Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JacketFlap mourns the passing of Olive Evans

I would like to take a moment to pass along the sad news that a wonderful member of our JacketFlap community passed away a couple of weeks ago. Olive Evans was the author of “The Thrift Store Bears." Olive's husband David sent me the following email. I have included the full article below. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do. This letter is a reminder to enjoy every minute of life. Olive you will be missed. From this point on, when I see a bear in a thrift shop, I will think of you.

" This was an article that Olive was working on before she went into the final decline. It's a little rough but considering her condition it is wonderful, positive and enlightening, A lesson for us all. David"

Olive Evans, January 16, 1933 - November 25, 2007

My Life

Olive Evans was born in England before the start of World War II to Maude and
Harold .Wheeler. Since she and her twin sister Sylvia were Londoners (Cockneys from East Ham) they became evacuees when London began undergoing heavy bombing. When hearing that they were to be evacuated to Wales, their father put his foot down and said “My daughters will not be going to a foreign country” (or words to that effect), so they went to Felixstowe, on the English east coast, which was a mistake. Her family took us back to London and I’m afraid, into the worst of the bombing. Finally we went to the county of Buckinghamshire with our mother and new baby sister.

At the end of the war, my identical twin sister and I continued our education first in high school in Buckinghamshire and then onto London University where we graduated with degrees in elementary education. We both taught in England for a number of years in small village schools where I had all the children between 4years of age up to eight years of age. It was a wonderful experience and I learned the importance of poetry and even simple plays have on children’s education development.

Fourteen years later after my father’s refusal to allow us to be evacuated to Wales, Olive told her parents that she would be marrying a Welshman, her father put the other foot down and said: “My daughter will absolutely not be marrying a foreigner.” However, his future son-in-law managed to charm him, as only Welshmen can do, and her father finally decided that the Welsh weren’t such a bad lot after all.

While raising two very young sons, they moved from England to Nova Scotia, then to Rochester, New York, where their third son was born. After four years, they moved to Manhattan Beach, California, where they arrived in 1968. They rented an old redwood house two blocks from the ocean, then bought it, and are living in it still. As the boys became older, Olive returned to Cal. State University Dominguez Hills and earned an English Literature degree and obtained a California early childhood teaching credential. Then I then taught for a couple of years in a private school helping children with learning and emotional disabilities.

Olive’s life changed substantially the day she received a telephone call from the Manhattan Beach Recreation Department’s Program Director asking her to teach a belly dancing class. The lady obviously had the wrong number, for Olive had absolutely no skill in that area, although she could dance the polka quite well after a drink or two. The director, not to be put off, asked Olive if she would like to teach a drama class. This sounded more interesting, and before she knew what had hit her, she was down at the Joslyn Center teaching drama to 8 – 12 year old children. Then she began writing plays for the children to perform, and finally she decided to take some acting classes to help her with her teaching. She tried out for the part of a Cockney maid in a British farce and was soon acting in several plays produced by the City of Manhattan Beach. Olive also had lead parts in the Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival and other acting adventures.

She also managed to become part of a vaudeville revue called “Av’A Banana” and because of her age (middle at that time) and her inability to sing and dance at the same time, she was considered “comedic.” That probably explains why her solo performance consisted of the old music hall song “Nobody Loves A Fairy When She’s Forty,” a naughty song with sexual innuendos of which she was quite unaware until the day the troupe performed at a birthday party for a television producer and his friends. Since she was- well, rather flat chested, she was advised to put a bag of birdseed in each ‘cup’.

She remained a naughty fairy for two years and then decided it was time to work with children as a storyteller. So she became “The Fairytale Godmother” and for the next thirteen years she traveled to schools, churches and birthday parties with her own stories, costumes and sets and turned the stories into plays in which the children could perform. She made the costumes and headbands and designed the forest scenery, which all fitted snugly into her little red Ford Escort.

In 1999 her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He dealt with the surgery and subsequent side effects with bravery and humor. The following year Olive was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, two rounds of chemotherapy, followed by radiation, the usual regimen for this type of cancer. Since she had retired from storytelling she was able to concentrate on returning to good health as quickly as possible, and David was very instrumental in doing everything he could to see that she would eat properly and rest.

