Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's In A Name?

In this case, the name is the title of the creative nonfiction YA book just published. My first working title for the book was The Life and Times of FRED. At the time, I thought the story was all about the robot's creation and the year's competitions. Turned out, building the robot was a major part of the story, but the backstories grew and grew after I interviewed more and more people.

When I learned that a mock corporation was required in order for a school to compete with a robot, that expanded the first backstory and gave the book a gender balance. Then I found out that instead of committees, the CHS Robotics club had a series of vice presidents in charge of (1) the table display, (2) the t-shirt design, (3) the web site, (4) fund-raising, (5) the notebook, (6) the oral presentation of the corporate team. There were many more people involved than the two main robot engineers. My working title became Team FRED. Another backstory developed into a love story. 

The final title comes from the Hub competition when the spirit team started chanting “Dread the Fred, Dread the Fred” as they racked up more and more points in a huge win. 

I posed the series of potential titles to the key students involved. The majority chose Dread the FRED. It works.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chronicle reporter questions #4, #5

  What other outside sources did you use?
The BEST Robotics web site has competition guidelines online as well as past winners from all over North America; there are online newspaper posts about BEST robotics competitions, university press releases from events, and the CHS youTube video.

 Is there a website or FB page that goes along with the book?
There is not yet a site dedicated to the DREAD THE FRED book, but I have postings of photos and book availability on my facebook page and in my blog

Below is a link to a video clip:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

CHS interview questions # 2, #3

1Ashley DiFonzo, reporter for the Conway, MO Chronicles questions and my answers regarding Dread the FRED book:

 What is your connection/history with Conway schools?
I am an alumna of the Laclede County R-I school system. I graduated eighth grade from Phillipsburg and following the consolidation, graduated from high school at Conway. In order to earn a living, I earned a BA, MA, Ed Specialist and Ed.D., degrees; taught public school, taught college, and served as a university administrator.

 Did you interview all the students in the Robotics Club from that year?

I interviewed as many students in the Robotics Club as would sit down and talk with me. That wasn’t the entire club, but a significant group including Paul Coryell, Phillip Foust, Lloyd Oberbeck, Jr., Shane Sell, Grant Rumfelt, Broghan Fields, Ceira Gisselbeck Fields, and  Shyanne Witt. I also interviewed as many parents, teachers, administrators and community members as I could find to talk with me. In addition to one-on-one and small group interviews; I followed the club the entire next year as they went to Northark College to collect the raw materials for that year’s robot, then as they planned and built the robot and the required corporation component. I watched, listened, videotaped Kickoff Day at Northark College in Harrison, planning sessions at CHS, practice sessions at CHS, attended the Hub competition at Northark College, and the regional competition at the University of Arkansas in Ft. Smith. Sadly, I didn’t have the funds to attend the national competition in Orlando but I watched a live stream of much of the action. Significant information came from over one thousand photos taken by Phillip Foust during the FRED year. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

What was my inspiration for writing Dread the FRED?

Paperback Press CEO
Sharon Kizziah Holmes

Ashley DiFonzo, Conway high school student reporter for the Conway Chronicles posed a series of questions for me, the author of DREAD THE FRED YA nonfiction book. Her first question is the most important.

Q/A with Dr. Joyce Ragland, author of DREAD THE FRED nonfiction book:

1.    What was your inspiration in writing this book?

The short answer is to recognize the accomplishments of those involved in CHS’ Robotics Club. An academic event win at a national competition is huge for any high school and quadruple times so for a rural, poor school! 

book launch
The answer continued: As I interviewed more and more people, my inspiration included a broader goal of telling the back story as well as the immediate story. That is, I learned that the team of male drivers of the robot could not have entered the BEST competitions without the mock corporation and that was mostly done by the girls in the club. Students in the Robotics Club developed required t-shirts, the web site, the notebook, the table display, did fund-raising, and made up the Spirit Team –all important to the story – about thirty students. Moreover, they did the activities after school and on weekends. The book tells more than just building and competing with the robot, it includes the problems of raising the money needed all during the year, some gender differences in Club roles, competition for resources with other activities the community traditionally supports, dominance of robotics events by wealthy private and large public schools, a love story – and more.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Challenges, Successes, Transitions

My three-year term as the RA (Regional Advisor) for the SCBWI-Missouri chapter ends, I'm relieved, elated, and wistful. The appointment opportunity came at a time when I was fighting for dignity during a divorce where my now-ex tried to batter my sense of self, my personhood, and my emotions. He tried, but did not succeed. Being the SCBWI-MO RA gave me the opportunity to focus my energy into something positive. I now have three successful conferences behind me, many new friends, many new acquaintances, and a greater support system than I'd envisioned.

I am relieved to have the difficult parts of the position over, but glad that I succeeded despite obstacles.

I am elated to now have my creative nonfiction YA book, DREAD THE FRED in publication and thank SCBWI for the opportunity to learn from the best authors and editors in publishing.

I am wistful that the RA gig is ending, just as I've kinda sorta figured out the thing.  But my hand-picked Assistant is going to carry the torch to new heights and will probably invent a new torch while she's at it. Carry on Kimberly Ann Piddington, with my blessings and support - if needed.

We laughed, sniffled, got books autographed, learned from the best of the best, ate St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, dined on great Italian (as only St. Louis can do) food and left the conference as friends, colleagues, inspired writers and illustrators.
SCBWI-MO collage by Peggy Archer

Joyce, in final SCBWI-MO conference RA mode

A new year resolution as of 19 November, 2013

All of a sudden the year is almost over and I've not prioritized time for my blog. My bad. This will change. I am making my new year resolution to precede my DREAD THE FRED book launch scheduled for 23 November, 2013.  Blame for lack of posting:

  • fear of blogging:  Yes, I fear that my posts will not be as interesting as the competition so I've been the shy one.  
  • priority given to others: As the RA for SCBWI-Missouri, I've spent more time attending to others' concerns than my own
  • throes of editing DREAD THE FRED:  That has caused brain lockup on many occasions, and the un-lock is thanks to Sharon Kizziah Holmes and her hybrid publishing company, Paperback Press
  • my NFP work:  Sadly, I'm blaming my Ella Art Company charity, altho it hasn't received as much quality time as needed to raise funds for my local Alzheimer's projects.  But I've affiliated with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, set up a GoFundMe campaign, and have a fund-raiser going this month in Lebanon, MO. Guilt over for that.
  • knee surgery in May: the effects of painkillers are nasty; can't imagine why some get addicted to that stuff so I got off asap and that made me a poster child for knee surgery in Springfield, MO. At least within Dr. Mahnken's office.
  • laziness:  or situational depression, which loops back to throes of book manuscript editing ...but that is over so happy face here.
And on with the show, otherwise knows as The Book Launch for DREAD THE FRED!