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

Please contact me if you would like me to autograph copies of my picture book, NAME THAT DOG, at your school's Scholastic Book Fair.

Recent Author Visits


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.

Find Authors

There's Corn in Missouri!

August 10, 2014

Tags: corny riddles

It's that time of year for harvesting various fruits and vegetables! Back in Indiana and here in Missouri, too, we're thinking about corn on the cob right about now. So I thought I'd share a post-from-the-past. I hope you enjoy my corny riddles for writers (answers at the end--copyright Peggy Archer 2010).

1--What was the author's favorite baby toy?
2--Why did the author sit under the light bulb?
3--Where do vampires go to write?
4--Why did the poet give his book away?
5--What kind of books do carpenters write?
6--What did the mailperson put on when the temperature got cold?
7--How does a musician write a bestseller?
8--How did the bird tell everyone about his book?
9--Why did the journalist sit outside his cubicle to write?
10--How may writers does it take to change a lightbulb? (from a screenwriting email list)

Quote & advice for writers: "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."
--Corn-fucius (aka Confucius)

answers:

1--Writers blocks
2--He was waiting for a bright idea.
3--Pencil-vania
4--It was free verse.
5--Board books
6--a Cover letter
7--He writes noteworthy fiction.
8--He tweeted.
9--He was thinking outside of the box.
10--Only one, but it needs a spectacular twist at the end.

Missouri SCBWI Fall conference Line-Up is Impressive!

August 6, 2014

Tags: SCBWI, Missouri SCBWI, children's writers & illustrators conference


Missouri Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators has something for everyone! Whether you're new to writing or illustrating children's books or a published author or illustrator, if you write picture books, middle grade novels, or young adult novels, or if your interest is in illustrating children's books, this is the place for you on September 6th and 7th!

What?
Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference: Seeds of Success

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference

When?
Saturday, September 6th—8:00 am to 9:30 pm
Sunday, September 7th—8:30 am to 11:30 am

Where?
Lindenwood University, Spellman Center
209 N. Kingshighway Street - St. Charles, Missouri 63302

Last Day to register: August 20, 2014!

Who?
—featured speakers:


Jodell Sadler—Agent
Nancy Gallt—Agent
Elena Giovinazzo—Agent
Krista Marino—Editor at Delacorte (YA and MG)
Deborah Halverson—freelance editor, author, writing instructor
Guiseppe Castellano—Art director at Penguin group
Josh Stevens—Publisher
Dan Yaccarino—author/illustrator
Carolyn Mueller—Author/Illustrator
Heather Brewer—Author
Amanda Doyle—Author
Steve Sheinkin—NF Author
Cecily White—Author
Nancy Polette—Author (on writing biographies for children)
Debbie Gonzales—Curriculum Specialist

for authors—First 5 Lines
for illustrators—postcard evaluations

Sunday Intensives (choose one):
1—Deborah Halverson: How to Build Your Own Teenager: Techniques for Writing Believable MG/YA Characters
2— Debbie Gonzales: The Anatomy of a Teacher’s guide: A Hands On Approach to CCSS Project Creation
3— Jodell Sadler: Ten Tips Workshop for Writing Your Heart into Picture Books
4— Guiseppe Castallano: A Conversation with an Art Director

Meet Middle Grade Author and RA for MO SCBWI, Kim Piddington!

July 7, 2014

Tags: Kim Piddington, SCBWI, Missouri SCBWI, SCBWI Missouri Fall Conference, Rodeen Literary Agency, agent Lori Kilkelly


My special guest this week is Kim Piddington, author of middle grade (MG) fiction, and the current Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) in Missouri. Kim is a great promoter of reading, writing, and children’s literature. She has served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book, is a National Writing Project Teacher consultant, and is on the executive board of the Language Arts Department of Southwest Missouri (LAD) which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children.

Welcome, Kim! You are such an active participant in promoting reading and writing for both children and adults, and I appreciate that. Can you tell us what made you want to write for children?

I always wanted to write. I started emulating the authors I was reading when I was in elementary school. I took tons of creative writing courses in college. But no one ever counseled me how to make a living at it. After college, I packed my pencil and notebook away until my inner writer was reawakened by the bNational Writing Project/b (NWP) in 1997.

