The Adventures of Hernando de Soto as told by survivor Juan Rodriguez Study Guide

THE ADVENTURES OF HERNANDO DESOTO AS TOLD BY SURVIVOR JUAN RODRIGUEZ
STUDY GUIDE
SS3H2a, SSH2b, SSH2c, ELAGSE3R11, ELAGSE3SL1, TAES3.11

Prepared by Cathy Kaemmerlen

ARTIST’S BACKGROUND:
Andrew Crigler is a poet, teaching artist, director, and actor from Atlanta.  He received his BA in Theatre and Performance studies from Kennesaw State University with a minor in dance.  He works as a freelance theatre professional and has performed with the Alliance Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, Serenbe Playhouse, Collective Project Inc, and Telltale Theatre.  He has taught theatre classes at the Alliance, GA Ensemble Theatre, GA Shakespeare, Fabrocation Theatre Co, Forefront Arts, and Jitterbug Performing Arts. He is currently the backstage director at Dad’s Garage Theatre.

PROGRAM SUMMARY:
This is a true adventure story of Conquistador Hernando de Soto’s exploration of La Florida, into Georgia, the entire Southeastern United States, and ending at the mouth of the Mississippi River where he met his death.  Told by survivor, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, one of fourteen on the expedition who made it back to Spain, Rodriguez looks back on his times with de Soto, interactions with the Native Americans, and search for gold and glory for Spain.  With slides, audience participation, authentic chain mail and a conquistador helmet, learn what it was like to spend over four years of your life, facing dangers and the unknown in conquering and exploring the southeastern part of the United States.

OBJECTIVES:
.To learn why the Spanish wanted to explore, conquer, and settle La Florida and the Southeastern United States
. To learn what de Soto and his 700 men accomplished during their four year journey
.To learn about their dealings with the Native cultures
.To learn about the discovery of the Mississippi River
.To learn about the adventures and dangers of being a conquistador and an explorer of the New World

BEFORE THE SHOW:
.Read a biography of Hernando de Soto.
.List four of his accomplishments
.List two of his failures.

AFTER THE SHOW QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
.Why was de Soto’s exploration considered to be a failure?
.Talk about the treatment by de Soto and his men of the Native Americans.  Would you have treated them differently?
.What were some of the consequences of the treatment by de Soto and his men of the Native peoples?
.How did what de Soto and his men do affect you?

VOCABULARY:
cavalry:  soldiers who fight on horseback
chain mail: a kind of protective clothing or armor made up of many tiny rings linked together
chieftain:  the leader of a group of people
colonize:  to move into another place and set up settlements
conquistador: a conqueror, especially one of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico and Peru in the 1500’s
empire:  a large area ruled over by one person
expedition: a journey or exploration taken on by a group of persons for a specific purpose
feral: a wild animal, especially one who escapes from captivity
hidalgo:  a cross between a medieval night and a country squire, of modest wealth.
hostages:  people taken captive until a certain condition is fulfilled
immortal:  living forever, as a Greek god like Zeus
interpreter:  a person who translates language as it is spoken
legacy: something handed down; what you leave behind after death; your claim to fame
malaria:  a fever sometimes deadly caused by the bite of a certain type of mosquito
Mutiny:  a rebellion by soldiers against their commanding officers
noble:  belonging to the aristocracy or ruling order
palisades:  fences made of wooden stakes
Ransom:  money that is demanded for the release of a prisoner
Shipwright:  someone who builds ships
Smallpox:  a contagious disease causing fevers and postules
Tack:  equipment used to ride a horse, such as bridles, stirrups, and saddles

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Travel with the Great Explorers:  Hernando de Soto by Rachel Stuckey, Crabtree Pubs
The DeSoto Chronicles:  The Expedition of Hernando de Soto to North America in 1539-1543, The University of Alabama Press, 1993.
Georgia Historical Society website:  Hernando de Soto’s Featured Historical Figure page:  www.georgia history.com
Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun by Charles Hudson, UGA Press, 1997
www.history.com/topics/exploration/ernando-de-soto
Catholic Encyclopedia: Hernando de Soto-NEW ADVENT www.newadvent.org/cathen/o4753a.htm

