March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Originally posted on :

We’ve all seen the signs of distracted driving in one form or another. How many times has the vehicle in front of you swerved from side to side or stayed at a standstill even after the traffic light turned from red to green? While these are relatively harmless occurrences, the reality is that distracted driving – and especially texting and driving – can have deadly consequences.

Distracted driving is particularly dangerous among teenage drivers as their inexperience behind the wheel makes them more likely to be involved in an accident.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers is the under-20 age group. A full 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

More notable facts:

  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or…

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What does it mean to teach kids manners?

December 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yesterday, my husband Clay and I had lunch at a local diner with the kids and grandkids. Much of the time both the grandkids played with their games on their computer tablet but there was some conversation. I mentioned to my daughter-in-law, Caroline that last summer the kids were big on manners at the table. Things like:

  • Don’t put your elbows on the table when eating!
  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth!
  • Chew with your mouth closed!
  • Don’t begin eating until everyone is served!

But now that the summer is over, everything returned to “normal” and table manners has never come up again.

Caroline said that they were learning manners because the group was going out to a restaurant to eat and the counselors wanted to make sure that the kids learned the basic rules of eating out.

What a good idea. But it only good if we parents and grandparents continue to remind our kids what good manners is all about.  

Do we share the basics like how to properly use a fork and knife? Put a napkin in your lap? Eat small portions so that your mouth isn’t stuffed?

My grandmother use to take my brother and I out…separately. She took me to The Plaza on 5th Avenue in Manhatten where we had tea and small sandwiches. We went to Bergdorf Goodman’s and enjoy a drink and something small to eat while fashion models walked around the tables with the latest clothes. We never brought anything ,but my grandmother showed me how to act like a “lady.”

For my brother it was a different story. He went out with my mom, aunt AND my grandmother. He had to hold the door for them, pull out the chairs at the table and make sure he used the right fork, spoon an knife with each course. He definitely got a workout.

Although we have become a very informal society where women no longer wear white gloves and hats, etiquette and manners still makes a difference.  Take advantage of those small teachable moments like when you serve dinner everyone should wait until you have been served and are seated before they begin eating.

Hope you have a etiquettely wonderful day.

“I am a great writer. I am sure I can get my book published,” says unpublished writer.

October 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“I am a great writer and I have always loved reading children’s books. I am sure I can get my book published.” That is the feeling of many “wanna-be” authors. For those who have tried it they can tell you  it is not that easy.

It is like saying “I know history. I am sure I can write a great historical novel.” Then you think of the 15,000 words  you would have to produce, and then you realize that it is a daunting task. But young children’s books, which average 32 pages and maybe 25 to 50 words a page seems more manageable.

The problem is, if you are thinking that, then so are thousands of other “wanna-be” authors.

Hopewell Junction writer Karen Kaufman Orloff  was one of those “wanna-bes” . “I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Karen, “since my children were babies. I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking ‘I could write stories for kids.’ But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Iguana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

But Karen was different from many other writers. She decided to learn the book business. “I attended conferences, took classes, met other authors,” she said,  “and then I submitted my stories to publishers.”

She experienced rejections. Many of them. Karen, who now has four books published, says, “You really need a thick skin.” Even now that she is published she still gets those nasty rejection letters. She says one of the secrets to this book business is perseverance.

“When I first started I would think of cute rhymes… no stories, just a list of fun things. But I learned that I needed a really good, solid beginning, a climax and an ending,” says Karen.

As a teacher in junior high school, I remember teaching kids these same techniques. But after years of not drumming this into our head, we get sloppy. We need to refine our skills whether it is for the historical novel or a children’s book. The same rules apply.

Karen shares  this advice for writers who are working with picture books: You need to understand the visual image you’re creating. It is a 32 page book. Each page must be a different scene. You need to create different visual scenes with your words to sustain the reader.

She  also suggests using humor or some type of emotional connection that tugs at the heart.

 “How do you know if your story has merit?  It is like your baby whom you really love. Share it with others. (In this case it would be writer friends.) It is good to get other people’s opinions. People you trust. Other good writers.

Karen says to remember that sometimes your manuscript gets rejected not because it is not well written, but because it is not a topic of interest for that publisher at that time or they have already published something similar.  

I have published two books by Middletown author Gloria Zawaski. Learn about some of my experiences.

http://theundercoverkids.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/how-a-book-is-born-the-independent-book-stores/

Dream of becoming a children’s book author?

October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Community groups, Educators, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Learn the secrets from a professional. One of a two part series

 
Meet author Karen Kaufman Orloff.  With four children’s picture books under her belt she has enough experience to give those of us who dream about being published authors the inside scoop. After graduating college with a degree in English, journalism and publishing, Orloff became an editor for a Manhattan magazine group. She currently is a columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Orloff. “Since my children were babies.

“I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking I could write stories for kids. But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Igwana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

“It was a fluke,” says Orloff.  She went to a conference armed with her manuscript.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator’s offered one-on-one sessions with editors. The rest is history. Then and there, the editor was interested in acquiring the story.  “That was the best money I ever spent,” says Orloff.  I Wanna Igwana has been nominated for 16 awards since it was first published in 2004. In fact, she was given an all expense trip to Nebraska to make a presentation about her book.

5  common misconceptions writers have?

  1. If I write a good story it will get published
  2. It is easy to get published
  3. Must use rhyming for easy reader children’s books
  4. Writing is a great way to earn a living.
  5. You must get an agent to get published.

 “I see many well written stories,” says Orloff. “But they are stories that have been around forever. It is critical that the story be unique. Some stories are way too long, or too adult in their theme or use of language.

