January 27, 2012

Savor Silence?

My New Year’s resolutions always include 1) create more writing time and 2) be a more effective advocate. There’s an inherent tension between these two goals. When I avoid e-mail and devote myself to a writing project, ah! I feel a special pleasure since I relish the time to create on the page, to explore the possibilities of an evolving manuscript. I love to write which for me means: I need quiet.

Some authors manage to write in coffee shops and cafes while I’d stop the refrigerator motor if I could. I savor total silence. A professor who teaches my book, Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students to future writing teachers tells me that the students are most uncomfortable with the second suggested practice: Enjoy quiet. “Really?” I ask surprised. It seems that quiet made the students uncomfortable, nervous. Indeed, their world is probably full of noise--radio, iPods, music in restaurants, elevators, bars, malls; and group sessions in all areas of education and the work place.

A recent article in The New York Times, “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” includes Picasso’s words, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” Eek! Again in 2012, I say to myself, “Pat, you’ve got to create more quiet for writing. Stay off e-mail.”

It’s not that I like e-mail (except with family and friends), but it is my connection to the amazing and committed advocates with whom I have the honor to work.

Human creativity is amazing and given our diversity—introverts/extroverts, tidy/messy, sober/silly, Type A/Type B, etc.—we need varying circumstances to produce our unique work. Important as sharing bookjoy is to me, though, I long to write more and better, so: silence in my future.

What do you need to be creative?

(photo credit: Silence by wickednox1)

January 19, 2012

Philadelphia Zoo Launches $10,000 University UNLESS Prize Challenge to Help Save Orangutans from Extinction

My daughter Libby Martinez is one of the architects of this exciting project. Please spread the word.

In a groundbreaking initiative, the Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first Zoo, is inviting university students across the United States to join their efforts to save the critically endangered orangutan by competing to win the 2012 University UNLESS Prize. The challenge issued to university students is to develop the most innovative mobile device application to link consumers with palm oil product manufacturers and help increase market demand for certified sustainable palm oil. All students nationwide who are enrolled in a university degree program are eligible to compete. The winning team in the 2012 University UNLESS Prize challenge will be awarded $10,000.

Palm oil is the world’s most widely-produced vegetable oil and is found in a wide array of consumer products including cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, chips, chocolate and ice cream. According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, palm oil can be found in almost 50% of packaged food and is an ingredient in many items including shampoo, cosmetics, lipstick and lotion. Palm oil cultivation is currently one of the leading causes of deforestation worldwide and with the rapid destruction of ecologically-complex rainforests in Sumatra and Borneo, numerous species, including orangutans, are facing extinction in the wild. If the nature of palm oil production does not change, it is estimated that wild orangutans will become extinct in as few as 25 years.

The title of the 2012 University UNLESS Prize is inspired by the timeless words of Dr. Seuss in The Lorax - “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” For additional information, please visit http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/universityunlessprize/.

January 16, 2012

Apply Now for the USBBY Bridge to Understanding Award

The USBBY (United States Board on Books for Young People) Bridge to Understanding Award Committee seeks to identify and honor innovative programs that use children's literature as a way to promote international understanding.

Schools, libraries, scout troops, clubs and bookstores are all eligible for this award. Does your school or library program or do you know of another organization that "promotes reading as a way to expand a child's world"?

Learn more about the award, view information about past winners, and access entry, criteria, and application forms here. Submission deadline for the next award is January 31, 2012.

January 11, 2012

Hooray for Walter Dean Myers!

What wonderful news: esteemed author Walter Dean Myers has been named the third National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. On NPR this week, I heard an interview with Myers who said that his theme would be “Reading is not optional.” He spoke eloquently (as he always does) about how essential family reading is for our young people to have productive futures. Those of us who work on Día and are looking forward to its 16th anniversary in April agree totally.

Some years back, I’d spoken in one of the tents at the National Book Festival and then had the opportunity to stand at the back of a neighboring tent and hear Walter. He said that in many homes the dinner table is a place for families to discuss their days and complex issues and values. He went on to say that many of our young people don’t have such dinner table discussions and that his books are his way of helping young people work through life’s decisions and challenges. Walter Dean Myers is such a honorable man. How fortunate all of us involved in literature for young people are to have him as our ambassador.