TIMELINE:

1492:  Christopher Columbus reaches North America and claims the land for Spain
1496:  Hernando de Soto was born in Jerez de Cabrello, Spain
1513:  Ponce de Leon explores La Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth
1514:  Pedro Arias Davila leaves Spain on an expedition to Panama
1519:  De Soto particpates in the conquest of Panama
1520:  De Soto’s shipping company builds ships for Pizzaro’s conquest of Peru
1524:  De Soto helps Cordosa conquer Nicaragua and leads own expedition to El Salvador
1525:  De Soto elected mayor of Nicaragua
1527:  Albar Nunez de Vaca sails with the La Florida expedition of de Narvaez. De Vaca is one of four survivors of the expedition.
1528:  De Soto and Ponce de Leon become two of the wealthiest men in Central America
1531:  De Soto is a Lieutenant in Pizzaro’s expedition to Peru
1532:  De Soto leads the expedition to the Incan capital of Calamarca
1535:  De Soto returns to Spain
1536:  De Soto marries Isabel de Bobadilla
1537:  King of Spain grants de Soto the rights to explore and settle La Florida; named Governor of Cuba
1539: De Soto and his men set sail for La Florida from Cuba
1540: De Soto and his men travel through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama.  Several violent encounters with the Native Americans.
1541:  De Soto and his men become the first Europeans to cross the Mississippi River
1542:  De Soto dies from a fever, probably malaria
1543:  Alvardo and the remaining men sail down the Mississippi River eventually ending up in Texas and in Mexico. Only half are still alive.
around 1548:  Juan Rodriguez, one of 14 survivors, returns to Spain

Ruby Bridges Study Guide

RUBY BRIDGES GOES TO SCHOOL:  STUDY GUIDE FOR GRADE 1
prepared by Cathy Kaemmerlen

SS1H1 a and b, SS1G1 d, SS1CG1

ARTIST’S BACKGROUND:
Mama Koku/Donna “Kokumo” Buie is a Master Storyteller for children of all ages, performing professionally for over 17 years.  Graduating with honors from North Carolina Central University, she majored in theatre arts with concentrations in performance and education.  She has been the official storyteller for the National Black Arts Festival’s Children’s Education Village and performs at the Wren’s Nest, MLK Center, Fulton County Teaching Museums, and Peach Seed Storytellers.

PROGRAM SUMMARY:
What was it like to go to first grade at a school where you were the only person of color?  Meet Ruby Bridges, the first African American student to attend the William Frantz School in New Orleans, LA in 1960.  The Supreme Court had just ruled against segregation in America’s schools.  With the support of her mother, her faith in the goodness of people,  and her religious faith, Ruby was the first to test this ruling at this New Orleans school.  Accompanied by US marshals, she faced significant challenges just entering the school with mobs of angry protesters.  But her friendship with her teacher, Barbara Henry, helped her to persevere.  Learn about segregation in the 60’s in America and Ruby’s story.  Her message is that we are all connected and share a common heart.

OBJECTIVES:
-To learn about the contributions of Ruby Bridges to open the doors for children of color to enter public schools
-To learn basic facts about segregation, discrimination, integration
-To learn how her courage as well as her parents and her teacher, Barbara Henry, helped her to
persevere through her first grade year
-To learn what it was like to face discrimination in the 1960’s in America.
-To learn how she was a role model for respect for others, courage, equality, tolerance, perseverance, and commitment.

NOTABLE QUOTES FROM RUBY BRIDGES:
-While we are different, we are all the same.  We are connected.
-Schools should be mixed and diverse—racism doesn’t have a place in the minds and hearts of our country.

-Racism is passed on and taught.  Children don’t start out as racists.
-Every child is a unique human being fashioned by God.”
-Everything we do should be done with LOVE.
-It takes courage to make change.
-Love thy neighbor is the key commandment.
-We the people form a more perfect union when we do that together.  We must find common ground and put our best ideas forward.
-Experience comes to us for a purpose.
-It is the content of your character that matters most.

