Please contact me if you would like me to speak at your school, or autograph books at your Scholastic Book Fair.

Recent Author Visits


South Central Elementary School, Kinmundy, IL April 14, 2016

ICD School visit March 1, 2016

With Nancy Polette, Writing for Children instructor, October 1, 2015

Picture Book Intensive, SCBWI conference September 2015, Soaring to New Heights

Author visit, with Author and Instructor (Writing for Children), Nancy Polette May 2015

Author visit at Troy Buchannan HS March 2015

Scholastic Book Fair, St. Charles, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Fenton, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Columbia, Missouri December 2014

Saturday Writers presentation on writing and marketing a picture book, June 2014, St. Peters MO

Lakeview Elementary School, O'Fallon, MO in April 2014

With Kim Piddington, Missouri SCBWI Regional Advisor, at the Missouri Association of School Librarians convention in St. Louis, April

Indiana SCBWI Spring conference April 2014

Chesterfield, MO children's writers group at Christmas 2013

scholastic Warehouse Book Signing December 7, 2013

At Main Street Books with owner, Vickie Erwin November 30th

B&N with authors Mike Force, Chris DiGiuseppi, and Valerie Battle Kienzle November 22nd

Local Author Open House at MK Library in O'Fallon, November 21st

Carlin Park Elementary School Angola, IN

Sherwood School Scholastic Book Fair in Arnold, MO

ICD Scholastic Book Fair with students--Immaculate Conception Dardenne Prairie, MO


Peggy with children's author Karen Guccione-Englert at the MK Library Local Authors Open House in O'Fallon, MO

Book signing at Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with Mary Igras

Author Visit to Immaculate Conception School (ICD) April 2012

ICD library staff

Edison Elementary School Hammond IN

Lincoln Elementary School Hammond IN

Beta Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Hammond IN

Keynote Speakers
MO SCBWI Fall Conference


Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers

Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency

Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER

Author Visits
Spring 2011


Kids Ink Independent Children's Bookstore, downtown Indianapolis

Shirley Mullin, bookstore owner, with children's authors Janna Mathies, Peggy, and Nathan Clement

Thank You cards from Holy Family School in South Bend

Fieler Elementary students

Ms Hanneman's class at Northview Elementary

In the classroom at Northview Elementary School

Talking to students at Northview Elementary

Working together to create a poem in Starke County

Talking with students at Starke County

Author Judy Roth and students at the Starke County Young Artists Day

Indiana SCBWI PAL Luncheon and Bookfair at B&N Bookstore


Booksigning at B&N Bookfair

Anderson's Bookshop Children's Literature Breakfast


Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, with author and keynote speaker Tim Green

December Booksigning at The Bookstore in Michigan City


friendly staff at The Bookstore

Holiday Author Fair
Hosted by the Indiana Historical Society


Author Book Signing

Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols

Bellaboo's Play and Activity Center


Turkey for Thanksgiving?

Stuffee and the author

Stuffe's lunch!

November: Picture Book Idea Month

October Author Events


Author Panel: the Road to Publishing--Kathryn Page Camp moderating

Kate Collins: adult trade publishing, mysteries

Peggy Archer: children's trade publishing, picture books

Katherine Flotz: self-publishing, memoir

Michael Poore: adult trade publishing, fiction

Cynthia Echterling: e-publishing & small press, science fiction

Author visit to Portage Public Library, October 23rd


IN SCBWI presents Esther Hershenhorn:
Getting Your Stories Right
October 9, 2010


Esther Hershenhorn talks about the Reader's story and the Writer's story

Esther shares resources, experience, and opportunities

Trish Batey, Indiana RA

Yellow paper on your back gave a hint of 'What author are you?' for the day

Smiling faces

Peggy Archer gives an overview of the 2010 SCBWI conference in LA

Karen Kulinski gives an update on Indiana's HoosierLinks

Janna Mathies at the piano sings "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves

door prizes

IN SCBWI steering committee with Trish: (L to R) Karen Kulinski, HoosierLinks, Kristi Valiant, Website Coordinator, Alina Klein, Listserv Coordinator, Peggy, ARA (not pictured: Sharon Vargo, Illustrator Coordinator)

New Regional Advisor, Kristi Valiant, talks about plans for 2011

Indiana SCBWI: Outgoing RA Trish Batey, ARA Peggy Archer, Incoming RA Kristi Valiant

Author visits at Citizen's Financial Bank and ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors


Visiting with author/illustrator Nathan Clement and son Theo at the ROAR author event

Autographing for a young reader

Story Time at ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors Event in Indianapolis

