Katie, Jake and Cooper Break a Leg!

October 13, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Puppets, Writing | Leave a comment
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Last week The Undercover Kids took one of their most exciting journeys yet. This time, they didn’t travel to any exotic locations, but stayed right in their own backyard in Port Jervis, NY. Well, to the Anna S. Kuhl Elementary School in Port Jervis to be exact. Katie, Jake, Cooper and Gloria Smith Zawaski (their creator) made a presentation to 1,000 children at the school ranging from kindergarten students all the way up to sixth graders. The presentation touched on important subjects such as: literacy, how to develop characters for a story and using your imagination. The presentation was fun and the best part about it is that the children really seemed to enjoy it. Check out some sneak peeks of the presentation here, and tell us what you think! Do you think that The Undercover Kids were a success?

The Undercover Kids’ Adventure Series Author Speaks to Students

September 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Community groups, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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“You were once four years old?” the young girl asked with wide eyes. She could not believe that the picture of the young girl that was up on the PowerPoint screen was the same grownup woman standing in front of her.  The grownup was the writer, Gloria Smith Zawaski the author of The Trunk in the Attic. She was speaking to a group of 150 students at the Emma Chase Elementary School in Wurtsboro, NY. Her presentation was sponsored by the school’s PTO.

Gloria was at the school speaking to the students about how an idea becomes a book. The presentation consisted of Gloria describing why she wanted to become an author, what goes into publishing a book (who is involved, the roles they play, etc.) and how the children can stimulate their own imagination through writing. Overall, the children were highly engaged and enthusiastic about interacting with a real life author and many of them seemed to want to become budding authors themselves. Kelly Creighton, from the school’s PTO, coordinated the event. Hear Kelly speak about the importance of children learning to read and write their own stories here!

Gloria encouraged the students to write their own stories and offered four suggestions:

  1. Start with what “if ideas”…What you could did to China? What if you met an alien on your way home?
  2. Get someone else to read it and see if they understand it.
  3. Ask someone to proof for spelling and punctuation
  4. And post them on The Undercover Kids’ website for others to read.

The kids really enjoyed having Gloria sign the books they had purchased. Every student in the audience was given an Undercover Kids purple band which is meant to encourage creativity. One student asked, “Can I go to Africa with this band?”

Gloria meets her fans at Emma Chase Elementary!

Gloria meets her fans at Emma Chase Elementary!

How is a book born?

September 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Posted in about life, Education, Educators, Publishing your story, Writing | 1 Comment
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It’s been 18 months since I had an idea about helping kids learn about the Dutch Heritage that finally led to our becoming a book publishing group. Want to learn how an idea goes from the light bulb going off in your head to a reality? Follow my journey.

 I have always been an avid reader which led me to publishing two regional magazines for the past 15 years. But is that enough experience to publish a book? I would soon learn that the road is never straight, and there is a strong learning curve every step of the way.

 Where do ideas come from?
Along comes 2009 and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s sailing from the Netherlands to New York and everyone is a flutter with excitement about what will happen this year. I happened on a newsletter from Hugo Gajus Scheltema, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, who said in a newsletter that he hopes that the legacy of diversity and tolerance of New Amsterdam will be recognized by those living in New York as well as the broader public in the United States. He suggests that the emphasis should be on education.

 And I thought, “Who better to carry out the legacy of understanding than our children?”

 Gloria, who eventually authored the first book we published, and I have been friends for many years. I also knew that she worked with the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines account as a copywriter when she was on Madison Avenue. Who better to call, if I am looking for someone to tell the story of the Dutch?

 We talked and she contacted her friends in Holland. I thought we were on our way. The discussions went back and forth.

 How should the story be told? What vehicle should we use?
I first thought this would be a short book, maybe 1,500 to 2,000 with separate pull out pages of dolls that kids could dress in clothing of the period when Henry Hudson sailed. I would include a carrying case for the dolls and the clothes. The dolls would be magnetic with magnetic clothing that adheres to the doll surfaces.

 I wasn’t sure about using magnetic dolls so I explored Colorforms. Remember Colorforms…where you stick and peel items on a page? I would print the stick n peel pages directly in the book and eliminate the need for carrying cases. But it was not so easy to find a printer who knew about the materials and could print it for me. I spent weeks looking for vendors until I happened on a group in California that publishes oversees. Not an easy process. Not quick turnaround. Not for me.  

 Now the tale was no longer a short story. At this point I was still negotiating with Gloria’s contacts and meeting with Gloria to discuss the project. I was not sure what direction we were going in.

 At one meeting I said to Gloria, “How about you writing the book? You know Holland and you know what I am looking for.” That was the beginning of our publisher-author relationship.

 While I can write, I do not consider myself a writer. I am better at conjuring up ideas and watching them fly.

Questions from the Classroom.

August 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in about life, Book reviews, Community groups, Education, Educators, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve recently had the pleasure to be in the classroom at Bishop Dunn School in Newburgh, New York with Terrie and her staff. It’s been fun to answer questions from students about the book. Some questions have really made me stop and think. “Why didn’t you just write about yourself?” one fourth-grader asked. Why do some people write fiction (make believe) instead of non-fiction (real life things)? I don’t know the answer to that. For me, when I sit down and write about Katie and Jake, I get lost in their world and it’s not about me any more. In real life, I wouldn’t have had a chance to travel across oceans and time. I guess my fantasies and dreams have always felt very real to me. Sometimes I write magazine articles. They’re non-fiction. I don’t get lost in them in the same way. For those, I try to be as correct as possible about the subject. To do that, I step back and look at what I’ve written. Sometimes when I was writing the Trunk in the Attic, I felt like it was writing itself. Have you ever had that feeling about something you’ve written? And speaking of something you’ve written…are you thinking about writing a story using Katie, Jake and Cooper as characters? I hope so! I’d like to see where you take them!

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