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As my father always says, "Live for today and not for tomorrow." But I think he might also say, "Visit the following websites or I'll give you a knuckle-sandwich."

Links:
Trina Sotira's Website Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators MuseWrite Northern Illinois University, Graduate School of English SCBWI-Illinois Members' Blogs Teaching Authors: A Must-See for Writers Lisa Yee and Peepy (for instant smiles) Haunts of a Children's Writer Teens Helping Teens Illinois Children's Writers One-stop Blog Cynthia Leitich Smith, Children's book market all-inclusive Verla Kay, Children's Writers Forum Fabdarling: Love the Music, Love the Blogger Anderson's Bookshop: My Favorite Independent
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Mar. 20th, 2011 @ 11:46 am Winning the Battle for Literacy--IRC 2011

I’m back from Springfield, but I feel jipped. I didn’t get to shake hands with a fake Abe or stand next to his waxed body. I didn’t get to stare at history and watch Civil War greatness transpire in condensed museum minutes. But I did witness history of a different kind at the Illinois Reading Council where teachers joined together to fight a great battle—Literacy.

In a battle for attention, our blue MuseWrite booth lost to grey. You can’t compete with rescue greyhounds. But we did have some special visitors—Boomer and Sheila, two IRC VIPs, came by to pose with history’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

The SCBWI-Illinois booth won praise from all who passed by. Louann Brown created a ridonkulously large clown.

You know I’m deathly afraid of clowns, don’t you?
But I still managed to creep up and steal a picture. Anastasia Ely, SCBWI person of awesome, informed me that both MT Anderson and Jane Yolen stopped by to see the clown. And I missed it?!

When I met MT at the SCBWI Summer Conference last August I swore he’d make the best late-night Denny’s friend. And because I didn’t even get a chance to see him speak—sulk—my MuseWrite friends and I went to Denny’s in honor of MT’s greatness. Or maybe we were just hungry for Moons Over My Hammy.

At our panel, Jen Cullerton Johnson, Michelle Duster, and I challenged teachers to create communities that extend beyond classroom walls. We were thrilled to have so many teachers say they would take our four-week lesson plan to their classrooms. We can reduce our differences by uniting through similarities, and writing can play a big role in creating communities.

At an appetizer gathering in our hotel we met Stacy Baker and Ann Kluesner, two teachers from Peoria who help strengthen their community by offering meals to their students’ families. In one of the poorest areas in the United States with over 95% free or reduced lunch, teachers visit homes with dirt floors and chickens running down stairways in order to provide food for hungry families. Coats, mittens, hats, and clothing are donated from other communities. Their school attendance rate is near-perfect because students look forward to a warm room, food, and a fun learning environment. In a conference of over 3,000, Stacy Baker and Ann Kluesner most definitely won the Battle for Literacy!

 


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Jan. 26th, 2011 @ 03:09 pm Breaking Up With Facebook! Huuuuuh!
Tags:

I’m going off of Facebook in hopes of returning to real, physical friendships. I love watching wrinkles move and teeth glisten with the filmy stuff that forms from excitement. I like holding hands and hugging. And maybe I’ll miss Facebook. But maybe I’ll get back in touch with my friends in real-life. Maybe we’ll talk on the phone more, have a conversation where I interrupt and they interrupt. And for the people I’ve just met at a book event or conference, maybe I’ll see you again at another conference and we’ll catch up. Or you can always e-mail me. I have four e-mail accounts linked to three different colleges.

My gawd, this is hard. But at least I've gotta give it a try. What's that thing someone once said: Let something go, and if it comes back to you it's meant to be. Oh. I don't know. Will Facebook ever come back to me? Guess we'll find out.

 

 I will miss you all, I’m sure. But it’s for the better. My students need my attention and my book needs revision and my family, well, they’re just going to have to call me to see how I’m doing. I need more time to write better and love better and live better, which means stepping away from cyber-self-consciousness and moving towards improving the life that is physically in front of me.

 

Thanks for reading my blog in Facebook Notes, and leaving the most uplifting and encouraging comments! I hope you continue to visit my blog on livejournal at http://trinasotira.livejournal.com.

