The festival is coming! The festival is coming! On March 4 & 5, 2023, the best book festival in the country, the Tucson Festival of Books, will be held at the University of Arizona mall. If you’re a newbie to TFOB, or even a seasoned professional, planning your visit can be a bit overwhelming. Not to worry, I have some recommendations!
Join Me and My Fellow Authors
I’ll be sharing booth #325 with fellow author/illustrator Anderson Atlas. “Grab an Adventure by the Tale” will be in the Children’s section. We have books for kids of all ages, including those who are only kids at heart. Between the two of us, we have an incredible array of locally written and illustrated books. In addition, Atlas always comes up with an interesting decoration for the booth – you don’t want to miss what he comes with this year!
As you stroll around the mall, be sure to stop at the Arizona State Poetry Society, booth #413, and Tucson Sisters in Crime, #427. All of these booths will have books for sale by Arizona authors. Whether you prefer poetry or mysteries, these organizations will fulfill your desires.
Unfortunately, this amazing event only lasts one weekend. Clear your calendar and come on out. If you want to hear your favorite author, search for that one special tome, or enjoy learning some science, the Tucson Festival of Books is the place to be. Oh, and the funds raised go to support local literacy programs.
I’m so happy in-person book sales are returning. I love speaking to people about my books and about the importance of science education through children’s books. Many people are delighted to find my books and often suggest other topics for me to write about. I write them all down.
My most popular books are my Don’t series, which features animals and plants found in the Sonoran Desert (and other places), are popular in the Tucson area. Often people will comment that they’ve bought one or seen it for sale in various gift shops. That makes my day. However, even though I’m delighted when people recognize my books, I often get credit for a book I didn’t write: Don’t Call Me Pig! But I do have a story about it.
Once Upon a Don’t
Don’t Call Me Pig! is about the javelinas, or peccaries, of the Sonoran Desert. They are not pigs, although they look a lot like pigs. One clue is that javelinas don’t have tails! Another difference, which is important to my frequent topic of invasiveness of species, is that javelinas are native to the Americas (the New World), but domestic pigs (which become wild boars) are from the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe).
Don’t Call Me Pig! was written by the very talented author, Conrad Storad. When I was planning on writing about the differences between turtles and tortoises, I wanted to emulate Storad’s book style. His books included many scientific facts and natural history, just like I wanted to do. When I bought my copy of Don’t Call Me Pig!, I discovered that his picture book rhymed. You may be familiar with my opinion that children’s pictures books should rhyme. Inspired, I created my rhyming picture book on behalf of my tortoise, Myrtle (not Myrtle the turtle!)
However, I was concerned about the title. I wanted to name my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! Was this too close to Don’t Call Me Pig!? Even though, he didn’t have any other titles with Don’t Call Me, would people confuse us?
As I was contemplating my book’s name, I had the opportunity to sit next to Storad at a book festival in Tucson. This gave me a chance to speak with him. First, I learned that his book, Don’t Call Me Pig!, had just sold a million copies. Not bad for a rhyming picture book, published 1999. Modern traditional publishers have been wary of rhyming picture books, with some editors and agents refusing to even look at them. I doubt I will ever reach that sales level, but why not try?
I asked Storad if he minded if I titled my book so closely to his. He graciously told me to go ahead, that he didn’t mind at all. That was the start of my Don’t series about animals and plants that are found in the Sonoran Desert and other places. I am grateful to Storad for his kindness and encouragement. I doubt he remembers me, but I will always remember him.
For more information about my books and me, check out www.LyricPower.net. You’ll find tons of educational and entertaining books, downloadable workbooks, and puzzles.
Most of the iguanas in my life have been green iguanas, Iguana iguana. However, not all green iguanas are green. Through the years I’ve cared for green iguanas who were various shades of green, orange, blue, and even one that was black and white. Like any animal, they all had different personalities. Some liked to be cuddled, while others were content to sit on my lap or shoulders as long as I didn’t touch them. Then there were those I called real people-lizards. Those were the ones who enjoyed our visits to schools and senior centers. Still, others were homebodies and preferred to stay out of the spotlight. No matter their coloring or temperament, I’ve found that iguanas are my writing muse.
