Reading Goals for 2015

books reading

Books in Waiting

In 2015 I plan to read 100 books. While that total number of books may seem high for some people, but the goal itself seems straightforward, right?

Wrong.

Debate 1: Does it count as having read a book if you listened to an audio book?

It turns out people don’t actually agree on what counts as reading a book. No one is debating between ebooks and print books, rather the debate is between audio and print books. In the past month, I’ve been involved in at least three debates about whether listening to an audio book counts as reading a book. I say yes. Lots of people say no. I don’t often listen to audio books, but I did listen to one huge book (Dad Is Fat) on a long drive. So the audio book debate doesn’t impact my book total but it does explore the definition of ‘reading’ a book. Is it only using one’s eyes? What do you say?

Debate 2: Reading to Kids

The other debate I’ve been in about my book goal is whether I can count the books I’ve read to my children at night. Depending on which child I’m reading to, I might read a few chapters or up to five picture books. Can I count those? My husband said reading picture books to kids should not count toward my total. But I disagree because I feel that somehow implies picture books aren’t ‘real’ books. So I’ve decided to only count the books I’m reading to my children at night only if I’ve never previously read the book. Sound fair?

I’m already 10 books into my goal and feeling good that I will reach 100 before the end of the year. I’m also absolutely adoring the books I’ve read so far! The full list is on my Goodreads account, but here are a few of the books I’ve really enjoyed:

Paperboy
Brown Girl Dreaming
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Coraline
The Age of Innocence (Dover Thrift Editions)
She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer

Do you have a reading goal for 2015?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

New Ebook Released: “Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers”

I’m so pleased to announce that the new version of Thanks: 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers is now available on Amazon. This ebook is a handbook full of concrete suggestions for any volunteer manager or leader who needs creative, thoughtful ways to show their gratitude for the hard work volunteers provide.

I’ve been on both sides of the volunteer-organization relationship, and effective gratitude truly stands out to me as an essential piece. It’s not optional.

In 2013, the Independent Sector calculated that the average value of a volunteer hour is worth $22.55. Many non-profit organizations could not begin to pay volunteers that rate for all the work they do. But these same organizations are constantly looking for ways to show volunteers they are valued and appreciated.

It is so hard to find the right volunteer for the task at hand. So organizations look for ways to keep excellent volunteers engaged and to let volunteers know they are valued. One of the best ways to show volunteers they are valued is to frequently utilize their expertise and skills. People love to feel needed.

Another way is to learn who they are as people. In Thanks!, many of the ideas I’ve offered are based upon knowing the personal preferences of the volunteers who donate their time and efforts. Knowing how the volunteers prefer to work, what is motivating their choice to volunteer, and how they prefer to be recognized are key aspects of developing a strong relationship between your organization and your invaluable volunteers.

Gratitude goes a long way and this book offers a hearty list of 100 unique ways to say thanks. What is the best way you’ve ever been thanked for volunteering?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Pinterest Helps Writers

I have often wondered if Pinterest helps authors.  As a self-published author, I do use Pinterest to promote my three books. But is it more of a distraction or an inspiration?

I wrote an article for the Children’s Writer newsletter called “Turn Procrastination to Productivity” that explores this idea. After some careful thought, I think it can be helpful for all kinds of writers.

And I’m not alone! I asked other writers on the NaNoWriMo forums and heard back from many writers.

Response 1

“I started using Pinterest for April Camp NaNoWriMo, collecting images and quotes and things that reminded me of the story that I was writing at the time. Then I created a board called “Writer’s Must Write” for writing tips and things about the writer life, and I now have 100+ followers!

For this year’s official NaNoWriMo I am doing the same thing, and it’s been a great help in terms of getting the looks of my characters and setting down. Once you start using Pinterest for writing, it opens up a whole world of writing boards that make me incredibly happy :D”

Response 2

“I am using Pinterest to show places that I write about. I live in Istanbul, so there is a lot to show. I also have a board for my NaNo text for this year, with ideas (so I use it for planning). I have a board with writing stuff. http://www.kathrynizgi.com”

Response 3

“I love Pinterest for writing! I just used it today actually. I use it to do visual research. I’m setting my novel in a castle, and I did a search for castles and now have a diverse group from which I can pick and choose different aspects. It’s especially good for things like seeing different parts of the world that I will never be able to go to. And there are plenty of great writing quotes that give me the kick I need to get writing.”

Pinterest writing ideas

Productivity not Procrastination

I have three boards dedicated to writing: Writer’s Resources, Magazines (To Read and Write For) and Worth Reading. Here I add pins that give me tips on writing, quotes from great writers, children’s books that push me to write my own stories and images that strike a chord with my imagination.