Reading to young bankers at Citizens Financial Bank in Valparaiso

2010 SCBWI Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles, CA


Some of the crowd at the SCBWI conference in LA

Ashley Bryan, Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction

with Keynote speaker and Golden Kite winner, Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrator and Keynote speaker, Loren Long

E.B. Lewis, Keynote speaker

with Keynote speaker, Gennifer Choldenke

Keynote speaker, Gordon Korman

Chris Cheng, Australia RA and SCBWI Member of the Year

Kris Vreeland, Independent Bookstore manager, Vroman's Bookstore

Eva Mitnick, LA librarian and reviewer for SLJ

Greg Pinkus and Alice Pope on networking

Bruce Hale--Skyping

with Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI

Steve Mooser, co-founder of SCBWI, with Sally Crock RAE

Indiana SCBWI members Mary Jo, Shannon, and Peggy celebrate in LA with Heart and Soul.

East and Midwest members celebrate at the Golden Kite Luncheon in LA--Peggy, Courtney, Julia and Mary Jo.

Peggy with Alice and Lisa, co-RAs from IL--friends and roommates

Linda V., formerly of Indiana, with her 'dog-in-training,' Dusty.

IWC Writers' Picnic


Anyone for Literary Bingo?

Children's Corner



Knee-high by the 4th of July!


This is the cornfield just down the street from my house on July 13th. That's me with the boot on my foot again!

Springtime Author Visits


Local Authors Day, Valparaiso B&N

Welcome to the Young Artists Fair in Plainfield, IN

Signing books at Van Buren Elementary School in Plainfield, IN

Book Launch Party for NAME THAT DOG!, Valparaiso Public Library


Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!

Little reader loving that dog book!

Celebrating the Book Launch!

Doggy treats at the book launch party

More springtime author visits


With Jocelyn at the Porter County Expo Center for the Be Kind to Animals Celebration

Speaking to readers and writers at the LaPorte County Public Library in April

Our new grandpuppy, Dudley!

Chad & Sara's Wedding Day


The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!

Focus on the Novel:
Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference


Trish Batey, Indiana SCBWI RA, Stephen Roxburg, Lisa Graff, Helen Frost, Peggy Archer, Indiana SCBWI ARA

Stephen Roxburg, Publisher of namelos, talked about writing the YA novel, the current state of publishing, and his new company, namelos

Lisa Graff, Middle Grade author, talks about writing the middle grade novel and the Slush Pile

Lisa autographs books with a smile

Introducing Helen Frost, YA author and poet

Question and Answer panel--Lisa, Stephen, and Helen

Registration, getting to know you

Schmoozing with other writers

Trish with author, Valiska Gregory

Books for sale--writers can never have too many!

Taking it all in.

School visits
Chesterton, IN








Mitchell, IN
Library Event


Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell

Alexis talks about storytime for the very young

Starke County Young Artists Day
North Judson, IN


My little corner--I love when students come up to talk.

HOW many dogs do you have?!

Authors of the day

Keynote address: Growing an Author with Peggy Archer

Making a book with Katie Mitschelen

Research--detective work, with Peggy Miller

Crafting a poem with Mary Ann Moore

Becoming an artist with Edwin Shelton

Music with the Band

One small hand holding onto another

Sharing the Christmas holiday with writer friends


Name That Dog! Sharing F&G's and write-up in Dial's catalog with group.

Writers Christmas lunch and meeting in Michigan City

Meeting up with Esther and Karen in Chicago

F&G's for Name That Dog!


Name That Dog! ISBN: 978-0-8037-3322-0

Christmas Writing Celebrations


Writing friends from the beginning!

November Author Visits


Drawing a turkey at Hussey-Mayfield Public Library-- Zionsville, IN

Autographs at Hussey-Mayfield Library, Zionsville

"Who likes to eat turkey at Thanksgiving?" --Morton Elementary School, Hammond, IN

Thank you cards from Morton Elementary students

Reading to my grandson's pre-school class at Zion Lutheran School-- Bethalto, IL


Ladies Tea
St. Mary's Church


Family Book Basket


Indiana SCBWI Fall Picture Book Conference


Courtney Bongiolatti, Editor S&S

Laurent Linn, Art Director S&S

Terry Harshman, Editor CBHI

Author-Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo

Kristi Valiant, IN-SCBWI logo winner

Our volunteer crew (minus a few)

author Katie Mitschelen and Peggy enjoying the conference

...Pawprints on the heart.