You have a teaching background. Did teaching influence you to go back to writing?

I think after teaching MG children for 20 years- the MG voice is what is firmly entrenched in my head! I write MG exclusively. I’ve written one historical fiction, one fantasy, and am working on a contemporary fiction.

In California, I taught 7th grade English for 5 years, then I moved to a self-contained 6th grade class (teaching all subjects) for 10. I moved to Missouri and finished off by teaching 5th grade English for 5 years. I was writing my first book at that time, and my students would come in at lunch to read my chapters as I finished them. It was very eye opening for me to see what words and concepts they stumbled over.

Do you work on one project at a time or more than one?
More than one.

What are you working on now?

My agent suggested some revisions to my fantasy, so I’m working on those. I also started a contemporary MG to keep me going when I hit the revision wall.

How did you meet your agent, and what do you think helped you to ‘connect’ with her?

I met my agent, Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary, at the 2013 SCBWI MO Fall Conference. I had sent in a query, synopsis and the first 5 pages of my fantasy to be critiqued. She really liked it, but I told her it was a work in progress and it wouldn’t be finished for several months. Then she told me she’d checked my webpage and saw that I had a historical fiction manuscript finished. She wanted to read that while I worked on the fantasy. I was actually afraid to send it to her! But thank goodness I did, because she loved it and signed me based on that book.
Moral of the story: personal connections really help and make sure you have a webpage!

How do you feel having an agent benefits you, personally?

I love Lori! She makes me feel like she is my biggest fan. She is positive, a great person to bounce ideas off of, and thanks to her, my manuscript is sitting on the desks of editors at places like Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, etc—places I had no access to without her. She really looks out for her clients—sending us links to writing advice, sending us news tidbits that pertain to the industry, and she even checks on and likes my facebook posts. Did I mention I love her? I feel very lucky!

When, and why, did you join SCBWI?

I used to take my students to a conference that featured great children’s authors every year. In 2010, my historical fiction manuscript had just won first place in the Pike’s Peak Writing Contest, Children’s Category—and I had no idea what to do next. One of the authors there suggested I join SCBWI—so I did. About six months later, Joyce Ragland asked me to be ARA (Assistant Regional Advisor) for SCBWI in Missouri. When she stepped down in 2013, I took over as RA (Regional Advisor).

SCBWI has opened so many doors for me—I’ve traveled to both Los Angeles & New York to attend the national conferences, learned a ton about the craft of writing by attending SCBWI workshops, and met the most fantastic people. And I met my agent at an SCBWI event. I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without SCBWI.

I’m a long-time member and great supporter of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Can you share some reasons why you would recommend membership in SCBWI to other children’s writers and illustrators?

Writing can be lonely—SCBWI offers you an opportunity to meet up with others who have the same goals/dreams as you. They provide top-notch “training” for writers & illustrators via their conferences and workshops. You get the opportunity to have your work critiqued by the best in the business, which could eventually lead to representation. And you meet fantastic, interesting, caring people.

Is SCBWI a good fit for self-published writers as well as traditionally published writers?

SCBWI recently created an annual award specifically for self-published authors. And ANY author can benefit from the craft lessons that are such a big part of every SCBWI event. SCBWI also offers opportunities to network—which is invaluable when you have a book to market.

What are you working on now for Missouri children’s authors and illustrators?

Currently, we are working on the SCBWI Fall Conference. I’m so excited about our lineup—I really feel we have something for everyone.

In addition, we are working on choosing the finalists for the PB mentorship program with David Harrison, as well as running a scholarship contest for both writers & illustrators that is tied to the fall Conference.

I’m looking forward to the fall conference myself, which features three agents, two editors, several published authors, an art director, two author/illustrators, and a curriculum specialist! There is something for everyone, from picture books to middle grade and young adult. Critique spots are filling up fast, but there is still a chance to snag a critique with an agent, an editor, and a portfolio critique with an art director or author/illustrator!

Kim, you are also a National Writing Project (NWP) Teacher Consultant. What can you tell us about that?