Years ago, I retired from my job as a laboratory research biologist to become a writer. I quickly found inspiration in writing with my iguanas around me. To soak in their positive creativity, I moved my writing desk into their midst. One Christmas, a friend gave me a baby female iguana from her favorite breeder, who was well known for producing easily socialized iguanas. When a new iguana comes into my life, I like to choose a meaningful name – we humans like to name things. I pondered the ease with which this little green lizard was stimulating my muse, and the moniker Calliope came to mind. Calliope was one of the Greek Muses, the nine sister goddesses who presided over poetry, song, the arts, and sciences. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry. Epic poems are narrative, long poems. Some articles refer to Calliope as the muse of long poetry.
Since many of my books happen to be long poems about scientific facts, Calliope was just the muse I needed. Non-fiction can be written as rhyming poems. I believe it enhances learning and retention of information. Consequently, I think all picture books should rhyme.
During my adventures in writing poetic science, I’ve received comments stating that poetry and science should never be mixed. Then, at a book festival in Chicago, several poets happened to be at my booth as they discussed how non-fiction could be written in rhyme. One of them pointed at my books, turned to the others, and said “See? You can put non-fiction into rhyme.”
Here’s a real-world example. As part of my efforts as a citizen scientist, I create iguana identification booklets. These pocket-size booklets are used in areas in which iguanas, both native and invasive, are common. They teach people how to tell between native and invasive iguana species, but that’s not all. They state where to call for invasive removal and provide tips for protecting their native animals, amongst other things.
Since rhyming is my thing, the text in these booklets rhymes. One of the target audiences for these booklets is dock workers. They are the front line of biosecurity. Unfortunately, green iguanas often stow away in shipping containers and it’s up to the workers to prevent them from getting ashore and out of the port. At first, it was feared that workers wouldn’t like the “childish” rhyming, but authorities soon realized the opposite; rhymes assisted in detailed memorization. It wasn’t long before they insisted upon rhymes.
Calliope Green Iguana has contributed to many books, and I enjoy creating leaves of books while Calliope, a folivore, enjoys the leaves in her food. I appreciate her support as I continue writing long, epic poems which become entertaining, educational picture books.
Buying books online is wonderfully convenient, but for me, selling my STEM-based books in-person is special, especially when the people are children. I’m delighted when kids show interest in the science that I include in my books. And I’m especially thrilled when girls are interested in snakes!
Breaking into Science
As a child, I dreamt of being a scientist, an outdoorsy naturalist, in particular. At that time, my grandmother, who was a teacher, was a little doubtful in my ability to be a scientist, something that she couldn’t be, due to societal restrictions on women. Even though she taught science in school, she couldn’t be a scientist. But, I hoped to study the environment and be involved in conservation. Fortunately, with time came change. I did pursue a career in science, eventually obtaining a Master of Science. Though I had hoped for a job outside, I ended up indoors and became a laboratory research biologist. I was able to do hands-on research involving many diseases and medical technology. Still, I still longed to be outdoors.
To curb my naturalist cravings, I volunteered as a citizen scientist. My first project was helping with conservation projects on the rock iguanas, Cyclura sp., in the Caribbean. To me, the ideal vacation is chasing large, wild lizards over rough limestone karst and thorny brush. No laying on the beach for me!
Over the years, I also obtained the desire to write books and decided to mix my two favorite things together, creating engaging educational books that make science fun! Two of my books involve snakes: Don’t Make Me Rattleabout rattlesnakes and Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Taleabout the endemic boa constrictors of The Bahamas. The boa book includes actual photographs taken by scientists in the field!
All this to say, that I am absolutely delighted by the fact that a majority of the snake book sales in recent years have been to girls! Yes, girls! When allowed to choose for themselves, I’m excited to report that girls like snakes and want to learn about them.
So, this holiday season, as you are thinking about a great gift for the girls in your life, think science, think SNAKES! My publisher, LyricPower.net has workbooks and activity sheets about snakes, too.
I also discuss this very topic in one of my most recent Reptile Chats. Check it out below, or view that and all my wonderfully scaley videos on my YouTube channel.
Today, February 26, is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. A fairy tale is defined as a children’s story about imaginary or magical beings and lands. Some fairy tales have been around so long they are part of folklore, passed down from storyteller to storyteller. Many of the fairy tales popular today were written in the 1800s; you might be familiar with those written by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.
