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Talking Story
September 2009


  1. Introduction
  2. Joyce's New Website
  3. Q & A:  SCBWI
  4. Summer Vacation
  5. Creative Writing
  6. Muscle Words
  7. Book Cover Trends
  8. Refresh Yourself!


BLUE, historical fiction about a 1944 North Carolina polio epidemic, is widely used in elementary and middle school classrooms. 
COMFORT picks up where BLUE leaves off.  Protagonist, Ann Fay and her family are adjusting to life after polio and war.  But of course, adjustments aren't easy.
Because of its emphasis on FDR, disability rights history, and postwar trauma, COMFORT is ideal for classes studying U.S. history
Published by Calkins Creek Books.


Nathan, who designed my website, can be found at the following places: 
He can design an incredible site for you too!!


"If you are a teacher or librarian who would like a chance to win 30 advance copies of When the Whistle Blows for your classroom or library, then sign up to receive my monthly Children's Book News Email here.
The winner will be chosen from a list of subscribers in December, 2009.
If you are not a teacher or librarian, you can still sign up to receive my Children's Book News Email - just sign up here."


Carol's list:
  1. Comfort by Joyce Hostetter
  2. Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper
  3. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  4. I Would Tell You that I love You But Then I Would Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
  5. The Reptile Room: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2 by Lemony Snicket
  6. Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
Joyce' List
  1. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  2. Write Before Your Eyes by Lisa Williams Kline
  3. Invasion at Sandy Bay by Anita Sanchez
  4. Camping With the President by Ginger Wadsworth
  5. Anne Hutchinson's Way by Jeannine Atkins
  6. When We Were Saints by Han Nolan
  7. Mockingbird by Kathy Erskine (Spring 2010)
  8. Books on mental illness and WWII conscientious objectors

Carol's Blog
Joyce's Blog
Joyce's Website
Maupin House (Educational Publisher)
Calkins Creek Books (Historical Fiction & Non-fiction

I've learned as a writer to say “yes” to opportunities whenever possible. Once I turned down an assignment from an editor of a well-known children’s magazine. She wanted a piece about a famous glass artist. I had the expertise, knowledge, and contacts. But I wanted to write about a different glass artist—someone who I thought was more worthy of that article. When the children’s magazine came out with another author's name, I cringed. That could have been my byline. I never repeated that mistake!
So, what does that have to do with Joyce?
Two years ago Joyce and I both gave workshops at the Mid-South Reading and Writing Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. I bought BLUE and loved it. I e-mailed her and we began corresponding.  We chatted about our teaching opportunities  and when she was invited to teach, “Is There a Children’s Book In You?” at NCCAT, she asked if I would join her. I was scared. I wanted to say "no". Was I able to teach teachers enough about writing their own books?
But I'd learned my lesson so I said "yes".
It was such a marvelous experience that we were invited back for the third time this fall. Routinely the teachers’ feedback includes comments that we’re a great team and that they appreciate how we each bring different skills to the table. Since then, we've jointly taught at NWRESA and actively support each other’s writing and teaching efforts. Beyond that, Joyce has become a treasured friend.
Fast-forward to a month ago when she approached me with the idea of this newsletter. I didn't have time for one more commitment. I wanted to say no. But as you've figured out already, here we are in your in-box with our debut issue. 
I hope you’ll enjoy this newsletter as much as I’ve enjoyed working with Joyce. And remember. Whenever possible, say “yes.”


It's bold!  It's new!  It's my website. 
I brought in the wrecking ball and demolished the old one.  But I didn't toss all the original furnishings, so some of the content looks familiar. In addition to the usual "ABOUT THE AUTHOR" info you'll find the following material that's related to my books.
  • Videos
  • Discussion Questions
  • Educational Activities
  • Links to research & cool sites
  • Reviews
  • Opportunity for Feedback
I had two partners in this project.  The design came from Nathan Clement of Stickman Studio. Nathan is the author of DRIVE, a tender picture book about a truck driving father. Betsy Moyer added the internet abracadabra that makes it all viewable and fully functional. And she taught me about SEO too! (SEO = Search Engine Optimization)
Kudos to Betsy and Nathan for their patience, savvy, and teamwork!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter

QUESTION: Do You Dream of Writing Children's Books? ANSWER: Try SCBWI - Joyce

Do you have a children’s story floating around in your imagination? Do you wonder how to go about writing and publishing that story?
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators is a group of writers pursuing their publishing dreams. It’s a safe place to ask questions, practice writing, get feedback, meet writers, editors, and agents.
Every region of the U.S. has a chapter. Each chapter sponsors writer workshops, conferences, and schmoozes. If you're thinking of writing a children’s book, you'll love the emotional support SCBWI offers through personal relationships, critique groups, and email listserves. 
Membership is $80.00 for the first year and $70.00 for each renewing year. It’s worth it for the camaraderie of fellow writers. But you’ll also get discounts to various services, the chance to apply for writing grants, and a subscription to The Bulletin which is chock full of writing articles and children's publishing news.
Joining SCBWI brings you gently into the world of children’s book publishing.  It provides the opportunity to meet your favorite authors, your dream editor, and most importantly, to meet yourself, the writer.
What's not to love about that?
I'll be speaking on writing historical fiction at SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference - September 25 - 27 in Durham. Registration is open until September 20.


When Joyce suggested this title for an article, we both laughed. How many of you remember writing that familiar essay?
I was fortunate to travel five times this summer. The most exotic destination was 14 days in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. The most writing-intensive destination was the Highlights Writing Workshop in Chautauqua, NY. For years I dreamed of attending and when my writing buddy decided to go, we took the plunge, paid our deposits, and signed up.
Joyce said it would be life-changing. I’m expecting she’ll be right.
If you're serious about writing or illustrating for children, this is an event you want to attend. For five days 100 + participants are surrounded by a faculty of 22 authors, illustrators, and editors whose desire is to see you produce your best possible work and get it published. Workshops, speeches, networking times, and critique sessions with faculty stuff each day to the brim.
I was challenged by both Patti Gauch and Harold Underdown (my critiquer) to find out what the character in my historical novel truly wants. Patti said that this desire must be the “arrow which drives the book.” I learned  about dialogue from Donna Jo Napoli, a sense of place from Kim Griswell, and about beginnings and endings from Peter Jacobi . There were 45 workshops offered—more than enough to inform and saturate every participant.
One of the benefits of the intimate atmosphere was schmoozing with other aspiring writers, famous authors, and accessible editors. I think I’ll never forget the image of Jerry Spinelli (who's pictured with me above), walking hand-in-hand with his granddaughters to the bus taking us to a picnic. With his flannel shirt and jeans, he is the most casual famous individual I've ever met. (His granddaughter, by the way, had an autograph book and was collecting autographs of other writers. I think she was sweetly oblivious to the fact that her grandfather was probably the most famous writer there.) I enjoyed meeting Carolyn Yoder, Joyce’s editor, and Andy Boyles, the science editor at Boyds Mills Press who expressed interest in my glass book.
Life-changing? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know as the year progresses and I practice what I learned in beautiful Chautauqua, NY.
I, for one, would love to go to Chautauqua every summer.  But Chautauqua is more like a-once-in-a-lifetime experience. So I didn't let my mind dwell on that idea.
Instead I planned to mostly stay at home. I was tired of traveling during the school year and wanted to save my away time for a writing retreat in late summer. 
So during the last full week of August, I indulged in a week at Boyd's Mills, PA at one of Highlights Founders Workshops.  These events, no matter the workshop title, are writer's heaven. At each one I've attended, I've grown as a writer and made new friends.
This event was a writing retreat with my Calkins Creek editor, Carolyn Yoder and 10 alumni retreaters. 
I enjoyed:
  • My own cabin with coffee pot & drinks in fridge,
  • 1-on-1 critiques with Carolyn
  • Writing all week!
  • Writer friendships
  • Phenomenal food
  • Stunning weather. 
 It was the perfect summer vacation!


