Working for Hire in the Educational Market


In last week’s shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, we talked about the educational market and working for hire. Members collectively asked and answered questions about these topics, which I’ve outlined below if you’re interested in working fore hire as a writer.

What materials are published in the educational market? 

There are many opportunities to get your writing out there and get published in the educational market. You can write lesson plans, manuals, test passages, text books, test questions, biographies, and all different types of nonfiction educational material. Most educational writing is work for hire. 5386189.jpg

What does it mean to work for hire

When you work for hire in the book publishing industry,  you, as a writer, can propose an idea, but it’s more likely that a publisher/packager will assign you something to write that you will be compensated for upon completion.

It’s great to work for hire because it gives you a guaranteed income and publication credits. You also don’t have to worry about formatting your book, or artwork and photos that will accompany your text. (Keep in mind that you don’t receive book royalties and you don’t own the copyright on your own material, which you might have issue with as a producer of content.)

What is a book packaging company?

A book packaging company is a company that is hired by publishers to get specific books/topics produced by writers. They work as the middle man between you and the book publisher. They’re more likely to hire work for hire writers than publishers because they pay writers less so they can profit more off of publishers.

How do I find a work for hire company to send my work to?

Check out these websites/books for market lists:

  • (Children’s author Evelyn Christensen has a page of links to publishers of educational material.)
  • (The Editorial Freelancers Association)
  • (a trade group for book packagers)
  • (
  • (Association of Educational Publishers)
  • NFforKids Yahoo Group (a listserv for the discussion of writing, marketing, and publishing nonfiction books for children)
  • Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders

Some more fun stuff about working for hire and the educational market:

  • The biggest employers of work for hire writers are educational publishers and book packaging companies.
  • Book packagers and publishers determine how the book will be formatted– meaning, chapters, word count, side bars, even the targeted reading level, will be decided beforehand.
  • You don’t have to fact check when you write educational materials, but you do have to cite your sources when you submit.
  • Writing for the educational market doesn’t pay very much, but adds to your writing experience as well as publishing experience, and can open doors to other publishing opportunities.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM


Posted in Books, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Value of Stories and Storytelling

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

This week’s meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offered a presentation by storytelling experts, Mitch Weiss and Martha Hamilton. Mitch and Martha have dedicated their lives to storytelling. Starting to collaborate in storytelling in Ithaca, New York, Mitch and Martha have been writing children’s stories together for over 36 years (just as long as they’ve been married!). Check out their website here, and the clip below to see a sample of their performance from the meeting.

Mitch and Martha specialize in telling stories based off of other stories, like fables and folktales. Retelling these short and simple fundamental stories help children tell stories of their own. Many famous authors have taken old stories and their ideas and recreated them. For example, The Rough Faced Girl by Rafe Martin, Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, and Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaola are all retellings of the classic fairytale Cinderella.

In retelling stories, Mitch and Martha emphasize that you must change the title and tell the story in your own words while still respecting the general outline/plot of the original story. You also have to give credit where credit is due.

Mitch and Martha’s first collection of stories was called Stories in my Pocket. It was published by a small publishing house called August House that specializes in storytelling, and they continued to publish books there, along with their collaborative work with Ted Arnold at other houses.


Fly Guy books written & illustrated by Ted Arnold

Ted Arnold is a famous children’s book illustrator, of Fly Guy and Parts fame. Mitch and Martha pitched an idea to Ted Arnold about illustrating stories with noodlehead characters (pictured below), and he loved it. They ended up sending their idea to Scholastic and then to Holiday House, a smaller book publishing company in New York City.


Hey, who are you calling a noodlehead?

On their website, Mitch and Martha talk about the importance of teaching students the craft of storytelling:

It’s difficult to be successful if you’re not a good communicator and communication is, at its most basic level, the ability to tell a story well, whether to one person or to a group. Most of us will use reading and writing in our chosen professions, but all of us will use speaking and listening. Yet in the past, these two literacy skills have received little attention compared to reading and writing. There is growing recognition among educators that literacy is more effectively taught when reading, writing, speaking, and listening are seen as connected and equally important.

In my Multimodal Literacy class, I’ve learned that this is definitely true. Learning to actively listen as well as speak are two skills that have been undervalued in most education systems. Learning how to tell stories increases self-esteem, it’s inclusive, improves kid’s listening skills…Storytelling is how we pass down values and beliefs. Rather than memorize facts, we remember the essential information and how it makes us feel. It helps kids be more articulate when speaking. Learning a story rather than memorizing a story essentially ensures a better understanding of its meaning and craft. It also encourages critical thinking and creative writing, as well as a love and appreciation for other cultures and places.

This also brings me back to what working at Writopia has taught me and preaches– writing stories and giving students the space they need to write and think critically and creatively is so important in their personal development. Writing and storytelling helps kids communicate and understand themselves and the world a little better, and that is incredibly valuable. I think that Mitch and Martha understand that value, and it was really heartwarming to see them work together, talk about their books and stories, and perform for us.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Leave a comment

Bold Beginnings: How to Hone Your Opening

Read the following:

  • “My alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. I yawned, got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and started to brush my teeth. I was so excited to see Taylor Swift in concert tonight!’Jess, come downstairs! I have something important to tell you,’ I heard Mama shout from the kitchen.”
  • “The night Taylor Swift fell from the stage was the same night Mama told me I was adopted, and I’m not sure what broke my heart more.”

