Master Melvin, the MES Cricket

Master Melvin, the MES Cricket
Master Melvin, the MES Cricket, loves to read! Can you guess what book he's reading based on the clues in the scene?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Would a Baseball be Muddy?

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball  by David A. Kelly

This is the true story of how a special mud became the standard by which professional baseballs got prepared for games. Lena Blackburne wanted to play professional baseball and make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, his baseball skills weren’t good enough for his dreams to come true. 
He still loved the sport and stayed part of it in any way that he could. One problem was the soggy baseballs that batters couldn’t hit very far. The baseballs needed the shine to be taken off of them, and most people used dirty water to do this (or other even more disgusting methods). When Lena discovers a mud that can do the job, he changes the way baseballs are prepared for play. His mud was a miracle, not only to him, but to all the baseball players who have used it over the past seventy five years. I was so stunned when I read this book! I was amazed by the fact that professional baseballs need to get “dirtied” before they can be used to play. I immediately started looking up facts and was shocked by what I learned. I also enjoyed the pictures which are done in a way that your eyes focuses on parts of the illustrations that tie into the text. The pictures made me ready to go to a baseball game and enjoy some time in the sunshine.

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball is a great book for baseball fans, those who like to learn the story behind interesting facts, or people who like to get dirty. A short picture book that is sure to be a hit during baseball season. With the facts at the end, I bet you will learn something new too!

Happy reading! ~ Mrs. Robinson 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Journey of a Story...

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow hits bookstores everywhere in December 2015, and it's been quite an adventure! We could never have imagined the twists and turns on the journey to publication. 

Today, Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight are here to give you the inside scoop on the story behind the story!

“How did you write a book together?” A question often asked of authors who decide to collaborate on writing a story. The underlying truth of what they are really asking is, “How did you manage to not end up hating each other during the process?” The answer to this is simple, it’s not about the ego; it’s about the book. We decided this first.

Jess & Stephanie signing contracts with Delacorte Press 
When we sat down to write The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, we committed to this concept and made a pact with each other that we would set our feelings to the side in order to produce the best story that we could. After we agreed to this, the words flowed easily and the story began to take shape. As it moved along, the writing came naturally. It shifted, bent, dissolved, exploded, and then mushroomed into something spectacular. 

Why did you decide to co-author this work?
Stephanie and Jess circa 1999

Jess: I have always enjoyed talking about books with Stephanie. We have been friends for a long time, so when I wanted to turn my children’s poem into a middle grade book, it seemed natural to ask her if she wanted to write it with me. 

Stephanie: I have always loved writing and have written many short stories and poems. When Jess asked me to co-author a book with her, I decided it was the perfect chance to begin working on one of my dreams.

Stephanie and Jess presenting at Flanders Elementary School in Southington, CT
One amazing realization about co-author collaboration is that you have a whole other brain working towards the same goal. Both of us have our strengths and weaknesses. What one lacks, the other makes up for. Sometimes, one of us would be working on a chapter and have a vision of what it should be, but just not getting it out right. The other would read it and see it in a different light, change the words, and restructure the sentence or chapter. In a way, this was very satisfying, like fitting the right piece into a puzzle.
Stephanie reading an excerpt of The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow to students 
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?

Jessica: I learned a lot about myself and about discipline in writing. I am sort of a free-form writer, and it's absolutely essential to keep everything in tune and orderly to progress. Stephanie is the master of organization, so I am very lucky to have her as my co-author. Most of the time, instructions and lists sound to me like the adults in Charlie Brown, whoh, whoh, whoh. However, after working on this with my awesome writing partner, I embrace the list. : )

Stephanie:  I have been surprised by the amount of time Jessica and I spend discussing Fairday and her friends and coming up with ideas. Most of our conversations now center around our writing and blog. I never knew how much fun it would be to write a book with someone else who shares my same vision and makes work fun. Also, I have been pleasantly surprised to find support for my book in places I never expected. Thanks to all of our supporters. 

There were times when we threw away whole chapters and started over. This was somewhat painful, but we both knew it had to be done and accepted it. We wanted it to be right; we wanted it to be what we knew in our hearts it could be. And so, swallowing our pride became a common occurrence, which was easier and easier to digest as the story progressed. Now when we receive criticism from ourselves or other readers, we both embrace it and think of it as an opportunity to improve our story.

Our writing process wouldn’t have been as smooth without Google Docs. Using this online format allowed us to post a chapter or two at a time that we could work on together. What an amazing tool! Being able to make changes to our book from any location opened up our world of writing and our story was written in Poland, Yellowstone, from our town libraries, and the comforts of our own homes. We entered contests, kept up with local writers' conferences, and attended book fairs, keeping an eye on the latest book buzz and honing our craft. We've met some amazing authors and illustrators, and made great connections with the people all over the world. 

Unicorn Writers' Conference 2011 
What inspired you to pursue a writing career?

Little Jess

Jessica: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved stories. I have a certain taste for rhyme, and I enjoy word play. After recovering from the devastation that I was probably not going to be an astronaut (terrible at math), it felt natural to want to pursue writing. I also love to draw, and my inspiration comes from illustrators like Edward Gorey and Barbara McClintock

Little Stephanie
Since I was a little, I have loved reading and creating stories. When I was younger, I thought I would be a teacher during the year and spend the summer writing books (yes, that is plural). I obviously didn’t understand how much time teaching and writing would actually take. Ever since Jess asked me to co-author The Secret Files of Fairday
Morrow, I have been actively pursuing my dreams of being a writer.

Is co-authoring for everyone? Probably not, but for those who do embark on this wondrous journey, remember to set a common goal, work with someone you can be honest with, and keep your eye on the prize- a well-written book!  
From Left: Rachael Dugas (Agent/ Talcott Notch Literary), Jessica Haight, Stephanie Robinson, Krista Vitola (Editor/ Delacorte/ Random House)
To add a little more mystery, we've put together a puzzle that will unveil another illustration, along with a few secrets over this upcoming year, so stay tuned!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and be the first to find out when the next piece of the puzzle will be revealed. 

"I loved the opening chapters of The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, and was immediately captivated by the characters. The writing is great and very accessible. I'm sure children and young adults will love it." Jenny Nimmo, Author of Midnight for Charlie Bone