I will continue to promote my books via Pinterest, but one important thing to note is that prices are no longer displayed as a small ribbon across the top left corner of the pin image. Prices will now appear as a small bubble in the upper right of “pins with more information” or “rich pins.” Creating product pins from your website now requires adding tags to your website. You can get more info on rich pins here.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

NaNoWriMo 2014

I'm all in!

I’m all in!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Five tips for picky eaters

tips for picky eaters

Won’t take a bite

Dealing with picky eaters is one of the most frustrating experiences for parents or any caregiver. So whenever I present My Food Notebook at parenting conferences or schools, I make sure I let the audience know my hidden secret: I have a picky eater, too. Sometimes, all three of my children are picky eaters!

But instead of just arguing with my children all the time I decided to change my approach. (This isn’t the first time I’ve had to make some parenting adjustments.) Part of my adjustment included creating My Food Notebook but it also included changing how food is served our house.

In order to work with my picky eater (and I always use the phrase “work with” because it is work that you have to do together), I have done a lot of reading and talked to a lot of other parents. From all that reading and talking I’ve put together a simple list of tips that help parents work with their picky eaters.

 

Five tips for picky eaters

1. Senses –  Remember your picky eater child doesn’t just shovel food into their mouth. They smell the food, see the food, often touch the food. And don’t forget how some food sounds when it squishes, splats or hits the plate with a thud. I try to pay attention to how food triggers my picky eater’s senses. I know he prefers things that are cubed or in distinct pieces and can’t handle anything too mushy.

 

2. Shopping – For some of us, grocery store time is the only time we get alone. But make sure you take your picky eater grocery shopping so your child can see the food you are selecting. Not too many people really like mystery food that just appears on their plate.

IMG_6545

Cooking together helps

3. Cooking – It’s not possible in my house to have my kids help me with every dinner, but I try to get my children (all of them, because each of them is picky about one thing or another) involved in cooking. This is important for breakfast and lunch, too, not just dinner. But seeing how the food looks at the store, bringing it home and preparing it, watching it transform on the stovetop or in the oven, helps my children and many children, take that first bite at the table. Not only are they more familiar with the food but they are also proud of their creation.

 

 

 

4. Gardening – Just like grocery shopping, being there when the food is acquired can help many children try something new. Imagine how they might feel about a new food that they have grown and cared for from a tiny seed, watched it blossom and then produce its fruit – it’s like magic! That is how I encouraged my pickiest eater to try his first eggplant. Even a small home has space for some small fruit and vegetable plants.

5. Role model – You have to eat it yourself, too. It’s as simple as that. You can’t ask them to eat it if you’re not eating it, too.

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

Once you’ve started using these tips to work with your picky eater, don’t forget to keep track of the foods they’ve tried in your very own copy of My Food Notebook. And let us know what foods become favorites – or not.

Check out MORE tips for picky eaters here!

 

 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Picture Book Workshop and Manuscript Submission

In June, I attended a picture book workshop hosted by my local SCBWI chapter and led by editors Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. In addition to the picture book workshop, Harold and Eileen provided manuscript critiques and tips on revision.

I submitted my story Mission: Compostable! for critique. Harold gave generally positive critique and suggested I add some factual back matter to the story when I submit it to the several science publishers he recommended.

The workshop was really helpful for picture books but also in telling stories in novel format. And after this workshop, I finally took the plunge and submitted my novel manuscript (Dare Club) to the agents I had met at Pennwriters Conference in May. Wish me luck!

At the workshop, Harold brought up one of my favorite online fun-and-games tools – Wordle – and showed us how it could play a part in manuscript revision. Wordle creates a visual word map from the text you paste into the comment field. For a picture book, you could probably paste in the complete manuscript. I grabbed a few pages from my novel and pasted in the text. Here’s one result:

manuscript revision tool

The larger words are used more often. It would be really bad if your picture book manuscript had the word “said” as the largest word in the Wordle. I hope it’s a good sign that my main characters names’ are super-huge words. It’s funny (maybe in a worrisome way?) that the word “dare” is so small in the bottom-middle-left, in a faint grey color.

Harold and Eileen also suggested some great books for writers, including Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul and Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen, and Writing Picture Books for Children. I have yet to read them, but I do read lots of picture books night after night to my boys.

What fun revision techniques do you use on your manuscript?

What are your favorite books for writers about writing?

 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Tomboys or Sissies: Which do you want?

boys sculpture tomboys

My boys view Miro’s sculpture “The Caress of a Bird” described as a “totem of female sexuality.”

