Tag Archives: learning

POV shift: I moved to an island.

A hiking trail near my new house

A hiking trail near my new house

A month ago, my family moved from Orange County’s endless summer to a small(ish) island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

It’s the beginning of summer, and the weather has been sunny and warm, so climate-wise, not much of a shift. But that’s only the climate. Every other aspect of our lives has changed; (one might expect more blog posts, given the circumstances). I’ll try to explain why I haven’t been more “splain-y.”

My children are at Wizard Camp today, in the woods, in the pouring rain. They are beyond thrilled. Subjected to hot, sunny, blue-sky day, after blue sky day, after blue sky day all their wee lives, today’s downpour has been nothing short of a miracle. (The cat and dog disagree.)

I haven’t written (a blog post) or worked on my summer plan for a four-part novella because I’ve been stuck. Oh, it isn’t writer’s block, quite the opposite. So much new-ness is like a walking around with a microscope in front of my face. Every facet of our new world is fascinating, different, worthy of examination. I’m stacking up ideas for stories (which may or may not be interesting to anyone but me.)

I am in love with this place, and with that love comes the fear of the unknown, the hopes for what could be, the doubtful vigilance for any potential heartbreak.

I think the primary obstacle blocking my ability to write a draft of my thoroughly outlined novella is that it represents a past, a past I’m ready to leave behind. But it also leaves me wide open to the unknown, an unknown threatening to grow in size. Our new house is far from ready–we’ve contracted extensive renovations and are living in a less-than-ideal rental until our house is complete. Anyone who’s ever dared to renovate knows deadlines are to be laughed at, ignored. Life will always throw curveballs, the only thing we can really count on is change (and taxes and death. And cute shoes. Always count on cute shoes.)

It’s time for this writer to give up fear in favor of wordcount. So here I am, today, writing the following as my commitment:

I love my new life. I cherish where I’ve been and I am ready to say good-bye. I welcome whatever is before me. The motivated, creative, compassionate writer is awake in me. It is time to write.

 

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Filed under For the love of writing

4 Fun Tips for Inspiring Children to Read & Write Stories

Words are the foundation of any great story. Whether eloquent, blunt, allusive or rudimentary, words are the playthings of those new to the alphabet and MFA students alike.

photo by David Browning

I have two children, ages 5 and 7; both alphabet aficionados and no strangers to playthings. Like any book nerd, I do my best to feed their literary minds-in-training, beginning with picture books, and moving onto chapter books. I’ve had success; they can’t go—won’t go—to bed without bedtime stories, no matter the hour or my exhaustion. But I want them to love books, and—dare I dream?—writing, as much as I do. I figure my best hope is to reveal the magic of words.

