirate + Free Donuts!

Ahoy landlubbers!  Tomorrow – September 19 – is TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY! If you’ve never heard of such a thing, sit back and larn a thing or two about how to talk like a pirate.  Author and pirate expert-in-training Beth Ferry is here to set you straight on pirate lingo.  At the end, thar be donuts!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day happens every September 19th.  Every single September 19th!  That thar be the hornswagglin’ truth.

It is a day that is: a little odd,  a lot of fun,

and a great time to talk about pirate books.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day was invented in 1995.  Which means it is now 21.  And can celebrate with a glass of rum punch.

It was founded by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers of Oregon, known as The Pirate Guys.  They were playing racquet ball with a cannon ball.

No, not really. (Although that would make for a better story)  When one of them got hit with the regular old racquet ball, he yelled “Arrrr”, and this genius idea was born.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is the perfect day to be talkin’ about Pirate’s Perfect Pet, which was published in August 2016 by Candlewick Press.

ppp_hj_us

Thar be lots of fun pirate-speak in the book as Captain Crave sets off to find the perfect pet.

Which I bet you guessed from the title.

After reading it, ye’ll be dyin’ to talk like a pirate.

And get a pet.

And write a note to yer mum.

And learn about homophones.

And become a big fan of Matt Myers, because his art be absolutely’ amazin’.

When talking like a pirate, don’t be forgettin’ the 5 As. The Pirate Guys explain it beautifully here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cKCkbWDGwE

The 5 As are:

Ahoy – use to greet others, friend and foe alike.

Avast –  use to called attention to something, like a whale or a sale on ice cream.

Arrrrr – use to express frustration, happiness, unhappiness, confusion, or basically anything ye be feelin’.

Aye – use instead of “yes” or when agreein’ to something.

Aye-Aye – use when meaning “yes, sir” or in response to a command, such as “Parrot, please nibble me ear.”    parrot-nibbling-crave

To summarize, a landlubber might say, “I want to read Pirate’s Perfect Pet”, but a pirate would say “I be needin’ to read this merry yarn about swashbucklers.”

 

For further fun, try this Pirate translator: http://postlikeapirate.com

There’s a great glossary of pirate terms in the back of Tom Lichtenheld’s Everything I Know About Pirates.  It be a jolly fun book with lots of silly explanations about why pirates do what they do. And I’m a huge Tom Lichtenheld fan.     tom-pirate-book

 

Another favorite pirate book of mine is How I Became A Pirate by Melinda Long. It is such an awesome read aloud!

how-i-became-a-pirate

 

Don’t be forgettin’ to visit Krispy Kreme on September 19th. If you talk/dress like a pirate, they’ll be sure to give ye a free donut.  (I told you there were free donuts!)

Google and Facebook both be havin’ “pirate” as a language choice, so go crazy.

I hope ye learned loads from this here blog.  I hope ye had fun.

I hope ye be plannin’ to Talk Like a Pirate on September 19th!!

bethFerry Headshot 500

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, a NYT bestseller. She is also the author of Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and the upcoming A Small Blue Whale, swimming into print Fall 2017. She lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. 

 

Beth Ferry Talks About Spring Weeding

It’s Spring.
Time for flowers and bunnies.
Time for gardening.
Time for my library’s book sale.
I wait in line, ready to dive into the piles, hoping to find some treasure.
I head directly to the picture book section.
Jackpot!
I am bouncing with glee at my good fortune!
My pile is sincerely impressive.          DSC_0254

The titles are awesome.
Authors I know and love.
Artists I admire.
Books I’ve coveted, in pristine condition, published just last year.
Wait.
What??
I look at the publication dates again.
2014. 2014. 2014.
My joy turns to concern.
How is this possible?
These are not books donated by patrons from their home libraries.
These are beautifully bound library books.
Why is the library selling books that were published a little over a year ago?

I am no longer quite as jubilant.
As an author, alarm bells are ringing in my head.
How can the shelf life of a book be shorter than its journey to publication?
This is not a bookstore.
That I could understand.
The turnover at a bookstore is mind-boggling.
Every week new books appear face-out on the shelves and last week’s titles are squeezed, spine-out, among the hundreds of other new, but not quite-as-new, titles.
But a library is different, right?
A library is the place where books go to LIVE!
Where they can safely wait for just the right hands and eyes and hearts to find them.
How can a child discover these books if they are no longer on the shelf?