If you picked up a book in a bookstore and it had one of these bullet points as a first sentence/paragraph, which would you be more inclined to buy and read? Which would you be more interested in?

I, for one, would definitely be more interested in the book that starts off with the second bullet point. It catches my attention, it starts off with rising action, and it makes me want to read more.

The second shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators I attended at my local Barnes & Noble was hosted by Rob Costello, a representative from the Highlights Foundation (an organization that holds workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators — check out their website to learn more!) and a young adult fiction writer. He focused the shoptalk specifically on the importance of a good novel opening, and on the dos and don’ts of how to write one.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 12.10.10 AM.png

Good openings to novels help make what you’re writing appeal to readers. Generally speaking, if the first page/line doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, you’ve lost 50% of your potential audience. Former literary agent Leslie Daniels says that if the first line doesn’t grab her, the manuscript goes back in the pile (which is kind of depressing, if you ask me).

That being said, the main job of a book’s opening is to hook the reader. And openings are really hard to get right! You have to include information about background and characters that seem critically relevant and necessary to explain, all the while maintaining the reader’s interest.

There are two types of openings that Mr. Costello warned us not to start with:

  1. Data Dump Opening— when you overwhelm the reader with facts about your protagonist that don’t really matter. Example: Describing the physicality of your main character right off the bat isn’t all that interesting.
  2. Steady State Opening— when you provide background information/set up the scene before inciting an incident. Normal life isn’t interesting! And it’s no way to hook a reader.

Mr. Costello also warned us not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue.

He also warned us that many people (including him) will tell you not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue, but that these rules don’t apply to everything. If you demonstrate sufficient skills as a writer and hook the reader, anything you write can work.

Something that always works is dissonance.

In the music world, dissonance means “a lack of harmony among musical notes.” In the literary world (and otherwise), dissonance means “a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.” It can be anything that’s counterintuitive, unsettling, contradictory– elements that grab the reader’s attention and force them to engage and ask questions

Dissonance works in novel openings because it disrupts the flow of the reader’s expectations in shocking ways. Taylor Swift fell off the stage at a concert and a protagonist’s mother telling her she’s adopted are two dissonant plot elements that clash and catch the reader’s attention, making them want to read more.

The easiest way to create dissonance in your opening is to begin with action. If you have action, there’s conflict. You can also create dissonance through setting, mood, and voice/tone. Anything that contradicts itself and grabs your reader’s attention works, and once you’ve grabbed your reader’s attention, you can test their patience by providing more expository information.

I’ve always found beginnings to be one of the hardest things to write. I never know where to start or how to start or how to start in a way that will make what I’m trying to say matter. I think, ultimately, that two things you have to keep in mind are your story and your reader. How can you make what you’re trying to say matter to the person that you want to read it and engage with it?

Just some things to keep in mind.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Creative Writing, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Everything I Learned at NYWICI’s 2016 Student Communications Career Conference


Ithaca College Women in Communications e-board and general body members attend NYWICIscc16.

This past Saturday, November 5th I attended New York Women in Communications’ 2016 Student Communications Career Conference as Vice President of Ithaca College Women in Communications with the fabulous, motivated, and accomplished e-board and general body members of WIC. This was my fifth time attending the conference– the first time I went I was 17, in 2011. (Shoutout to our amazing president Katie Baldwin for all her hard work planning and budgeting and leading. The trip wouldn’t have happened without her!)

What made this year so special for me was that it was my last time attending a NYWICI conference as a student at Ithaca College, since I’m a senior. In honor of that, I wore the dress that I wore when I won a NYWICI scholarship as a senior in high school (luckily it still fit!).

Since it’s my last year, I’ve been thinking about the conference and its implications with a new perspective. I was 17 when I first attended. I knew what I wanted to do with my career at the time (it’s always been children’s book editing, for those who don’t know) but was too young to understand how I was going to get there. Going to the conference when I was 17 helped me focus my goals, without having to put them into action just yet.

As a senior in college and someone currently applying to graduate school, all of the amazing women panelists and speakers that I’ve encountered and listened to, all of the career and life advice that I’ve received, all of the eager and motivated college students I’ve met at the past five conferences, came into play. I’m about to enter the real world. It’s time to take everything I’ve learned and apply it. Thanks to NYWICI, thanks to WIC, I couldn’t be more prepared (still scared, but significantly more prepared) and excited about my future as a young professional woman.

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 9.16.29 PM.png

Taylor Trudon and Stephanie Guzman, my scholarship mother hens, and Ashley Schwartz-Lavares, a fellow scholarship winner, at NYWICIscc16.