 

Much love,
Trina


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Dec. 31st, 2010 @ 10:13 am Beatboxing Babies and Bathing with Bears: The 2010 Photoblog

Last year, I ended my New Year's Eve blog saying we were going to kick 2010's behind. I entered the year swinging, ready for triumph. But on the last day of 2010, I'm exhausted. And I don't want to kick anything or anyone. I just want to rejoice and remember the best moments of MMX.

The year began with Kristin Walker's book launch of A Match Made in High School where she gave away bling like rings and matchbook notepads.



At the Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, Richard Peck brought down the house with his rhetorical brilliance. Later I gossiped with book bloggers, librarians, and authors about things that can never be repeated. Ever!



In March at the IRC, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith made me stay up late while we laughed with friends Michelle Duster, Cynthea Liu, and Jen Cullerton Johnson. All I can say is Emilio Estevez. 
                                                                 
                                                      
In June, I had the honor of teaching "Writing the Unseen" with Beth Finke and Hanni.

I met Fake Conan when Andy Richter treated Columbia College alumni to a night of funny.



I still wanna marry Reggie Watts and have beatboxing babies.


In July, I was privileged once again, this time as an instructor at the DePaul Summer Writing Conference,  sharing the classroom with Barbara Binns and the newly e-published Karly Kirkpatrick.

At the end of the month, my heart and soul found healing at the SCBWI Summer Conference where we let our hair get all long and fluffy.



Rita Crayon Huang wore the dopest boots ever at the Heart and Soul Ball.

 

I also giggled with Nick Eliopulos of Scholastic, the only other person in the children's book industry with a dinosaur last name like mine (remember I'm secretly a Sotirakopulos).

Another conference connection proved dream-maker when I joined the McVeigh Agency with my "gonna go shopping one day" friend Mark McVeigh. You can catch him teaching at WriteOnCon.com.


In October, I battled sea monsters and moved to an island utopia with the boys, where we spend our days bathing in a jacuzzi tub with polar bears.



At Prairie Writer's Day, I stormed the urinals with Carmela Martino.



December was a month of triumphs: finishing the M.A., getting hired by three great colleges, holding on tight to friends and family.


                                          [Me and my papa.]

Wishing you the happiest of New Year's celebrations! We'll be in our jammies, ringing in the New Year in a stress-free zone, dreaming of gliding through 2011 with the help of our friends. Thank you for being an important part of my life!



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Dec. 16th, 2010 @ 10:11 am Scary Santa!
Santa scares the crap out of me. Big red fuzzy outfits. Loud laughter. Breaking and entering in the middle of the night. Dude. We need a new Christmas mascot.

When I was little--still wetting the bed and sucking my thumb--my oldest sister hid in the crawl space with an angry-faced Santa doll. 

 

And when I was walking to the bathroom, just before bed, Scary Santa jumped out at me. Not jumped really, more like hurled itself in my direction. With warm, wet legs and dripping face, I stood traumatized and in need of an emergency room evaluation for heart failure.

Since then, the man in red became the source of most of my nightmares. To get revenge, I wrote a story in third grade about Santa losing his best friend--the snowman--for the Young Authors Contest.  I won a trophy for causing Santa to cry. Oh sweet, sweet revenge!



A few years ago, my boys had the same reaction when faced with the big SC. Then two, my oldest HATED sitting on some red stranger's lap! My six-month-old just wanted to eat his arm. 

 
I'd hate it, too! I mean, seriously, why is it alright to just sit on someone's lap and tell them what you want for Christmas? Is that even legal? Can't we pick someone else to sit on and ask for gifts?

So here's what I'm thinking. Maybe we could pick a new Santa. Someone hot. We could start with the Rock.
 
Maybe we could sit on his lap and ask for gifts. Why not elect a new Santa every year? Think about it: big blow-up Rock lawn ornaments in our front yards one year, and the next year, a new Santa person. Whoever gets elected would be the source of every Christmas smile. Now, come one, pretty please, can't we get away from red-suited jolly men? Remember what he did to Ralphie?!


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Nov. 14th, 2010 @ 11:54 am The Buddy System: Prairie Writer's Day 2010
Amongst a series of lyrical and informative lectures, one thing stood out at this year's garden-themed Prairie Writer's Day: always stick with a buddy.

