Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jody Call Contest! Win a Copy of Operation Yes

This is a reprint of a post at my OperationYes blog. I'm posting here to send you there, but also because I know some folks have difficulty commenting at an iWeb site. So, backup plan is to leave your entry here. Okay?

Also, an archive of the Twitter Chat between me and my editor, Cheryl Klein, is here

SOUND OFF! Jody Call Contest

What’s a jody call? It’s a song used to make a difficult job easier. In the armed forces, military members chant them during PT (Physical Training) to help everyone stay together on a long march or a run. Units also use jody calls to build up their sense of community.

In Operation Yes, Miss Loupe teaches her students jody calls because the back and forth rhythm is like the give and take of the improvisational theater games she’s introducing. But maybe she’s also stealthily building her team in Room 208!

Here are some real life jody calls:

They Say That in the Air Force 
They say that in the Air Force, the chicken's mighty fine
One jumped off the table and started marking time
Oh, Lord I wanna go
But they won't let me go
(last word stretched out over 8 paces, and a "Hey" on the right foot to
end the refrain)

They say that in the Air Force, the biscuits are mighty fine
One rolled off the table and killed a friend of mine

They say that in the Air Force, the pancakes are mighty fine
You can try to chew them, but you're only wasting time

They say that in the Air Force, the bed's are mighty fine
But how the heck would I know, I've never slept in mine

They say that in the Air Force, the mail is so great
Today I got a letter dated 1948

They say that in the Air Force, the toilets are mighty fine
You flush them up at seven, they come back up at nine.

They say that in the Air Force, the tents are waterproof
You wake up in the morning and you're floating on the roof.

Jody calls don’t have to rhyme. But they do have to have a rhythm:

Alpha Flight
Everywhere we go - oh
People wanna know - oh
Who we are
Where we come from
So we tell them
We are  Alpha Flight
Mighty Mighty Alpha Flight
Rough - n - tough Alpha
Straight shooting Alpha
Better than Bravo
Big baby Bravo
Better than Charlie
Chicken chicken Charlie
Better than Delta
Dumb-dumb Delta
Better than Echo
Icky icky Echo
We are Alpha
Mighty mighty Alpha

So here’s the challenge: Make up a jody call and post it in the comments. (Anywhere from 2-12 lines.)
It must be related to children’s books in some way.
It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it must have rhythm.
Keep it PG clean
The drill sergeant says you may use one of these lines to start with, but you don’t have to:
I don’t know but I’ve been told... (or it’s been said...)
Every book we open...
They say that in the library the ____ is mighty ____ ...

Prize for the best three jody calls:
signed copy of OPERATION YES, delivered to your door by a man or woman in uniform. (That would be the postal uniform.)

Deadline: October 16, 2400 hours, EST
(that’s midnight for you civilians.)

Judge: Brig. General Mike Holmes, who is unlikely to know any of the contestants, but is still a great reader of children’s literature. (Really. Not kidding. Don't try to slip War and Peace by him as a children's book.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Want TWO peeks inside an editor's brain?

Twitter chat with me and my editor Cheryl Klein 
Wednesday, September 30 at Noon, EST
Hashtag: #YESChat
Tweeting from @saralewisholmes and @chavelaque

Questions answered at the end of the chat
Twitter help: InkyGirl's Twitter Chats for Writers

How to win a signed copy of Operation Yes
revealed at the end of the chat!

Conversation will be archived

One more amazing thing: Cheryl just posted an essay at the Scholastic On Our Minds blog. She tells how reading an author's blog---yes, this blog you're reading now---helped her acquire Operation Yes.  (I'm suddenly terrified in hindsight!)

The 2009 Cybils Poetry Panel

It's Cybils time, book lovers!  Time to recognize those books that combine both "the highest literary merit" and "kid appeal."  You can leave your nominations (one per category) at the Cybils blog, starting Oct. 1.

I'll be nominating my favorites, too, but the best news for me is that for the second time, I'm honored to serve as a second round judge for the Poetry Panel. I love this job, people! I get to discuss five or six or seven extraordinary books of poetry which were chosen by the amazing Round One Panelists below, and I get to have those discussions with the fabulous folks listed there as Judges (Round Two.)  It's intense; it's exhilarating; and last time, it gifted me with an even deeper love of the work of some of our finest YA and children's poets.