The NWP focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation's educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners. The NWP is a network of sites anchored at colleges and universities and serving teachers across disciplines and at all levels, early childhood through university. We provide professional development, develop resources, generate research, and act on knowledge to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.

The National Writing Project believes that access to high-quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. We work in partnership with institutions, organizations, and communities to develop and sustain leadership for educational improvement. Throughout our work, we value and seek diversity—our own as well as that of our students and their communities—and recognize that practice is strengthened when we incorporate multiple ways of knowing that are informed by culture and experience.

I have been a NWP member for 13 years. It shaped me as teacher, reminded me I was a writer, and gave me the skills (after serving as the Ozark Writing project Youth Coordinator and hosting an annual MG conference for over 500 students for several years) to plan and organize events for SCBWI. I’m still active in this organization and think the work they do is important and inspiring.

You are a member of ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and several local writing groups including the Springfield Writers’ Guild and the Ozarks Writers League. How are these professional organizations important to you as a writer?

All of these organizations help me stay connected to other writers, as well as provide opportunities to get work critiqued, and learn more about the craft of writing. ALAN holds a conference each year at the end of NCTE, which is amazing! Dozens of successful and up & coming YA (young adult) authors in every genre speak either individually or on panels AND you walk away with an amazing box of books that would retail for 5 times what you paid for the conference. One of my “author dreams” is to be invited to speak there some day!

What can you tell us about the other projects/organizations that you are involved in that have to do with writing, children, education, etc.?

I served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book for a brief time. They have a GREAT program- letters about literature- for school children. They also chose which Missouri book will represent the state at the National Book Festival.

In addition, I am also on the executive board of LAD which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children. There are over 70 categories, k-12, and they receive over 5,000 entries each year. I love judging- it’s amazing to see the work these students produce.

Outside of writing, what other interests do you have?

I’m married and have two beautiful daughters. One is getting married in the fall and the other is heading off to college—so I’m spending as much time as I can with them now.

I love gardening (weeds sprout overnight in this weather), baking, and traveling. I also have several horses and a passel of dogs & cats—so I spend a lot of time scooping poop!

Thank you so much for sharing some of your writing life with us here, Kim!

Kim lives with her family in Ozark, Missouri. Readers can find out more about Kim on her website.

What Writers Learn from Reading Picture Books

June 26, 2014

Tags: Saturday Writers, writing picture books


Most people who read picture books to children enjoy the simple language and uncomplicated story lines. It’s ‘cute.’ It’s ‘simple.’ So writing them must be easy, right? You probably don’t want to say that to someone who writes picture books!

Advice that published authors, editors and agents give to struggling picture book writers is invaluable.
‘Use the five senses’ to bring the reader into the story.
Use dialogue and action to move the story along.
And the number one piece of advice to writers—‘Show, Don’t Tell.’

But how exactly do we do that? One way to learn is by reading other picture books. From the classics to those recently published and award-winning picture books! Read them all! But especially read recently published picture books. Within their pages you’ll see how other authors successfully make use of different writing techniques.

When you read picture books, read them out loud.

In an interview in the Huffington Post on May 28, 2014 Jane Yolen says: “…I believe the eye and ear are different listeners. So as writers, we have to please both.”
When asked what the editing process is like for her when working on a picture book she said, “Reading it aloud over and over.” Click the link above to read the entire interview.

Read many picture books to hone your ear for sentence structure, vocabulary, pacing, rhythm, and page turns. Listen for language. The language needs to sound good when read aloud.
When you’re done reading, type out the text to see how the words look without illustrations

Here are some links with advice about writing a picture book. You can find more by doing an online search for ‘advice on writing picture books.’

Harold Underdown’s website, The Purple Crayon, has links to articles about writing picture books.

Read a post by Emma Dryden about Why Playing It Safe May Be the Most Dangerous Game of All.

Read Christie Wright Wild’s blogpost for another perspective on how to study picture books.

Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme? Read Tara Lazar’s blog post for some of the reasons.