Like last year, I took a lot of notes at the conference and compiled a list of it all, which you’ll find below! I summarized each panel I attended/speaker I listened to, as well as wrote down the big picture/specific lessons and advice that I learned. I also italicized the lessons that especially hit home for me.


screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-49-pmLiz Perle– Digital Strategy & Consulting, Teen Trends & Tech 

What it’s all about: Liz Perle was our first keynote speaker. She works at Instagram and used to work at HuffPost Teen– her whole deal is figuring out what teens like and teen trends in social media, technology, and culture. She is extremely connected within NYWICI and seemed like a down-to-earth, passionate person who really knew what she was talking about.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Don’t go after an important sounding job. Go after an important job.
  • Remember that there’s no difference between online life and offline life.
  • Be honest in your work and be human.
    • Being transparent about the work you do/where you are will make a difference in how credible you are as a worker/person.
  • Always be looking at what younger people are doing.
    • Young people understand authenticity better than anyone else.
  • Communications jobs might someday exist in spaces that aren’t communication spaces right now.
  • Be obsessive about things.
  • Understanding computers/how to sort through data is an extremely useful skill in today’s day and age.
  • Figure out how to back up what you’re saying with facts/data.
  • The best way to succeed in a job is to be bold in what you’re doing.
  • Frame your elevator pitches with a problem. Identify the problem you’re solving and the space you’re filling and they will see why you are necessary and important.
  • Social media is not a distraction. It’s a tool.
  • Ruthlessly prioritize what you’re working on.
    • To focus better and be less distracted, do fewer things.

14900380_10210821519240128_7624353726365273031_nDigital & Social Media Platforms Panel 

What it’s all about: The first panel I attended explored how online platforms can help expand your audience, repertoire, and experience through the point of views of Liz Gumbinner, who is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cool Mom Picks, Roxanne Emadi, who is an editor and curator at Buzzfeed News, Kari Hodes, who is the Head of Audience Development and Analytics at Time Inc., and Lauren Rabaino, who is the Director of Storytelling and Brand Development at Vox. The panel was moderated by Melissa Finney, who is in advertising partnerships at Flipboard, Inc.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Everyone you meet is going to come back in your life in ways you never expected, so be nice and know that everyone is a potential ally/a potential mentor/a potential contact.
  • Be okay with being highly qualified.
  • You don’t get a seat at the table– you earn one. Keep kicking ass at what you’re doing and you’ll be at that table.
  • If you work really hard you won’t just get there– you’ll be there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for things, whether that’s a job, a raise or a collaboration.
  • You don’t have to have it all figured out from your first job.
  • A job is a job is a job.
  • Take computer classes/data analysis classes. Knowing/understanding data is the new literacy.
  • Ask about salary. You will find yourself working at a substandard salary for years if you don’t ask to get the money you deserve.
    • Negotiate the base of your salary first.
    • Believe in yourself and ask for a raise.
  • Don’t ever take a job just for the money.
  • The worst thing that can happen is that someone will say no. But you should always ask.
  • People will not share information with you if you don’t share information with them.
  • Have a personality online. Follow people, respond to them, show them you care about the industry.
  • Always be involved in your field. Any opportunity doing anything remotely related to what you want to do is always worth it.
  • Don’t be so precious with your work. Put your work out there even if it’s not perfect. That’s how you learn from your mistakes and scale quickly.
  • Give yourself as many opportunities as you can.
  • When you’re using social media to network, learn about how the person/organization you’re trying to network with uses social media and determine whether or not that’s the best way to connect with them.
  • The average amount of times for you to reach out to someone if they don’t respond is seven.

14956028_10210821520760166_6194705464505938272_nDigital Creators Panel

What it’s all about: The second panel I attended was primarily about creating online content and how to be a successful online content creator/professional through the experiences of Beca Alexander, who is the President of Socialyte Collective, Drea Bernardi, the Creative Executive of the AOL/HuffPost Partner Studio, Alyssa Bossio, who is a Social Media Influencer at Fitlyss, and Jessica Franklin, who founded The panel was moderated by Amy Emmerich, who is the Chief Content Officer at Refinery29.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Networking is so important! Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people. It really makes a difference.
  • Getting a job is a mix of who you know and what you know.
  • Fashion is a great way to start a conversation with someone. Always use a fashion item to start a conversation. (Example: I like your necklace, where did you get it?)
  • It’s what you know that gets you to the who you know.
  • Everyone reads their direct messages no matter how large their following is on Twitter. It never hurts to reach out that way because it shows that you’re engaged in what a brand/a person is doing.
  • Social media is an easy way to network. It’s so easy to connect over common interests on social media.
  • The more persistent you are with contacting someone the more likely you are to get a message back.
  • It’s never too late to change what you’re doing/what your career path is. You could wake up tomorrow and be interested in something else and that’s totally okay.
  • In order to stand out, you have to have an understanding of what everyone else is doing too.
  • You have to maintain authenticity when creating content for any social media platform and be mindful of the different audiences that will consume your content on various social media platforms.
  • Observe different trends that occur on various social media platforms to keep up with the times.
  • If you want to remain authentic, you always have the option to say no. And if you can’t say no, negotiate.