  1. The Word Hunt: I picked up a book about palindromes
    and quite unexpectedly, ignited unbridled excitement for this surprising word configuration. Most children are intrigued by puzzles, and even early and pre-readers can get in on the action. Have your child scan the patterns of letters comprising a sentence; if they find a word or series of words that reads the same forward and backward, it’s a palindrome! Once my kids got the hang of it, they would spontaneously shout from the back seat of the car if they overheard me using a palindrome while talking to my husband up front. (*note: kids listen to everything you say. The only words which fall on deaf ears are your instructions and/or rules.)
  2. Compound words: My kindergartner is always on the lookout <<see? for two words glued at the middle to create a new word. Again, strong reading isn’t necessary to begin, but do point out compound words when you come across them in a book, or on signs and buildings during car rides. The one who finds the most compound words wins! (Note, my older son prefers instead to find words with prefixes and suffixes. My kindergartner doesn’t get this concept yet. To each his own.)
  3. Synonyms: This is another game we play in car or the grocery store, or anytime I need to keep the boys occupied. Choose a word they really like, and have them think of as many synonyms for it as they can. (Mistakes will happen—they will rhyme, for instance, or come up with a homonym without knowing it, but that’s fun too!) My children have a giggly blast thinking up synonyms for vomit, I regret to admit. Whatever it takes.
  4. The Human Condition: As a small child, I used to think stories were merely series of events. I didn’t think much about character  motivation, but understanding why a character responds one way or another when faced with conflict is essential. For young kids, character motivation can be taught simply by getting on the floor with them and asking questions during imaginative play.
    My boys have a Fisher Price jungle toy with an orienteering type action figure we’ll call Hemingway and a bucket of miniature animal figurines. They wanted to play a game where the Hemingway character searches for lost gold treasure in the jungle, and another action figure was to assume the role of “bad guy.” Awesome, we have the beginning of a plot.
    I asked the boys, “How will Hemingway find the treasure?”
    Boys: “The animals in the jungle are his friends! And they know where the treasure is!”
    I love their positive outlook, but here is the moment when an OK story gains momentum—with character motivation.
    Me: “How did the animals become his friend?”
    Boys: (thinking I’m crazy but trying to come up with a reason) “…he helped them find the baby tiger when she was lost and brought her back to her mommy?”
    To gain a clearer vision of the animals’ friendship and desire to help Hemingway find gold, we acted it out. We hid the baby tiger, the Hemingway action figure was posed through many heroic and dangerous stunts to save her, all the while the rest of the animals in the jungle fretted and cried out for the lost baby. Such gloom and doom among the animal kingdom, when wait! Hemingway returns with baby, safe and sound! The tiger mommy and daddy are forever grateful and vow to help whenever they’re needed. At the tiger’s homecoming celebration, my sons got the idea that the animals tell Hemingway about the bad guy hunting them. This was fantastic, because it added another stake to the race to find the gold, and further invests the animals in helping Hemingwat achieve his goal and overcoming the bad guy/hunter.

Create a balance of fostering independence while demonstrating interest in their activities by asking questions and brainstorming ideas. Throw your own palindromes, synonyms and compound words into the ring. Most importantly, have fun and laugh. Words are for play!

What games or techniques have you used to inspire a love of words in your children?

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What Was Your Childhood Dream? Dare to Let Go And Grow

Three decades stand between me and a little wish I’d had a child.

For most little girls, ballet tutus hold an inescapable allure, swishing like a soft summer breeze over long grass, impossibly layered mille-feuille, delicate and delicious.

I wanted one.

And the leotard, and the tights, and the little pink slippers. I suppose if I were to dig below the surface, I also longed for both the spotlight and the validation of appearing as gracefully weightless as the tutu itself.

I had it all, for a fleeting moment. As a preschooler, I attended a pre-ballet dance class in the basement of a church. I wore a silky white ribbon around my waist, while the “older” girls–kindergartners–wore identical ribbons, but theirs secured miniature tutus around their tiny five-year-old midsections. I begged to continue with ballet but eventually found myself on swim and softball teams.

I never gave up my dream of dance. The forest beyond our backyard became my woodland stage. Leaping about in secret, I metamorphosed into Sugar Plum Fairy, nymph or sprite, as delicate and sparkling as a drop of dew upon a leaf, as radiant and welcome as sunlight through a lush canopy. My play-clothes were transformed in my imagination to an intricate tangle of sequins and flowers, my body a lithe sapling hoisted easily for aerial arabesques. I would hum the Nutcracker Suite, Flight of the Bumblebee, or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

In fifth grade my best friend, a tall willowy girl, began to study ballet in earnest. I drew up a rather official-looking agreement and attendance record and urged her to sign. After her Saturday ballet class, we would meet at her house and she would teach me everything she’d learned in class that day. I was a demanding student, wringing from her more knowledge and experience than she had at her disposal. The agreement lasted only one afternoon.

In sixth grade, a woman’s body replaced the potato shaped pre-teen form I’d hidden under sweats. I shuddered at the very thought of any public appearance in a leotard and gave up the dream of ever attending ballet class.

In my bed concealed by sheets and blankets, I laid on my back, pointing my toes as hard as I could, touching the tips to the mattress, contracting my leg muscles, “turning out” at the hip flexor. When out of sight of others, I’d tip-toe as softly as possible, toes pointed out, ankles up to increase foot strength, holding my hands as though tiny butterfly wings. I wanted to be ready.