BEFORE THE SHOW:
-Read a biography of Ruby Bridges.
-Talk about how your first day of first grade was different from hers and was similar.
-How do you think she felt her first day of school?
-How would you feel if you had to stay in your classroom all day and couldn’t even go outside for recess or to the cafeteria?

AFTER THE SHOW QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
-Do you think Ruby Bridges is an American hero?  Why or why not?  What qualifications should a hero have?
-Would you have gone to the William Frantz school knowing no one wanted you there?
-How did her teacher’s attitude affect Ruby?
-Why did the other teachers shun Mrs. Henry?
-Why do you think those “cheerleaders” protesters felt so strongly about not letting Ruby into their school
-Why do you think Ruby started her foundation and after school program?  Why did she go back to William Frantz Elementary many years later?
VOCABULARY:
Bullying:  to use greater strength or influence to force someone to do what they want
Mob:  a large disorderly crowd
Courage:  the quality of mind that enables one to face dancer and fear with confidence and bravery.
To judge:  to form an opinion or evaluation
Federal marshal:  a U.S. federal officer of a judicial district who carries out court orders and has duties similar to those of a sheriff
Segregation:  the act of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnic groups
Discrimination: the unjust treatment of people based on race, religion, gender
Nervous:  easily agitated or distressed
Empathy: identification with and understanding of another situation, feelings, motives, through the eyes or shoes of another
Alike: similar to each other
Different:  unlike someone
Change:  to make or become different
Diversity:  to have a range of ideas or offerings; to include others with different ideas or colors or religions
Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something based on their qualities or achievements
Racism: prejudice, discrimination, anger directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior
Persevere: to continue a course of action when facing difficulty

RESOURCES:
www.tolerance.org
www.spicenter.org (Southern Poverty Law Center)
THE RUBY BRIDGES STORY—a Disney film. Dreamscape, 1995
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester, Harper Collins, c 2006
Horace and Morris But Mostly Delores by James Howe, Aladdin Paperbacks, c 1999.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books, c 1991
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr Seuss, Random House c 1961.
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, Harcourt Brace and Co, c 1994
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, Scholastic Press, c 1995.
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges, Scholastic Press, 1999
The Skin you Live In by Michael Tyler, Chicago Children’s Museum, c 2005
One by Kathryn Otoshi, KO Kids Books, c 2008 (printed in China)
The Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka, Tien Wah Press. Singapore, c 1994>
Whoever you Are by Mem Fox, Harcourt Brace, c 1997.
It’s Okay to be Different byTodd Parr, Megan Tingley Brooks of Little Brown and Co, c 2001.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C Stead, Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, c 2010
The Colors of US by Karen Katz, Henry Holt, c  1999.
Ruby Bridges, a Rookie Bio, by Simone T Ribke, Scholastic Press, c2015
Ruby Bridges Goes to School, My True Story by Ruby Bridges, Scholastic Press, c 2003.
The Ruby Bridges Foundation. http://genius.com/Ruby-bridges-foundation-ruby-bridges
3737 Lake Michel Court, Gretna, LA 70056

Review of THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES by Cathy Kaemmerlen from the Sept Issue of the Jewish Journal

Honey is a symbolic metaphor for the Jewish holidays, associated with thoughts and wishes for a sweet new year.  Sure we understand that bees make honey, but what else is there to know?  Kids will love getting the buzz about honey from Itty Bitty Betty, a storytelling honeybee.  Did you know that bees fly forwards, sideways, and backwards?  Did you know that if honeybees didn’t pollinate crops, there would be fewer cantaloupes, watermelons and summer squash?  This educational adventure will thrill young kids as they learn fascinating facts about bees and their behavior.  Colorful illustrations will tickle the imagination.

More Buzz About Bees!

So exciting for Europe, but not yet for us.  Hope we can come around to making Rachel Carson proud.  Article below…

We did it — Europe just banned bee-killing pesticides!! Mega-corporations like Bayer threw everything they had at this, but people-power, science and good governance came out on top!!