Several weeks ago I was a part of the kick-off event at An Author World, a new program designed for writers and illustrators, especially those targeting the children’s market. I led a group of Greenville, South Carolina teachers in a discussion about teaching creative writing.
We agreed that although there's a great emphasis on preparing students for standardized writing tests; all writing advances when students are encouraged to write stories, poems, or plays. Last spring I watched a seventh-grader improve her spelling and grammar skills (which she didn’t care much about) because she wanted her story to improve (which she cared passionately about). Her writing had a purpose and an audience -- these two factors motivated her.
In addition, writing a creative piece invites students to voyage outside their comfort zone. As teachers and parents, we want students to become innovative thinkers. But to be honest, how much creative thinking goes into answering the question, “Should community service be a requirement of high school graduation?”
If you feel you have no wiggle room in your classroom schedule for creative writing, look at the activity below, “Exercise Muscle Words.”  This simple exercise will help students think about word choice.  Repeat it throughout the year as a reminder to muscle up all types of writing—and to think and write outside the...
B- Brainstorm
O- Originality
X- eXercise Imaginations  


Exercise Muscle Words
  • Vivid Verbs (rushed, meandered, not went)
  • Specific Nouns (Brookline Apartments  or Castle Bordeaux, not house)
  • Image-driven Adjectives (lichen-smothered stone walls; a droll smile creased his face)
  •  Similes, metaphors, personification
  •  Onomatopoeia, alliteration
Discard Crutch Words
  • “To Be” Verbs (am, is, was, were, has been, became)
  • Helping Verbs (might, may, should, have, must, has, can, did, will)
  • Vague Adverbs (always, sometimes, very, slowly, proudly)
Bench Tired Words
  • Overused Adjectives (awesome, interesting, great)
  • “He said, she said.”
  • Vague, Non-specific Nouns (somewhere, thing)
  • Overused Pronouns (it, they)
  • Clichés (slow as molasses)
Play Jazz It Up With a partner, each student writes one or two boring sentences. After swapping papers, each student rewrites their partner’s original sentence by replacing tired words with muscle words. The meaning of the sentence must remain the same. For example: “A dog walked along the street. He looked happy and was glad to see everyone he met,” could become:  “Gerald, the coal-black poodle, paraded along the Champs de Élysées. His stubby tail wagged like a tiny flag as he sniffed the children who stopped to pet him.”


I love old books with their beautifully embossed covers.
And now This article in the New York Observer discusses a new trend in book covers – foregoing the book jacket and putting the art directly on the hardcover. The argument is that the jackets (which contain the art) are the most fragile part of the book. 
I discussed this with the art director at Boyd’s Mills Press who seemed to think it wasn’t practical from a publisher’s point of view.  
I’m curious to know what teachers and librarians think.  Do you prefer a decorative jacket over a boring hardcover?  Or do you like the idea of a book with lovely embossed "boards"? Is it practical for libraries to loan out books that don't have acetate or other protection?


It’s a new school year and as a teacher, homeschool parent, or media specialist, you feel a burst of enthusiasm at meeting new students or starting a fresh curriculum. But you know that by mid-year, you’re going to feel a little frayed around the edges.
How do you renew yourself?
If you're a teacher, school counselor, or media specialist in North Carolina and have been working in the state for at least three years, you qualify to attend NCCAT for a week of exploration and renewal. Established in 1985 by the State Legislature, NCCAT is committed to keeping good teachers teaching.
Twice, Joyce and I have had the privilege of leading the workshop, “Is There a Children’s Book in You”. Both times we've been touched by how the NCCAT experience re-energizes participating teachers. A week apart from their daily commitments excites them for teaching again.
Not all of you are North Carolina teachers but you may be involved in education. It's important to regularly get rejuvenated. Maybe through an evening at a coffee shop or a weekly walk with a friend. As this school year begins, be sure to schedule time for reviving yourself.
You, and your students, will benefit.

Or contact us privately at
Talking Story • 4208 Hickory Lincolnton Hwy. • Newton • NC • 28658

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