In dismay, I check online to see the availability of many of these books.
Ok, phew.
These titles are still available and plentiful. 12 copies of some, 11 of others.
Just not in my branch.
Why?
I email my librarian.
My awesome children’s librarian who gets back to me right away.
It seems that a weeding list is generated for the librarian of each branch based on calculated circulation statistics and last recorded date of checkout. Depending on the constraints of each particular library, books that haven’t circulated in two or four or five years may be weeded out. Sometimes they are purged simply because they are doubles.
It all makes sense.
Limited shelf space.
Oodles of new titles.
Availability in other branches.

I look around my library. It is beautiful, but not enormous.
With each new crop of books being published, weeding must be done.
It is just part of the process.
It is essential to a healthy, growing garden.
Even if that garden is my own local library.
So although the joy at my new pile of books is diminished a little, I am resolved to treat these books well, like the bounty that they are. I will respect them, love them and share them with my Kindergarten and first grade reading buddies. Although they are no longer blossoming in my library’s garden, they are definitely beautiful, bright, wonderful additions to mine.     Beth_Ferry_photo

Beth Ferry is the author of the New York Times Bestselling picture book Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.. She is also the author of Land Shark  (Chronicle Books)

Pirate’s Perfect Pet will set sail in the Fall of 2016.

PPP_HJ_US

Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

A Snowflake in the Slush by Beth Ferry

Living in New Jersey, it is hard not to think about snow during winter.
Personally, I much prefer the singular idea of the snowflake as opposed to the general concept of snow.
Snow is not quite as endearing or beautiful as the single unique flake.    beth Ferry
And we have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike.
Which seems simply impossible, really, given the number of snowflakes that have fallen.
Which is how many, you ask?
Okay – get ready for some math!

According to the Eastern Snow Conference of 2006, the number of snowflakes that have fallen in the history of the earth is 3 x 10 to the 38th power, a truly staggering number.
Much like the number of grains of sand in the world (approx. 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power) or number of stars in the galaxy (approx. 1 x 10 to the 24th power)
Impossible to comprehend.
But there are 1 x 10 to the 19th power water molecules in a typical snow crystal, which allows for the almost infinite number of arrangements.
Okay enough math!

These immense numbers are truly beyond the comprehension of this English major, so back to the unique, single, solitary snowflake.
No matter how unique it is, once mixed with other snowflakes, it basically loses its distinctiveness and becomes, simply, snow.
Which is often how I feel about books on a shelf.
Picture books specifically.
The unique, wonderful book that stirs my heart or makes me laugh or makes me cry becomes just another book, one among thousands, once it is placed on a shelf.
So much like the snowflake.

How can the brilliance of the book shine through when it is shelved, not by degrees of brilliance, but simply alphabetically, by last name?
How many amazing, engaging books have been missed because they were packed tight together in the blizzard that is the bookshelf?
As writers, we need to think of this.
How does our unique snowflake of a book stand out among the flurry of friendship books that exist?
Among the shower of school-themed books?
Among the hail of holiday books?
And, more importantly, how does our manuscript stand out in the slush pile?

Anna Quindlen said “Every story has already been told.”
How true is this?
But she also said, “… that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has every had.”
And how true is that?
So write your friendship story.
Type up that trip-to-the-zoo tale.
Scratch down a sibling story.
Sure, they’ve all been done before, but not quite like we will do it.
Our style, experience, and voice will make a story that has been told before new and distinctive.
We are all snowflakes.
Beautiful, individual and unique.
And so are our stories.                             Land Shark_FC_3D-2

Disclaimer: all numbers are based on quick research and are meant for fun, not fact!

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. and Land Shark, 2015. Pirate’s Perfect Pet is setting sail in the Fall of 2016. Her latest picture book, Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at http://www.bethferry.com.

Five Great Picture Books.

On my early summer trip to the American Library Association (ALA) Convention in San Fransisco, I was thrilled to meet some of my favorite authors and to get signed copies of some great books.  Here are five picture books I highly recommend from some of my favorite authors.

  1. WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? by Debbie Redpath Ohi (Simon and Schuster): Spencer loves his books.  Spencer ADORES his books.  Spencer can’t find his books!  They are disappearing from his shelves and soon they’ll all be gone.  What’s going on?  Young readers will be delighted to help Spencer solve the mystery of his disappearing books in this engaging PB.   2014-08-25 02.19.08

2. SEAVER THE WEAVER by Paul Czajak is the latest book from the author of the popular MONSTER NEEDS Series published by Mighty Media Kids.  Seaver is a spider.  But not an ordinary spider. His webs are extraordinary, marvelous and wonders to behold. This is a delightful tale of how being different is something to be celebrated.