If you're a picture book writer looking for information or inspiration, and you live in the St. Louis area, please join me this Saturday, June 28th, at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Center on Mexico Road at a meeting of the Saturday Writers. I'll be doing a presentation on The Nuts & Bolts of Writing a Picture Book, followed by Revision & Marketing. Saturday Writers is a group of ‘writers encouraging writers,’ and is a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild.

A Writer is a Writer, Wherever You Are...

June 2, 2014

Tags: Picture Book Walk, Quail Ridge Park, Berlioz the Bear, Summer Reading


The weather finally changed here in Missouri, from winter to summer, with a brief spring season in between. My husband and I are back to walking. As we walk, my mind wanders. There’s so much inspiration all around us. Birds, bugs, butterflies—oh, oh. There’s that sudden flash of alliteration, not uncommon to children’s writers, and poets.

We enjoy walking at the parks the most. Being surrounded by nature is peaceful. It makes you forget the sore muscles you have from the long, lazy winter. We see all kinds of birds, and butterflies, dragonflies, wooly caterpillars, rabbits, squirrels, and maybe a groundhog or a deer.

We see even more if we’re walking with grandchildren. Which reminds me that things we take for granted are more exciting in the eyes of children.

We walk down a dirt trail covered with leaves.

Grandson: “What’s that?! There on that leaf? A toad!”
Me, looking down: “Oh, there’s another one!”
Grandson: “More! They’re all over the place!”

He was right. Do you remember that Indiana Jones movie where the snakes covered the floor and made it look like the floor was moving? That’s kind of how the trail looked for a minute.

Grandson: “I’m going to catch one.”
Me: “Stay away from that poison oak!”
Grandson, pointing too closely at a plant with five leaves: “What does it look like? Is this it?”
We stay on the path, surrounded by tiny toads.
Grandson: “Look! He just jumped into my hand! I’m going to take him home.”
Me, thinking that we should have brought some hand sanitizer: “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Where would you keep it?”
Grandson: “In a cage.”
Me, thinking about a toad hopping around in my car: “You can’t keep him in a cage. He belongs in nature.”
Grandson: “Oh. Ok. Take a picture to show my dad.”
I snap a picture, the toad hops out of his hand, and we head back to the paved trail.

Another day some of our other grandchildren were taking a family walk and came across some deer in a field.

Grandson: “Can we pet them?”
Mom: “No, we can’t pet the deer.”
Grandson: “Oh.” Then after thinking about it for a minute—“I guess they’re only good for eating then.”

I won’t tell you what our ‘princess’ granddaughter said, which was really out of character!

It makes me stop to think about what things go through a child’s mind. Their unpredictability makes them so much fun. And fun to write for.

Back to our walk, we cross over a bridge and see nests, and holes in the ground. We hear a variety of bird songs, which another granddaughter can identify the birds by.

We pass by a lake and see trout and turtles and twigs. Oh, my, there goes that alliteration.

We hear crickets and rustlings in wooded areas. And my mind is immersed in stories that need to be told. Poems that should be written. And the desire to write them. Because a writer is a writer wherever you are.

Today, June 2nd, is the opening of the 2014 Picture Book Walk at Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville, Missouri. Berlioz the Bear, by Jan Brett is this summer’s featured picture book. From 3:00 to 5:00 pm today there will be games, activities and crafts for children inside the lodge by the lake. But any time this summer, you can take the short ¾ mile walk around the lake and read the book, which is displayed, spread by spread, at various posts around the lake. The Picture Book Walk is sponsored by the St. Charles County Parks Department and the St. Charles City-County Library District.

If you know of any similar picture book walks in your area parks, please post them in your comments.

Happy Summer Reading!

Breaking the ‘Rules’ of Picture Book Writing… and Coming Out a Winner!

May 22, 2014

Tags: 2014 Children's Choice Book Awards, The Day the Crayone Quit

Anthropomorphic pickle

The Children’s Choice Book Awards for 2014 were announced on May 15th—the only awards chosen by children and teens in support of their favorite books. The Book of the Year, as voted on by students in kindergarten through the second grade, is THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Jeffers was also a finalist for Illustrator of the Year.

I read this book and thought it was great. But what about those experts who tell us not to write books about inanimate objects with human qualities?! Isn’t this what Daywalt did here?

