Running my First 15K

     Today I ran my first organized group race, the Lakefront Discovery 15K, run along Milwaukee’s beautiful Lake Michigan shores. Running really makes you dig deep down to find out what you’re made of. Turns out I’m made of running material — I met the goal and did fairly well, too!

     My husband and I took off from the starting line together, but his knee injury roared and clawed for him to stop. He couldn’t finish, which is tremendously sad because he trained so hard for this run. I kept going for the two of us and decided to dedicate my run to him. That turned out to be a really good thing because it kept me going more than once, especially when the wind made me wonder whether I was making any forward progress. His cheering along the way was another buoy that kept me from sinking.

     Many steps later, I was sprinting across the finish line with a time fifteen minutes better than the last time I’d run such a distance. My final time was 1:25.24 for a pace of 9:10. I’m really pleased to have done this even while it marks the end of my running season this year. Now I concentrate on skating.

Defining Your Genre

     The writers of the Wisconsin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators are a great group and often pass along helpful writing tips. Here’s the latest, a genre glossary written by Agent Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Click here to learn exactly what it is you’re writing!

Eschewing Picture Books for Chapter Books?

 title=     A New York Times article says booksellers are cutting back on the number of picture books they offer because parents are pushing their children to read chapter books earlier. That, along with the recession, is cutting sales, so booksellers are offering fewer titles.

     My gut reaction to that was, well, what’s wrong with parents buying their kids what they want them to read? The world constantly pressures parents in countless other ways; this is one area where parents have real control. If they want their children to read more advanced books for the sake of improving literacy and/or test scores, that’s their right. Also, many children aren’t satisfied with picture books once they learn to read. I taught each of my kids to read at age 3, so they were reading chapter books well before kindergarten.

     But the longer I stew on this, the more I think it’s sad for a whole lot of children, especially reluctant readers. If parents are absolutely forbidding picture books simply because of their packaging, they’re missing out on a lot of the benefits that genre has to offer. Some picture books cover deep themes and use higher vocabulary than chapter books specifically because they’re meant to be read aloud by an adult rather than being read by a child. Moreover, picture books provide a comfort that can translate into a love of reading. Pushing kids to read something that’s too difficult for their level can make them see reading as a huge chore. And really, do we need to force the end of childhood at age 4? Don’t these little humans have an entire lifetime to read boring budget reports?

     To be fair, the article pointed out the many distractions in life now that may have something to do with decreased sales, and e-books are surely cutting into sales of physical books, but the trend to eschew picture books seems wrong to me, and, frankly, I don’t buy it. I think the picture book will survive.

New Rules in Short Track Speedskating

Vancouver Olympics 2010 3000m Short Track Relay

     This weekend, U.S. Speedskating held an officials’ clinic in Milwaukee to cover changes in ISU Short Track Rules. Some of the changes were better received than others, with one in particularly causing some controversy. Some call it the beginning of “roller-derby style” skating. Others think it makes sense.

     In the past, an official could disqualify a skater for an infraction called “cross-tracking.” If a passing skater crossed into another’s path and there was contact, the passing skater was in the wrong. S/He held all responsibility to pass cleanly.

     The new rules allow officials to call infractions on either skater, depending on who actually does the contacting. If the passing skater causes contact, s/he receives the penalty. If the skater who was passed skates into the skater who is now ahead, s/he receives the penalty.

     At this weekend’s Am Cup I event, this new rule was a hot topic with considerable confusion as to its implementation and affect on the sport.

     Some believe it will cause much rougher skating, allowing aggressive skaters to push others into dangerous situations and causing a lot of tangles on the ice. This is a sincere concern for parents and skaters alike. You already have a sport in which racers fly across the ice with knives on their feet; there is no need to make the sport even more dangerous than it already is.

     Others, however, think the cross-tracking rule was confusing to begin with and that this new rule allows officials more leeway to penalize whomever they feel is guilty of contact. Olympic Short Track Skating is, after all, a race between skaters and not a race against the clock, as is Olympic Long Track. There always has been and always will be contact.

     I empathize with both camps, and I expect there will come a time when an official’s call will be vehemently rejected by spectators, half of whom will blame the passing skater for the tangle, while the other half claims just the opposite.

     And a few skaters I talked with are reserving judgement for the moment. They plan to see how the new rule pans out over time and whether it benefits the sport or not.

     Time will tell.