14962542_10210821521240178_1906655113652360308_nBrittany Masalosalo– Special Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden in the National Security Affairs Office at the White House

What it’s all about: Brittany Masalosalo was our lunch keynote speaker, and she has a super cool job working as an assistant to vice president Joe Biden. She was a lieutenant in the Iraq War, is trusted with big government secrets, and is also a single mom.  She’s survived so much adversity and was an incredibly inspirational speaker.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Mind your example. Remember that someone is always watching what you do.
    • You are an ambassador for your values.
  • Trust your relationships.
    • No one can attribute their successes to just themselves. If you want to change the world you need help doing it.
    • The relationships you develop over the course of your professional career are owed to your successes.
  • Manage your time through balance.
    • Set personal deadlines that establish habits.
    • Managing time is about figuring out your priorities and making yourself a priority sometimes.
  • Know how to work hard. Nothing will sharpen you for the rigors of a difficult world than facing your challenges.
    • Invest your energy into things you care about.
    • If you can learn how to stomach a failure as well as learn from it, you will fail well.
  • Don’t do anything if it’s not in line with who you are.
  • Have a knowledge of the political world no matter what line of work you’re in.

14908205_10210821521160176_3994837123829797064_nCollege 101 Panel

What it’s all about: I attended this panel because one of my best friends who I actually met when I won a NYWICI scholarship in 2013, Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young, writer and content creator and all around awesome person, was speaking on it! This panel was for high school students looking for advice about college and their futures. Other amazing ladies on this panel include: Naomi Ducat, an intern for the U.S. Department of Defense, Nicole Howe, an academic advisor for the New York University School of Professional Studies, and Alanna McCatty, a Creative Service Intern at the MedShadow Foundation. The panel was moderated by my NYWICI scholarship mother hen, Taylor Trudon, who is the Youth Special Projects Editor at MTV.


Me and Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young and one of my very best friends.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Your major doesn’t necessarily impact what field you go into, but taking away certain skills from your field of study is important.
  • You have to be smart and intentional when crafting your own story.
  • Writing skills are essential everywhere. Learn how to write.
  • Planning out your schedule is pivotal.
    • When you’re passionate about something, you’ll make the time for it.
  • Sit down and have coffee with as many people as you can. Learn about people and how they got to where they are and take what you can and apply it to yourself.
  • Maintain connections with people you intern with.
  • If you apply for an internship at your dream company and you don’t get it, don’t give up. Keep applying.
  • Don’t set one future job as your goal. Be open minded.
  • People remember people. They don’t remember resumes.
  • Speak with intent and own your quirks.
  • Mentors don’t have to just offer you career advice– they can also offer you emotional support!

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-14-pmNYWICI Leaders Panel

What it’s all about: The last panel, moderated by Saundra Thomas (the Vice President of Community Affairs at WABC), presented career and life advice from current and past presidents of NYWICI. Panelists included Liz Kaplow, founder and CEO of Kaplow Communications, Kim Kelleher, Chief Revenue Officer & Publisher at WIRED Media, Jacki Kelley, COO at Bloomberg Media, and Nancy Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at Meredith Corporation.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Do something you’re really passionate about so it doesn’t feel like work.
  • Make sure your career ladder is up against the right wall.
  • When you graduate, think about internships you’ve had that you liked and check back in with those companies.
  • Know why you’re using each social media platform you use.
  • When applying for jobs/internships, consider the people who you might work for at the companies you’re applying to, because that’s who you’re going to learn from.
  • When you go to a job interview, ask the question: “Can you give me an example of someone that’s worked for you and how you’ve advocated for their growth?” And if you like their answer, that company is for you.
  • LinkedIn is helpful, but it’s not real networking.All the major decisions about your career will be made in a room you’re not in.


Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How I Live Now — The Lost Chapters

Right now I’m in a Honors Capstone class where we talk about our college experiences and what it’s like being in the honors program at Ithaca College and about society and the education system as a whole. Overall, it involves a lot of complaining and yelling at each other about the lack of places to park at school, but it’s a beneficial class.

We were going over pieces we submitted to our honors portfolio for academic challenge courses, and one of the pieces I submitted was a collection of chapters I’d written for a book by Meg Rosoff called How I Live Now. (How I Live Now is a dystopian young adult novel published in 2004 about a girl named Daisy who is sent to live in England and then *SPOILER ALERT* the world kind of ends.) They’re basically additional chapters to the book that I wrote in Rosoff’s writing style. (That sentence may have been redundant.)


I wrote it for my freshman honors seminar class Teenage Wastelands, where we read a bunch of dystopian novels and were graded primarily on class participation. Little baby freshman Amanda was shy and didn’t really participate, but I did get to read a lot of important books in that class.

I was rereading what I’d written and I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty good. It was one of the first big writing pieces I handed in at school, even if it wasn’t for a writing class.

Rereading it made me think about how I’ve changed as a writer here at IC. I’ve learned about so many different styles of writing, how to write fiction and creative nonfiction and personal essays and children’s books, and how to do research and how to interview people, and about the different types of essays there are, and how to write short pieces and long pieces, and how to revise and edit and workshop and interact with other writers, and how to be a professional in many different environments.

It was cool to read something that I’d started off college with. Now, as a senior at college, I’m getting ready to write my senior writing project. It’s my last big writing project as a student at Ithaca College, and that’s scary to think about.

These lost chapters I wrote were just the beginning.

I posted them below– please enjoy!

The Lost Chapters of How I Live Now: An Addition to Chapter 29, and Chapters 30 and 31

Ÿ      29 (CONTINUED)                Ÿ

There was a pause.

Daisy? the voice said. It sounded so far away. Miles, oceans, years, months away.