Here's the full panel. Now it's up to YOU to nominate the poetry books we should discuss.


Our fearless organizer:
Kelly Fineman of Writing and Ruminating.

Panelists (Round 1)

Judges (Round 2)

Monday, September 28, 2009

A YES Interview with Rosanne Parry (Heart of a Shepherd)

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry

There aren’t that many books about military families. Author Rosanne Parry has written a beautiful one.

Heart of a Shepherd tells the story of Brother, who is left to run his family’s ranch when his dad gets shipped to Iraq.  It’s funny and quietly moving in a Where the Red Fern Grows kind of way. My favorite scene is when Brother gets in a fight with his older brothers (he has four of them!) and then has to stitch up his older brother’s scalp.

Rosanne was brave enough to be the first to answer my new "five question" YES interview. I'm grateful to her for saying yes.

NOTE: I also posted a mini-version of this interview over at, where I hope to feature more interviews with creative people who come from military families.  (Laini Taylor, I'm looking at you!)

1) How are you connected to the U.S. military?

I am the wife of an Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. I have many members of my extended family on active duty. Most are in the Army although there are Air Force and Navy servicemen as well.

2)  What's your favorite way to say YES?

Every day I get up in my tree house and sit down to write is its own victory. Many other things in my life seem more urgent than writing, and sometimes I’m not at all sure I’ll have anything valuable to write down, but I’ve learned that saying yes to writing time nearly every day leads to finished stories and eventually published books.

3) Did you have an inspiring/crazy/wonderful teacher? What was she/he like?

I had a history teacher who had a real passion for art. He made us take extra lectures in the evening for our Western Civ. class about the art, architecture and music of each historical era. It was fascinating to me to learn how the politics and economics of an era was reflected in art. Later in college I learned to connect literature and philosophy to their historical context. It was a lot of work to learn all the extra material in high school, but it’s been some of the most useful learning I’ve done in terms of putting a particular work of art or literature in it’s broader cultural setting.

4) Why do you say "Yes" to the work that you do and/or the causes that you support?

Gosh, there are lots of reasons to say yes to a great many causes. One of the frustrations of being a grownup is that I can’t say yes to every cause I care about. I think I say yes because my parents showed me how satisfying it can be to think deeply about the issues most relevant to their community and then do something about them.

My neighborhood of Oak Park, IL was not integrated when I was born, but my parents worked tirelessly to nudge that community in the direction of racial equality because they wanted every kid who grew up in Chicago to have equal access to the American dream—and guess what? One of those kids growing up in Chicago in the late 60s and early 70s was Barak Obama.

So yes, if I grow up to be like my mom and dad, caring about things that matter and doing my best to nudge my community in the direction of justice, well, I’ll be pretty proud of myself.

5) What was your "great battle" as a kid? Did you find anyone to help you with it?

Interestingly enough I had quite a battle with that history teacher I mentioned earlier. In addition to being a teacher, musician, and art lover, he was a bigot. He often said racist things and was very scornful of Catholicism. When he taught some things in class that were outright lies about the history and doctrines of the Catholic Church, I decided to confront him about it.

My parents helped me get in touch with some theologians and the chancellor of the archdiocese. These people helped me look at the documents my teacher was looking at that supported his beliefs. They also showed me the primary source documents that I could use to refute my teacher’s misunderstandings. It was an important lesson for me in the use of primary and secondary sources, something my history teacher overlooked but I’ve been mindful of ever since. These mentors also helped me understand the history of anit-Catholic sentiment in Oregon. The first priests to come here in the mid 1800s spoke French and came to serve the French trappers and their Native American wives and children. So the bigotry is as much about racism as it is about religion. In the end, I doubt I changed my teachers mind, but I did learn a lot about addressing injustice with facts and persistence and good manners.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The 2009 National Book Festival, Snapped and Tweeted

Saturday was my third time attending the National Book Festival. This time, I remembered my regular camera and I attempted a live tweeted commentary from my cell phone as I watched.  I began with this tweet:
  • Books, books, books, no rain!
(I forgot the National Book Festival identifying hashtag, #nbf, but later on, I remembered it. Mostly.)