I am excited to tell you that fairy tales are still being created today. These stories and characters might still be popular two hundred years from now.
Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy is a new magical being, a fairy who lives in the common Five-finger tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, found only in the Lucayan Archipelago. The land in my fairy tale is very real, but it is a wondrous, I might even say, magical, place: The Bahamas. It is hoped by Scott Johnson, Tabby’s creator, and The Bahamas National Trust, and me that Tabby (illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe), who loves Bahamian wildlife, bush teas, and making friends with animals and humans alike, will become a symbol for conservation and environmental education, not only in the islands but around the world.
One afternoon about 3:00 p.m., I heard sirens on a nearby main road. The sirens went on for quite a while and included several pitches. The vehicles probably included those from the police and fire departments, and perhaps an ambulance. I listened as I brushed my horse, Button.
She turned to listen to the noise, too–not that she hadn’t heard sirens before, but these did seem to be excessive.
Then, voices nearby were raised in a chorus that matched the pitches of the sirens! The large pack of coyotes in the area joined in the song. I usually hear the coyotes’ chorus at dawn or dusk, not mid-afternoon, but they added spontaneous flourishes and harmony to the sirens that midday. One ran up and down the scale in an amazing arpeggio. It was a magical choral moment.
They typically call to each other in greeting to help them stay in contact and reunite. On that afternoon, did they believe the sirens were pack members calling hello, or did they simply grab an opportunity to enjoy a musical interlude in the afternoon?
Book Note: I live in the Sonoran Desert and enjoy the wildlife immensely. I have written three books on Sonoran Desert wildlife, one for little ones about desert tortoises entitled Don’t Call Me Turtle; and two others for all ages, called Don’t Make Me Flyabout roadrunners, and Don’t Make Me Rattle, about rattlesnakes. They are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to make learning the science throughout fun.
These books make excellent gifts and can be used for school projects, too. Check out my ‘Don’t Series’ today.
I am pleased to announce the “birth” day of my book above.
Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped (an adventure tale featuring endangered flora and fauna of The Bahamas) is four years old this month.The book has a conservation/ecological theme–woven into a story about Curtis Curly-tail Lizard and his friends, who all work together to save themselves and stolen endangered plants from poachers.
I say, “Let’s learn about science in fun ways! That way, it sticks.”
In the third book of the series, the very curious Curtis Curly-tail mistakes a poacher for a tourist wanting to snap a picture of his perfectly-curled tail. Instead, he is captured, along with critically endangered native plants, Conch and Iguanas. Together the animals plot their escape from the dangerous poachers, but they can’t do it alone. Who will help them? How will they get free of the cages on a speeding boat and return home safely to Warderick Wells?
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 10+ Lovely Colored Pencil Illustrations by Jessica Minns/30 Pages
Writing a book is often the easiest part of “the book business.” Unfortunately, due to the hours lost to writing, the author then has to market her work, even, in our times, if she is traditionally published.
As scary as it is to go to bookstores and ask the manager or the book buyer to consider selling my books, I have met some very interesting people along the way. When I was searching for selling opportunities, many people suggested I contact Winn Bundy at Singing Wind Bookshop.
I was not familiar with Singing Wind Bookshop. It was located in Benson, AZ for many years. I knew where Benson was, so I got directions and headed out. Singing Wind was not in the city limits of Benson, but in the surrounding territory. Driving through the open spaces, I wondered where the directions were taking me. Finally, there appeared a sign on a dirt road: Headquarters for Books about the Southwest.
That dirt road took me to an amazing place. The Singing Wind Bookshop was located within Winn Bundy’s ranch house. And yes, it was a working ranch. As I entered the bookshop, I was greeted by a dog, and a gray-haired woman, who insisted on giving me a tour of the shop. That was a requirement – you had to have the tour.
I was used to book shops with organized sections: Fiction, Self-Help, Science, History, etc. Singing Wind was uniquely organized by Winn but it was organized. She could find any book that she stocked in the multitude of literary works contained in the rooms.
It was a magical place where you could spend hours among an unusual array of books, many I doubt I’d find anywhere else. She truly had the best collection of books about the Southwest. After I had selected several must-have books, I approached the manager about stocking my books. I first offered her Don’t Call Me Turtle!She was non-committal, saying Winn would have to approve it.