Snickers 2009

Snickers 1998


IWC Dinner Event
The Business of Writing


Janine Harrison, opening remarks

Sharon Palmeri, President IWC and speaker

Kathryn Page Camp speaks on Taxes for Writers

Kate Collins, mystery book author and Keynote speaker

Gordon Stamper, secretary IWC

Peggy, Sally, and Karen--writing friends enjoying the dinner event together

Autographs with a smile :)

Smokies in the morning


Writing the Picture Book
Rensellaer, IN


Smile and say 'author'!

Ready to start!

"Ghostwriting" with Sara Grant, Editor,
Working Partners


Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners

One on one with Sara

Author and Editor...

Getting to know you...

Sharing thoughts... connecting

Schmoozing...

Smiling faces...

Our Kentucky friends...

Trish, RA, Peggy, ARA, Christi and Alina, steering committee members

Writing the non-fiction picture book


Picture book author, April Pulley Sayre, speaking in South Bend.

Writers and Friends


Surprise!

Esther and Heidi

Esther with Steve and Sally from National SCBWI

Heidi and Peggy, friends and poets

We came from Indiana...

...from California and Iowa

and enjoyed the friendships.

Peggy, Karen & Esther--connecting once again.

Summer Critique Meeting


Critique group gathering at Peggy Miller's house. Karen, Fred, Mary Ann, Katie, Judy, & the two Peggy's in front.

Songwriters in the Family


Our daughter, Sarah & our son, Dan both sang original songs at the Porter County Fair in the Colgate Country Showdown.

Indiana SCBWI Summer Schmooze


From Fort Wayne to Whiting, we gathered to talk & gain some bit of insight into the world of creating children's books.

Enjoying the company of other children's writers & illustrators.

Schmoozing.

Meeting other children's writers.

Sharing thoughts.

Smiles were free.

Peggy Archer talks about trade publishers.

Judy Roth talks about working with a small publisher.

Karen Kulinski talks about working with an agent.

Karen fielding questions.

ALA 2009 Chicago


Peggy with the Cat in the Hat

Katie and the Cat in the Hat

I won a collection of autographed books from the IL SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers & llustrators) booth at ALA for the Valparaiso Public Library. An awesome prize! Thank you IL SCBWI!

Peggy, presenting books won at ALA to Connie Sullivan, Branch Manager and Leslie Cefali, Youth Services Assistant, Valparaiso Public Library.

Picture Book Poetry Collections!

April 20, 2016

Tags: poetry collections in picture books, National poetry month

Here are some picture book collections of poetry that I enjoy—I hope you do, too!

Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems
by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josse Masse
Another collection of ‘reverso’ poems in free verse with a fairytale theme, like Mirror, Mirror, each poem is paired with the same poem read in the ‘reverse’ direction. For example, For love, / give up your voice. / Don’t / think twice and Think twice! / Don’t / give up your voice / for love. A fun way of looking at poetry.

A Frog Inside My Hat
compiled by Fay Robinson, illustrated by Cyd Moore
This is a ‘First Book of Poems’ published in 1993. Authors old and new, from Edward Lear (There Was an Old Man With a Beard) and Robert Lewis Stevenson (Nest Eggs), to Nikki Giovanni (The Dragonfly) and Arnold Lobel (Although He Didn’t Like the Taste), the poems are simple concepts with large colorful illustrations.

Big, Bad and a little bit Scary, poems that bite back!
illustrated by Wade Zahares
This one is a collection of poems about animals that are just a bit scary that include poems by poets like Ogden Nash (The Panther), Mary Ann Hoberman (Lion) and Karla Kuskin (The Porcupine). Great rhythm and rhyme here, and illustrations that jump off the page!

Other picture book authors of poetry collections that I love to read are Heidi B. Roemer (Whose Nest is This?), Rebecca Kai Dotlich (When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder), and J. Patrick Lewis (Please Bury Me in the Library).

For authors of collections of poems with a theme, check out anything by Jack Prelutsky (The New Kid On the Block), Lee Bennett Hopkins, especially those for beginning readers (Good Rhymes, Good Times), Bruce Lansky (A Bad Case of the Giggles), and of course, Shel Silverstien (Where the Sidewalk Ends)!

If you’re a dog lover be sure to check out Name That Dog!, my book of poems about dogs and their names. And if you’re a parent looking for a book of poetry to read to your young child, take a look at my picture book From Dawn to Dreams, Poems for Busy Babies.

Poem in your Pocket Day is tomorrow, April 21st—don’t forget to tuck a poem in your pocket to share with others you meet!