“I’m pretty sure my daughter will be a tomboy,” my friend, father of a nine-month old girl, proudly announced. I automatically smiled, because I think my friends would describe me as more tomboy than girly-girl. My sons are often surprised when I wear a dress. Because girly-girls wear dresses, right?

But then I started thinking about my three boys – and how the male equivalent of the word “tomboy” is not nearly as kind. If I said to another parent, “I’m pretty sure one of my boys will be a sissy!” I doubt they’d smile and congratulate me.

Books for Tomboys? Or Sporty Kids?

Recently I received an email from Kara Thom, the author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom announcing her new book series Go! Go! Sports Girls! The series really interested and excited me, but it also made me wonder what comparable series would be written for boys.

To be fair, Thom does state the series is for children – not just girls. And my boys willingly read books about boys and girls, so they’d probably love the books about soccer, swimming and running, three sports they really love. Here’s what Go! Go! Sports Girls! is about, according to Thom:

The 32-page illustrated books explore social-emotional growth through sport in engaging stories that empower children to “Dream Big and Go For It!” The titles are:

Soccer Girl Cassie’s Story: Teamwork is the Goal
Swimmer Girl Suzi’s Story: Winning Strokes
Runner Girl Ella’s Story: Family Fun Run
Gymnastics Girl Maya’s Story: Becoming Brave
Dancer Girl M.C.’s Story: One Step at a Time
Cheerleader Girl Roxy’s Story: Leading the Way

This project has been a passion for me as I raise three young athletic daughters, but also because I’m part of a movement to give girls better choices. Girls need more than the stereotypical options packaged in pink, as well as options other than over-sexualized toys such as Bratz, Monster High, and their ilk.

Go! Go! Sports Girls are age-appropriate, proportioned to a real girl’s body, project a positive image, and deliver a healthy message. The Go! Go! Sports Girls better reflect our family’s lifestyle and values. Girls play sports and so should their dolls. My daughters McKenna, Kendall, and Jocelyn have grown up playing with Go! Go! Sports Girls, and still do. I might add that my son, Blake, who has no concept that his mom is the author, is a fan of the books as well.

To be clear, I completely agree with Thom’s goal of motivating and inspiring young girls in a different way than lots of popular media representations of girls. But what about my boys? How can I encourage them to follow their interests and passions if those interests aren’t typical “boy” activities? And how come we don’t have a cool word for boys who act like girls? It’s so unfair that girls can be cool tomboys but boys acting like girls is labeled an insult.

I’ve been trying to come up with examples of behaviors that are frequently seen as feminine that I’d want my boys to feel free to adopt in a world without gender stereotypes. Maybe being more empathetic? I wasn’t sure that what I thought was feminine was feminine, by social standards. I found this on Planned Parenthood:

WORDS COMMONLY USED TO DESCRIBE FEMININITY
dependent
emotional
passive
sensitive
quiet
graceful
innocent
weak
flirtatious
nurturing
self-critical
soft
sexually submissive
accepting

I wasn’t really thrilled when I read some of the items on the list. Because I’m certainly not graceful or quiet. But I would totally love it if my boys learned to be quiet sometimes! Maybe that would be one of the books in my series about boys exploring new behaviors: Little Tommy Learns Not to Scream Every Word! I could get behind a book for boys focusing on that. But I’m not really thrilled about a lot of those qualities on the list. And I think that’s why lots of parents are proud of having ‘tomboys.’ But they wouldn’t love it if their boys were described as weak or passive.

To be fair, Planned Parenthood didn’t make that list to say how women should behave. They follow the lists with this:

“Clearly, society’s categories for what is masculine and feminine are unrealistic. They may not capture how we truly feel, how we behave, or how we define ourselves. All men have some so-called feminine traits, and all women have some so-called masculine traits. And we may show different traits at different times. Our cultures teach women and men to be the opposite of each other in many ways. The truth is that we are more alike than different.”

What could we write?

But I’m really serious in my question here! I’m all for tomboys and girly-girls doing what they love most. And I love that these books for girls are about social-emotional growth through sports (traditionally and still a heavily male arena) because sports and physical strength are a key part of my happiness.

What series of books could we write about boys embracing traditionally female activities for social emotional growth?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Characters are Fictional

The skeleton of a story.

The skeleton of a story.

I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure you’ve read it, I think everyone has. I really enjoyed the book, I almost loved it. I wanted to love it. But here’s what stopped me. At the very, very beginning of the book John Green asks us to remember the characters are fictional and the story is made up.

I wish he hadn’t done that.