Avaaz bee die in, Germany

Bee “die in” at Bayer’s headquarters, Cologne > 

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the specialist conservation organisation Buglife, says:
“It was a close vote, but thanks to a massive mobilisation by Avaaz members, beekeepers, and others, we won! I have no doubt that the floods of phonecalls and emails to ministers, the actions in London, Brussels and Cologne, and the giant petition with 2.6 million signers made this result possible. Thank you Avaaz, and everyone who worked so hard to save bees!”

Bees pollinate two thirds of all our food — so when scientists noticed that silently, they were dying at a terrifying rate, Avaaz swung in to action, and we kept on swinging until we won. This week’s victory is the result of two years of flooding ministers with messages, organizing media-grabbing protests with beekeepers, funding opinion polls and much, much more. Here’s how we did it, together:

  • Keeping France strong. In January 2011, 1 million people sign our call to France to uphold its ban on deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. Avaaz members and beekeepers meet the French agriculture minister and fill the airwaves, pressing him to face down fierce industry lobbying and keep the ban, sending a strong signal to other European countries.
Bernie in Brussels
Bernie, the huge inflatable bee, helps deliver our 2.6m strong petition to Brussels
  • Tackling industry head on. Bayer has faced Avaaz and allies protesting at its last three annual meetings. The pesticide giant’s managers and investors are welcomed by beekeepers, loud buzzing, and massive banners with our 1 million plus call on them to suspend use of neonicotinoids until scientists reviewed their effect on bees. Avaaz even makes a presentation inside the meeting, but Bayer says ‘no’.
  • Making the science count. In January the European Food Safety Agency finds that three pesticides pose unacceptable risks to bees, and we jump in to ensure Europe’s politicians respond to their scientific experts. Our petition quickly grows to 2 million signatures. After many talks with EU decision-makers, Avaaz delivers our call right to the EU HQ in Brussels. Later that same day, the Commission proposes a two-year ban!
March of beekeepers
Beekeepers help deliver our massive petition to Downing Street
  • Seizing our chance. The battle to save the bees heats up in February and March. Across the EU, Avaaz members are ready to respond as all 27 EU countries decide whether to welcome or block the proposal. When farming giants UK and Germany say they won’t vote yes, Avaaz publishes public opinion polls showing huge majorities of Brits and Germans in favour of the ban. Avaaz members also send almost half a million emails to EU Agriculture Ministers.Apparently afraid of dealing with citizens rather than industry lobbyists, UK minister Owen Paterson complains of a “cyber-attack”, which journalists turn into a story in our favour! And then comes Bernie — our 6 metre bee in Brussels — a powerful visual way to deliver our petition as negotiations enter the final stages. Journalists flock to Bernie, and we hear we’ve helped get the Spanish ministry to look harder at the science and shift position . But we didn’t get the majority we needed to pass the ban.
Bernie in The Independent
Bernie the bee featured in The Independent
  • Turning the red light green. In April the bee-saving proposal is sent to an Appeals Committee, giving us a glimmer of hope if we can switch a few more countries’ positions. In the final sprint, Avaaz teams up with groups including Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Pesticides Action Network, plus beekeepers and famous bee-loving fashion designers to organise an action outside the UK Parliament. In Germany, beekeepers launch their own Avaaz petition to their government, signed by over 150,000 Germans in just two days and delivered in Cologne soon after. More phone calls rain down on ministries in different capitals as Avaaz responds to a last-minute wrecking amendment by Hungary, and positions Bernie the bee again in Brussels. Pesticide companies buy adverts in the airport to catch arriving officials, and take to the airwaves suggesting other measures such as planting wild flowers. But their slick messaging machine is ignored, first Bulgaria then — the big prize — Germany switch their stances and this week we win, with over half of EU countries voting for the ban!

Weird  News Alert

Man Found Dead in Home Filled with Bees

Warning to the faint of heart:  this story reported in the MIAMI HERALD, worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

A teenage girl found her father dead inside his home that was infested with thousands of bees living inside the walls, report the Miami Herald.

Donald Mason, 49, was found in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami home that he was renovating. Investigators have not determined the cause of death, but his brother told the paper, Mason hit fell from a chair while swatting at a swarm of bees and hit his head.