Poetry Month and Picture Books in Verse

April 12, 2016

Tags: National Poetry Month, picture books in verse



It’s Poetry Month once again, and I’ve been bringing home bags of rhyming picture books from the library! Here are some of my favorites, so far.

Bedtime at the Swamp
by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
A perfect 'read' for poetry month, or any time of year. "Splish splash rumba-rumba bim bam BOOM!" The fun rhythm and language in this 'scary' bedtime story will capture young readers' attention. Great illustrations, and a fun ending— with a mom after my own heart. This one is my new favorite picture book in verse!

The Cow Loves Cookies
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
All of the animals on the farm love their own special food, even Cow. But what Cow loves to eat is not quite what you’d expect, because “the cow loves cookies!” Readers will enjoy the rhyme and rhythm in this book, and look forward to the punch line after each animal is fed their food. Find out ‘why’ Cow loves cookies so much, and what Farmer’s favorite food is, at the end of the story. Fun illustrations add to this great read-aloud picture book.

Goodnight, Ark
by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman
GOODNIGHT, ARK gives readers a close up look at Noah and the animals on the ark. "All Aboard!" Noah calls. That night, after Noah is in bed, the storm gets worse and the animals run to join Noah in his bed--until the skunks arrive. Read to find out how Noah gets them all back to sleep again. Well written rhyme and rhythm, and colorful illustrations.

Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum
by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
"Bubble gum, bubble gum, Chewy-gooey bubble gum..." Everyone gets stuck in the bubble gum on the road! What do they do when a big blue truck comes down the road right toward them? And how do they save themselves from the big-bottomed bear? A fun read for poetry month or any time.

Mortimer’s First Garden
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Dan Andreasen
Another great book by Karma Wilson, and perfect for spring! This book is a combination of lyrical prose with rhyming verse. Little Mortimer Mouse loves sunflower seeds. Tired of brown, and longing to see some green after winter, he overhears the children talking about planting a garden. He's not sure he believes in the miracle that will change one seed into more seeds by putting it in the ground and covering it with dirt. But he gives it a try, and has faith. (If you love this book you'll also love Mortimer's Christmas Manger).

April—National Poetry Month— Writer or Reader, it’s a good time to get back in touch with poetry and rhyme in children’s books. If you enjoy books in verse, then you’ll want to follow the daily blog posts by authors, editors and agents on Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo. Sounds like a secret language? It’s just ‘code’ for Rhyming Picture Book Month!

RESCUING IVY— Journey to Publication

April 3, 2016

Tags: Middle grade novels, elephants, circus, hobos, books on animal rights


One hundred years ago, in a small town in Tennessee, a circus elephant named Mary was put to death. She had killed a circus worker defending herself from his abuse. RESCUING IVY was inspired by this true story, but it has a much happier ending.

Today I want to congratulate Karen Kulinski from Griffith, Indiana on the launch of her middle grade novel, RESCUING IVY! It’s very exciting to join a friend in celebrating their new book, but especially so when you’ve shared the ups and downs of the writer’s journey with that friend for so many years, as Karen and I have. And I have the inside scoop!

Writers sometimes get stuck on an idea and it just won’t let go! I asked Karen what her inspiration was in writing this book. Here’s what she had to say.

“Mary (the ‘real’ elephant) was my inspiration. From the beginning I felt that I was writing the book to make up just a little bit for the fact that no one spoke up for her in 1916, no one tried to save her. By rescuing Ivy in my book, I like to think that it might in some way make up for what happened to her. It sounds crazy, I know, but then there is a bit of craziness in all writers or they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.”

Unless you’re a writer, you probably wouldn’t imagine the time and work that goes into writing a book, especially a children’s book. ‘Picture books can be written in a day,’ some think, and a novel, in a few weeks. You might be surprised to learn that it took nine years for RESCUING IVY to come to life!

I asked Karen: What kept you going? What kept you from giving up on IVY? Here’s what she said.

“From the beginning, I felt that I was born to write this book. The idea grabbed me and never let go. Everything fell into place like magic while I was doing the research. And the actual writing of the book went easier than any other writing had. And along the way I had the encouragement of my husband and my writing friends.”

‘Research, in fiction!?’ you might ask. But a writer needs to know the world they’re writing about. They need to be in that world, with all their senses, and the feelings that go with it in order for the reader to believe what the characters feel and why they act the way they do.

Here’s what Karen had to say about her research for RESCUING IVY.