There was a muffled noise and I heard some whispered arguing, a woman’s voice. Then: Are you okay? the first voice said on the other end of the line. It was desperate, still pleading.

I was not quite sure how to answer that question. It almost made me angry to hear it. Was I okay?

No, I wasn’t. I was alone except for Piper. I was a ghost who was living through memories in this old house. I was living in fear of death and in hope of Edmond and in hope of my lost family.

I looked to Piper, who had moved from her position at the kitchen table to my side, her tiny, grubby hand entwined in mine. She looked up at me again and she was still wide-eyed and scared. Piper had grown over the past few months, I had noticed. She had grown up. Her angelic features were still so, but her face was gaunt and she looked tired. Tired of this war and tired of sleeping in the barn without Edmond and Isaac and tired of the violence and the cold and the lack of real food.

We were both tired.

I wrapped the old sweater of Edmond’s around me and opened my mouth slightly.

I’m alive, I said. I knew the voice on the phone.

It was my father, with who I was guessing was Davina listening in. He heaved a dry sob.

You’re coming home, he said. You’re coming home.

Ÿ      30                    Ÿ

When I hung up Piper was still looking at me with that watchful stillness she and her brothers have. She stared right into my face with no shame at all. I wanted her to look away and let go of my hand so I could be off by myself for a little while but what are you supposed to do when a little kid is hanging onto you like that? I took a deep breath and led her over to the kitchen table and we sat down.

Piper asked me what was going to happen. Her round face looked so serious. Even though we’d been together for months she still scared me sometimes with how serious she could be. I never understood it.

I decided to play dumb. It was better than telling her what I thought was going to happen even if the details were a little fuzzy for me too. I told her that I didn’t know and she nodded and let go of my hand. I knew Piper well enough and I could read her face and I just knew that she didn’t believe me.

Of course she didn’t believe me. I can put on a brave face for her and I’ve done it plenty of times before but she had heard my half of that phone conversation. And she knew some things, and even though she was a perceptive kid I didn’t expect her to understand. I was just a kid too and I was stuck in this war and I had to go home. I had to go home to be with my family.

But she was my family. And Edmond and Isaac and Osbert were my family and Aunt Penn and even Jet I guess even though I didn’t know where most of them were or had been for the past few months. I squeezed Piper’s hand and she took that as a sign to leave me for a while. She whistled for Jet and ran back through the big empty house with him at her heels.

I reached for the book that I had been reading before the phone went off and pretended to read it to give myself a sense of normalcy.

Now everything was going to change even though I didn’t know when they were coming to get me or what was going to happen to Piper or how I was supposed to deal with not knowing about Isaac or Osbert or Aunt Penn or even Baz, how could I forget about Baz? What would happen to the barn or the big house? If everyone was dead and gone where would Piper go? My mind was whirling.

I shut my eyes and tried to focus and tried not to cry. I had held it together for Piper for all of these months but just then I forgot how to hold it together for myself. I tried to sit very still and feel Edmond thinking about me wherever he was and tried to smell his smell of tobacco and earth that accompanied him and feel his soft skin with my fingertips but all those times where I thought he was there felt pointless and I couldn’t make myself feel anything.

Maybe he was dead. Maybe they were all dead.

I shuddered. No. I kept having to remind myself that I had looked at every single face to make sure it wasn’t them. They weren’t among the dead. Those dead, anyway.

But I wanted to feel that they were alive mostly because I wanted Edmond to be alive with every fiber of my being. Without that hope I wouldn’t have made it here with Piper. What was the point now that I was being forced to go back home?

I would just submit because I had to. I would surrender. There was no hope.

Ÿ      31                    Ÿ

If I was going to give up on this place I figured I might as well give in completely and throw away my old self. I wanted to get rid of the Daisy that I was before. I wanted to gorge myself and eat myself sick. I wanted to eat because food was there and I could.

I would never have done it at home anyway.

I went through the big house and shouted for Piper and she appeared right around the corner with Jett panting right beside her like she had been waiting there the whole time. C’mon, I said. Let’s make some food. Let’s have a feast. She gave me this look and her face was glowing again and all of the tiredness had gone out of her face and she was the kid that I had met a few months ago that was pure and beautiful and innocent and it made me feel better.

We ran out together to the barn and attacked the feed bins that we had so carefully stocked. Jett was barking and lapping at our heels and we were giggling and I almost forgot that I was supposed to be worrying about all of these other things like my family and going home and what was going to happen to Piper.

I had this huge armful of potatoes and sweet corn and cabbages and Piper stuffed her shirt with a good amount of nuts and watercress and garlic and onions and mint leaves and honey that we had saved. We didn’t even really make a dent in the feed bins because there was so much food crammed in there. We set up the fire and I got the pan down from the loft and the extra leek soup and started cooking. Even though we’d basically been eating the same things for weeks and I’d honestly started to get sick of them, the smell of the food cooking under my nose was making my stomach growl.

Piper put some chestnuts at the bottom of the fire and started roasting the vegetables in the pan with some garlic and I was peeling and slicing potatoes with a knife that I’d brought back from the house and adding them to the pan when I was finished. Since Piper was really the expert here I let her do all of the major stuff but I got to boil some cabbage with onions which looks and sounds gross but tastes really delicious I swear.