In college, a beginning ballet class beckoned me from the course catalog. For a moment I glimpsed the possibility of touring with a dance troupe with seasoned dancers. But who begins learning ballet at 19, I contended.

I declined to allow myself the pleasure of merely learning.

Nearly 20 years later, I’m committing more time to caring for myself now that my two children are both in school. So I signed up for a beginning ballet class. After all, I’m finally writing my first novel, a long-held dream that won’t let go until I’ve met my goal. Why not dance as well?

That first class reduced me to my five-year-old self. Inside my chest, a small fire lit, and I happily moved my feet from position to position as though I were back in the woods behind my home. I gladly flexed onto tiptoes and plied with gratitude. I can do this, I whispered to myself.

After class, the instructor asked me again, “Certainly you’ve had dance experience. As a child, perhaps?”

Flushed with endorphins and giddy disbelief, hope is renewed in me.

Passion is always present, available, and laughs at age, the most irrelevant variable. Having begun at last to dance has awakened in me both confidence and curiosity to try other things for the first time. I dare you to live your childhood dream, if only for an hour, as I did.

Comment with your experience—I want to hear from you!

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Filed under For the love of writing, Short stories, Your highest potential

10 Life Lessons from Syndicated Writer, Author, Teacher and Chef Monica Bhide

This must-read guest post comes from the impressive and always lovable Monica Bhide, author of three cookbooks, the blog A Life of Spice and syndicated columnist of SEASONINGS, distributed by the  Scripps Howard News Media to over 300 news outlets.

In addition to her writing, Monica owns and operates her own cooking school, which has been featured in Bon Appetit. She also teaches sold-out food writing classes. From where I write, her list is bittersweet and ironic.  She is living a successful, highly admirable and inspirational life. Yet, like all of us, she wrestles with her own personal obstacles. I am awed by her journey, and respectfully share her words below.

Once upon a story: What Monica Bhide has learned this year.

2010 has been a year of great learning for me; Every belief I have held that has been near and dear to my heart has been challenged. I think I have said, “It is not all black and white,” more times this year than,  “Kids, clean your room.”

I have struggled with many issues, with some people and sometimes against the Universe. As I sit here this morning and think of goals for 2011, it occurs to me that I cannot really write them until and unless I write down what I learned last year that I can apply to this new coming year:

1. It isnt the Universe that loses faith in us: When things go wrong, I, at least personally, have a tendency to look at the Universe and ask, “What’s up?” But I realized this year that I am asking the wrong question. It isn’t the Universe that loses faith in me, I lose faith in the Universe. Unless I believe that the Universe is conspiring for me, it isn’t.

2. Talent on its own is worthless: I teach writing classes, I have a ton of writer friends, I am surrounded by many people who have exceeded their own expectations and many who have not. I have said this repeatedly and I say it again: talent alone is worthless. With out the commitment behind it, talent will get you nowhere and fast.

3. People are just that: people. Good or bad is our judgement: After a year of dealing with someone who has been particularly difficult on my ego, I kept thinking why this person was doing what they were doing. I could not, for the life of me, understand. How had I harmed them? What had I done to them? And then I realized, thanks to my husband’s insight, that it really isn’t about me at all. It is all about them. People’s judgements and their opinions reflect them. I cannot allow myself to become a reflection of someone else’s opinion about me.

4. All-in-ness: People who succeed in what they do are all committed to it. ALL IN. No second thoughts, no second guessing, no beating yourself up over mistakes, no allowing others to beat you up. It is a singlemindedness that provides razor sharp focus. And guess that? What ever we focus on grows. (Apply this to all areas of life, not just work).

5. True friends are a rare breed: Love them.

6. Social Media is here to stay: I have to say this was the hardest. Sitting on my couch, reading how other people are traveling with world, while I nurse an injured eye, or some other great feat that people were performing, was very hard. I kept thinking I need to do more, needed to do something different. And then Shauna Ahern posted something earlier this year that really hit home and I am paraphrasing here – Why are so many people focused on becoming instead of just being. Now my goal is that – to be who I am, in spirit and in word.