Mason was trying to renovate the home on a limited budget and had tried to fog spray the hive in the wall, and then tried to patch up the hole in the wall with tape.

Police told the Herald that Mason’s death is considered unclassified, but it’s more likely his death was due to the fall, rather than anything to do with the bees.

Willie Sklaroff, also known as ‘the bee man,’ who runs a bee extermination company was called into help and said there were at leas 60,000 bees living inside the walls of the house, reports Local10.com.

*My notes:  I agree his death was more than likely from the fall, but the investigative reporter in me asks the following questions:  any dead bees found around him?  any stingers found in his body? was he allergic to bee stings?  Any evidence of anaphlyaxic shock?

Word to the wise:  let the experts remove the bees.  Not worth it to go on the cheap.  Trying to kill them with bug spray just leaves a sticky mess when the hive is unattended, wax moths take over and chew the wax that seals the honeycombs, which then start to drip and make an even bigger and more expensive mess to clean up.

What a story for Itty Bitty Betty to tell.  She’d come to the defense of the bees.

Smithsonian magazine has been buzzing with honeybee articles!

Honey Was the Wonder Food That Fueled Human Evolution (And Now It’s Disappearing)

Brains take a ton of energy to keep ticking, and human brains are proportionally huge. Therefore, humans need to consume a lot energy through their diets. For Last Word on NothingHeather Pringle explains that one food, maybe more than any other, could have allowed for our ancestor’s ever-expanding craniums. Starting 2.5 million years ago, she says,

Our hominin ancestors may have dined extensively for the first time on energy-rich honey, a food that may have fueled the evolution of our large, metabolically costly brains. The earliest member of our genus, Homo, emerged some 1.5 to 2 million years ago, equipped with brains significantly larger than their predecessors. Moreover, they possessed smaller molars, suggesting that they were dining on an easily consumed food. Honey.

As a modern analogue, Pringle points to the hunter-gatherer society of the Hadza people, a culture in eastern Africa that “prize honey above all else in their diet.” This preference for honey has lead the Hadza hunters to develop a symbiotic relationship with a local bird species know as the greater honeyguide. Pringle says,

The bird dines almost entirely on beeswax and bee larvae, but it needs help to crack open hives. So the honeyguide calls to both honey badgers and Hadza hunters. When human hunters whistle back, the bird gradually leads the men by call-and-response song to the nearest colony.

The Hazda’s preference for honey may have stemmed from the same drive as some of our earliest ancestors: honey is energy dense and can even provide protein and fat on top of its abundant sugars.

But if it’s true that honey is one of the pillars that brought us so far as a species, that lends extra gravity to the recent epidemic ravaging honeybee populations known as colony collapse disorder. Potentially caused by a combination of pesticides, food stress and parasites, colony collapse disorder is wiping out bee populations across the western world. The disorder has so far had a profound effect on honey production, with 2011 being “one of the lowest crops in recorded history of honey production.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/honey-was-the-wonder-food-that-fueled-human-evolution-and-now-its-disappearing-44399150/#ixzz2rRz7mjFr

The American Bumblebee Is Crashing, Too

Colony Collapse Disorder targets honey bees. But now American bumblebees are missing, too

You may have heard of a little thing called Colony Collapse Disorder—a “disorder” with no pinned-down cause that leads bees to abandon their hives or get lost on the way home. Beekeepers, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, report hive population losses of up to 90 percent, but the cause of CCD isn’t definitively known. Possible culprits range from stress to parasites to pesticides to fungus, or a combination of them all. Colony Collapse Disorder, however, has not been affecting all bees—it targets honey bees. But now, says the Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein, bad news for the American bumblebee:

 ”It was the most dominant bumblebee in the Midwest,” [University of Illinois entomologist Sydney] Cameron said, saying it now has pretty much disappeared from much of its northern range. Overall, its range has shrunk by about 23 percent, although it is still strong in Texas and the West, she said.

People call them the big fuzzies,” Cameron said. “They’re phenomenal animals. They can fly in the snow.