Piper was humming again, a tune I didn’t know. I was trying to forget everything that had happened that afternoon. We were both busy. Jett paced next to us with his tongue out and wagging.

After about an hour of busy work we found ourselves with this gigantic meal that could have fed maybe twelve people but all there was were the two of us. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating but it was a lot of food. There were roasted potatoes and vegetables, leek soup, boiled cabbage and onions and roasted chestnuts. All of the same food that we had been eating for weeks.

Piper had the idea to make it a real spectacle, like a real fancy dinner that we would have had back at home or if everything had been normal here. We brought everything back to the big house to the living room, careful to stay out of the kitchen and away from the phone. Piper set everything out just for the two of us and then we went and washed our hands and our faces and settled down to eat. Even though it was a little bland and the potatoes were sort of dry and I wished I could heap on a mountain of butter on my plate it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

It was nice to imagine that everything was okay even though it wasn’t. It was nice to pretend that everything was normal again.

And that was the second Perfect Day that wasn’t so Perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Books, Creative Writing, Things I've Learned in College | Leave a comment

The Joys, Trials, and Tribulations of Publishing Your Own Picture Book

fullsizerender-4-2This week I attended a “shoptalk” meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at my local Barnes & Noble in Ithaca, New York. To my understanding, they meet once a month at this Barnes & Noble and talk about various topics that have to do with writing and illustrating and publishing children’s books. The SCBWI has a bunch of chapters across the country. According to their website, they are”the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia,” which is pretty cool. Some famous people on their board of advisors include Pat Cummings, Judy Blume (!), Laurie Halse Anderson (!), Matt de la Peña, Jerry Pinkney (!), and Jane Yolen, just to name a few (that I recognized, and my favorites).


Like I said, the meeting was held at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, of course, isn’t an independent bookstore. It’s a chain, the biggest chain, actually, of bookstores, with 640 retail stores across the country (thanks, Wikipedia). Which is why I was kind of surprised that they were hosting an event like this at one of their retail locations. I always associated chain stores with business and sales, not community and people. The last time that I went to an event at a Barnes & Noble to be honest was probably the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release party.

But after attending the meeting this week, it’s clear that there’s definitely a community– of readers, of writers, of fanatics, of coffee drinkers, of people that like to sit and talk about things that matter, and there’s even one at the Barnes & Noble near me! Which is AWESOME.  🙂

Anyway, the meeting started off with all of us going around in a circle and introducing ourselves. Name, publishing experience, what we’re currently working on. All were YA and middle grade and picture work authors and illustrators, and they were really encouraging when I told them about my future career goals. I felt like I was with my people. I was honored to be a part of such an esteemed group of artists.

The theme of the meeting was self-publishing. (for those of you who don’t know what that is, please see the definition below. Thanks Google!)


Self-publishing isn’t something I’m completely familiar with so this was a good opportunity to learn about it. Author of The Golden Cap Sally N. Kammerling and illustrator of The Golden Cap Marie Sanderson talked about their experiences with self-publishing.

These are their stories. *dun dun dun*

Processed with VSCO with e3 preset

Sally N. Kammerling (blue shirt, speaking) and Marie Sanderson (white shirt, to the far right), author/illustrator duo.

Sally N. Kammerling, author of The Golden CapKammerling wanted to tell her grandmother’s story about immigrating from the Netherlands to the United States in the early 1900s. She’d heard about her grandmother growing up, and had it in the back of her mind for a while. She spent much of her life writing articles for children’s magazines, and after she retired she finally decided to write this book that had been in the back of her mind for years.

Kammerling traveled to Holland with her husband to do research on how to go about writing the book. Upon completion, she submitted it to a bunch of publishers but wasn’t getting any responses she wanted. As in, they said that the book was great, but it wasn’t for them.

So she decided to self-publish. And once she made the decision to self-publish, she figured she needed an illustrator. Marie Sanderson was recommended to her by a mutual friend, so they got in contact with one another and started talking, and Sanderson started illustrating. Meanwhile, Kammerling had the text of the book professionally edited not once, but twice.

Once the book was getting close to being finished (designing and writing and editing) Kammerling needed to find a place to print it. She found a small press in Vermont, but the cost to print was too much per book. So she did a little research and discovered Create Space, a website owned by Amazon that allows you to print and distribute media (like picture books!) at low costs.

According to Kammerling, the most difficult part of self-publishing is marketing, especially if you aren’t accustomed to using social media. She decided she was going to target Dutch families, Dutch stores, and Dutch festivals, and is currently creating a Facebook page to promote her book.

The Golden Cap has now been out for about a year, and she’s been selling the book on consignment in Ithaca and Cortlandt, as well as on Amazon and Create Space. (click for links to buy the book if you’re so inclined)


The finished product.

Marie Sanderson, illustrator of The Golden CapSo Marie Sanderson connected with Sally Kammerling. It was good timing because she’d just recently read a book about immigrants coming to the United States, so she had a lot of background context and a lot of ideas.

She read Kammerling’s manuscript, and saw a lot of opportunity for images of landscapes, villages, and children, just to name a few. Because of Create Space’s specific formatting structure, she did have a few issues with illustrating that she had to adjust but ultimately was able to complete the book.