But chemotherapy can be a downer at the best of times, and there were times when Olive had a hard time trying to stay positive. That’s when she decided she had to do something to keep her mind off the treatment she was going through. She needed to write, because she had always found that writing took her to a happy and creative place. She couldn’t write about how she felt, but she could write about the ‘thrift store bears’ she had bought over the years from thrift stores all over the L.A. area. She had forty-two bears at the time, so she set herself a goal to write about each bear, and to write poems rather than stories. She had never written poetry before and it didn’t come easily to her, so she had to concentrate for hours finding appropriate rhymes.

After getting started, Olive settled down into a routine, writing each day, going for chemotherapy treatments and visiting the doctor’s office in between. As her poems began to improve, she would sometimes take the bear and poem to the Wellness Community, and would read the poem to her weekly support group, who encouraged her to bring more poems and bears to the meetings. When she had finally finished her forty-second poem, a dear friend told her to take the poems to another friend who was an artist and loved bears of the teddy variety. Pat Woolley wanted to paint them, Olive picked out twenty seven of the better poems and with encouragement from friends and family, she and Pat decided they would self-publish the book. Olive’s husband, who many, many years ago had received training in printing, took on the tremendous task of scanning the illustrations on to the computer, organizing the written words with the illustrations and making a PDF file which would be used by a printing company to produce the book. Then another good friend, Jim Furmston, who is a well known musician and composer, persuaded Olive to record the poems in his studio, and when that was done, he decided to write music to accompany each bear poem.

In August, 2004, 2000 books arrived from Taiwan, and shortly afterwards, the CD was available to add to the book. “The Thrift Store Bears” book and CD were ready for sale.

Olive considers this time to have been one of the most productive, creative and joyful times of her life. The book has brought so much happiness, so many new friends, and has made her realize that having cancer was part of the journey she had to take. She also realizes that she has a spiritual strength she never knew she had, and the love and support of friends as well as strangers, who continue to encourage her and bring laughter to her life. She is now “The Teddy Bear Lady” and goes into schools with a select few of her thrift store bears to read their poems to the children. She has written a second book of
poems about other bears in her home, which Pat illustrated and Jim composed music to go with the narration and also recorded the CD. Olive intends to continue reading the poems to young children, encouraging them to face life’s challenges and to be proud of their accomplishments. Though she continues to fight cancer and has to have a another form of chemotherapy weekly, she continues to draw positive thoughts and inspiration from her writing and, of course, from her friends The Thrift Store Bears who, like her, are survivors.

Olive leaves her husband of 50 years, David, her sons Gareth (Dianna) of Newport Beach, Huw and her grandchildren Alex and Bianca of Stockholm, Sweden and David (Alicia) and nine week old twin girl granddaughters (Audrey and Gabriella) of Culver City, her sister Valerie (John) and niece Sandra in Sidney, Australia and twin girl grand nieces

Friday, October 26, 2007

465 Robert's Snow Posts so Far!

Wow! We're nearing the end of week 2 of the fantastic multi-blog effort promoting the Robert's Snow Auction. I just did a search for Robert's Snow in the JacketFlap Blog Reader, and there have been an incredible 465 blog posts mentioning Robert's Snow. As many of you know, there are 4 to 5 regularly scheduled "official" blog posts across the kidlitosphere featuring the work of the wonderful illustrators contributing snowflakes to this year's auction. But 465 blog posts means that this effort has inspired numerous other people to blog about Robert's Snow, and that's really fantastic!

Click here to search for Robert's Snow in our Blog Reader and read the 465 blog posts for yourself. I'm sure you've read many of these posts, but as you can see, there are plenty to read. Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tracy Grand interview in WOW! magazine

The amazing Angela Mackintosh has posted an interview with me about JacketFlap in her WOW! e-zine . I am very flattered! Click here to read the interview.

WOW! is a global magazine, designed to support women's creativity, energy, blood, sweat and tears, throughout all stages of the writing process. WOW!'s concept is unique, as it fills in the missing gap between writing websites and women's magazines. Thanks Angela!


Friday, September 21, 2007

20th Anniversary of Owl Moon!

Last night was Back To School Night for my oldest daughter Alex, who is in the 4th grade. Her teacher stated that his goal for the year was to make our children leave the classroom feeling confident as writers. He was holding up the book Owl Moon, as an example of a book that took a simple idea and made a beautiful story. His point was that all things, no matter how simple - have meaning - and can have a story. As you may know, Owl Moon won the Caldecott Award in 1988.