“My research took me to two small traveling circuses to watch the elephants help raise the huge circus tents just like Mary would have in 1916. It took me to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which was the site of the winter layoff of the Ringling Brothers Circus for many years. Baraboo is the home town of the five Ringling brothers and the site has been turned into a museum, with a wonderful research library. My research took me to Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas to talk to the people there about elephant behavior, especially circus elephant behavior. And it took me into books, reading about early 20th century circuses in books loaned to me by the Circus World library.”

The book was finally ready! It had been written, received critiques from writing friends, and had been revised many times.

I asked what some of the obstacles were that stood in the way before Karen’s book was finally published.

“I spent three years submitting and waiting,” Karen said. “Editors took months to get back to me with rejection letters. Some held the book for as long as a year, and another rejected it after 18 months when the editor who I was working with left for a different publishing house that only published books in series. In all, IVY got 25 rejection letters! Then I sent it to High Hill Press—and they loved it! They planned to publish it the next year, but it took 2 ½ hears before it was finally published.”

And it’s well worth the wait! In RESCUING IVY, Danna’s favorite circus elephant, Ivy, is wrongly accused of killing a circus worker. Young Danna was witness to the scene, but no one will believe her story! Danna convinces her older brother, and together they team up with a young circus worker and some hoboes to rescue Ivy from being put to death.

Young readers will enjoy the photos and facts about real elephants and the circus at the end of the book. Included are websites where readers can find more information about the circus, hoboes and animal rights.

Thank you, Karen, for sharing some of your journey of RESCUING IVY with our readers here!

You can find out more about Karen and her books on her website, Down at the Depot.
Then, read her blog, Off the Rails.

RESCUING IVY
High Hill Press 2016
ISBN-10: 1606531034
ISBN-13: 978-1606531037

Here’s Your Sign!

March 16, 2016

Tags: writing for children, SCBWI, RhyPiBoMO, Angie Karcher, Readig Rockets, Critique Across Missouri

Spring is on the way—the signs are all around us! The grass is getting green again, daffodils and hyacinths are blooming. Birds are singing! You can’t miss the signs.

But sometimes the signs are not quite as visible. A late winter snow storm or some cold winds might hide them.

Like looking for spring in March, as writers we sometimes look for a sign to let us know that we’re on the right track. A sign to show us that we should keep going! Or a sign that tells us where to go next. The signs are there, but sometimes we have to look a little harder, and believe a little more, to see them.

As a new writer I wondered if I was wasting my time writing stories for children. Was I really any good? Or was I just kidding myself. So far I had kept my writing life a secret between myself and my husband. One day I picked up a copy of the Writers Market Book at the library. As soon as I took it to the check-out desk, my secret was out! The librarian happened to be a writer, and invited me to a writers' critique meeting—sign #1.

As uncomfortable as I was sharing my writing with strangers, I went to the meeting. I made lifelong friends and got lots of encouragement there—sign #2. I started to submit my work to children’s magazines and had a poem and a short story accepted.

Sometimes even rejection can be a sign! A sign to get out of my comfort zone and move ahead. I had written a short story that I loved. I sent it to every children’s magazine I could find, and they all rejected it! But I still believed in it—sign #3. I sent it to Little Golden Books—and they liked it. One of the Family was my first published picture book.

Do you need a sign? Like Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh, sometimes you just have to believe in yourself a little more to see it.

2016 is Leap Year—is this your sign?

Is this the year for you to take that ‘leap’ and really sit down to write your poem, short story, picture book or novel for young readers? Do you have stories already written? Maybe you’ll leap forward and join a critique group to get feedback from other children’s writers! Check your local library, or your local chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) for critique groups for children’s writers.

‘Spring Ahead’—is this your sign?

Spring is just around the corner. Last week-end those of us on daylight savings time had to set our clocks forward one hour. It was time to ‘Spring Ahead!’

Have you revised until you’re satisfied that your manuscript is the best that it can be, and are you waiting for a sign that says ‘This manuscript is ready! Send it in!’? Check out the publishers online, both magazine and book publishers, and get it out there. If you’re a member of SCBWI, check out the SCBWI Work-in-Progress awards and submit your manuscript. You’ve nothing to lose! Just make sure that you get it in before March 31st.

Are you a poet? Lucky you, April is National Poetry Month! Is this your sign?

For lots of information, inspiration, and writing challenges check out Angie Karcher’s blog for RhyPiBoMO, Rhyming Picture Book Month. Read the daily blog posts by authors, editors and agents about rhyme and rhyming picture books. Follow the links to even more poetry fun.

Next check out the Reading Rockets website for video interviews with children’s poets, booklists, books on poetry, activities and more.

