♥♥ Smart Apps for Kids Likes Chancey App ♥♥

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Thanks Smart Apps for Kids for a great review of the Chancey app!
“Bottom line: Friendship, sparkling hooves, a Viking helmet and gobs of information about popular horse breeds will make any little reading filly (or colt) happy while playing this app.”
Read the full review:

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Coming Soon…Chancey of the Maury River App

I wrote Chancey of the Maury River (Candlewick Press) because I love horses. The friendship between our late horse, Albert, and my daughter inspired the first story.  Albert himself inspired so many folks, not only me. The second in the series, Macadoo of the Maury River, comes out this August. And, I’m having a total blast writing the third book, Dante of the Maury River, right now.

Riding, shoot even just brushing, a horse makes me happy.

And, honestly, I’m crazy for all the assorted riding outfits and accoutrements. I am! Can’t help it, I’ve always liked playing dress up. Even something as mundane as getting Albert a new halter or fly mask would bring out my inner equestrian-fashionista.While I don’t show, I’ve LOVED helping my daughter select show clothes and get all nice and turned out over the years.

For the longest time, I’ve imagined how fun it would be to create a barn dress up game based on Chancey. Last year, my husband and I founded Dogtown Pursuits because we’re both fascinated by the limitless creative opportunities with digital apps. In partnership with Three Hats Media (who also made this awesome app trailer), we’re just about ready to release a Chancey of the Maury River mobile app complete with an awesome barn dress up game, new story material in the form of Claire’s diary, and some fun facts about the different breeds in the Horses of the Maury River series.

This fall, the fabulous Michael Portis (Three Hats) and I will deliver a 2-hour workshop at the 2013 James River Writers Annual Conference in Richmond, VA.  Check back for more details on the program:

DIY BOOK APPS with Michael Portis and Gigi Amateau

Creating a book is simultaneously an artistic and entrepreneurial act. Beyond self-publishing and e-books, the 21st Century author can act as content creator and digital entrepreneur. In this dawning era of book apps, this session will examine our role and a process for creating book apps.

Rest in Peace My Sweet Albert

My horse died yesterday, sometime in the early black hours when morning is still night. Or maybe just as dawn was breaking.
I should say our horse not my horse. The litany of Albert’s belonging goes like this:
He belonged to my family – my daughter, my husband, me. During our first twelve years of becoming one, he belonged to us. He belonged to every child he ever taught and every kid that ever lifted up a kitten or a puppy to his nose. Every bird that ventured into his space. And, to every man, woman, and child who brushed his mane, mucked his stall, or put hot compresses on his eye. Albert belonged to his friends: Winter, Woody, Dart, Latte, Mia, Lily, Norman, Bo. He belonged to every grieving woman he attended, and there were many who brought their suffering hearts to his stall after the loss of a mother, a grandmother, a child, a marriage, or a horse-companion of their own. Whether they know it or not, Albert also belonged to every person who ever read Chancey.
Our horse passed peacefully.
I imagine he finally lay down because he was exhausted. In the last weeks of his life, he could not sleep on his feet because his feet wouldn’t hold his weight. He shifted continuously, resting one foot then another. We built him a bench, and he used it.
The bench could not reverse the damage to his legs from torn tendons or to his feet from laminitis. He lost weight. Neither bench nor stall rest nor fresh, cut forage could stop his body from breaking down. And so, I imagine he finally fell asleep and fell down.
And, I imagine, too, there are angels who rejoice that God has appointed them to accompany equines to new pasture or sea or mountains. That’s the kind of angel I want to be. If people get to ever be angels.
There’s a lot that I want to write about: practical information about preparing for a horse to die, his last day which I did not know was his last until it was, and the good fortune of having a good vet. I want to write about some of the children who knew and loved Albert.
So there’s your warning. I’ll likely be writing an awful lot about our horse, even though he’s gone.
Right now, I think I’ll just remember him. Remember what a good life he lived. What a blessing he offered to me and to so many.
I’m writing this post on a plane to Portland. This morning in the security line two people cut in front of me – a grown woman and a teenage boy. Tit for tat goes against my personal code of conduct, but I shook my head and, nearly shouting, said, “Dude! That’s so not cool to cut in line. I mean, really, it’s just uncool.”
I tried grabbing my outburst by the tail, hoping to coil that beast right back to where it originated, so I could pull it out and examine it later. My heart is suffering, and a suffering heart sometimes cloaks itself in wrath. The part of me that tries to do better by folks than I did by those cutters almost explained to them, “My horse died. And, I’m so sad.”

But, I just turned away, took off my shoes, and then put them back on.

Yah, Boy!

Just before Thanksgiving I spent an afternoon with the 4th grade at Bettie Weaver Elementary School in Chesterfield County. Bettie Weaver is a community of serious readers and writers, a school that prides itself on a high level of literary engagement.The school principal, a horsewoman and fellow boarder at Campbell Springs, invited me to share some thoughts about reading and writing with her students. The 4th grade prepared for my visit by using Chancey of the Maury River as a read aloud title.

What a joy to spend a few hours with them! I left Bettie Weaver feeling so thankful that my life offers opportunities to talk with young readers and writers and very thankful, too, for the passionate educators and librarians I met that day. Here are a few of the drawings the students made of scenes from Chancey:

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All of the pictures from the classes were awesome! The best part, though, was reading their notes to me:

That was my favorite book that my teacher has ever read to us. The most tearful part in the story was when Trevor was sent home.

I didn’t know you were coming today. I thought you would come on the first day after Thanksgiving break. I really liked this book and hope you did too.

I love your book Chancey. I think it’s kind of funny.

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us fourth graders. Your book was painting wonderful, detailed pictures in everyone’s mind. I was surprised and impressed at the same time.

Your book CHANCEY OF THE MAURY RIVER was spectacular.

Thank you for coming. You taught me lots of things about characters and how to write a story about anything.

I’m still so sad about Trevor. I loved your book.

Now, if I ever write a book I know what to do.

Chancey is a majestic pony and loves people. He’s not a mean pony.

I love to ride to and I have a white horse named Buddy. I like to ride him but sometimes he will get bossy.

I think the mountains are very cool.

I love to write!

My favorite part is when Trevor passed the boy and his fat pony.

I love the blue ridge mountains too!

I have one question wich is how long did it take to write the book?

I wanted Mrs. Payne to read two chapters a day.

My dream also is to write a wonderful book just like you. I love to ride horses.

Our class was intrigued by the part where Claire fell off Chancey.

Is your real horse’s name Chancey?

I wanted to cry when Claire got hurt. I hope you continue writing the great books you do. Ya boy ya!

Great Books for Horse Lovers

Have you discovered this wonderful website, Great Horse Books for Horse Lovers, yet? Here, Vanessa Wright has curated one of the most comprehensive, helpful, and interesting online collections of horse books. You’ll want to bookmark Great Books for Horse Lovers and Vanessa’s other project, The Literary Horse, so you can easily return and explore the resources there. Whether you crave fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, instructional, or children’s books, Vanessa’s site will guide you to some great titles.

I’m so grateful that she has included Chancey in her collection. Thank you, Great Books for Horse Lovers!

Great Books for Horse Lovers: Fire Star: An Interview with Gigi Amateau about Chancey of the Maury River.

Can Spring Be Far Behind?

Shedding Out

Daffodils, Lenten Rose, downy new grass, and Albert shedding his coat like a snake sheds skin…all signs that spring is definitely emerging.

Albert and I spent this afternoon getting ready for a Skype visit this week with a 5th grade class in Texas. The students are reading my book, Chancey of the Maury River. Albert and I are going to skype together from the barn because he is much more interesting than I am. As you can see, that pony is ready to shed out his winter coat! Honestly, he probably needs a few more spa days like today to get all that hair off [and mud].

This afternoon the barn kids helped me out. Little Alex – who is now well taller than I – got my computer and camera all set up and did the test drive. Maddy washed his fly mask, and more than one person helped me beautify Albert in the washstall. After I turned my boy back out in his field, I video skyped my dad for double-triple insurance that everything will go smoothly.

I hope on Skype-day the weather cooperates with us as it did today. Sunny, seventy degree days in February always bring to mind that verse from Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” That one line has lifted me through many a tough time, and it’s a good tribute to Albert’s journey, too.

Inside a Book: An interview with book artist, Sherry Fatla, Candlewick Press

One of the most awesome benefits of writing books for kids is that I get to visit schools and actually get to write WITH kids. It’s really an honor sit around a table, bowed over a waiting page, using the written word to explore the world within and around us. Writing together.

Writing together at Chester Middle

Whenever I spend time in schools as a visiting author, I am blown away by how passionate and curious students are about reading, about books, and about bookmaking. Inevitably, our conversations turn to fonts and book covers. I’ve learned that many young writers feel strongly about their favorite fonts! And, I’ve heard young readers and writers get pretty annoyed when the pages of a book look disconnected from the story itself.

I’m really lucky to have worked with Sherry Fatla, an artist at Candlewick Press, on all of my books. I know I am kind of sentimental, but truly, it never fails that when she sends me ideas about typeface and those first typeset pages, I get choked up every time because her pages look like the story! In this interview, Sherry answers questions from my writing students about designing the pages of my book Chancey of the Maury River.

Q: Could you tell us about how you do your job?
Sherry: The first thing I do when I am designing a book is read the manuscript! I think it is very important for the reader to feel that the design of the book really goes with the story. So I think about how I am feeling when I am reading it, and then try to find fonts that will interpret those feelings. Font is another name for typeface. If I think the book design would be enhanced by using decorative elements, like the little stars on the Chancey of the Maury River pages, then I start looking for those, too. Of course, the decorative elements should look like they belong with the fonts, and that is where the fun begins, making those choices.

Q: How many typefaces are there in the world?
Sherry: Well, I don’t know exactly how many typefaces there are, except to say there are thousands! Some are really beautiful, some are funny, and some look very similar to many others. It is the designer’s job to find the right fonts for each project. Many fonts can be seen online, and there are printed catalogs and books as well. But, back to how a book is designed. After reading the manuscript, and thinking about the fonts, I think about the size of the book. How big or how small the book is also has an impact on how you feel about it as you are reading it. So, many decisions are made in the beginning.

Q: Do you only use a computer or did you draw the chapter titles for Chancey by hand?
I do most of my work on the computer, using two design programs, either Quark or InDesign. However, I usually start by drawing the outline of the page on paper. For instance, Chancey is 5.5 inches wide x 8.25 inches high. Then I think about the space around the type, called the margins. I draw a box on my page that shows me how much space I want the type to take up. The margin that is on the side that goes into the middle of the book is called the gutter. It is usually the smallest measurement. The margin at the top of the page is called the head margin. It is a little bigger than the gutter. The margin on the outside of the book is a little bigger than the head margin, and last, the bottom margin, called the foot margin, is the biggest.

The next step happens on the computer. In a design program I make the same page I designed on paper, and try out some fonts to see if they work for the story. I try them in different sizes, too, until they look just right. I also try different amounts of space between the lines of type, which is easy to do on the computer! Then I can see how big the type will be, and how it will fit on the in the space on the page inside the margins I drew. Sometimes the margins have to change a little bit, or the size of the type, until the page looks balanced. Then I try out some fonts for the chapter titles and ornaments, and for the page numbers. The name for the number at the bottom of a page is folio.

Q: How did you pick the stars at the bottom of each page in Chancey of the Maury River? How many typefaces are you using in Chancey?

Sherry: The stars in Chancey are from a font called Zapf Dingbats! Dingbats is another name for ornaments. I chose them because stars play an important part in the story.

The other fonts are Horley Old Style, which is what the pages are typeset in, and Dear Sarah, which looks like handwriting. So no, I didn’t draw the chapter titles. There are many fonts that look like handwriting, in many styles. Another designer created the book cover, and she chose Dear Sarah because it looks classic and warm, which is another way of saying it looks friendly to the reader. We wanted the inside of the book to look like it belonged with the cover, so Dear Sarah was used for the chapter titles. I thought that Horley Old style also had a warm feeling that felt right and fit the story, and worked well with Dear Sarah.

Dear Sarah is the font used for Chancey's chapter titles.

Horley Old Style is the font for the text in Chancey.

Q: What does it mean when a book is typeset?

Sherry: When we say a book is typeset, we mean that after all the design decisions I described above are made, someone called a typesetter will create the entire book on the computer, using all those design guidelines: the page size, the margins, the font and how big it is, how many lines will be on each page, and where the folios will be placed.

Years ago, before computers were invented, every single letter of every word was placed by hand. Fonts were cast in metal in complete alphabets, including numbers and punctuation symbols. The metal pieces making up the words were lined up on thin bars to keep them straight across the bottom, and row after row was set in place by hand. More bars were added to make spaces between the lines. When a page was finished, it would be covered in ink, and run through a press to print it on paper. We still use the term typesetting today, even though the process is quite different on the computer.

I hope you now understand a little more about how a book is designed. Thank you for asking!

Chancey of the Maury River cover