I know why he did it, or I think I know why he did it, after I finished the entire story. It makes sense when you think about what he put his characters through in his story. But for readers like me, being reminded that the characters are fictional isn’t what I want. I want to believe in them, for the short time that I am living in their world. I want to be driven to go to the library with my friend and hunt through stacks of National Geographic magazines looking for photo credits for Robert Kincaid.

But being reminded of the characters are fictional definitely had me reading parts of this book as a writer, not just as a reader. It was very clear what the main character in the story wanted, and how she was in a knot. I was curious how the author would build the story, which is different than being curious about what the character would do. I never used to read like this. I would let my mind travel the path the author laid before me. Now I think about character arc and narrative structure and the internal struggle and the external struggle and the new normal. I feel like I’m dissecting dead things in a lab when that happens.

Was I reading passively before? Am I reading actively now? Is one more valuable or useful than the other?

An interesting point in The Fault in Our Stars stimulated some discussion with my husband and I’m still pondering the concept. One of the characters questions the idea that you need pain to feel joy because knowing how broccoli tastes has no impact on the wonderful taste of chocolate.

In the same author’s note at the beginning of the book, Green also asserts that remembering characters are fictional doesn’t mean they don’t matter. That even made-up stories have value, and that’s a foundational concept for our species.

I already believed that made-up stories mattered. I think some part of me, the part that most adults call childish or naive, always thinks that even the most outlandish stories are probably true sometime and somewhere. I just don’t want authors sticking their fingers in my face and saying, “remember, this is made up. Now try to love these people like they are real while you remember that.”

Just let me suspend my disbelief, for a little while! Let me drift along with your characters!

But I also want to write stories and write them well enough, that my special readers can’t help but love my characters as much as I do. So maybe I do need to start reading like a writer. Somehow I can’t help but feel a little sad at the thought of that. Is there any way to have it both ways?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

What’s Wrong with Cookies?

Have I gone too far? What’s wrong with cookies?

apple

The original temptation

Every Friday, our daycare hosts Cookie Friday. Kids who are old enough to eat and enjoy cookies know all about it and rush into the atrium to grab a cookie and munch it down on the way home. Sometimes they grab two cookies. Or three. Every Friday.

But two weeks ago I stopped in the office and suggested the daycare staff switch things up and offer Fruity Friday.

A handful of grapes, apple slices, a ripe red strawberry…doesn’t that sound delicious? And a lot healthier, right?

I think it’s a good idea but I wonder if I’ve gone too far. What’s wrong with cookies? Nothing if you only eat them every once in awhile. But I learned from a recent webinar from Action for Healthy Kids that small treats add up. For instance, “when a student receives just one mint per day…Over the course of the school year, that adds up to over 2 1⁄2 cups of additional sugar and 3,600 extra calories.”

The suggestion to change Cookie Friday to Fruity Friday is just part of my overall trend to support healthier choices for kids in all parts of my community. Earlier this winter I emailed our community soccer league about offering healthier snacks for sale in the snack bar. Why should our boys and girls follow excellent physical activity by consuming awful junk food like sugary Hugs drinks and ice cream bars?

And of course last week was the first ever Healthy Food Challenge at our elementary school. It was a huge hit in terms of participation and kids even showed me how they added fruits and vegetables to their lunches so they could vote. But I still saw lots of kids eating lunches from school and home that had no fruits or vegetables at all.

I believe good habits start early. And I think Fruit Friday is the foundation of a better habit than Cookie Friday. But I know some parents will disagree.

So what’s your opinion? Are you all for fruit? Or do you think what’s wrong with cookies? 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Writing Process Blog Tour

Last week I was invited to participate in a writing process blog tour by my friend Vanessa Bernard. Please check out her exciting writing!

As part of the blog tour I need to answer four questions about my writing process. Here we go:

1) What am I working on? For clients, I’m doing an annual report, a monthly newsletter, and a year-long marketing campaign. For myself I’m finishing a flash fiction story for a contest and trying to get my young adult novel whipped into shape (still) to submit to agents.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? My work for clients might include a little more humor than they would think to add. My fiction work usually includes strong mothers and characters who enjoy running.

3) Why do I write what I do? I write for clients to strengthen my professional skills and to make money to fund my fiction writing activities. I write fiction for the 14 year girl I once was.

4) How does my writing process work? An idea about a unique character in an awkward situation hits me while I am running. Or showering. Or sleeping. I jot it down on scrap paper or into a voice memo on my iPhone. I return to my laptop and capture it furiously while trying to tell my kids to “just wait a minute, Mom’s almost done. We’ll have dinner soon!”

There you have it. Next week you should visit my writing friends Melissa Firman at writer.reader.mom and Ceil K. at That’s All She Wrote for their perspectives on the writing process.

And now I’m heading out for a run!

 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.