7. Be true to your passion: For work, the only master you have to please is your passion. It will fuel all else. If you try to please anyone else – the critic, the editor, the reader, the friend, the so-called-friend, the ego… anyone else… you will fail. I guarantee it.

8. Love and opportunities abound: This is a very abundant Universe. There is so much warmth, passion, so much love and abundance. We get what we ask for. Think about it. And the best way to gain abundance is to share yours. Freely.

9. When you least expect it, life will intervene: Deaths, job losses, health issues… we all have them. We all face them and we all will get through them.

10. When you least expect it, the Universe intervenes: Readers write in with great comments,  you meet your hero, you discover a new writer who will change your life, your friends rally around you, and you believe again that the Universe, indeed, conspires for you.

This is what I will be thinking of as I set my goals for next year. What will you do? Tell me what you have learned? I would love to learn from you.

If you would like to reach Monica Bhide, or simply want to be humbled (or just have the excuse to say, “wow”)  read Monica’s bio .

Monica’s Cookbooks:

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, For the love of writing, Guest posts, Who is Writing What?

14 Rocking Good NaNoWriMo Tips

With an entirely out-of-control outline tipping the scales at over 12,000 words, I dove headfirst this fine November 1st on a journey to make a messy manuscript my own personal heaven. Yes,  I wrote fast and furiously, throwing editing, self-censorship and occasionally good taste out the window.

I loved every minute of it.

I wish I could remember who tweeted it this morning, but a fellow Tweep/WriMo commented that NaNoWriMo feels “like Christmas.” I heartily agree. The process of opening an unbridled vein of creativity (even armed with a well-thought-out outline like mine) is a.) the ultimate gift to yourself; b.) an awe-inspiring opportunity to uncover moments of genius you didn’t even see coming; and c.) an universal gathering of all creation called to do what we  are created to do: create.

(Follow me on Twitter @RebeccaLacko. Buddy up with me on NaNoWriMo.org–my username is RJL.)

Ready? Get ready to rock National Novel Writing Month with these tips from saucy (and often profane–you’ve  been warned) author Chuck Wendig at the terribly fabulous Terrible Minds:

Do Make Discipline Your Takeaway

You want to know how most writers fuck up? Seriously, here it is — the fatal flaw of the writer: we are lazy no-goodniks, forever hopping from project to project. We’re like meth addicts, our dopamine centers blown to ragged tatters, forever in search of the next high. Except, writing can’t be about the high. It can’t be about that one great day of word count. It also has to be about all the shitty ones. What NaNoWriMo will give you is discipline: the ability to staple-gun your shit-can to a chair every single day and pound the keyboard the same way a beat cop pounds pavement. It can’t get done unless it gets done.

Do Not Believe That Haste Is A Critical Ingredient To Your Word Soup

And yet, NaNoWriMo sets a very arbitrary pace: 50k in 30 days, or ~1,667 words per day. It’s certainly doable — I tend to write 2-3k a day. But I was only able to do that steadily after years of freelancing, and that’s when I have a deadline (and money) waiting at the end. Writing a novel can be a different creature, and it isn’t so easily boxed into the same schedule. Most novels I’ve written took me about three months to write from start to finish — still not a bad stretch of time, but certainly not 30 days. So, if you find that NaNoWriMo’s pace doesn’t fit your own — then stop caring about NaNoWriMo, and start caring only about the novel. Your goal is the novel. Your goal is not to “win” an Internet experiment-slash-experience. If you need three months, take ‘em. If you need six, take ‘em. If you need eight… well, let’s try for six, okay?

Do Take Time To Smell The Word Count (And Do A Little Planning)

Writing isn’t about writing. It’s a misnomer — a myth. The actual writing, meaning the pen-to-paper fingers-to-keyboard part, actually comprises a very small portion of the writer’s life. So much else exists between those spaces: planning, marketing, selling, rewriting, editing, researching, and so forth. Assuming that NaNoWriMo is very much about a taste of the job and the life, then for yourself and for the novel I’d recommend taking time in your day away from the writing to concentrate on some other elements. Hit your word count mark for the day, then attend to other matters your novel may require. Put your back into a little planning for tomorrow’s word count. Start writing up a sample query letter and treatment to keep yourself on task. Do up some character notes. Think in beats, scenes, sequences, acts. Then, when all that is said and done? Sit back, relax, and enjoy what you have accomplished so far. Take pride. Eat candy.

