Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Princess and the Stinky Cheese

I always have a blast with Susanna Leonard Hill's seasonal contests which offer both the inspiration to write and a fun block party atmosphere with a great community of writers. 

The March Madness Contest: Write a children's story, in poetry or prosemaximum 400 words, that is a fractured fairy tale.  You can post entries until Monday March 24 at midnight. 
So fracture a fairy tale and come play! I'll be bringing a stinky cheese plate...

The Princess and the Stinky Cheese

By Lauri C Meyers

"If you don't find a princess to marry soon," the Queen said, "I'll be forced to give the crown to the dog."

"Mother, your ridiculous "true princess" tests are the problem," Prince Plumbottom whined. "Let's see. Merida didn't feel the grain of rice in her pillow."

"Snored like a bear."

"Fiona couldn't taste donkey snot in her soup."

"Gobbled it down like a dragon."

"Even if a princess passed your test," Prince Plumbottom said, "Princesses are so boring. I want to marry a daring lass!"

"Very well, son. We will look for a true princess who is also daring. I know just the right test."

"Here comes a girl now, and she has a branch in her hair!" he clapped his hands. "This young woman has had an adventure."

The prince skipped over to the soaking wet maiden.  

"Hello, I'm Prince Plumbottom."

"Hello, I'm Princess Peabody," she said. "I was tracking a rattlesnake, but I fell into the river and now I'm quite lost."

"A rattlesnake? How daring!" the prince squealed. "Won't you join us for lunch?"

Princess Peabody wiped her muddy face with a napkin. She was about to blow her nose, but stopped when she heard the Queen whisper "Stinky Cheese Test" to the prince. She had heard of queens like this.  

"Cheese, dear?" the Queen asked.

"Oh, it's a lovely green," Princess Peabody said. "But it's not nearly stinky enough."

The prince beamed.

The Queen thumped on the table. "Cook! Bring the stinkier cheese!"

The cook held a handkerchief over her nose and presented the stinkier cheese.

"Yummy. It smells like an ogre's shoe," the princess said. "But my Kingdom has much stinkier cheese."

The Queen's face turned red. "Guards! Find the stinkiest cheese in the land!"

The knights returned with a metal trunk which smelled like a dragon's armpit.

"Open it!" the Queen commanded.

(Happy Dog by vikush via
with cheese by halifaxsxc via
The knights closed their armor masks and reached with a sword to open the chest.  The stench was so horrific, so terrible, so... stinky that everyone fainted.

Everyone except Princess Peabody.

She fed the stinky cheese to the royal dog who didn't mind the smell at all. Then she blew her nose, finally clearing it of river mud.

The Queen came to and saw the empty cheese plate. "A true princess!"

Prince Plumbottom declared, "A daring princess!"

Burp! The dog agreed.

And they all lived stinkily ever after. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Peek Behind the Stacks - An Interview with my Children's Librarian

I have been planning to interview my local children's librarian for a long time. Unfortunately, it took over a year for me to shower on the same day as story time. (Hey, I have to make time to write somehow...sorry personal hygiene.) I'm so glad the day finally came, because I enjoyed every minute of my time with Linda Lawrence. She was full of wonderful insights and some great quotes. 

The interviewed actually started with Linda asking about me. Which was so kind. She must have established I was nervous, or perhaps she shares that universal librarian curiosity.

As usual I humble-fumbled through it: "oh I've written some things...maybe someone will like to read them one day...or maybe not...I blog about stuff...I had a short story was about dragons and cake and stuff..." [Note to self: start practicing verbal pitch before NJ SCBWI conference!!!] But still, it gave me a chance to settle in and ask some questions.

Lauri: How did you become a Children’s librarian?
Linda: I graduated as an English major. My father was screaming at me to find a job, so I looked at what I loved which was books and reading. I found out to be a librarian, you needed your masters. So I went to Simmons College in Boston. But I knew there was only one choice for me- children’s librarian.

Linda Lawrence & Lauri Meyers
I moved with my husband to Fair Lawn, New Jersey. By chance the library needed a children’s librarian. I was there for four years then had an 18-year hiatus while I had my two children.