Editor Andrea Welch of Beach Lane opened with her favorite books, including, Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann. Being the daughter of a retired police sergeant AND dog lover, this book captures my heart, too. Even though Gloria mocks Officer Buckle throughout the book--and steals the show--in the end, the two celebrate each other, leaving the pages as close friends.




Using Eric Rohmann's My Friend Rabbit, Katherine Jacobs of Roaring Brook Press demonstrated how picture book authors and illustrators can use small time-stopping elements of suspense to involve the reader. (What's with authors with last names ending in double-n? Is that what it takes to win a Caldecott? Huh? Huh? Maybe I should change my name to Trina Sotiramann!) 

What's so adorable is that like Officer Buckle and Gloria, Rohmann's Caldecott winner offers a similar ending: despite all the problems Rabbit causes Mouse, the buddies skip away together in the end!



When it came time for a bathroom break, I found a buddy in the men's room! (Well, due to the 1,000,000/1 women to men ratio, it was perfectly legal.)


[Carmela Martino and Trina Sotira see urinals for the first time.]

During the last keynote, Tamra Tuller of Philomel Books untied and retied the parts of my heart that needed mending. She spoke about the challenges of writer's block, reminding us all that we need to discover the source of our fear. According to Tuller, fear holds writers back from creating their best work, and by making a list of things you are scared of, you can overcome that which is causing a block.

 "If we never challenged ourselves, we would remain stagnant individuals...there would be no growth." 

While Tuller encouraged us to trust ourselves, to ignore the desire for perfection and strive to simply put words on the page, I glanced down at my favorite Illinois author duo, Mary and Rich Chamberlain, and saw this...



In the last moments of the conference, two buddies reunited.

Before saying goodbye, I found my friends at the Mix-and-Mingle, where we pretended that we were superstaaaaaars! Wait. We are. Aren't we?!


[l to r: Jim Danielson, Kym Brunner, a new friend, Katie Sparks, Trina Sotira, and Carolyn Crimi!
 Row 1: Cherie Colyer and Terri Murphy]

Thank you, Lisa Bierman, Sara Schacter and the entire PW Day crew for providing the perfect tools to help cultivate my writing garden.
Looking forward to next year!

With love,
Trina Sotiramann
(I can feel the book bling already!)
 

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Oct. 15th, 2010 @ 09:48 am Smelling Like Skunk Butt
I spent two days smelling like skunk butt. My house, my children, my clothes--everything was covered in Pepe le Pew gas. EVERYTHING! But it's my fault. I should have picked up the part for the back door.

Last week, Tommy and I read David Macaulay's WHY THE CHICKEN CROSSED THE ROAD. We laughed and laughed at the silly things that escalated from the chicken wandering into the street. Cows stampede. Trains crash. Streets flood. Kids experiment. Chaos breaks out. Every action results from the chicken crossing the road.


 I should have known the book was trying to foreshadow something massive that was about to happen in my own life. I should have picked up the door handle.

Three weeks ago, the handle broke on the back door. Which meant the dog had to go out in the front yard without a fence. But the part came in, ooooooh, probably two weeks ago. I just didn't get around to picking it up.

So Wednesday morning, at FIVE-THIRTY, I let Gracey Sprinkles out in daybreak's darkness. The neighbors across the street flashed their lights. I thought they were just saying hello, so I waved a groggy "good morning." Like a white and black bullet, a skunk charged at Gracey! I panicked, calling her name, trying to tell her to come inside. At first she froze. Then she charged at the skunk. And that's when the spray hit the fan!


Gracey ran inside, blinded by gas. I grabbed her collar and threw her in the bath. I, too, was becoming weak from the fumes. Gagging and panicking. Washing and drying. I thought the smell had gone away. I had to get to work!

With the windows open, I headed for the high school, leaving the babysitter and my boys in what I thought was a skunk-free environment. I should have fixed the door.

But when I got to school, the secretary noticed RIGHT AWAY. I had no idea. Like body odor, I was getting used to the smell. I made my way down the hallway, leaving a trail of dead rodents behind me, choking students in my path. I should have fixed the door. Once in the classroom, another teacher noticed instantly, and recommended that I leave during the planning period to go de-skunk. Meanwhile, she sprayed the room with Lysol, covered me with some fruity stuff, and left a fan for the students.