In June SCBWI Missouri celebrates ‘Critique Across Missouri.’ Members will be hosting critique groups at different locations across the state. Non-members are welcome, too! Keep your eye on the SCBWI Missouri website for upcoming information and locations.

So Here’s Your Sign! Wherever you are in your writing, just take a leap and spring forward!

Celebrate Read Across America Day, March 2nd!

February 28, 2016

Tags: Read Across America, National Education Association, NEA

Read a book, and celebrate Read Across America Day!

Read Across America is an annual event sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA). It is a motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. Click here to take the pledge!

For printable activities, and tips on celebrating Read Across America, go to the Seussville website!

Find more tips and resources on the NEA website.

Here are a few quotes on the importance of reading—

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald (author and publisher)

"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio (musician, rapper, chef, actor, and record producer)

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan (American poet and humorist)

“The single most important thing a parent can do to help a child learn to read is to transmit a love of reading.” –Phyllis Hunter, National Fellow of the Institute of Learning

Join me, and read a book today!

World Read-Aloud Day, February 24th!

February 17, 2016

Tags: Children's Book Council, World Read-Aloud Day


What do all writers have in common? They love to read! And those of us who write for children want to inspire children to feel that way, too. I love events that promote reading for children.

On February 24th the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is sponsoring World Read-Aloud Day. This KidLit event “calls attention to the pure joy and power of reading aloud, and connects the world as a community of readers.” To get ready for the big day, the CBC has introduced 7 Strengths that celebrate all of the ways that reading makes us resilient and ready to thrive in school, work and life. They are: Belonging, Curiosity, Friendship, Kindness, Confidence, Courage, and Hope. Click here to read more about how these strengths relate to reading aloud, then click on the link there.

Some ways that reading to your child is beneficial are—
--it improves your child’s attention and listening skills
--it helps build vocabulary, comprehension, and language skills
--it improves your child's creativity and imagination
-- Books are great teachers of different emotions like sadness, fear, anger, and joy
--Reading to your child is a great way to bond with your child.
from Rainbow Star Books

Reading to an older child is beneficial as well. According to Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook, “A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade…. A fifth grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than they can read themselves.”

To read more on the benefits of reading a-loud, check these websites:

Reading Rockets
Rainbow Star Books
Great Kids!

Follow along with the Children’s Book Council at
twitter— @litworldsays and #wrad16

More on Best Picture Books of 2015

January 31, 2016

Tags: best picture books 2015

Here are my thoughts on just a few more of the picture books published in 2015 that I read and loved—and a couple from other years that were new to me. I hope you enjoy them as well!

TWO IS ENOUGH by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
Running Press Kids, 2015

Written in rhyme, TWO IS ENOUGH is a wonderful tribute to single parents. Illustrations show different types of families of two doing everyday things together. I like the variety of things that these families do together, and I like that the types of families shown are varied as well.

MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins, author and illustrator
Hyperion, 2015

Bruce is a grumpy old bear who doesn’t like anything—except eggs. He has lots of fancy recipes that he uses to cook the eggs that he takes from the birds in the forest. Then one day four goose eggs and a fizzled out fire change everything. What’s a bear with mistaken identity to do? Fun twist at the end, but you’ll have to read it yourself! Wonderful illustrations that add to the story and the fun.

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House, 2015

Little Red loves to ice skate. She swizzles and twizzles across the ice. She wants to enter the skating competition to win a pair of brand-new skates, but she needs a partner. She goes to the house of the three little pigs and ends up with the most unlikely partner ever! Read the story to see if Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf will finish the race and win the shiny new skates. Great story with a nursery rhyme theme and fun illustrations (especially if you’ve ever loved to ice skate!).

SWEEP UP THE SUN by Helen Frost, photos by illustrator/photographer Rick Lieder
Candlewick, 2015

SWEEP UP THE SUN invites readers to spread their wings and 'soar.' Author Helen Frost, well known for her award-winning YA books of poetry, shows her versatility with this poem for young readers. Beautiful photographs add to the reader's experience, and added back matter gives information about the birds in the book.

HOW TO BECOME A PERFECT PRINCESS IN FIVE DAYS by Pierrette Dube, illustrated by Luc Melanson
Windmill Books, 2010

It was not in Princess Stringbean’s nature to walk with dainty steps or keep her hair and her dresses looking neat and perfect. The moment her feet hit the dirt, she's off and running! What else can a royal mother do but send her daughter to Perfect Princess Academy. When the class is over, Princess Stringbean receives a full refund from the academy instead of a diploma, but she manages to bring home a trophy that make her mother proud. A nice twist on a ‘princess’ story that shows that everyone, even a princess, has their own special talents.