Around the time my youngest was in first grade, I felt like I needed to work again. So I looked into being a media specialist. To be a media specialist, I needed to have a teaching degree. So I went to William Paterson University to complete my studies and student teaching. But I didn't end up with a media specialist job.

Instead, I saw an ad in the paper for “substitutes” at Wayne Public Library. When I interviewed I said “I only want children’s.” And she said, “Great, we need someone for children’s.” I started as a sub then moved into a part-time role. Following the renovation of the library in 2000, they added a full-time children’s librarian, and I got the job.

Lauri: What drove you to be so passionate about the children’s section?

Linda: It wasn't so much the books, but the clientele I wanted to work with.

I was also the children's librarian at the same time the first Harry Potter book came out. We were all very excited when we read it. That’s really when fantasy got hot, and it still is.

Lauri: As a children's writer, I think I am blessed with the robust children's section here at WPL. Does the Children's Department own the purchase decisions?

Linda: Yes, the children’s department owns the purchase decisions. I've been very lucky with freedom to make choices. This year was the first year our budget was reduced, which forced me to be more picky. Having the local library consortium helps also. We can't carry every book, but the consortium lets us lend books from other libraries.

Lauri: What resources do you use to make purchasing choices?

The School Library Journal is helpful, but used to be treated as the only source. Shelf Talker and Publishers Weekly are good sources which come in my email.

For nonfiction, I go by what people are coming in for and asking for.

I look for topics in catalogs that are hot right now. If trucks are in high demand, a new truck book will interest me.

We also use the Brodart Company (Lauri note: Brodart provides collection and other services to libraries.)

I like things that are readable. I call myself a "librarian of the masses." I'm looking for what "sells." Even though I'm not technically selling the books, I want books people want to borrow.

Lauri: My favorite place is the New Books shelf. Do you have a favorite spot in the Children's department?

Linda: I've always loved reference. I used to read and reread the materials to learn as much as I could and prepare myself for the questions kids would ask.

I see my job today as much more "readers advisory" than reference. When children come in looking for a book, I start by asking, "Tell me something that you like." It can take 25 minutes with some kids until they find the right niche. But once they find it, they are here all the time.

Lauri: You must regularly weed out books as well. How do you decide?

Linda: We have to make room for new books. I'm doing a big weed right now. Children's hasn't been weeded in awhile. There is a report which shows "no circulation for 5 years." I also look if topics are dated, if the book is in bad condition, etc.

Lauri: Thank you so much for meeting with me and sharing your story. It looks like storytime is out and I can hear my kids calling. (yes, this is how it went!)

Linda: Thank you. I'm always here for questions.

Hey, did you hear that? I can ask more questions! Do you have any more questions you would love to know about from a librarian's perspective?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blogiversary by the Numbers

I live by the list.

I'm the kind of gal who puts it on her to-do list to make a little purse for her to-do list so her to-do list can carry its own to-do list. 

In fact, any day they'll surely cast me in my own reality show called "Extreme Listing!" (...In the next episode Lauri gets so overwhelmed she forgets to put "shower" on her to do list, and you won't believe what happens!...)

The To-Do list is of course the nephew of Action Plan and the grandchild of Goal Setting. Without goals, I probably wouldn't do anything at all. Without tracking against goals, I probably wouldn't even care.  So I treat my listing as seriously as a squirrel gathering nuts in fall.

Since it's my 2nd Blogiversary today (hooray!), I thought it be informational (nerdy?) and fun (like a Star Trek convention) to share my two years of writing by the numbers.

Here's what I've done as a part-time writer (~15-20 hours a week):

All those lists of lists of lists really keep my writing life productive. Though I still have A LOT of polishing yet to do on those drafts, it's nice to take a break and celebrate what has been accomplished.  

But now I have to get back to work!

What helps you be a productive writer?

OH...bonus feature. Here's a picture of me really turning 2. 
My Mom let me hold the knife.
 You could do that in the 70s.

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