Then Tommy's school called. He was sent home after smelling up his kindergarten class. Stephin didn't smell as bad, apparently. But the principal dumped their lunches, wrapped the backpacks in plastic, and sent everything home with Tommy. I should have fixed the door. The high school hallways reeked and the grade school smelled! It was all my fault! I should have fixed the door!

After numerous suggestions of home remedies, Tommy and I bathed in baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon Joy. Gracey received the same bath outside. Slowly, we began to smell better, and could return to class.  

Today, the odor is still lingering. The windows are open. I'm freezing while typing. But guess what I finally did last night? I fixed the door! 

I used to love Pepe le Pew and his cute French accent. I always wanted to be the girl skunk, strong-willed and uninterested in Pepe's advances, but still always near him.



Now I hate Pepe le Pew, that smelly bastard!  
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Oct. 11th, 2010 @ 06:29 am Post-Labor Nakedness and a Note from Chris Columbus

I was in labor last week, reciting the birthing chant. Hee-hee-hee-hoo-hoo-hoo. Laboring over books that span the canon. Memorizing people and place and things and themes and critics and people and places and things and critics and quotes and Morrison and Kempe and Shakespeare and Lowell and Joyce and James. Hee-hee-hee-hoo-hoo-hoooooooo. But I pushed all the information out on Saturday. Ahhhhhh! And now I finally am me again! 

The minute I finished the MA exam, sweaty, smelly, and blind, my teen-brain came back. No longer scholarly or college professor-like, I was 16 again—ready to get back to my own work.

 

This week, I get to return to teenland once my agent, Mark McVeigh, and I talk. Well, I'm in teenland all the time at the high school, but you know, it’s different with writing. Like acting, somehow you become the characters—if only in front of your computer. And dear Jeezus, I can’t wait!!!! This is the FIRST time that I get to fix a book based on the way someone else sees it! I miss watching Tirzah become Troy and the world of IN HER SKIN. I’ll let ya know how revisions go—fo’ sho’!

 

Some businessy stuff: Don’t forget to sign up for the SCBWI-Illinois Prairie Writer’s Day—November 13th! I’m sending my registration form today!!!

 

Also, MuseWrite is hosting another ½ day seminar for writers of all backgrounds on November 6th at Columbia College. Online registration is up! www.MuseWrite.com. Can’t wait!

 

Have a great week, you guys! Go out there and discover something new about yourself or the world!

 

But first, a note from Christopher Columbus in a recent e-mail to me. Or maybe it was a letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer to Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Spain, on his First Voyage in 1493:

 

“The people of this island and of all the other islands which I have found and seen, or have not seen, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, except some women cover one place only with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for that.”

                                                      

                                      Grab a leaf and cease the day! Happy Columbus Day!

 


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Sep. 23rd, 2010 @ 02:58 pm Weddings, Friends, and Farfegnugen

This has been a tough week. Maybe one of the toughest. When we’re alone, sipping something warm, I will surely tell you what’s really going on. But for now, I must thank my friends for carrying me through. I received three loving phone calls, yesterday. Three different moments to remember life’s greater gifts. John Mayer also helped with this song: (If you're viewing the blog on Facebook, you won't get the video. It's his acoustic "Free Fallin'" cover.)

 


 

And Meg O’Hair, picture book and YA goddess, helped cheer me up with the sweetest story on Facebook about a giraffe that she loves dearly. I’m the giraffe, you see, and she’s my seahorse. Doesn’t she look like one?!



God I miss her!


Some weekend news: Unfortunately, I will not be at the Anderson's YA Conference. I will not munch continental goodies with John Green and David Levithan and tons of YA authors. Suckage! But there is a very, very good reason for my absence. I’m heading to Lake Geneva to see my dear friend, Michelle Duster, get married! For the first time! In her forties now and well-deserving of the most beautiful day the world can offer, Michelle waited to find the right partner. I can't wait to celebrate her happiness! But Jim Danielson will be at the Anderson’s conference, returning home with all the highlights on his blog. Be sure to visit it next week sometime for a recap. I know I will!

 

Other fab stuff: fellow SCBWIer, Margo Gremmler, has asked me to critique her manuscript, which I am restructuring as we speak. Just taking a little break. :) Check out her enthusastic blogs about it here and here. (Dude, no pressure or anything!) Happy Birthday, Margo!