On her website, Fiction Notes, Darcy Pattison says: “Rarely do... inanimate objects as characters make successful picture books.” She continues: “Yes, I know about SpongeBob and Veggie Tales. But those stories really shouldn’t work. … Only the most skilled writers can pull this off and usually not in a picture book.”

Also from Darcy’s blog, Doubleday editor, Francoise Bui said, “It’s preferable to have a young child as protagonist, or an animal. It needs to be someone who the child reader can relate to.”

On her website, Writing-World.com, author and editor Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz lists this as #2 of the eight types of stories that publishers don’t want to see.

OK, so what those experts really mean is, don’t do it unless you can pull it off really well, and your story is totally original!

Here are some other picture books that used inanimate objects as characters and came out winners.

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD by Watty Piper 1930, Published by Platt & Munk a Division of Grosset & Dunlap. This book is still loved by any child who loves trains.

THE SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA by Laurie Keller, Square Fish publishing 2002. A crazy tale of mixed-up geography, each state has its own personality as they travel across the US.

SNOWMEN AT NIGHT by Caralyn buehner , Harcourt 2005. What do snowmen do when everyone else is asleep? I love the rhythm and rhyme in this book.

I STINK! by Kate and Jim McMullan, HarperCollins 2006. My grandkids all LOVE this one! The title alone is enough to attract any child’s attention.

Jon Scieszka’s TRUCKTOWN books, Simon Spotlight. Picture books or beginning readers, any boy (or girl) who likes trucks will love these books.

TOOLS RULE by Aaron Meshon, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2014. “With a click, click and a bang! bang!, everyone from Wrench, Hammer, and Screwdriver right down to Nuts and Bolts is pitching in to make a shed.” The title and an original topic make me want to put this on my reserve list at the library!

“Breaking the rules” for the sake of breaking them won’t work in the world of picture books. But if a story just begs to be written from the point of view of an inanimate object, if it’s high interest for picture book readers, andif a child can relate to what’s going on in the story, why not give it a try?

Celebrating Children’s Book Week

May 14, 2014

Tags: Children's Book Week

This week, May 12th through May 18th, is Children’s Book Week. This is the 95th year of this annual celebration of children’s books and reading. Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, and wherever children and books connect.

Read about some children’s authors who were born this week.

L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900: born May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York.

Margret Rey, author/illustrator of the Curious George books with her husband, H. A. Rey: born May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany.

Lillian Hoban, illustrator of Bread and Jam for Frances and other books about Frances, and author/illustrator of the early reading books about Arthur the chimpanzee: born May 18, 1925 in Lansdale, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.

Debbie Dadey, author of Bailey School Kids series and others: born May 18, 1959 in Morganfield, Kentucky.

May 11th through May 17th is also National Transportation Week. Here are some children’s books about transportation.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Railroad Engineers & Airplane Pilots—What do they do? by Carla Greene
Snow Trucking! and other Trucktown books by Jon Scieszka
Drive and Job Site by Nathan Clement
Firehouse by Mark Teague
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

And, finally, a few websites to check for more information and things to do during Children’s Book Week.

Book Week online

Get some ideas for ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week at this site from Scholastic.

Find more ideas on the ReadWriteThink website.

Happy Reading!

Sharing April—Poetry and Autism Awareness Month

April 28, 2014

Tags: autism awareness month, poems and autism, poetry month


April is National Autism Awareness Month, and National Poetry Month.

The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month in the United States since the 1970s. It creates a special opportunity to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2, 2014.

To find out more about autism, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Here are some other websites about autism that I found interesting and helpful.

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew from the book by Ellen Notbohm.

For some tips on helping children with autism, go to HelpGuide.org.

And because it’s also poetry month, click here to read some poetry written by teachers, siblings, moms, and people with autism at the Autism Speaks Website.

To tie Poetry month and Autism Awareness month together, I wanted to write my own poem about autism. I found that it was not so easy! But here it is:

Today!