NEW OLD SHOES by Charlotte Blessing, illustrated by Gary R. Phillips
Pleasant St. Press, 2009

Follow the story to see how a pair of sneakers goes from new shoes to old shoes, and where they travel along the way. They’ve ‘walked, kicked and played,’ but where will they end up next? I like how the story shows that things can still be something of value to another person, even when they are no longer new. Beautiful, colorful illustrations add to the story.

I'm looking forward to all of the new picture books to come in 2016!

Thoughts on Some of the 2016 Award-Winning Picture Books

January 27, 2016

Tags: 2016 Caledcott and Newberry books


A Shout-Out to all of the 2016 award-winning children’s books! Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of those books as well as the picture books that appear on lists of best children’s books for 2015. Click here for a more complete list of awards for children’s books.

What exciting news that this year a picture book text won the Newberry Award. I believe it was well deserved. I rode the city bus quite often as a child, and can relate to some parts of the story myself.

Below are my thoughts on just a few of the award-winning picture books—I’m still reading! I hope it will make you run out to the library or local bookstore to read them for yourselves!

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, 2015

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2015
A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book of 2015

I once heard Matt De La Pena speak at a conference, and I was inspired by his story. Now I’m equally inspired by his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET.

When CJ and his nana leave church on Sunday morning they take the bus to the last stop on Market Street. CJ is feeling sorry for himself, and sees only what he doesn’t have. But when he begins to ‘see’ with more than just his eyes, he finds the real beauty in the people around him. I love how the illustrations add detail which adds to the overall experience.

Told with beautiful, poetic language, this is a wonderful story that shows that you don’t have to have a lot yourself to be able to help others, and that if you look around, you can find ‘beautiful where you never even thought to look.’

FINDING WINNIE, The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Balckall
Little, Brown and Company, 2015

#1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal

Maybe it was the long title, eleven words in all, but for some reason I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading the text of this book. So I put it at the bottom of my pile. All of that changed when I started reading. I discovered that I’d saved one of the best for last.

FINDING WINNIE begins with the story of Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian who purchases a bear cub from a trapper on his way to England during World War I. Winnipeg, or Winnie as she was called, traveled to England with the soldiers and was put in a zoo when they left to fight in the war. The story of Harry and Winnie stops here, but as the narrator says to her young son, “Sometimes you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.”

The second part of the story begins with a real boy named Christopher Robin. The friendship between Christopher Robin and Winnie was the inspiration for the books about Winnie the Pooh, written by Christopher Robin’s father, Alan Alexander Milne.

What makes this book even more special is that the story is told to Harry Colebourn’s great-great-grandson by his mother. Wonderful illustrations add detail to the story, and include a family tree and an album with photos of Winnie with Harry and the soldiers. This is a wonderful read for all.

DON’T THROW IT TO MO! by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks
Penguin Young Readers, 2015

Winner of the 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Mo is the youngest player on the Robins football team. He’s not the biggest or the fastest player on the team, but his passion for the game is an inspiration. Coach has a plan, but will it work? This is a great book for beginning readers with a good story, colorful illustrations and a great ‘take-away’ for readers at the end.

TROMBONE SHORTY by Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

2016 Caldecott Honor Book
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award

TROMBONE SHORTY is the story of Troy Andrews, noted musician and trombone player from the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. The language and use of dialect, along with the rhythm of the text and beautiful illustrations, puts you into the story. As you read you can ‘feel’ the influence of music in the main character’s life as you follow him from a young boy with the broken trombone twice his size, to Grammy nominated musician and inspiration to all young musicians. In the author’s words, “I’m living proof that as long as you work hard, you can make your dreams take flight.”

I want to linger just a bit on the last quote from Trombone Shorty, in particular the part that says “…as long as you work hard, you can make your dreams take flight.”

Success is sweet, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Anything that is done well takes time, and hard work. Like musicians, authors and illustrators spend many years learning the basics of their craft. And it's definitely worth the journey. Authors put in many hours finding just the right words that will connect with the reader and their emotions. Illustrators do the same, making their artwork a perfect fit for the text, then adding their own 'layer.' Having one of your picture books published and knowing that kids enjoy it is its own reward! Having your work recognized as one of the best is the icing on the cake.

Once again, my sincere congratulations to all!

Happy New Year’s Resolutions!