 

Other cool, cool stuff: Cynthea Liu is rumored to be taking the lead, Saturday, at the Chicago Teacher-Librarian Breakfast--with a keynote! I’m so proud of her!  

 

So even though I will miss seeing some of our lovely YA authors, I would never miss seeing my friend on her happiest of days. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! Congratulations to Michelle and Barry!


 


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Sep. 13th, 2010 @ 02:18 pm How Will You Know If You're a Writer?

I'm wallowing in a mess of centuries, attempting to cross-pollinate Lowell and Morrison, Joyce and Kempe, Shakespeare and James, when my professor, Dr. Shesgreen, sends an excerpt from Walter Kirn’s Lost in the Meritocracy

The ninth chapter is mind-blowing. A summary of Kirn's time as an English major at Princeton that skirts off into a wild night with drugs and socialist theories. A dance with Truman Capote. Lust. And if people didn’t already have their own opinions about writers—thinking of poor hygiene and sleep deprivation and over-exploration—the stereo-typical writer is blown into super-ego proportions in Kirn’s book.

 

When people ask me what I do, I usually add something about being a writer. They cringe, slightly, and then glance sympathetically—searching for the loss that I’m trying to find. And maybe that is part of it. Maybe we are all searching, through our writing, for that which we never had, or that which we wish we were, or that which we want to become. But overall, maybe we are here because we have no choice.

 

It’s right there on page 133 of Lost in Meritocracy, proof of how we stumble upon this profession, and permission to call ourselves “writers.” Walter Kirn describes his night-nurse mother, working at a lakeside rehab clinic where Capote came to visit.


 
Kirn recalls a time when his mother mentioned him to Capote, telling the author about her son’s interest in writing.

 

Kirn’s mother explains, “I told him you might want to be a writer. He said, ‘Millie, your precious little boy is either a writer or he isn’t.’ So I said, ‘How will he know if he’s a writer?’ And Truman, my little Martian, he shook his head, his dear little head, and said, ‘If he keeps on doing it.’”


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Sep. 6th, 2010 @ 10:37 am Learning to Let Go this Labor Day

Our Labor Day weekend started out as a relaxing break, catching fish and reading words in the sun—Richard II for class and the medieval Book of Margery Kempe for the M.A. exam. I prayed that the texts would come with laudanum or something to get me through my misery. No such luck. At least the fish were biting!

 
     

Sunday morning, we ate whipped cream from the can. Laid in our jammies. Watched the morning mist rise from the lake.

Later, we drove to the fair in Shannon—you might remember it from last year, with the freaky old lady signs and pony rides that last ten minutes.
 

Tommy almost fell asleep on his pony, hunching over, drooling.


 

The boys rode on kiddie rides with songs about small worlds and Winnie the Pooh. It was perfect childhood fun. But then, out of nowhere, my six-year-old discovered this ride...
 

                               

 Like the tiny rides were too boring or something. He needed something SUPER-SIZED with raging country music and hair-raising spins.

Before sending him on, I found a trusty ten-year-old stranger to pair up with. Reminding the boy that my son was only SIX. To take it easy on him. The kid looked like we were on the same page.

 

But when they got a thousand feet in the air, that little, bratty, no good, rotten kid pulled a lever, spinning the cage—with my first born son at his mercy. They charged into the air, upside down, turning in circles.

                               

I couldn’t watch. My stomach twisted. My little boy was going to die on a carnival ride, I just knew it.

The carnival worker didn’t care. He just shuffled through his i-pod, choosing more country classics to celebrate the last days of summer. That was it. I was sure. Six years of a happy childhood would end in a metal cage in the clouds.

 

But then, out of nowhere, the ride stopped. Son got off. Smiling, holding his head, blown away with blood-pumping endorphins.

 

 “Did you see me, Mom? Did ya? Did ya? That guy pulled this thing to make us spin around up there. It was awesome!”

 

I bit my lip and looked around for the ten-year-old bastard. He was gone. Loooong gone.

 

“That’s great, honey,” I mustered with a fake smile. “Awesome! Yep. Just awesome!”

 

What else was I gonna say? He had reached a new plateau in childhood, and it was my job to celebrate with him.

 

 Now that he’s tall enough to ride the big rides, I’d better suck it up…and let go. But letting go is the hardest part, isn’t it?


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