In an interesting coincidence, I noticed today on JacketFlap's newly published books page that a 20th anniversary edition of Owl Moon was just published yesterday! This edition includes letters from author Jane Yolen and artist John Schoenherr. Here's a link to Owl Moon's book detail page. If you've read it, add it to your JacketFlap bookshelf and tell us your thoughts about it! If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you do to so!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pirate Day, congratulations to Wendy Mass and Carrie Jones

Pirate Day!

September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. I searched for Pirate Day in JacketFlap's blog reader, and I saw that the wonderful & talented Elizabeth O. Dulemba has graciously posted a pirate-themed coloring book page for all to download and color in her fabulous style. My kids will now have an after-school activity to do. Thanks Elizabeth!

And speaking of Pirate Day, I was browsing JacketFlap's Newly Published books section, and I noticed that Eloise's Pirate Adventure was published yesterday (Sept. 18th) by Aladdin Paperbacks. Great timing!

Congratulations to our members!

I'd like to send a big congratulations today to two JacketFlap members. Wendy Mass, author of such fabulous books as Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and A Mango-Shaped Space emailed to say that her new book Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall is now available, written for seventh graders and up.

Also congratulations to Carrie Jones who sold two books to Bloomsbury. The first book is called NEED. Read her Super Great News post for the details. Great job!

Book Stores in the news

Jessica Stockton of The Written Nerd blog did a great job of summing up some recent news articles regarding independent book stores versus the big chains. It is quite interesting to take note that while big chains like Barnes and Nobles are closing shops the independent ma & pa shops might be making a come-back. Read her post here.

New Member Welcome

I always get a kick out of checking JacketFlap's New Members page to see the faces of the people that just joined the site. From time to time, I'm going to introduce some of our new members here in my blog. I'd like everyone to join me today in welcoming Marjorie van Heerden. Since the publication of her first children’s picture book in 1983 Marjorie has written and/or illustrated more than 80 children’s books and has been published in 33 languages in Africa, England, Europe, Canada and the USA. She was born in South Africa, lived in Stellenbosch near Cape Town for 20 years, in Linden, Johannesburg for a decade, travelled for eighteen months on honeymoon in a camper van around Europe, lived for a year on the banks of Lake Michigan in the USA and for four years in a forest on a mountain north of Athens in Greece. Now her studio overlooks False Bay, once again near Cape Town, South Africa. Please leave a comment on Marjorie's profile page to welcome her to JacketFlap!


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Calling all Bloggers - Participate in Blogging for a Cure

The incredible Jules & Eisha at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast are organizing a multi-blog effort to help raise awareness of the Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure fundraising effort benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). As many of you already know, this stems from the heart-wrenching news of the death of Robert Mercer, Grace Lin’s husband, who passed away at the end of last month, due to cancer. Grace is the driving force behind the Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure fundraising effort, which she began after Robert was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. She wrote Robert’s Snow (Viking Books; 2004) soon after that diagnosis.

More than 200 well-known children’s book illustrators from around the world have been given a five-inch wooden snowflake to decorate at will. Like actual snowflakes, each design is unique. You can see the 2005 snowflakes at this site. The 2007 online auctions for bidding on these hand-painted snowflakes will take place in three separate auctions, open to everyone, from November 19 to 23, November 26-30, and December 3-7.

I'm encouraging all of your with blogs to volunteer to drive traffic to the site for this year’s auctions and help raise money for the cause by highlighting the illustrators who have created snowflakes for these upcoming ’07 auctions — as well as post the unique snowflakes they have made (one at a time at each blog, which the DFCI has graciously given permission to do), ultimately driving as much traffic as we possibly can to the Robert’s Snow online auctions.

Jules & Eisha are reaching out to all of you to help raise awareness for this well-needed cause. As we all know, cancer does not discriminate due to age. Robert was only 35. Combined, we are a big neighborhood in this suburb of the Internet that we call the Kidlitosphere. Let’s continue to make this neighborhood great by making a difference in each other’s lives. Please read the post at Seven Impossible Things for more information.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Newly published books

It's always interesting to learn about new releases. To make this easier, we've recently added a page to JacketFlap that contains a constantly updated list of the most recently published Children's & YA books.

To get to the Newly Published page, click the new Books tab at the very top of any page on JacketFlap. Then, click the Newly Published tab in the lower navigation bar.

You can change the time period using the "Books Published Since" menu, e.g. select "Yesterday" to see books published since yesterday. And, you can filter the list by Age levels, e.g. see newly published books for Ages 4 - 8 readers.

I've bookmarked this page, and it's one of the first places I check each day to keep up on newly published books. I hope you find it useful too!