I was thrilled when Winn told me that she thought my book was great and wanted it for her bookshop. I knew then I was a success as an author. I had Winn Bundy’s approval.
I was amazed that this cattlewoman in the middle of the wide open spaces of Southern Arizona knew so many authors around the world. We were working on school programs together when Winn’s health deteriorated. It would have been such an honor to work with her and the students. She did incredible work to promote literacy from her ranch house bookshop. If you like to read more about this remarkable woman, here is a great article in The Arizona Daily Star.
Don’t forget to purchase your copy of the Winn-Bundy-approved Don’t Series by me!
In the above illustration from Don’t Make Me Rattle! the reader can see the heat-sensing ability of rattlesnakes.
I’ve been at odds with some of the ideas of traditional publishers lately. First is the preference to avoid rhyming in picture books. Personally, I feel picture books should always rhyme. I don’t think Dr. Suess would be as popular as he is without the rhyming. He even made words up!
Another disagreement I’ve had with publishers is over illustrations. I hire illustrators to create bold, brightly colored images. Now, a study from Carnegie Mellon says children’s books should have fewer illustrations!
Despite their conclusions, I think illustrations are important in children’s books. We are very visual animals and use our color vision extensively. Bright colors appeal to young children and color is known to affect moods and behavior.
Okay, I understand that if children only have words to read, they will concentrate on them and have better reading comprehension. But where is the joy of reading, the excitement of opening a book, delighting in the illustration, then delving into the words? If you let a child choose a book to read, it will usually be the one with the bright, colorful pictures.
I realize that the illustrations in my books are what attracts buyers, but then they do enjoy the words—especially the rhyming words! I get letters from kids and adults about this. Colorful illustrations and quality text work together to improve not only the reading but the interest in reading. A minority of teenagers today read for enjoyment. If the love of books isn’t ingrained in the early readers, interest in reading will fade as they age. The content of the words is enhanced with a skillfully rendered picture.
And, to be honest, the illustrations aren’t only for the children. Adults appreciate them, too, just like the rhyming!
If you want to enjoy colorfully illustrated picture and adventure books, and believe as I do that illustrations keep the kids reading, visit My Books here at ElaineAPowers.com and Our Books at Lyric Power Publishing LLC to check out our wonderful science-based, illustrated, rhyming, FUN, educational books.
Book Note: Here’s a direct link to Don’t Make Me Rattle, which is full of scientific information about rattlesnakes, with fantastic colorful illustrations’ and ALL of the science is written in rhyme to help the student remember the facts. How about that!
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.
It’s not only animals that need protecting during hurricane season; people are also in danger. In this story, as in real life, people come together to help not only each other, but animals and the environment, as well. Along with the destruction caused by hurricanes, Elaine also discusses the positive effects in the book. (Yes, there are benefits from hurricanes. I’ll bet you didn’t know that!)
Today is National Radio Day. Way back before TV/streaming media as we know it and before today’s audio books, there was radio. Of course, there still is, but in the early part of the twentieth century, radio was our only source for news from around the world, and it provided wonderful entertainment. Radio shows were sponsored by businesses, so the shows had set running times, leaving airtime for advertisements.
Radio was available to everyone and we enjoyed being able to do other things while we were listening. There were comedic radio shows and dramatic storytelling, with sound effects, eliciting emotions. Several stories led to unfortunate circumstances, the most famous of which was Orson Welles’ broadcast of the H.G. Wells story, War of the Worlds. My mother, near the alleged site of the Martian landing, heard the broadcast and witnessed the panic.
Twenty years ago, radio shows had a renewed popularity with recreated “old-time” and modern “new-time” shows. These modern radio shows didn’t have the time constraints of earlier days. Some acting guilds today are performing what were radio shows on stage. Audio and radio theater provide listeners, whether in their homes, cars, or acted in a performance hall, a refreshing alternative to the usual standard fare of music, news and talk shows.
My first serious writing was in creating scripts for the Hunterdon Radio Theatre in New Jersey. My scripts have been performed on stage, as broadcasts, and recorded onto CDs.