 According to Orloff, you must have a thick skin to get published. And even now that she is a published author, Orloff still gets rejection letters. “Putnam rejected the manuscript for If My Mom Had Three Arms. The book finally found a home at Sterling Publishing and was published in 2004. Good luck follows Orloff. Sterling was bought by Barnes & Noble and now she has the benefit of their extensive distribution network.

In terms of rhyme, the author says that good rhyme is very hard to create. That is one of reason she suggests only using that technique is you a really good. She sees lines that don’t rhyme or meters that are off.  She emphasizes that rhyme must be good rhyme to work.

 According to Orloff, you shouldn’t count on quitting your current job if you need this money to pay your rent and put food on your table. Advances can run between $3,000 to $5,000 but getting two books published a year is considered good.  Even with royalties the money accumulates very slowly.

 Orloff does not have an agent and even as a published author she would have a hard time finding one.

There are so many writers now writing for the young market that it is very hard to capture the attention of an agent. So learn the industry and go it on your own.

 Her one word of advice? Persevere!

Want to learn more from this seasoned professional? Attend her upcoming class now forming.

Are books really dead?

March 21, 2011 at 10:35 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Educators, Librarians, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | 1 Comment

I am always looking for the next book to read. One night I took a business book off my shelf called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. Just getting through his introduction was a shocker.

“Early in the next millennium your right and left cuff links or earrings may communicate with each other by low-orbiting satellites and have more computer power than your present PC…the digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin.

As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different roll.”

This was published in 1995…sixteen years ago.

 I was so fascinated by rereading Negroponte’s book I went online to see what other pronunciations he may suggest. And there it was… “The physical book will be dead in five years.” He shared this bombshell at the August 6, 2010 Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA.  

Over the past three years, I have worked with author Gloria Smith Zawaski, publishing our first children’s book called The Trunk in the Attic. We are about to print our second book in the series called Mongolia Bound. Our purpose is to introduce kids to other kids around the world, first Holland and now Mongolia. The series helps kids learn from other kids’ adventures. But I now think I have to consider another way of delivering the information, one that will be meaningful to this new generation of youngsters who may no longer use books as I did.

 This revelation really hit me when Eliot and Amy took to me to this huge used book warehouse in Washington, DC.   I looked at the 1,000s of books surrounding me and realized that I was looking at the death of an industry as I know it.  

It’s time to embrace the new ways and see how to make this online system of sharing information and books a more encompassing way of learning.

 For someone like me who loves books and the written word, catching up is not going to be easy. Not only do I have to stop thinking linearly but have to learn new skills. Who will I turn to in order to learn how the new computer widgets work?

Where are your kids racing to now?

November 5, 2010 at 10:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the film “Race to Nowwhere,” first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles delves into the issues of the consequences of overscheduled children. The film was recently shown at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh to a crowd of parents, teachers and kids.
The medical and emotional problems of Ms Abeles own three children spurred her to find out what is going on in the world of our kids. Through interviews of kids, their teachers and parents and other professionals, she asks whether our kids are being pressured by too much homework and over scheduling.
Many professionals interviewed, from educators to physicians, suggest that our kids are so stressed that they have no time to just be kids. Clubs. Practice. Homework. Community Volunteering. Does it leave children time to ride a bike, have fun running around or to do nothing?
Although the film brought to light many important issues, it tried to cover them all with one broad brush. For example, Abeles asks several teachers about their role in the classroom and gets the classic “I am being encouraged to teach kids how to pass tests.” From that the filmmaker leaps to teaching for tests encourages too much homework which causes too much pressure on our kids which leads to stomachaches and headaches. For me there were just too many leaps.
According to Mount Professor and Hudson Valley Parent columnist, “The greatest stressors for kids, especially for teens, are relationships not the stress of school.” Dr. Schwartz says that 90% of kids love what they are doing, including school.

Free books for teachers!

July 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading | Leave a comment
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You heard that right. When Hudson Valley teachers download the Teacher’s Resource Guide they are entitled to free copies of The Trunk in the Attic for their students. Find out the details here.

Update!

July 5, 2010 at 9:48 am | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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Hello Undercover Kid lovers! It’s been awhile since we’ve updated you with any news. The past few months have flown by, but Gloria has been hard at work writing the second book in the series. Keep checking back for updates! We hope your summer is filled with many travels.

Story Starters

May 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Posted in Education, Kids and reading, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Throughout the past year we have written a lot of blogs on how to  encourage writing in children and we have found excellent resources from teachers and educational blogs. Well, we found another one! Here is a great idea for a child who has a hard time beginning a story. (Introductions are always my hardest part to start too.) These story starter activities are more like games, so they are fun as well as education! If you try any of them, please let us know how it went!

Dressing up for storytime

May 14, 2010 at 11:59 am | Posted in Community groups, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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One of the great things about books is how they open up entirely news worlds and how you can often find traits you can relate to in certain characters. It’s especially fun if you pretend you are one of those characters. Think about it. While reading Twilight who didn’t imagine that they were Bella in love with the mysterious Edward. Or in The Undercover Kids who wouldn’t want to be Katie or Jake traveling to another country whenever they wanted.

There are certain community events that encourage this type of imaginative play. Tomorrow, May 15th, there will be a “Fancy Nancy Fashion Show and Storytelling” event at the Albert Wisner Public Library in Warwick. Put on your favorite outfit and visit the library for a dressy show. Hear a story, make a craft, and enjoy a snack. For ages 3-6. Starts at 1:30pm. Keep on the lookout for more events like this. Even if you don’t find any other dress up events locally, try to make a storytime/dress up night of your own at home. It really helps bring books to life.

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