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What are your JacketFlap Friends up to?

Hi everyone!

I had a fantastic time meeting so many of you this weekend at the SCBWI conference. I'll write up a separate post about that shortly. Right now, I want to tell you about a new feature that I absolutely love - My JacketFlap Updates. There's so much going on in the Kitlitosphere, and I always feel like it's impossible to keep on top of everything. With a single click, you can now see everything that your JacketFlap Friends have been up to lately. This includes:
  • Updates to your Friends' JacketFlap Profile pages
  • Your Friends' new blog posts
  • Blogs your Friends have subscribed to in the Blog Reader
  • People your Friends have Friended
  • Comments your Friends have left on other people's Profile pages
  • Pictures your Friends have added to their Picture galleries
  • Books your Friends have added to their Bookshelf
  • Book Discussions your Friends are participating in (more on that in another post)
Below is a screenshot of a few of the recent updates on my own My Updates page:
In each line, there is a description of the update followed by short summaries for things like blog posts and comments, and you can click the links in each summary to view the entire post, comments, and other changes.

You can see how many updates are waiting for you by looking at the new "My JacketFlap Updates" indicator in the toolbar at the top of every page on JacketFlap:

Clicking on My JacketFlap Updates will take you to your own My Updates page. The number in the parenthesis indicates the number of new updates since you last visited JacketFlap, and the number changes in real time, so you can see instantly if there are new updates while you are browsing JacketFlap.

When you are on your My Updates page, you can change the time period of the updates displayed by using the "Since" pull-down menu in the top of your My Updates section. I like looking at updates in the Past week to be sure I haven't missed anything.

In addition to letting you see the updates from all your Friends, there is now a version of the Updates page as part of every member's Profile page. This version lets you see all of the updates for just that member, and you can get there by clicking the Updates tab at the top of any member's Profile:
Finally, we have also added a Blog Reader Updates box in the right column of your My Updates page. You can see a screenshot showing the Blog Reader Updates box on my own My Updates page to the right.

I love this, because it shows me a quick summary of Updates to my own blog, the blogs I have subscribed to in My JacketFlap, as well as all of the blogs in our public Blog Reader list (492 at the moment!).

You can click on any of the links in the box to see just those posts or comments. This is really nice, because you can also use the "Since" pull-down menu at the top of the box to change the time period. This can help ensure you haven't missed any important posts. You can also keep up with posts that have new comments.

If you have a blog in our Blog Reader, you will see the statistics for your blog at the top of the Blog Reader Updates box.

I know this has been a long post, and you probably have lots of questions and ideas. Please don't be shy! Post your thoughts here in our comments section.

I hope this helps you keep up with all of the great things happening in the Kitlitosphere as much as it's helped me!


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

First annual kidlitosphere drink night at the SCBWI Summer Conference

As you may have already heard via Greg Pincus at GottaBook, we're planning a get-together in LA this Friday night during the SCBWI Conference. It's even got a catchy name - the first annual kidlitosphere drink night at the SCBWI Summer Conference (FAKDN@SSC). Greg says that there are other groups meeting Friday night, but all we've heard of are meeting earlier. Come by anyways, as we'll be there for a while!

We're planning to meet on the patio outside the lobby bar area at 9PM. I'll be there along with a number of other KidLit Bloggers like Greg, the Disco Mermaids, Lisa Yee, Kelly Herold, and more. I'll be the one giving out JacketFlap hats (I'm bringing 200 of them, so first come first serve). I hope to see you there!


Friday, July 27, 2007

Who's that blogging about me?

We just added a feature to our JacketFlap profile pages that I like quite a bit. You will notice a new "Recent Blog Posts" box in the right-side of every JacketFlap profile page. It lists the 10 most recent blog posts from the kitlitosphere mentioning the person whose profile you are viewing.

On the right you'll see an example of the Recent Blog Posts box from my JacketFlap profile page. It takes a few seconds to search through the 100,000+ posts archived in our reader, and you'll see a cute little wheel spinning until the box loads. You can then click on the titles of the posts to read any that interest you.

Let me know what you think here in the comments!


Friday, July 20, 2007

new JacketFlap Blogs List Page

Hi everyone! We've just released a major change to our Blogs list page that should make it much easier to explore the 475+ blogs in the public JacketFlap blog reader. Previously, the Blogs list page was a single long list of all of our blogs. Given the great response we had to our experimental "New Blogs on JacketFlap" emails, we've updated our Blogs list page to make it easy to sort and filter the list of blogs to find blogs that might interest you.