Don’t Stop Writing, Neither For Hell Nor High Water

And yet, despite this side prep, don’t stop writing. Writers can easily get lost in the prep. Lift your head from the murk! Clear your brain of the crazy bees. And always, forever anon, sit your ass down and write. This novel isn’t going to write itself. Unless it is? And if it is, then you need to tell me where you bought that awesome novel-writing robot. I seek to purchase a clone of NovelBot for a hefty sum. And if NovelBot one day goes nuclear and attacks the United States, I reserve the right to scowl at you. I’d sue you, but it won’t matter, because the entire infrastructure of our country — the legal system included — will be surely defunct thanks to the cruel reign of the word-crunching NovelBot. Damn you, robot.

Do The Work, And Realize That It Is, Indeed, Work

Surrounding NaNoWriMo is an existing giddiness, an airy and intrepid spirit — and that’s a good thing. Yes. Have fun with it. Smile now, you poor bastards because you may not be so giggly and gassy after two weeks have gone by. The reality is, writing is work. Like, work-work. It can at times be as exacting and punishing as dentistry, and sometimes you might feel like you’re a Chilean miner trapped in the deepest, darkest earth. This is, contrary to how it feels, a really good revelation. If you go into this thinking that writing a novel will be fun from day one until day 30, you’re fucked right in the ear. This isn’t a log flume ride, pal. This is a mountain climb. And climbing a mountain is a hard slog. And you might fall. Or encounter mountain lions. Or even cyborg bears. Point is, be excited for the thrill, but be ready for rectal misery.

Don’t Believe That 50,000 Words Is A Proper Novel

Writing a novel is work, and writing 50k of a novel is a lot of work — but it isn’t a complete work unless we’re talking middle-grade or young adult. For the most part, a novel is going to need to be somewhere around 70-90,000 words. Which means, uh-oh, you’ve got a lot more work to do. Now, this means one of three things — a) you create a complete 50,000 word “novel” now, then go back in and flesh it out and beef it up; b) you write 50,000 words now and realize that you’re going to, in the subsequent month, hammer out another 20-40k; or c) try to write a 70-90k novel in 30 days, which is all well and good until you pull a mental hammy and shit your brain-diapers and end up having to eat mushed-up peas and bananas for the next six months. Again, do what needs doing for the novel, not for the “contest.”

Do Consider This A Zero Draft

I consider a first draft a proper draft. It is your first completed draft, a draft that doesn’t need to be good, but needs to be utterly whole. Let this NaNoWriMo draft escape the pressures of that. Let it be a “zero draft.” It’s allowed to exist a little bit unbaked — soft in the middle, uncertain, still finding its feet like a goo-slick calf. That’s okay. Take the pressure off. You have time. Unless you’re dying from some terrible disease. And if you are, then, uhhh. Sorry? Good luck? Here, have a Hallmark card!

In Fact, Do Think Of This As A Very Powerful Outline Or Story Bible

Write this draft like it’s a very deep, intensive outline, story treatment, or story bible. Yes, yes, it’s still a novel, and it’s still a technical draft of your novel — but with the kind of haste and waste you’re going to make churning through this work, you might find yourself better served looking at the end result as a clumsy “first go.” This means it makes a truly excellent and highly-detailed preparatory tool. You take this draft, you finish it, you find the mistakes and mis-steps, then you rewrite the whole damn thing with a deeper devotion toward all those fiddly bits that make a novel truly great — character, dialogue, action, theme, mood. Oh, yeah, and plot. If one thing is going to get its head lopped off on the altar of haste, it’s plot. So, for now? Fuck plot. Just write. This is your outline, after all. A really big, really robust outline.