A research team who spent weeks in the field cataloguing southern Illinois’ bees could find but one lonely American bumblebee, Borenstein reports. And, the humble bumblebee wasn’t the only thing missing: compared to the observations of a 19th century naturalist, the researchers could find only 54 of 109 expected bee species. The current dearth of bees, he says, could be due to forces similar to those affecting honey bees—”a combination of disease and parasites,” according to the AP.

The absence of bumblebees aligns with previous research described by Smithsonian Magazine‘s Sarah Zielinski a few years ago:

A group of biologists from Illinois and Utah examined the current and historical distributions of eight species of bumblebees from the genus Bombus, looking at thousands of museum records and data from recent nationwide surveys. They found that the abundances of half of those species (B. affinis, B. occidentalis, B. pensylvanicus and B. terricola) have declined by up to 96 percent and their ranges have contracted by 23 to 87 percent in the last 20 years. The other four species, however, remain abundant and widespread.

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/03/the-american-bumblebee-is-crashing-too/

THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES goes to press!

I made the final edits yesterday and it looks beautiful with the soft, whimiscal watercolor illustrations by Kathy Coates of Charlotte, NC.  Itty Bitty Betty, she’s a honey of a bee, is the star of the book, sharing the news she’s collected.  She’s a bit of a gossip, but an interesting one, full of facts and information told in a fun way about Georgia’s state insect and the state insect for 17 other states.

Bee facts are called BEEZNESS in the book.  BEEZNESS number one (not in the book, by the way):  did you know that bees were brought into this country by some of the first settlers from Europe? Imagine bringing honeybees in hives on a several month voyage on a sailing ship.  Bees are not native to the Americas.  The native Americans called them white man’s flies.  The settlers knew the importance of honeybees pollinating their crops.

More beezness to follow in other blogs.  Am off tomorrow to Birmingham, AL for the Southern Breeze fall conference.  They’re my region’s branch of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and illustrators.)  Am hoping to come back with lots of marketing and social networking ideas for promoting a book once it’s out.  Am also having a manuscript  critiqued about Sowbelly, the largest wide mouthed bass on record, caught in Georgia during the Depression.  So far no luck on finding a publisher.  Maybe the manuscript is to blame?  It’s difficult to hear anyone criticize your work.  Perhaps it’s easier coming from a stranger. So I’m hoping to come back with some good ideas to make this story come across more effectively.  It’s a fish tale that needs to be told once again and treasured.

Beeziness

Other beeziness happening now as I get ready to leave tomorrow for two days of performances at the Thomasville, GA Ars Center, some four hours away from Atlanta.  Looking forward to revisiting this beautiful, historic city that was once a get away resort town for the wealthy, and hosts the Big Oak–one of the largest, widest oak trees in the south.  Performing TURN HOMEWARD, HANALEE, a Civil War tale for fourth and fifth graders who’ll come in bunches of 400 plus.  Don’t often get to do this show or any other on a real stage with lighting and sound.  Really looking forward to it.  Now to load up with a wonderful book on tape for listening pleasure.  Back to the bees when I come back in town!

Starting the Buzz

So excited to create a blog diary with news and updates.  And so excited to start the buzz about my first children’s book THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES due out in early spring through Pelican Press, starring Itty Bitty Betty, she’s a honey of a bee (pun courtesy of good friend David Fore of Tiger, GA.)  Itty Bitty Betty collects gossip instead of nectar and she’s all a buzz with swarming stories, all true!  More to come.

Have a day off from shcool performances to work on the frustrating stuff-how to link blogs, how to twitter, how to start new self promotion as a children’s author–stuff I’m all thumbs with and witless to boot.  Ah to become mofre savvy???? How??? Slow learning curve.  Mostly have to undo the mistakes I make messing up my systems that are already in place.

Am frustrated enough to take a break and go on to a new project–rewriting my script as Rhoda Kaufman for the Oakland Cemetary Halloween Haunts coming up this month. This I can do!  And enjoy doing!