With this new release, you can check the new Blogs list page a few times a week. There you can now sort and filter the list of blogs on JacketFlap. Each blog listing comes complete with a short descriptions of the blog, a count of the number of JacketFlap members subscribing to that blog in their custom My JacketFlap Blog Reader, a list of the blog's categories, and an Add Link that you can use to Subscribe to the blog. You can choose how many blogs to display on each page of the list using the "# per page" pull-down menu:


You can sort the Blogs list using the "Sort by" pull-down menu. The list can be sorted by Blog Name, Date Added, and # of Subscribers. You can use the Date Added sort to find blogs recently added to JacketFlap. Or you can use the # of Subscribers sort to find the blogs most subscribed to by JacketFlap's members.


Another nice feature is the ability to filter the Blogs list by Category. For example, you can see just the Illustrator blogs changing the value in the "Category" pull-down menu. You can also combine sorting and filtering. So, for example, you can display the Illustrator blogs sorted by Date Added to find the most recent Illustrator blogs added to JacketFlap. Or, you could sort by # of Subscribers (as in the example to the right) to see the most popular Illustrator blogs.

Newly Added List and Top 10 Blogs Boxes

In the left-hand column of the Blogs list page, you'll see two new boxes that display lists of the Top 10 Blogs based on the # of Subscribers on JacketFlap and a list of Blogs added to JacketFlap in the past 7 Days.

I know, you're wondering, how do I get my blog in the Top 10? Besides having great content, our stats indicate that it doesn't hurt to have a Subscribe to this Blog on JacketFlap button displayed on your blog.

Please try out these new features & let us know any thoughts using the comments feature here on our blog. Following is a link to our Blogs list page:


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Publisher Detail page features

Hi everyone! We've just released a major change to our Publisher Detail page that should make it much easier to explore the catalog of titles for each publisher. Previously, the Publisher Detail page listed only the top 50 titles for each publisher. With this new release, you can now page through all of a publisher's titles. Here's an example screen shot from the Bloomsbury Publisher Detail page. As you can see, you can now navigate through pages of titles, and you can choose how many titles to display on each page using the "# per page" pull-down menu:


You can also sort the list in new ways using the "Sort by" pull-down menu. Previously, we only displayed the list sorted by's Salesrank (tm). Now, you can sort the list by Publication date, Salesrank, and Alphabetical titles.

Future Titles

It's always interesting to see what titles are soon-to-be-published. JacketFlap now provides this feature for each publisher in our database. To see a publisher's upcoming releases, select "Future Titles" in the Sort by pull-down menu.


Another new feature is the ability to filter the list of a publisher's titles by reading level. For example, you can see just the titles for Ages 4 - 8 by changing the value in the "Ages" pull-down menu. You can also combine sorting and filtering. So, for example, you can display the Ages 4 - 8 titles sorted by publication date.

Please try out these new features & let us know any thoughts using the comments feature here on our blog. Following is an example URL for Bloomsbury. Scroll down to the list of titles to try out the new features:


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Charlotte is 1 month old!

Hi my JFF (aka, JacketFlap Friends),

I can hardly believe it has been a month since Charlotte, aka, Charlie was born. She is so YUMMY! Having a 7 & 10 - year gap between my daughters, I definitely forgot how amazing this stage felt with the baby smells and cooing. I also forgot about the sleep deprivation, but having my oldest daughter going into fourth grade puts a new perspective on the sleep deprivation. It is a blink of an eye until my little Charlie will be going into the fourth grade. So I will try to enjoy the 12 a.m., 2 a.m., and 4 a.m. feeding, and I definitely will STOP BLINKING!! I just wanted to send out one big THANK YOU to all of you for your sweet messages regarding the arrival of Charlie. I hope to meet many of you at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles this August.

Best, Tracy

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

JacketFlap interview in The Edge of the Forest

Kelly Herold of Big A little A has written a fantastic article about JacketFlap in the May issue of the Edge of the Forest. Over the past few months, Kelly has provided us with valuable input into features for JacketFlap's Blog Reader. I'm thrilled to have had a chance to do the interview with her, and I am glad that she's become part of our community here at JacketFlap. You can read the article here.

Friday, May 4, 2007

JacketFlap interview in Cynsations!

The wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith has posted an interview with me about JacketFlap in her Cynsations blog today. I am very flattered! You can read the interview here.