Are you a performer–or a company manager? Need a break from those monotonous Zoom meetings? Why not take a look at my short audio/theater scripts, get a few co-workers together and perform a play for the wider audience? My scripts range from comedic to spooky and the purchase of a script comes with the performance rights. They can be performed by adults or children, are family appropriate, and you might even learn a little science! Break up the online-meeting monotony and have some fun today reading or acting a play! (Or two!)
Get to Know Your Customers Day is a day that is of interest to me every day. I want to know my customers. Do they like my books? How can my books be better? What should I write about in the ones to come? How can I improve the workbooks and activity sheets sold at Lyric Power? Would any of my customers be interested in theater scripts—because I am also an actor and scriptwriter.
I do try to write books that fill a specific need in scientific information—as in Don’t Call Me Turtle, which tells the differences between turtles and tortoises. I’d also like the workbooks and activity sheets published by Lyric Power Publishing, LLC to be useful to teachers and families in their educational activities.
So, please, drop me a line. Let me know how my science books, which I work to make fun so that learning is fun, could better serve you. Reach out about your educational needs, etc. Or, maybe you already own one of my books and you’d be willing to write a review at Amazon? It would be a great help to me and sincerely appreciated.
I’m hoping you get to know me a bit more every time I post at the blog, Tales and Tails, but I would like to learn more about you, too, and not just today. I’d truly love it if you reached out to me to introduce yourself, so here’s a link to my contact form. Let’s talk about science and how I can help. Thank you for stopping by at my website today.
Have you ever had to do something that you didn’t want to do or you just couldn’t get started?
It happens to all of us. It’s easy to find excuses not to start. Like when writing blog posts, I stare at the blank page and wonder what I should write. All that white space, staring back at me.
Today, I remembered when I was on Eleuthera, where the island’s artists had all come together to sell their work. As part of the event, a blank canvas was set up with paints. The idea was, artists and visitors would each add something to the painting.
The canvas was set up right behind my table. I saw the hesitancy to begin and I encouraged every artist that went by to start the painting, but none of them would. So I did. I was there celebrating the publication of my new book, Grow Home, Little Seeds, which is about plants finding their homes and sprouting, so I painted a plant sprouting as it pushed up out of the earth.
Amazingly, that’s all it took. The artists each added something and, as you can see, created an amazing piece of art.
You can still see my original sprout, too! So you see, just a little effort can get things going and you just might end up with a masterpiece.
The book I was selling is set in the Leon Levy Preserveon Eleuthera. It’s a tale of seed-friends, each finding their own perfect place to sprout.
Geology is the science that explores the earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it. Geology is often included under the topic of Earth Sciences. You might be surprised to learn that I often include geology in my fun science books that feature lizards. You can’t really study biology without knowing the geology of the ecosystem.Everything is interconnected.
One of my favorite inclusions in The Dragon of Nani Cave in the mineral, caymanite.
Hidden in the limestone karst of Grand Cayman’s East End and the Bluff of Cayman Brac is an uncommon variety of dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. Caymanite is prized for its layers of earth tone colors, which are the result of different metal contents. Its harness allows for it to be shaped into jewelry and carvings.
InThe Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Ladsare sent on a quest to find a piece of caymanite for Old Soldier crab. It’s the most dangerous thing a lizard can do on Cayman Brac, because that’s where the dragon lives! One of the fun things about being an author is having a say in the design of the book cover. I had mine when I asked that the book title be colored just like caymanite.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s me, Curtis! Welcome to my first “Tails” post!
Today, I’m telling you the story of Myrtle, a Red-foot TORTOISE who lives with Elaine. When Myrtle grew tired of everyone calling her Myrtle the Turtle, one day she asked Elaine to write a book about the differences between tortoises and turtles. Of course, Elaine said yes. (She and Myrtle are best buds. Elaine is pictured below reading Myrtle’s book to Myrtle.)
Well, what do you know? It turned out not just tortoises love the science book–kids do, too. Don’t Call Me Turtle! has fans across America, just like the children’s book I asked Elaine to write!
Don’t Call Me Turtle is written in rhyme and I gotta tell you, the five and under age group LOVE the rhymes, which tell the differences between the two hard shells:
“My tortoise shell is heavy; it takes strength to walk on the ground. But a turtle’s shell is lightweight, perfect for swimming around.”
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