(Which Means You Don’t Need To Work So Hard This Month)

You say, “I’m writing a novel,” and (for me) that’s a lot of pressure. But you say, “I’m writing a novel that’s really just an outline for an even awesomer and ass-kickier novel,” then — ahhh. Woooo. The shoulders unclench. Your sphincter loosens (but not so much you make a mess on that most critical of implements, your writing chair). You let slip a few drops of happy pee. Now? The pressure’s lessened. This is just a plan. This is just really exacting prep. You’re not foolishly rushing onto the battlefield. This is a battlefield simulation! This is your own X-Men Danger Room. Breathe easy. And learn how to bring down Juggernaut.

Don’t Stop With Your Zero Draft

All that being said, don’t stop with this draft, whether you think of it as a first draft, a zero draft, or a really plump outline. NaNoWriMo is one month, but your novel cannot and should not be contained to a single month. It needs more time. Trust me, it needs more time. You’ve got more drafts to write. Possibly one, two, even ten. You don’t write until November 30th. You write until it’s good. (Or, put differently: drink until she’s pretty.) To continue the alcohol metaphor, it’s like a wine. You uncork it too early, it’s going to taste like piss and vinegar.

Do Embrace The Community

NaNoWriMo’s shining awesomeness comes in the form of being connected to something greater. You’re all embarking on a really weird journey together. Use that. Enjoy the camaraderie. Listen, a writer’s career isn’t formed just on what she can write — it’s formed on who she knows. It’s build in part on the backs of relationships. Make those relationships. Both professional and personal. It will not only give you the morale to keep on kicking, and it won’t only let you boost the spirits of others — but it’ll hopefully create lasting relationships that go well beyond November, 2010.

Don’t Rely On It, However

And yet! The writer’s life is a lonely one. Online relationships are only so real, after all, and your devotion is not to other people. Your priority isn’t social. It’s mental. Your job lurks in the words, not the words you write to encourage others but the words you write on the pages of this beast you call a novel. It can be easy to get caught up in other people’s drama, and the last thing you want to do is duct tape your novel’s fortunes to those who aren’t helping you — so, be a part of the community but know its limits. Know that the only thing that gets the book written is you writing the goddamn book.

Do Take Yourself And Your Work Seriously

Once again I’ll point out that the motif of NaNoWriMo, the prevailing mood, is one of fun — it’s a challenge! It’s a game! Hoot! Gibber! Eeeee! Well, okay, that’s very nice. But my assumption is that you’re serious about wanting to be a write. Otherwise — why do it? If you’re doing it “just to see if you can,” well, hoo-hah for you. Except, I’m not talking to you. You can go now. Shoo. Go on, skedaddle. You, glib dilettante, will soon learn that writing is a devotion, a discipline, a craft (and to some, an art), but it is not a throwaway piece of cake left on the counter for the ants. It’s serious business. And so those engaging in NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to take this seriously and more importantly, take yourself seriously. You are an ass-kicking, neck-throttling word jockey. You command the powers of the verbal elements. You make characters dance, fight, fuck, eat, love and kill. You can set the mood of the room the way most people set the temperature in their house. You are a god here. Accept that mission for what it is: a responsibility.

Do Not Take It So Seriously That You Start Sending It Out To Agents And Editors Immediately, Because That Makes Word Jesus Turn Evil And Doom The World

The one flaw in NaNoWriMo (and why it sometimes earns the ire of professional writers) is that it kind of floods the marketplace a little bit. November 30th rolls around and suddenly you have a world with thousands of new novels birthed screaming into an unkind world, and while that remains a truly sublime act of creation, it also means that you have a lot of writers who don’t have the sense of a tree grub, and these writers decide to abdicate their own sense of work and responsibility by throwing their unformed fetal drafts into the world. They choke the inboxes of agents and editors with their protoplasmic snot-waffle novels and they think, “Gee golly gosh, I’m a real writer now!” Except, they’re not. They’re rosy-cheeked, empty-eyed shitheads. Don’t be that shithead. Don’t just loose your garbage onto an unsuspecting world (which creates more work for agents and editors who already have a hard time finding diamonds in a sewage tank). Take time. Polish your work. Give it six months. Give it a year. Give the novel the air it needs to breathe. Give yourself, as a self-serious novelist, time to realize when this book is ready to roll or (a bigger and more mature revelation) that this book just isn’t “the one” — and that it’s time to write another better book, a book that doesn’t beg to be written only from November 1st to November 30th, a book that can be written whenever your fluttering wordmonkey heart so desires.

