Sunday, February 26, 2012

Affect v. Effect

            True Confession of an English teacher with a master’s degree: Affect v. Effect makes me go Arrrrrrgh!  They are two truly evil twins of the homophone family that never cease to give me the cringies when compelled to teach.
            Here’s the deal:  Affect should be a verb and Effect should be a noun.  But Noooooo!   Effect has to be stubbornly peevish and fill in for a verb meaning "to bring about."  Example: Some say greenhouse emissions have effected a change in the environment. 
            I rue the day when I attempt to explain this horrible little truth to my middle school students and see that lost, fazed, clueless look on their faces as if to say Why have you abandoned us, Ms. Dana, and taken all literacy logic, common sense, and rules with you?  That’s when I drop the big grammar bomb akin to Santa Claus isn’t real: The English language is rife with counterintuitive, subversive, pesky little deviants, as I sheepishly write the following on the board:
            Example: Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present! 
            And this is where the true confession part comes in.  Sometimes I have to think about affect v. effect.  Because that thorny little exception to the rule trips me up, too.  That’s when I pull out the extra worksheets and have a little intervention, remediation session with myself until I’ve mastered proficiency.  Resulting outcome - The affect of effect affects me ineffectually, thereby effecting ill-affected affection effective immediately. 

            Take that, English Grammar Zombie Goblin Boogeyman!!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cheerage Fearage Release Date...

March 27th...Get Ready to Fly High and DIE...Winner of Writers Digest YA Literary Competition...Published by Wild Child Publishing.

Blog Zone Interview with Author Susanna Hill

        Today we have author, Susanna Hill with us.  Great to have you here, Susanna!

        Q)  When did you start writing?  What keeps you going? 

        A)  I started writing when I was 4.  I have always loved words, and language, and stories.  I write because I can’t not write.  I keep going because there is always another story to tell, a feeling to express, a moment to share.

Q)  What was your most encouraging moment as an author?

A)  Certainly one of them has to have been the first call I got with an offer from an editor to publish my book.  It was encouraging.  It was validating.  It was totally awesome J

Q)  What was your most discouraging moment as an author?

A)  Rejection letters are often discouraging, and you keep right on getting them even if you’re published.  I’ve been lucky so far with big reviewers like SLJ and Book List, but I’ve had some very unpleasant, disheartening reviews on GoodReads and LibraryThing.  Those are undeniably discouraging.

Q)  What’s your antidote to writer’s block?

A)  My antidote to writer’s block is writing.  Something.  Anything.  It doesn’t have to be the thing I’m stuck on, but I have to write something every day.  A lot of times, just writing will loosen the block.  You can also sometimes head it off at the pass by stopping the night before at a place where you know what you want to say next.  Jot a few notes so you don’t forget, and then you’re ready to go the next time you sit down to write. 

Q) Describe the typical writing day:

A) Typical!  That’s funny J  Although writing is my full-time occupation (besides being a mom) no two days ever seem much alike.  But I try to write new stuff in the morning when I’m fresh, and edit or revise, or do other writing-related tasks in the afternoon.

Q)  From where do you draw your inspiration?

A) Inspiration is all around.  But I get most of mine from things I’ve experienced, or from things my children did or said or experienced or were interested in.

 Q)  Tell us about your latest book:

A)  My most recent book is April Fool, Phyllis!  It stars Punxsutawney Phyllis of Groundhog Day fame.  It is April Fools’ Day, and everyone is ready for the big treasure hunt.  Phyllis warns that a blizzard is coming, but no one believes her.  April Fools jokes get played, there are riddles to solve on the treasure hunt, and information about April Fools Day around the world is appended at the back.  Lots of fun J

Q)  What author have you been most influenced by? 

A)  You know, I really don’t have an answer to that question.  I read widely in picture books and have for many years.  There are many authors whose work I admire.  But I’m not sure I could pick one to say I was influenced.

Thank you so much for having me, Kimberly.  It was a pleasure to visit!

Thanks for visiting.  Please enjoy and comment. 