By the end of the day, it was "books, books, books and rain," but no matter. The crowds were larger than the year before, the tents were packed with wow-worthy authors, and I arrived early enough to get both a free bag and a free, gloriously image-jammed poster.  And to my amusement, I looked semi-official, because the Festival's go-to color was purple, and I had (because of the threatened rain) worn my royal purple trench coat

Here's a partial record of my day, in both pictures and tweets. (I'm saving my time in the Poetry Tent for Poetry Friday.) You can find more tweets from other bloggers by searching the hashtag, #nbf.  And of course, visit the Library of Congress site for web videos of all the presentations as soon as they are posted.

A NOTE FROM YOUR SPONSOR:  Would this be a good time to remind you about the TwitterChat Cheryl Klein and I are having this Wednesday, Sept. 30 at noon EST?  All you have to do is sign up for an account at, then go to on Wednesday. Enter the hashtag you wish to follow: #YESchat, and you're good to go. You don't have to tweet a twit, if you don't want to. You can simply eavesdrop.

Thank you. We now return to the main event:

Steven Kellogg greets a young fan.

Ambassador Jon Scieszka
(with a kid who looks as mischievous as Jon himself)
The poster is for The Exquisite Corpse,
the new continuing story project
the Library of Congress is hosting at

Author Nikki Grimes,
one of The Exquisite Corpse co-conspirators

  • Exquisite corpse authors: Katherine Paterson made us do it 
  • Jon Scieszka says to go to to read about roller skating babies

Banner from the Festival poster,
designed by artist Charles Santore
(three more below)

Festival sponsor, Target, brought in
 the cutest, most patient dog
to pose with readers, young and old

TWEETS:  (after my Poetry Tent interlude)
  • Then i have to choose: lois lowry or jane hirshfield impossible 

  • Standing in the aisles for lois lowry

Looking over the shoulder of a mom who was wise enough
 to buy Lois Lowry's new picture book, Crow Call.
The author spoke about writing it, and her re-acquaintance
 with her father, a stranger to her because of World War II

Crowds for Lois Lowry

  • Eating popcorn for lunch
  • Listening to sharon creech's hypnotic voice  

Note: Sadly, I have no picture of Sharon Creech, but she and her editor did a fabulous tandem reading from her new book, The Unfinished Angel.

(glimpsed through umbrellas at the edge of a packed tent)

Mo Willems, cracking everyone up
Loved his reading of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

  • Bring on Mo!
  • Mo: knuffle bunny the musical! at kennedy ctr in may  

Note: MotherReader's daughter played the part of Piggie in Mo's staged reading of Today I Will Fly. I'm sure she'll be blogging about it!

Patrick Carman in the vest he wore on The Today Show,
talking about The 39 Clues

  • Patrick Carman: new vest, stretch armstrong & reading 

  • Next 39 Clues: Australia!

Jeff Kinney reveals new sketches for his next Wimpy Kid book.
This one is of Greg's ideal summer vacation: inside!!!!

  • Bringing in the easel for Jeff Kinney

  • Jeff Kinney: I decided to draw as 7 Year old boy so no one would question my ability

  • J Kinney: On set of wimpy kid movie watched apple fight 

  • J Kinney: failure influenced me 
  • Kid offering two ideas to J Kinney "if you need them"! 

I stayed all the way until the last presentation of the Festival
because it was Judy Blume.

  • Up next: judy freakin blume! 
  • judy blume: i was a shy kid afraid of dogs swimming everything! 
  • judy blume: i made up all my book reports 
  • judy blume: i knew i was 70 when i heard it on NPR
  • judy blume: Next book set in 1950s 

  • i want to ask judy blume: how did a shy kid get so brave? 


  • 7 hours of bookfesting I'm beat!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday: How to Create an Agnostic

I dare you to open Sherman Alexie's new collection of poetry, Face, to any page and not be yanked in by your neck.  I love many things about Alexie's work, but prime among them is that he bangs open the door of each poem and invites you in straight away.

