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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Is magazine writing dead?

I noticed a series of cool articles about the importance of magazine writing on non-fiction for kids. The thing is ... these articles were written in 2004.

My question is this... in the current publication environment, where short stories are getting good play on Kindle Shorts, and magazine publication is down overall, are these articles still relevant to an author seeking to get their content about science out there?

Here's an article on the rise & relevance of short stories online for 99cents:

would it make more sense to move your publications into this venue? (admittedly formatting/editing for Kindle is not straightforward). Moreover, other formats (epub) make it easy to insert actual movies (short vids), and are much more visually engaging for kids of this era.

What about the use of apps? Here's a nice outfit that claims to be able to create kid-friendly apps to go with your non-fiction children's book:

And here's another example from Twitter;
If you have older kids who love Legos, and you have an iTouch, iPhone or iPad 2, the Life of George game is fun.

Over Xmas I watched my nephew spend an obscene amount of hours on his gameboy playing educational apps. (They said that couldn't be done -- interesting kids in educational apps, but I saw it happen. His favorite app was Family Feud, but he had to spell a lot, and asked us endless spelling questions.)

Friday, December 30, 2011

STEM Friday with Windows to Adventure!

Bloggers across the kidlitosphere celebrate STEM Friday by writing about science, technology, engineering and mathematics books for kids on Friday.

So I’m writing about my new book series: Windows to Adventure!

This series is meant to be companion pieces for the science found on the massive website Windows to the Universe. (, but includes more personable fantasy characters to make the science accessible for younger readers.

STEM Friday was started by author Anastasia Suen at her blog: Booktalking (, and I thank her for this opportunity to both learn and share fabulous science-learning resources for kids with other knowledgeable kidlitophiles.

I work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a professional scientist. (NASA does not endorse any commercial products, and my writing for kids is an activity that is separate from my NASA work).

I’ve always believed that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Windows to Adventure (W2A) is predicated on that theory! (grins). I figure that if kids can memorize all the names and features of dinosaurs, then they can learn the names and features of the layers of the atmosphere, the properties of stars and planets, and some of the physics – from geophysics to astrophysics – that makes these topics interesting to someone like me. Its just a matter of making the material engaging, of finding a way of answering some questions and laying the seeds for more questions. If the kids are curious and intrigued, they’ll invest the time to come up with answers of their own. That’s my goal, to make the science intriguing and not in a finding-answers-to-my-homework sense.

W2A takes a group of kids on ‘adventures’ in which the science is important but incidental. In one story they go straight up in the atmosphere, meeting fantasy characters along the way who are associated with atmospheric layers like the stratosphere and magnetosphere. In one story they go walking along the Milky Way to meet stars of different ages (and sizes). In the first book they go along to meet some of the most distinctive mountains and volcanoes in the solar system (in anthropomorphic form so that they can remember their geography and geology more easily).

The books also introduce cultural things – such as language! If the kids are in a country like Japan, some of the characters speak some standard Japanese phrases as ‘konichi-wa’ (hello!).

As a practicing planetary scientist I hope to broaden a student’s exposure to aspects of the planets, to compare and contrast these worlds – all in a way that is interesting and that helps them to be ale to process the news that is coming out of NAS mission like Cassini’s mission to Saturn, or these exoplanets that we’re discovering, to understanding aspects of our own planet’s climate change.

So today while blogging with you, I’m also going to be posting new material to the forum page of the Red Phoenix Books website, where I hope to bring planetary science news of the day up for general discussion with visitors.

Oh, and did I mention that the books try to be multi-cultural, with protagonists of many different ethnicities and cultures? I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood, and that is the basis for creating the neighborhood where these stories take place.

The ten books in the series can be found here (Windows to Adventure). I call them ‘creative non-fiction for kids’ – because though they combine science with fantasy and adventure, at bottom they are not plot-driven stories but vehicles for conveying information.

I hope to see all of you as visitors to the site, and participants in the forum! Cheers.

Links mentioned here:
Windows to the Universe
Windows to Adventure
A Scientist's Cafe (forum) (also found directly from the Red Phoenix Books site's navigation panel.
Other resources at Booktalking's STEM Friday

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vicky English's Camelot: Character Arc and Theme

Vicky English's Camelot: Character Arc and Theme: "I’m currently reading Stan William’s The Moral Premise on my new Kindle (Phil’s Christmas present to me.) It’s a book that was recommended b..."