She started working on the illustrations. They were full sized paintings, originally, that were photographed and uploaded. They wanted the text to be integrated into the illustrations at first, but that was too complicated seeing as Kammerling wasn’t using Photoshop or InDesign, so they ended up putting the text underneath the images.


A dummy copy of The Golden Cap.

Neither she nor Kammerling had experience in self-publishing, but they conveniently found a book contract online for authors and illustrators and tweaked it. The book contract they found helped provide a basic structure to their agreement. They both suggest reading The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine for more information on self-publishing.

Extra Fun Facts About Self-Publishing:

  • In 2010, about 152,000 titles were self-published. In 2015, about 727,000 titles were self-published.
  • There has been a 21% growth in ISBN registration of self-published books in the last 3 years.
  • Print-on-demand is when an organization (like Create Space) doesn’t set a certain number of books for you to buy and sell on your own, but they print and sell directly to people in the quantity that they want/need.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.46.40 AM

Posted in Books, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Multimodal Writing: A Technology Literacy Narrative


What is multimodal writing?

Multimodal writing is writing that involves many different modes, whether that means text, visuals, video, audio, etc. Selfe says that “multimodal” itself means “exceeding the alphabetic and may include images, animations, color, words, music, and sound” (Selfe, 2007) (See references below). So multimodal writing is writing composition that might include images, animations, color, words, music, and sound, not just text.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What types of multimodal writing do we learn in school?

In school we’ve learned through various modes, however, we don’t necessarily learn to utilize them ourselves. An example that comes to mind would be when I took Shakespeare in high school. We read Shakespeare texts and plays, acted out the scripts, as well as watched the movies based on the plays to help us better visualize what was going on in the scene and help us create meaning from the text through transduction. Transduction is converting something into another form.

Another example would be in my Intro to the Essay class with Katie Marks. Katie taught us various forms of writing, including writing a book using the mode of tweeting (click for link). The book is written from a timeline– as in, each tweet is read in order of publication, rather than in the order that it is on the Twitter profile. Although we didn’t necessarily get to practice it ourselves, we were aware that tweeting our writing was an option for us to try.


The English Language Arts exam uses various modalities to test students in grades 3-8.

There was even an effort to help students learn through different modes by testing us on our listening skills. The state English exam that we have to take in New York State from grades 3-8 involved a listening portion, where you would have to listen to someone read aloud a text and answer questions about the text. This helped us develop our aural learning skills, however minimally.

It’s interesting that teaching and learning in multiple modalities stops after 8th grade. Perhaps it is because after 8th grade, it is assumed that we as students have learned all of the basic fundamentals of utilizing and engaging with various modes as our brains are still in early development. However, this is not the case, and we should continue to use and engage in various modes within the classroom after 8th grade, such as continuing to test our listening skills as well as our image/video-text analysis skills.

How is multimodal learning beneficial?

I think that multimodal learning is extremely beneficial, especially to the modern-day student. Palmeri tells us that there are “crucial interconnections between compositing with words and composing with images,” or other modes, emphasizing how using various modes to teach and write helps us close the gap of understanding for students.

Although Bezemer and Kress identify some issues with recontextualizing in various modes such as a “loss of specificity,” there is a “gain in generality,” as in, people can make assumptions, generalizations, and various interpretations from the use of various modes where with just text there may only be one way of understanding something. This makes us look at composition differently, including the differences and similarities between a text and a related image or picture or sound, and help us develop our critical analysis, interpretation, and thinking skills. I believe using various modes to be beneficial because it widens the gap of understanding by helping us engage, see, and learn with various materials/modes in different ways, and developing our critical analysis and thinking skills.

Should multimodal writing be integrated into the writing major? 

Yancey says that “the screen is the language of the vernacular, that if we do not include it in the school curriculum, we will become as irrelevant as faculty professing in Latin… The ability to negotiate through life by combining words with pictures and audio and video to express thoughts will be the mark of the educated student” (305). It should be integrated into the writing major because otherwise writing may become irrelevant, and the skills of the writing major will fade into the background, according to Yancey.

Like I said before, I think it should be integrated before college even, in primary school, middle school, high school, etc. It should be an option on all if any tests, essays, projects, etc. We should be learning technology and graphic design a lot earlier on. And it is integrated before college, like during the national English Language Arts exam, but not to the extent that text learning/composition is, and since it’s not extended past 8th grade, our skills aren’t as developed as they could be.

Not only does learning various forms help us think critically, but it also helps other learners learn better and more productively, make our content more engaging, as well as keep up with the ever changing ways of composition. A rudimentary example of this is Sesame Street (click for link). Children learning the alphabet see the alphabet text as well as images up on the screen that are representative of the letters, as well as listening to it being said aloud. They can understand the information in more than one way.

Some ways that we could do this in the writing program here at Ithaca College is by adding as an option various forms/mediums in which to produce work other than just writing, or even incorporate various forms like image and video into our text. Although text will always be predominant in the writing major, it would be good to at least have the option of using other mediums to communicate what we’re trying to say.

How does the Writing department define writing? How do our sources in class define writing? How do you define writing?