Today
was a good day—I
rode the school bus,
didn’t fight
got my spelling words
all right
drew a castle
and a king
at recess got my
favorite swing
shared my race cars
fed the ducks
counted night stars
counted trucks
ate my dinner
played with brother
did my homework
hugged my mother…


Yesterday
was different—I
scowled when teacher
called my name
threw the pieces
from the game
cried ‘cause my friend
wasn’t there—
wouldn’t talk and
kicked my chair
pushed in line and
ran ahead
went outside to
play instead
groaned and pushed when
brother bugged me
didn’t move when
mother hugged me…

But TODAY
was a good day!

copyright Peggy Archer 2014

Poem in Your Pocket Day!

April 24, 2014

Tags: Poem in your pocket day, national poetry month


Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day! On this day people in the United States select a poem, carry it with them and share it with others throughout the day. It’s not too late to join the fun!

What poem will you choose to share? Will it be one that you enjoyed as a child? A nursery rhyme? Something that you discovered as an adult? Will it be funny, romantic, or something to make you think? Maybe it will be one that a friend wrote, or that you wrote yourself. Or maybe you wrote an original poem, just for today!

How will you share it? Will you sneak your poem into someone’s lunch box, or into their coat pocket or under their pillow? You can pass a copy to friends that you see during the day. Be sure to have plenty of copies in your pocket! Maybe you’ll decide to hang a poem up on a public bulletin board. You can share on facebook or on your website. If you tweet, you can share by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Throughout history, poems have been stowed in pockets in a variety of ways, from the commonplace books of the Renaissance to the pocket-sized publications for Army soldiers in World War II.

Poem in Your Pocket day got its start in New York City. In 2002, the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, initiated Poem in Your Pocket Day as part of the city's National Poetry Month celebration.

In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative national, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard.

If you’re looking for a poem to share, or for some ideas on how to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, visit the Poets.org website.

Then check out Reading Rockets where you’ll find videos of poets reading poetry, and other ideas for celebrating National Poetry month.

For some fun links to poetry for children, visit Jump into a Book.

My poem for today:

Fishing for a Bite

“I’m tired of worms,”
said the fish in the lake.
“I’d rather have
some chocolate cake,
a piece of cheese,
or, I suppose,
some ankles, knees,
or dirty toes!
So if you want
to get a bite,
just cast your legs
in the lake tonight!”

c Peggy Archer (not for use without permission of author)

What poem will you share today?

RhyPiBoMO Blogpost—Are You Naturally Musical?

April 14, 2014

Tags: RhyPiBoMO, rhyme, rhyming poetry, rhyming picture books


My Guest Author blog post is up on Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month! I decided to blog about the Lesson for the Day, Are You Naturally Musical? Music and rhyming poetry have a lot in common. Click the link to read my blog post.

Today’s lesson is accompanied by a video on the same topic. Take today’s challenge to “Prove Them Wrong!” when someone says that you can’t. You can learn to feel the rhythm in music and in your words. “It just takes practice, a never-give-up attitude and the desire to learn.”

If you haven’t been keeping up with the guest blogs, go back to Saturday, April 12th. Read Jane Yolen’s post, where she talks about poets as ‘code masters.’ Read the lesson on ‘syllables,’ and read Jane’s ‘Five Tips on Writing a Poem.’ Then write your own poem from the Writing Prompt.

Read some ‘Rhyme Writing Advice’ from Deborah Diesen, author of THE POUT-POUT FIST, which I read to my grandson recently, and we both loved! Then take the Word Stress quiz.

There’s a new blogger every day, with a new lesson, and writing prompt. Check out the calendar of Guest Bloggers. To find the archives list, scroll to the bottom of any post. You can also find a specific blog post by typing the date of the blog – comma- guest blogger’s name in the search field, in the upper right corner.

Become a RhyPiBoMo participant and win some awesome prizes. There are still 2 ½ days left to register! Participants can comment on a blog post to win weekly prizes. Congratulations to Laura Rackham, winner of an autographed copy of my picture book, NAME THAT DOG! Participants can also enter the Golden Quill Poetry Contest. Contest deadline is April 25th, midnight central time. Don't forget to follow the fun on facebook, too.

Are you naturally musical? Does it matter? With practice, you can learn! Happy rhyming!