Take the direct address of the opening of "War Stories":

"I've got an uncle who punched a man's eye
Straight out of his skull. My uncle died
Young, but the one-eyed man turned eighty-five"

Or the titles which are as inviting as flashing FREE FOOD signs:

"Naked and Damp With a Towel Around My Head, I Noticed Movement on the Basement Carpet"

or the one below, "How to Create an Agnostic"

How to Create an Agnostic
Sherman Alexie

Singing with my son,
I clapped my hands
Just as lightning struck.
It was dumb luck.
But my son, awed, thought
I’d created the electricity.
He asked, “Dad, how'd you do that?”
Before I could answer,
Read the rest here

For more about my reaction to hearing Sherman Alexie speak at the Fairfax Fall for the Book Festival, see my post from yesterday, Worked Over and Messed Up.  For those not disturbed by profanity, see his website, Falls Apart, for more poetry.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by poet Susan Taylor Brown at SusanWrites

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Worked Over and Messed Up

I went to hear Sherman Alexie speak this week,* and it messed me up.

During his talk, he acted out a scene in which his dad gets drunk and tells his seven-year-old self and all his gathered young friends about how women. . .  NO, can't write that here on the blog.

Okay, he talked about giving President Clinton grief for his "my grandmother was Cherokee" attempt at empathy, and then, later, he describes Clinton embracing him with "Big-Mac breath," leaning in to whisper in his ear "Alexie, you're----"  NO, can't write that here either.

Maybe, maybe, I can tell you about his description of President Obama's inauguration on TV, in which he noted the huddle of emaciated, hippie vegan white women with ugly shoes swaying arm in arm with the Aretha-sized, fur-coat-wearing, Baptist-churched and well-heeled black women, one of whom had a fox head dangling off her wrap---which kept hitting a vegan woman in the head.  Okay, I got through that one. But it was way funnier when he told it.

Alexie is as profane, achingly hilarious, and fearless in his public presentations as he is in his fiction. As a huge fan of his, I listened with alternate awe, discomfort, and glee. I bought a book of his poetry, FACE, which I hope to feature tomorrow for Poetry Friday.  I had to drag myself away from his autograph line, which was at least a hundred people long, by doing the mental math (100 people x 1 minute each = 100 minutes/over an hour-and-a-half wait.)

But when I attempted to get back to my own work the next day----THUD. I realized how badly he'd worked me over.  I'm not fearless. I'm not profane. (Sometimes, I'm funny. I give myself that.) But all I could write in my notebook was: nothing I write really matters. Why should people care? BLAH.

Has this ever happened to you? Not jealousy, but a realization of your limitations as a writer?

I got over it, first by realizing that writers have different roles. Some are here to blurt out the truth. To overwhelm you with a barrage of jabs to your prejudices and fears.  Others tread on little cat feet. They are stealthy. The potions they administer flow through your veins slowly and when you wake up a little more beautiful than you were the day before, you never trace it to their subterfuge.  Either is good. Change happens.

The other thing that helped is that I went back and re-read his poem, "Water," published in his collection, One Stick Song.  It ends with the phrase "two parts heartbreak and one part hope." I realized that is exactly what fiction is. I dove back in to my revisions, looking for both the heartbreak and the hope, but more willing to allow the heartbreak in. Thank you, Mr. Alexie.

*Mr. Alexie was accepting the Mason Award at the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Twiddle or Twitter?

As I see it, next Wednesday, Sept. 30, at noon EST, you have two choices:

1) You can twiddle. Twiddle your thumbs, twiddle your pencil, twiddle away your lunch hour reading 1,000 Dust Motes to Spy Before You Die


2) You can twitter along with Cheryl Klein and me as we chat about OPERATION YES, the writing and editorial process, and which one of us has a marked obsession with pudding.

You can find us in the top secret chat room located under the hashtag #YESchat.

For more about these choices, see Cheryl's post Would you rather . . .? in which she deviously tries to cloud the pudding discussion with pie and cake.

If you have no idea what Twitter is, please see InkyGirl's post "Writer's Guide to Twitter." Hop on the Twitter wagon at, practice a little, and be ready to join us on Sept. 30.

PROGRAMMING NOTE:  For the #YESchat, I'll be tweeting from my @saralewisholmes account and Cheryl from @chavelaque.  Amusing, informative, and delicious posts will then be re-tweeted at a later time from my @operationyes account. Please feel free to twitter with me on either account beginning today or on any other day ending in Y.