Author Bio: Susanna Leonard Hill is the author of a number of books for children including Punxsutawney Phyllis (a Book Sense Children's Pick and an Amelia Bloomer Feminist Books for Youth pick), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild Selection), and Not Yet, Rose (winner of a Gold Mom’s Choice Award.) She loves visiting schools and libraries and sharing reading and writing with kids. Although at age 3 she planned to drive a steamroller, she has since discovered that writing is what she really wants to do. She loves horses and dogs and has a weakness for oatmeal raisin cookies and good chick flicks - separately or in combination :) She is an avid reader and, in addition to books for adults, a big fan of picture books and YA.  Her most recent title is April Fool, Phyllis!, released in March 2011 from Holiday House. Please visit her website at, her blog at and "Like" Susanna Leonard Hill on Face Book!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review on Newsblaze by Nadia Brown

Using Fiction to Teach Empathy

        Bullying.  We hear about it a lot these days.  But today’s bully isn’t the big, burly boy on the playground shouting, “Cooties!” and looting lunches.  Today’s bully comes in a much more furtive form – often a skirt and pigtails.  Turns out sugar and spice and everything nice isn’t always what little girls are made of.  Girl bullies are common, covert, and too often cruel.  As a middle school teacher, I can’t count the number of times I’ve consoled sobbing girls who have been victimized by insidious, socially paralyzing tactics: “So-and-so called me a (four-letter word for promiscuous), told me I get my clothes at Goodwill, created a I-Hate-(Facebook) Page about me.”  And the list goes on….With the Internet as the perfect, covert dispatching medium, the Mean Girl Renaissance is in full swing. 

        Alas, the indisputable truth is both girls and boys bully and the emotional scars can last a lifetime. So why are kids so mean and what is the answer?  I maintain that empathy is the biggest defense against bullying.  We need to educate our students at a young age that being mean to others is not just part of growing up, is not normal, and is not okay.  If empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – is our preventative armor, then books can be our magic bullets.  By relating to fictional characters who are the underdog or being treated unfairly, students are given the tools to self-reflect: Am I being mean?  Am I hurting someone else’s feelings?  If I make fun of my neighbor’s shoes or hair, how will it really make them feel?  By analyzing character, we build character and create a common respectful classroom culture in the interim. 

        Now I know what all the teachers are thinking because I think it too…why should we teach kids to care along with all the other things we are expected to teach?  Is fostering an empathetic classroom really of value when we are assessed on our standardized test scores?  Is it really our job to teach (gasp) morality? 

        A resounding YES!  Empathy, tolerance, and respect are not just throwaway words.  Creating an environment that is caring and safe should be as paramount as learning the story elements of plot, character, setting, and conflict.  Aha! – and here comes the real justification.  What’s greater on Bloom’s Taxonomy than making thematic connections and evaluating different points of view?  By using fiction to connect, self-reflect, and evaluate one’s treatment of others, we are not only teaching higher thinking skills, we are ensuring an environment that’s emotionally healthy for every student.  Now that’s truly leaving No Child Left Behind. 

Article copied with permission from Blogging Authors, February 8, 2012.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Author Interview on Goodreads by Maria Savva

Author Interview with Cassandra Ulrich

Today's author interview is with Cassandra Ulrich.  Great to have you here, Cassandra!

Q) When did you start writing?  What keeps you going? 

A) I started writing in grade school, but I started my first YA novel in 2008.  The love of creating more stories.

Q) What was your most encouraging moment as an author? 

A) When I hear how much people enjoy my book and/or are being helped in some way by the story I wrote.

Q) What was your most discouraging moment as an author?

A) When I don’t hear from a publisher whether I’ve been rejected.  There’s just silence, so I move on.

Q) What’s your antidote to writer’s block? 

A) Music and movies. Getting lost in someone else’s world sometimes help to jump-start new ideas.

Q) Describe the typical writing day. 

A) Because I work at a technical job during the day, my writing takes place mostly at night and weekends.  If I get an idea during the workday, I quickly write it down so I can type on the computer that evening or whenever I get a chance.  Most of my ideas end up on paper first.

Q) From where do you draw your inspiration? 

A) My experience and the world around me. I enjoy learning what makes people do what they do through observation and then twisting the catalysts just a bit.

Q) Tell us about your latest book.

A) A Beautiful Girl is a fictional story about a seventeen year old girl who has an abusive step-father and the boy she meets at school who helps her.  It’s an inspirational book of hope and courage.                                                                                                               

Q) What author have you been most influenced by? 

A) I love the books by Barb and J.C. Hendee and the way they draw the reader into the lives of the characters and the fight scenes.                                                                                           

Thanks for visiting.  Please enjoy and comment.