September 2015 Archives

Knowing is not enough we

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Are List Serves a Service or a Waste of Time?

bird on a wire.JPG

The answer--depends how you use them.

Yes, you can be signed up for too many, or for ones that don't really fit your needs or interests. Or you can waste your time reading and talking too much or on off-topics. (Much of this applies to Facebook pages or groups as well.)

However, I believe that used judiciously, list serves can be useful. There are one-way list serves--basically announcements that provide information. And two-way list serves, which are
online communities. I'm addressing the latter here. Writing (or illustrating) is mostly a solitary activity. Meeting with other creative face to face isn't always possible, but a list serve can be a good substitute.

Let's talk about several ways people are involved.


All this means is that people are reading, but not participating in the conversation. They don't comment, nor start new topics, nor share good and bad news. We call them "lurkers." Does this mean they can't get anything out of the posts? Of course not. They can glean lots of information from what others are saying. But...if they have a question and don't ask it on the list serve, how will they get it answered?

One of my friends had been lurking on a list serve and because I "out"ed that she was there (she had invited me to it), she decided she'd better introduce herself. Nervously, she wrote a post of intro and commented on a topic that the group had been discussing. She asked me to look over her post before she sent it. "Is it okay?" she asked. "Definitely," I told her. "Go ahead and post." She did, and guess who commented?! Andy Boyles of Highlights. Just by making an intelligent comment on a list serve she had a short conversation with an editor.


Posting means participating in the conversation. It can include sharing information from good articles or tips you've read, links to resources and events, your own posts on a topic from your blog or on a website, information about the publishing industry, etc. It's a place to ask and answer questions, get opinions or quick feedback, find potential critique partners, learn about opportunities, meet people, and make friends.

List Serve Etiquette

Although on many list serves you are welcome to share about yourself and your successes, on no list serve should your posts be all about you. Remember that word conversation. Don't shout about "me, me, me." Instead, engage others by rejoicing with their successes, commiserating when appropriate, etc. Ask and answer questions.

Never attack someone. (Also known as flaming.) If you disagree with something, be polite when expressing yourself. Don't participate in a long and involved argument; simply state your opinion and move on.

Never make rude comments about another children's writer or illustrator, editor or agent. Yes, sometimes we gripe in general about a situation, but don't make libelous statements. You also don't want to create an overall view of yourself as a complainer. As Thumper says, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." You'll stay out of a lot of trouble by following that little rule.

If you want to share someone's words/thoughts from a post on a list serve, ask the author's permission. It's fine to share links.

When replying, don't quote the whole message you are responding to (and definitely not a whole digest).

If you want to start a new conversation, start a new topic instead of commenting on a previous topic. A back and forth conversation is called a thread. Basically, it's good to keep the same thread under one subject heading.

It's nice to sign your name. Some lists will ask you to post your email address as well.

Be gracious. People will make mistakes, including you.

Types of Groups

Groups are hosted by a provider, such as Yahoo or Google. They can be open or closed. An open group is one anyone can join. Closed groups are often invitation only, or the person desiring to join must be approved by a moderator. Groups can be by location, genre, organization, work group, or any limitation or category someone dreams up.

How List Serves Commonly Work

Most list serves can be used in three ways:
• Individual emails to your inbox each time someone posts
• Daily digests - a collection of the days posts with headings emailed to your inbox
• Reading posts online

It's usual to be able to reply to posts via email, to the sender directly, to the whole group or online. Starting a new topic can be done online or by sending an email to the list serves email address.

Some list serves have moderated posts, which can either be someone approving posts before they go "live" or someone who just watches out for problems.

It's also usually easy to unsubscribe from a list that no longer meets your needs.

Why I Use List Serves

I use them for community, for staying in touch with people I don't see often, for help and information, and have even gotten job leads.

I'd be interested in hearing what others think about this topic.

(bird on a wire picture courtesy of

Cant imagine sitting with a

Can't imagine sitting with a group of strangers and reading your manuscript aloud? It should be harder to imagine sending an untried, unedited, unrevised bit of your soul out on submission!
Jenn Bailey

El Deafo

ElDeafo.jpgI loved the graphic novel El Deafo (Amulet Books, 2014) by Cece Bell. Based on her own childhood, four-year-old Cece becomes ill and loses her hearing. The story outlines kindergarten through fifth grade showing Cece's struggles and accomplishments. I can relate to Cece's shyness as a child, and felt so sympathetic for her and rejoiced when . . . well, I don't want to spoil the end if you haven't read it. Here's a book trailer with Cece herself talking about El Deafo.

I believe this story is important for kids to read to not only help them understand better how to deal with someone who is hearing impaired, but to learn that differences can be "superpowers" as Cece says. I'm not the only one who thinks it is important as the book is a 2015 Newbery Honor book! On the publisher's site you can read all kinds of great reviews. Here's an article about Cece and how she made the book, too.

Author/Illustrator Cece Bell has written and illustrated other books. See details here.

Truth isnt stranger than fiction

Truth isn't stranger than fiction (unless you haven't read very much fiction), but it often has too many coincidences for fiction.
Jay Asher


Nightsong.jpgNightsong (Simon and Schuster, 2012) by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long is a lovely picture book. The rhythm of the language, the pictures, they meld together to tell a good story of leaving home and coming back again. It shows how a young bat "sees" at night. Each time I read it, I'm left with a smile on my face.

Author Ari Berk has written numerous other books. Go to his website to check them out. Mr. Berk is also an illustrator and shares a sketchbook online.

Illustrator Loren Long also writes and illustrates his own books as well as illustrating others books. Read about him here. And if you'd like to read a tearjerker story about Loren's dad, go here.

On My Way to Buy Eggs

onmywaytobuyeggs.jpgI love this simple, but sweet picture book On My Way to Buy Eggs (Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2003) by writer/illustrator Chih-Yuan Chen. Shau-yu is sent to the store to buy eggs. She has simple adventures as she enjoys pretending along the way. The book has a nice mixture of diversity and universal feelings.

I really like how the artist has let us see what Shau-yu is seeing, first through the blue marble, then through the glasses. I also like the use of shadows. Both of these you'll have to look inside the book to enjoy.

On My Way to Buy Eggs was named a Best Children's Book by Publishers Weekly.

Chih-Yuan Chen has illustrated and written The Featherless Chicken, Guji Guji (a story about a crocoduck), Best Christmas Ever, and Artie and Julie--all of which have been translated into English and Spanish, as On My Way to Buy Eggs has been. He also illustrated Mimi Says No and Mimi Loves to Mimic. Several of the books have also been translated into German and French.

You have to love writing

You have to love writing, but more importantly, you have to love learning to write better.
Jim Averback