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Guest posts, Who is Writing What?

Help for future writers – Free Phonics DVD set from Rock ‘N Learn

Attention moms and dads (and TEACHERS!) of children aged 6 and older: I’m giving away a FREE set of Rock ‘N Learn Phonics DVDs, volumes One and Two.

Rock ‘N Learn, Inc. began as an idea that would help children learn by putting educational material to music with a current sound-the kind of music that kids enjoy and find motivating.

Busy parents and teachers love the way Rock ‘N Learn Phonics captures kids’ attention. Cool songs and humorous characters take the struggle out of learning to read. Students control the pace, advancing as they master each new skill, so they can practice on their own and feel proud of their accomplishments; it’s fun with this highly-entertaining phonics DVD.

Children learn phonics rules through fun songs and word families. Next, they practice their skills by reading simple phrases using words that rhyme. When ready, they apply the skills they have learned to read complete sentences and stories. The read-along stories on this DVD are presented at a slow pace for beginning readers. As children practice, they also work on fluency by singing along with songs about the stories. A bonus section presents the stories at a normal pace to help kids learn to read fluently.

Rock ‘N Learn Phonics Volume 2 DVD is a perfect follow-up once  they’ve mastered the material on Volume 1. With Phonics Volume 2, young children discover other ways besides “silent e” to make long vowels, such as: ai, ay,ee, and ie. They practice long vowel patterns and apply phonics rules by reading sentences with words that feature long vowel sounds.

Viewers also practice reading words and sentences with r-controlled vowels, diphthongs, the schwa sound, syllables, ending sounds, and more. Eventually, students read stories that proceed from simple to complex. By also singing along with songs about the stories, children build reading fluency and have lots of fun.

Rock ‘N Learn Phonics is perfect for learning at home, regular education, special education, remedial classes, ESL, and even adult basic education. By covering a variety of skills at different levels, these phonics DVDs provide an effective tool for differentiated instruction in the classroom and at home.

Rock ‘N Learn DVDs work great with any DVD player, computers with DVD players, projection screens, and interactive white boards.

Rock ‘N Learn has won numerous prestigious awards including such as Dr. Toy, Parents’ Choice, iParenting, National Parenting Publications, Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice, Early Childhood News, National Parenting Center, and Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media.

Win this free set!

Simply tell us about you in the comment box! Are you a parent? A caregiver?A teacher? Are you hoping to help your little one get a headstart on reading, or do your children  or students have special needs or need help with speaking and reading English? I’d love to learn more about you! One random winner will be selected on Monday, November 1, 2010. (approx. value $39.99)

Learn more about Rock ‘N Learn here.

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Filed under For the love of writing

Seth Godin’s advice for authors’ About pages

When someone comes to your site for the first time, they’re likely to hit “about” or “bio,” says author and marketing genius Seth Godin.  Why? “Because they want a human, a story and reassurance,” according to his straight-from-the-hip article, Five rules for your About page. (Mine is called “Meet Rebecca Lacko”; it’s right here.)

Here are Godin’s helpful guidelines (okay, they’re actually imperatives):

1. Don’t use meaningless jargon:

... is a recognized provider of result-based online and mobile advertising solutions. Dedicated to complete value chain optimization and maximization of ROI for its clients, … is committed to the ongoing mastery of the latest online platforms – and to providing continuously enhanced aggregation and optimization options.

2. Don’t use a stock photo of someone who isn’t you (if there is a stock photo of you, congratulations). The more photos of you and your team, the better.Handshakes

3. Make it easy to contact you. Don’t give a contact address or number that doesn’t work.

4. Be human. Write like you talk and put your name on it. Tell a story, a true one, one that resonates.

5. Use third party comments and testimonials to establish credibility. Use a lot of them. Make sure they’re both interesting and true.

Seth Godin has written a dozen worldwide bestsellers that have been translated into more than thirty languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. Talk to him at Seth@SethGodin.com.

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