2014-08-25 02.30.30

3. GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz) is the second book from author Laura Sassi, following on the popular GOODNIGHT, ARK published in 2014.  Like ARK, MANGER is a beautifully written and tender story that is perfect for bedtime reading.  As baby Jesus tries to sleep in a manger full of livestock and visitors who come to see him, what will his parents do to quiet the excited crowd?  How will they get their baby to sleep?     2014-08-25 02.19.44

4.  LAND SHARK by Beth Ferry (Chronicle Books) is the second book for the author of the New York Times Bestseller STICK AND STONE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).   Bobby has only one wish for his birthday: To get a pet shark.  He leaves hints all over his house so his parents will know.  Bobby is sure he has a fool proof plan.  Until his birthday arrives and he gets a…puppy?  Can this shark-loving boy learn to love a land critter?  This is a perfect book for kids to sink their teeth into!    2014-08-25 02.18.59

 

5. THIS ORQ (Boyds Mills Press)  by David Elliott is a hilarious “prehistoric” tale of a cave boy and his woolly mammoth friend who have to deal with a couple of bullies.  The whimsical and humorous illustrations by Lori Nichols add to the fun. From the book jacket: “Orq and Woma best friends. Dorq and Caba mean. Story BIG.”  A guaranteed delight!       2014-08-26 01.38.17

Next time you’re at the library or bookstore, why not check out some of these great books?!

And the Winners of Free Books are…

I am happy and excited to announce the two winners of signed books based on two separate drawings held on this blog.

The winner of a signed copy of the middle grade novel THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS by Jane Kelley is: Jennifer Bardsley.

The winner of a the new PB by Beth Ferry titled LAND SHARK is: Cathy Ballou Mealey

Congratulations!  Cathy , I need your e-mail to notify Beth.  You’ll really enjoy LAND SHARK…it’s a winner.  AND, I have already added Jane’s book to my MUST READ list!

Musings on Ice Cream and Picture Books

Musings on Ice Cream and Picture Books
by Beth Ferry                     beth Ferry

I’ve been thinking a lot about ice cream lately.
Maybe because summer is finally more than a distant memory or enticing dream.
Maybe because dream rhymes with cream.
Or maybe because Tom Lichtenheld sketched this adorable scene of Stick and Stone.

s&s ice cream

 

(For more of Tom’s brilliance, check out:  http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=3730 or his website: http://www.tomlichtenheld.com

But whatever the reason, there it is – ice cream.
At the forefront of my brain.
I am a little amazed by the sheer variety of ice cream flavors that exist.
Over 1,800 according to The Committee for the Analysis and Debate of the Various Aspects of Ice Cream.
http://www.cc.utah.edu/~nb7939/newcadic/index.html

Some are tart; some are sweet.
Some are creamy; some are crunchy.
Some are rich; some are light.
My favorite is mint-chocolate chip.
It is sweet, yet refreshing.
Creamy, yet crunchy.
But I also like soft chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.
And vanilla with almonds and peanut butter.
And root beer floats.
It all depends on my mood and the weather and if pumpkins are growing in my garden.
Sometimes their names appeal to me almost as much as their taste.

Blondies are a Swirl’s Best Friend
Funfetti
Monkey Wrench
Pumpkin Praline Pecan
Twixx Fixx
Winter White Chocolate
Witches Brew

There’s alliteration
and word play
and rhyme.
So, of course, my mind wanders to picture books.
The sheer volume and variety.
The intriguing titles that make me want to dive right in.
And of course, their deliciousness.

Picture books are pretty delicious.
Bite-sized books that satisfy and refresh.
Different books for every palate.
Books that make us laugh.
Books that touch our hearts.
Books that teach us something.
Books we can’t forget.
We each have our favorites.
You know what you like, don’t you?

I like the bite of a surprise ending.
And the crunch of some good word play.
I like the creamy smoothness of alliteration.
And a sprinkling of internal rhyme.
A drizzle of Ooohh.
A splash of Ahhhh.
All topped off with the swirl of brilliant illustrations and my perfect picture book sundae is made!
There’s only one word needed: YUM!

Now writing this ice cream dream of a picture book is a whole Nutter Butter Batter.
I mean – A Whole Other Matter.

I might just have some ice cream while I try!

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, available April 7, 2015.      2014-01-30 07.32.40She is also the author of Land Shark, coming August 4, 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet setting sail in the Fall of 2016. Her latest picture book, Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at http://www.bethferry.com.