January 2, 2016

Tags: New Year's Resolutions


Happy New Year—2016! Once again I’m thinking of resolutions that will improve my writing life, and my life in general. It’s nice when your resolutions actually push you to do better, and when you see the difference it makes when you follow them. It’s very encouraging, and validating.

Every year I find myself repeating past resolutions. Write more, read more, eat less…. When you think about it, some things can always be improved upon. No matter how much effort I put into my writing last year, I can always improve on that somehow this year. The same goes with other areas of my life.

I read friend and author Margo Dill’s blog post last week. She talked about focusing on ‘one-word for 2016’ in place of making New Year’s resolutions. The idea came from the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page, and Dan Britton. The way that it works is that you choose ONE WORD as a theme for your life for ONE YEAR and live your life focused on that one word.

If I were to choose one word, it might be the same as Margo’s—Organization. But I am a list-maker! So under ‘organization’ I would probably list things like—

Organize my day to include reading (sub-headings: for pleasure, for learning), writing, social media, family, friends, prayer, meals, walking, etc.

Organize my files so that I can find what I’m looking for!

Organize my calendar—so I know what I’m doing!

Organize my website, so other people know what I’m doing.
And so on, and so on…

Whichever way works best for you, I hope that you find more time for those things in your life that are important to you, and that you love to do. I hope that you discover what is important to you in your life, and that you find ways to fit those things into your days. And I wish you many blessings this year!

I’ve seen 2016 referred to as ‘Sweet 16.’ Wishing you all 'Sweet Success' in this new year!

You can find information and resources about creating your own one word on this website: http://getoneword.com

Creating Memorable Christmas Characters

December 17, 2015

Tags: Christmas characters


December has been a great beginning to the Christmas season for us. Seeing the Christmas lights in Branson, a couple of familiar holiday stories, then dinner and a Christmas show kicked it off. Following that were two wonderful holiday meetings with writers. And seeing the grandkids in their school Christmas programs topped it all off!

There’s nothing like Christmas lights and the singing of carols to get you in a happy holiday spirit. Top that with the smell of cookies from the oven, the taste of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket throw and a holiday movie and you’ve got all the five senses covered! Ok, I’m back to thinking like a writer again.

I’m writing in between all of these Christmas ‘sens-ations’ because I know that if I stop for very long, it will be so much harder when I come back to it. (And because I’ve got the edits for some revisions of TOAD that I want to keep up with, too).

There are so many Christmas stories that we love to read or watch on video or TV year after year! I think it’s the characters that really make the stories so memorable. Here are a few to think about.

A song that the junior high school band played reminded me of this one. You might recognize the following words, taken randomly, from a well known Christmas song—

…you’re as cuddly as a cactus
…your brain is full of spiders
…you’re a nasty, wasty skunk
…your heart is full of unwashed socks
and so on, from “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

Wow, what a guy! What great similes and metaphors.

Then there’s the familiar story of someone who’s left out because they’re different, and ends up saving the day—
who else, but “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!”

Character drives the story. Rudolph is rather quiet, and it takes Santa to recognize his importance. But when you change your character, the story changes, too! When Rudolph is sick on Christmas Eve, he calls on his cousin Leroy to cover for him. Leroy shows up driving his pick-up truck and wearing a John Deere tractor hat.

Leroy is a more confident character. It’s his actions and appearance that show us his character. At the start, the other reindeer aren’t too sure about a reindeer who goes ‘two-stepping across the sky,’ and makes ‘jingle bells with a rebel yell.’ But he soon has them all ‘scootin’ a hoof on every single roof, by the light of a neon moon.’ It’s “Leroy the Red-Neck Reindeer!”

Think about “The Night Before Christmas,” and its many variations. Or “Snowmen at Night” and “Snowmen at Christmas.” Put the characters in a different setting and you have a new story.

Narrow in on a specific Christmas character and you might have come up with “Drummer Boy” (by Loren Long). Or focus on the animals in the barn instead of people on the first Christmas night and you might have written “The Animals’ Christmas Eve,” the Little Golden Book, by Gale Wiersum.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life” it’s the main character, George, who changes at the end of the story when Clarence, his guardian angel, helps him to see the impact that he made on many lives. The movie was based on the short story, “The Greatest Gift,” written by Philip VanDoren Stern in 1939. Unable to find a publisher, Stern sent his 21-page booklet to friends at Christmas in 1943. It was published in Readers’ Digest and Good Housekeeping magazines, and Stern privately published the story in 1945, when it came to the attention of producer David Hempstead. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” came out in 1946 and became one of the 100 best American films ever made.

Wishing you all wonderful Christmas characters, and a wonderful season of celebrating the holidays!
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