Southern Breeze/SCBWI Conference 2011

Attended a fascinating regional children’s book conference in Birmingham over the weekend and had a critique on a manuscript I’m hoping to sell.  There are some wonderful, knowledgeable, and giving people in this industry. Was thrilled to hear Young Adult author Lisa Yee in a keynote and the creator of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)and Lin Oliver deliver her 10 success stories keynote to end the daylong conference.

I attended Gail Karwoski’s (of Watkinsville, GA) workshop called The Nonfiction Expedition.  She was really my first introduction to non-fiction and to what is called narrative non-fiction (I learned this term today–used to call it creative non-fiction) through her book SEAMAN, Merriwether Lewis’ dog from the expedition. I’ve always recommended this book when I perform SACAJAWEA SPEAKS for fourth grade audiences.  She is energetic, a very thorough researcher, full of curiosity, skill, prolific, and truly genuine.  She writes with a passion for her subjects.  I could very much follow her research paths that lead to so many tangential material, material you hate to not include as sidebars, etc.  I think in going this route, we’re encouraging our readers or listening audiences to use our material as a starting point (first off) and then to show them that we too find connections and side stories that take us to more interesting facts and stories.  Learning is a never ending process.

Secondly I attended Linda Pratt’s session on achieving tension in your work and by accepting diagnostic evaluations by editors, agents, critics.  I had a private critique session with her and found her very insightful.  I trusted her “diagnosis” and plan to utilize her suggestions. Unfortunately she feared my book garners regional interest, not national.  I hope to prove her wrong as I love this story.  Don’t all authors fall in love with their story?  This one will be a hard one to put down or file away.  She’s an agent who formed her own agency with another woman.  They deal specifically with children’s and young adult authors, but not really with non-fiction writers.  She told me adapted folktales books were popular 10 years ago. Sigh.

From Alexandra Cooper, an editor with Simon Schuster Readers (ages 1-4) I learned that the children’s book market is very narrow these days, with Borders closing and Barnes and Noble doing away with their children’s book wall and leaning more towards educational material.  Isn’t that the purpose of chains like THE SCHOOL BOX, etc?  She said she’s looking for books with 500 or less words!  And here I’m thinking 1200 words is slim for a children’s book.  Apparently you’re allowed more words if you’re in the non-fiction genre.  Talking about making every word matter.  It is a special gift and skill to economize your writing.  At first I thought how can you have any substance in a 500 word book?  But I saw some truly beautiful and artistic ones, such as Jane Yolen’s SCARECROW DANCE, written in rhymes (something a lot of editors, etc. DO NOT LIKE!)  I can see how this is a challenge–just having completed narrowing my 7,000 word manuscript to a 1200 one.  This is where the rewriting and thinking about the value of every word makes writing children’s books so difficult.

From Lola Schaefer (also from Georgia), I saw beautiful narrative non-fiction books, some are her own. I purchased her book JUST ONE BITE and heard her “tell it.”  She serves a a consultant in schools, as well as an author in the schools.  Her passion, skill, knowledge is infectious.  I wanted to see her more in action, with children.  She is a force, very animated and skilled.  Her subjects deal more with science and nature.  I’m thinking this way I guess, obviously, since my book coming out is on honeybees.  But obviously my own work as a performer and playwright, for the most part, deals with historical subjects.  She got me thinking about symbiotic relationships…and I think I’m beginning to find the answer to a book/subject I’d like to tackle.

Lots of things to follow up on from this one day.  Was grateful to have a 3 1/2 hour drive home, to mull over some things.  To be around people who’s full time focus is on writing was wonderful…getting published, of course, is the hard part.  Great to hear and see so many success stories and witness would-be writers as well as on-the-way writers to very successful ones.

I’ll conclude with one of Lin Oliver’s morals of the story…DO THE WORK.  Perseverance and hard work are certainly the first prerequisites.  And now that my first children’s book has gone to press, it’s a different kind of work for me–GETTING OUT THE BUZZ.  More to come.

I found some google links to the debate over what’s narrative non-fiction; what’s memoir; what’s historical fiction. Google away or check out bookendslitagency.blogspot or laureltarulli.wordpress.com.

In the meantime I’ve got to go back to working as a storyteller.  Performances tomorrow at the Atlanta History Center–Halloween tales.