Within academic settings, and especially within the Writing department, composition and writing primarily has to do with text. This is because text has become the predominant way of learning in the past rather than visuals. Writing is a way of communicating that primarily involves textual composition.

creative writing.jpg

Bezemer and Kress generally define writing and text as what is originally composition, and then go on to explain that writing/composition can incorporate a lot of different elements such as auditory, visual, and aural. Writing is multimodal in their eyes, whereas in our trained brains writing is primarily composed from one mode. Writing is a way of communicating that can involve various modes and mediums.

Bezemer and Kress, Yancey, Selfe and Palmeri have definitely opened my mind to the possibilities that exist out there for composition. In my mind, writing is composing and synthesizing different modes to communicate and make a point.

What changes would you recommend and why? What would you anticipate to be the gains and losses of changing our major?

Palmeri says that integrating multimodal composition teaching into the classroom helps students “expand the perspectives from which they visually see the world… finding a productive space of creative tension… develop a capacious understanding of rhetoric… and advocate social change” (116-149). I would first recommend integrating various learning and teaching techniques into the classroom way early on, perhaps even before 3rd grade, and then continuing to do so beyond 8th grade.

Specific techniques that I would recommend to use early on would be encouraging students to incorporate images into text composition and academic essays, teaching video and recording skills in multimedia classes, but in English classes, where the production of composition is especially prominent and various modes can be utilized.

In Writing classes in college, the option to include various modes and the skills learned in primary, middle, and high school to use various modes should be encouraged in every type of composition and class.


If we incorporate multimodal composition into our classrooms now, the only loss I can think of would be loss of time explaining what to do and how to do it. There would be a lot of communication gaps that would have people confused, because we haven’t been learning with various modes throughout all of our educational experiences. Also, Bezemer and Kress say that “the increasing use of images [and other modes] will inevitably lead to the ‘dumbing down’ not just of textbooks but of all of culture” (167). Also, multimodal composition requires certain technology like computers, smart boards, etc., that not everyone has access to. Everyone learns at their own pace, and this may hold people back, especially since we’ve been trained in text composition learning our whole lives and not other styles of learning.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.46.40 AM

Author’s Note:

This blog post is a project for my senior seminar, Multimodal Literacy. I chose to answer the 3rd prompt we received in the form of a blog post, which I posted here, on Amanda Under Construction. The blog post is in a conventional blog post format. It includes headers, text, photos with captions, a photo slide show, and various hyperlinks. It is accessible through the category “Things I’ve Learned In College,” as it relates primarily to what I’ve learned in college and is a project for my writing senior seminar that I have almost completed.

I chose a blog format because not only was it a site of display I was familiar with because I consistently post on this website, but because I felt comfortable incorporating other modes into the blog post like image and other hypermedia, like the link to the book written in tweets and the link to a Sesame Street video. Making a blog post also allowed me to answer the questions in the mode of text and writing, which is the mode I have used the most in my educational experience and find to be the easiest when answering questions that require specific answers and examples.

This may be considered hypocritical to the points that I make in my project, for example when I say that other modes should be utilized when composing. However, like I said before, I did incorporate other modes such as image, image slideshow, and hyperlinks to videos.  These other modes helped me to answer and represent the questions presented.

The pictures that I chose to include in my project were representative of my answers to the questions. For example, the first image that I included in my project was an image of a sunset that says “Multimodal… Text. Image. Video. Audio.” This image comes right after the title of my blog post, which is “Multimodal Writing: A Technology Literacy Narrative.” This may be considered repetitive, however, I made this modal choice to reinforce and draw attention to my subject matter and help my audience better engage with what I was talking about. People are more likely to engage with image rather than text, especially on websites and blogs, so I thought this would help bridge the gap between the two.

The slideshow I chose to include in my project represented the different and varying modes that exist for students to compose with. The slideshow does switch pictures on its own, which may draw attention away from the actual text answers. Each slideshow is a symbolic picture of a different mode, with a text caption that explains what each mode is. While this may also be considered repetitive, I made this choice to show that it is possible to use different modes other than text to explain what each mode is.

I included hyperlinks to the book written in tweets to display various modes that people can compose with, as well as a Sesame Street video to display how young children use various modes to engage in learning about topics like the alphabet. I wrote in parenthesis “Click for link” after to clarify what I wanted readers to do. I thought that these would be good examples of using various modes to learn and compose, which is why I included them in my project.

The last picture I included is a cartoon that displays point of view. I thought that this illustrated the Palmeri quote at the beginning of that section pretty well while also incorporating humor that would engage my audience, especially when he talks about expanding perspectives.

Each question is written in bold at the top, and each answer is written in plain text. I made this choice to distinguish and separate the question from the topic presented. This is another conventional blog format technique.

I believe that my technology literacy narrative not only answers the questions, but helps readers engage in various modes in order to better understand the answers to my questions.


Bezemer, J., & Kress, G. (2008). Writing in multimodal texts a social semiotic account of designs for learning. Written communication. 25(2), 166-195.

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. Southern Illinois University Press. 116-148.

Selfe, Cynthia L. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning, Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” College Composition and Communication, June 2009, pp. 616-663.

Yancey, K.B. (2004) Made not only in words: Composition is a new key. College Composition and Communication, 56(2), 297-328.

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment