Let’s talk about vultures. They are definitely not the most glamorous of animals. After all, they’re a bit odd looking (even ugly?) and they eat roadkill. But they are oh, so cool. Let’s start with why many species of vultures are bald. That’s so when they stick their heads in that rotting, nasty roadkill, the festering blood full of bacteria doesn’t get stuck in their feathers! And now you’re probably wondering, how they can eat rotting meat in the first place and not get sick. Turns out that the stomach acid of vultures is so corrosive that it can dissolve some metals and therefore makes short order of any bacteria in the dead meat they feast on. That stomach acid comes in handy in other ways too. Once digestion is complete, vultures poop on their own legs. Disgusting? Most certainly. However, not only does that help vultures to cool down on hot days, but the acids help to disinfect their legs and feet after they’ve been mucking around inside a carcass. Yes, you read correctly. Their poop acts like a cleanser. The stomach acid of vultures is also useful when it comes out the other way – when they barf. Some vultures will projectile vomit when threatened. If the smell alone doesn’t send a predator running, the acid that is in their vomit will. No, vultures are not glamorous; but there’s no denying it – they are amazing.
Tomorrow I will celebrate a very important birthday…Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines that Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel will (officially) be released. This particular book has had an interesting life leading up to publication…proposal, acceptance, contract, completion, submission, release from contract, anger, determination, a question, new contract, rewrite, and VIOLA! You can read the details from my blog on August 19, 2019 when the actual books arrived on my doorstep.
The takeaway, for kids, other authors, anyone, is that determination and hard work pay off. That, and physics really can be LOADS of FUN! Happy contraption building.
While you wouldn’t actually want to put this shark in your pocket, it would fit there. But that’s not how it got its name – it was so-named because it actually has pocket-like glands near the pectoral fins. And, it squirts a bio-luminescent liquid from them to attract prey!
This shark is remarkable not only because of its size (5.5 inches long) or the glow-in-the-dark liquid it produces, but also because it is so rare. In fact, only two have ever been found. In separate oceans. The findings highlight the amazing biodiversity of Earth and how much more there is to learn. And, how much there is to protect.
“…the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” (Greta Thunberg, November 2018)
Last Friday was the day of the global climate strike. I was both thrilled and dismayed by the events of the day. First and foremost, I was awed as I watched the news feeds that morning. MILLIONS of people all over the world gathered, marched, and made their voices heard. Streets were packed with strikers. Voices were heard. The movement is growing.
But. It still has a long way to go. Many people I talked to that day didn’t know about the climate strike. The strike I attended only had about 300 people. The vibe was strong and the message clear, but there simply weren’t that many people there. Then I watched the national news. The story about the NFL football player who doesn’t know how to treat people was three stories ahead of the news about the GLOBAL climate strike. On the local news the climate strike was buried five stories in, like it was a passing human interest story they felt obligated to cover. Don’t get me wrong. The movement IS growing. But Friday’s strike wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, a one time thing. It was one step on a long journey. Want to get involved? Check out these organizations:
The younger generation has not so subtly pointed out that past generations have done nothing to end the climate crisis. They are right. Among the many things that youth around the world are doing to incite change is this week’s climate strike. You do not have to be young to strike – these are inter-generational protests.There strikes organized all over the United States and the world. In Boulder there are two. There is a march in Denver. And, there’s a march starting at the gates of the White House in Washington D.C. If ever there were a time for action, it is now. Go to one of these sites to find a strike or march near you: strikewithus.org, National Children’s Campaign, 350.org, Zero Hour, Fridays for the Future, Global Climate Strike, or the Sunrise Movement.
To again cite Greta Thunberg, “The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
When I saw the TED Talk by 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, I was awestruck, amazed, inspired, and grateful. This young Swede has become the face of climate activism, rallying youth and adults around the world. When she first heard about the climate crisis, she didn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper and the headline for every news program. To her, if we were truly in a crisis situation, then we should be acting. That if our way of living is threatening the planet, then we should change our way of living and not carry on as always.
She also points out that we, as human beings don’t need to solve the climate crisis. We already have all of the solutions. We know what to do. What we do need is action. And in her words, “It has to start today.”
This is the last of my wildflower series, a nod to summer season that is all too quickly coming to an end. Even though Colorado is a great place to be outdoors in any season, the end of summer is always a little sad for me. Hikes to high alpine lakes are one of my favorite things to do. And then there are the flowers. One in particular I look for every year – it’s called an elephant head. Look closely and you’ll see why. That’s what I love about the flowers. While they are certainly beautiful from a distance, the closer you look, the more amazing they are. There’s a lesson in there.
I recently spent a day hiking with my sister and niece. We did one of our favorite hikes, to a high mountain lake above tree line (quite possibly the best way to spend a day). And, thanks to late and epic snow in the high country, the wildflowers are still AMAZING. Usually by late August the flowers have peaked, but we were treated with hillsides blanketed with color. There were easily two dozen different types of flowers, and probably many more. The ones that stole the show, though, were the Indian paintbrush.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by Rube Goldberg machines (if you aren’t familiar with ol’ Rube, click here). As an author I thought that these crazy contraptions would be a great way to teach kids about physics. So when I came across a call for proposals for a book about engineering for the late elementary school crowd, I put together a nonfiction book proposal for a book then titled Engineering Crazy Contraptions. It was accepted! It went under contract. I spent months writing the book (and oh what fun I had!). I met my deadlines. I sent it in. Then…nothing. I started to get a funny feeling. Something wasn’t right. Then the company backed out of the contract.
I was both deflated and angry. But that quickly turned to determination. I believed in the book. So I began to research other publishers that it might be a fit for. In my search, Nomad Press (a publisher I was already writing for) kept popping up. Of course. It was the perfect company – the books they publish are hands-on. They are about science. They ignite kids’ imagination. Except that Nomad normally develops projects in-house. But I had nothing to lose. So I asked my editor about it. She liked it (hooray!). Then she took it to the rest of the Nomad team. And they liked it (hooray again!). But they wanted a lot of edits and additions. There was a short period of time that I wasn’t so sure about those changes, but very quickly I realized how their suggestions were making it an even better book. So now, 2 ½ years after answering that initial call for proposals, my idea arrived on my doorstep in book form. Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines that Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel will be released on October 8, 2019. Thank you, Nomad Press!
In 2006 I wrote my first picture book. Then I wrote a couple more. Easy, right? Not at all. But I kept trying. Looking back, some of those first manuscripts were full of all the newbie mistakes that I just couldn’t see at the time. However, one of those (first written in 2007) wasn’t all that bad. Not good enough to get picked up by a publisher. But not awful. Over the years I edited and revised that manuscript, based on things I learned at various conferences, workshops, and online seminars. That story, then titled, The Princess and the Pirate, started to get some positive feedback from agents and editors. But alas, no one picked it up. Still, I saw the potential in the concept and kept working at it off and on. Then one day in early 2018, I thought, why not make the pirate a girl and turn the princess into a prince? Viola! That March I participated in the #PitMad Twitter event with a pitch for The Fort, and Courtney Burke of Page Street Publishing “liked” it. After a revise and resubmit, I was offered a contract in June. And now, almost 12 years after the manuscript was first written, I am excited that it’s finally cover reveal time:
I am grateful to be supported by the Page Street team and to have Adelina Lirius as the illustrator. She has taken the story and brought it to life beautifully. Now all I have to do is wait until April 21, 2020 to see it on the bookshelves!