Sticky Stuff 
I've been spending the morning ruminating over the difference between latex, resin, and sap (NOT as in, "He's such a sap!). No these things are, or were, the substances from which gum was made. Each term has different shade of meaning (e.g. latex is a milking white substance, sap is a fluid part of a plant, latex is a solid or semi-solid amorphous natural organic...). Okay, heard enough. I understand, completely! Anyway, as I write my revised chewing gum book I have been coming across these terms. So, the mastic chewed by the ancient Greeks was referred to as "resin." The fluid from the sapodilla tree that the Mayans chewed (now called chicle) is "latex." And, the spruce gum chewed by Native Americans, or course, is "sap."

My objective is to keep this book straightforward and simple and, thereby, readable for kids. So, I don't really want to get into the scientific details nor the subtleties of the terms. After much thought (too much, most likely), I think I'll use "sap" since it seems broader and includes the other terms.

Whew! Anybody for moving on?

p.s. What you've witnessed here is one of the many dilemmas faced by nonfiction authors around the planet on a daily basis. How much to include is a constant question, espcially when writing for kids. I always try to slip into my 10-year-old self (not much of a stretch most days) and consider what I would like to face on a page.

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Tech Update 
Iím flying along here, back to my writing Ė now a new and improved version of The Chewing Gum Book I did in 1989 Ė when I get this technology urge. I do my work on a laptop, and itís kind of old (a ďdinosaurĒ Iím told), so I start researching something new, which of course takes time away from THE IMPORTANT THING. Well, I find what Iím after: a desktop system so I have more finger room on the keyboard and a screen I donít have to scrunch to view, and I order. A week or so later the boxes arrive and I have a dilemma: take more time away from THE IMPORTANT THING to set it up or wait until I have time?

So, I wait and in the meantime, my cell phone (my only phone) starts to fade, and itís old (another ďdinosaurĒ Iím told) and so I stop by a kiosk at the mall and the next thing I know is Iíve got this phone called Droid and itís got every thing I need except a bed-maker and car wash. I take the phone home and start to explore it. Thatís when I realize that in my flying zeal I have flown too close to the sun, and now my waxed winds are melting and Iím losing altitude. Fast.

What the hell am I doing with this phone?! I donít need to text. I hate texting! My fingers are too big to fit the keypad so I have to type everything three times to get it right! And the internet? I already have access to it. Do I want to carry that access around with me 24/7? Not a chance! But what about finding my way, getting to stores and restaurants and the like? UhhhÖhave you ever heard of asking someone? You know, a real personÖhuman contact and all?

So, obviously I took the phone back and got a more modest one, which I may even be able to use if I open the box and read the directions. And, Iíll do that in time, after THE IMPORTANT THING is done.

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I'm still writing. "Me" writing. It's helping.

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Do the sresses, strains, and challenges of being alive get in way of writing? Not necessarily.

A week ago my dog passed away. Sombra, my 15-year-old border collie mix, was a loyal friend and constant companion. She died at home, surrounded by love.

The experience of her passing did not diminish my writing efforts. It diverted them. Instead of working on the varied projects in which I am involved, I wrote for myself. The audience was me; the purpose: understanding. By writing my observations, thoughts, and feelings I have been better able to make sense of this loss. I have been able to put into words the gifts I received from this special creature. As I work further, I hope to focus on the lessons I've learned and, better yet, put them into practice as I continue my journey on this planet.

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And don't think think for a moment that writing matters have taken a backseat to teaching matters. They haven't. I have been working hard to find a home for a picture book bio I wrote about A.C. Gilbert, an amazing and inspiring man. Well, I think that is coming to fruition through a deal with Discover Writing Press.

While this press produces mainly books for teachers, they do have some children's books as well. I will be honored to have mine join the list. But, of course, there's lots of work to do to. I'll be involved at all levels, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Don't worry, you'll hear about them all. In the meantime, Google A.C. Gilbert and you'll see why kids should know about this eclectic and innovative man.

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Please Remove Hats! 
Hats off to the hardworking teachers who extend their long days of teaching kids to take classes and attend workshops! I am having the pleasure of working with teachers in the Springfield (OR) district, focusing on tools for writing success and on nonfiction writing.

I am amazed and humbled by the teachers with whom I have been working. They are interested, engaged, and collaborative. Best of all, they are motivated to help their students become better writers.

There is no limit to what these folks can come up with. I have already seen the evidence of them taking a germ of an idea and developing it into an actual lesson that will work with their kids. Many more results will be shared when the group meets again. Can't wait!

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Marching On 
Progress has been made. Hurrah! I was able to get in the groove with the online class, break big tasks into smaller parts, and get things moving forward.

An important tenet of writing is to break it down into smaller bits, whether they be chapters, pages, paragraphs, or sentences. That, along with having an overall plan, can be very helpful in completing projects.

This is not to say that the online class is finished. It has to be reviewed by the University of Oregon, and I'm fairly certain changes will need to be made. But, the major work has been done.

Same with the Nonfiction Toolbox book. We are now working on the cover art, trying to decide what the "look" will be. Eight different possibilities so far, but we're getting closer. Everything else is moving along well.

In case you're wondering, I have not forgotten about the screenplay I started exploring. I still think about it, and that's part of the writing process. Its time will come.

Off to work!

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And on and on and on... 

Yes, the online course creation continues, and I often feel like I am drowning in details of an organizational nature. My nose is to the grindstone, and it's bleeding.

What's important to remember (and I may be just saying this for myself to hear) is to focus on the process, not the product. Also, and maybe more importantly, when it seems overwhelming, lower your standards and move on.

Kurt Vonnegut, a favorite author of mine, once said: "If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind."

Hi ho.

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Okay, so things don't always go as planned. I am still working on developing screenwriting skills, and I continue to market some of my finished materials. But, most of my time these days is being spent on creating an online course for the University of Oregon. This will be a six-week course called Student Success in Writing: A Six Traits Approach.

Dang, it's a lot of work. I am distilling the work I have done for the past seven years around the traits, including creating kid-centered information, biblio, and book activities for each trait. It will be good when it's done because I will have a great resource for the classes I teach, but right now it's a huge amount of detailed toil. It is going well, though, and I hope to finish it by the fall. The course will be available winter term, if the winds are fair.

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More Class 
Teaching the classes is just one step of the process. There's also the follow-up, which in this case, involves reading the work done by the participants taking the class for credit.

It's enjoyable reading the plans people make to enhance the use of nonfiction in their classrooms. What's particularly interesting, and gratifying too, is seeing how adept teachers are at taking an idea and making it better. While I'd like to think that all my ideas, strategies, and activities are perfect for all to use, I'm not under any illusion that they are. So, it's fun to see how they get adapted and improved to fit indiviuals.

Great job, teachers! I hope you'll share your work with your colleagues. Then they can adapt it for their classes. And on and on.

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