Please contact me if you would like me to speak at your school, or autograph books at your Scholastic Book Fair.
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
Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers
Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency
Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER
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
Booksigning at B&N Bookfair
Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, with author and keynote speaker Tim Green
friendly staff at The Bookstore
Author Book Signing
Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols
Turkey for Thanksgiving?
Stuffee and the author
November: Picture Book Idea Month
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Anyone for Literary Bingo?
This is the cornfield just down the street from my house on July 13th. That's me with the boot on my foot again!
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
Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!
Little reader loving that dog book!
Celebrating the Book Launch!
Doggy treats at the book launch party
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!
The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!
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.
Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell
Alexis talks about storytime for the very young
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
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
Name That Dog! ISBN: 978-0-8037-3322-0
Writing friends from the beginning!
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
Family Book Basket
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
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
Smile and say 'author'!
Ready to start!
Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners
One on one with Sara
Author and Editor...
Getting to know you...
Sharing thoughts... connecting
Our Kentucky friends...
Trish, RA, Peggy, ARA, Christi and Alina, steering committee members
Picture book author, April Pulley Sayre, speaking in South Bend.
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.
Critique group gathering at Peggy Miller's house. Karen, Fred, Mary Ann, Katie, Judy, & the two Peggy's in front.
Our daughter, Sarah & our son, Dan both sang original songs at the Porter County Fair in the Colgate Country Showdown.
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.
Meeting other children's writers.
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.
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.
June 12, 2016
It’s school summer vacation time, and libraries across the country are hosting their summer reading programs. What better way for young readers to meet the challenge than to combine time outdoors and reading a picture book!
Check out your local parks’ programs to see if there’s a Storybook Walk
in your area. In St. Charles county, Missouri, the St. Charles Library foundation is once again hosting Storybook Walks in the parks. This year there are four locations, the newest storybook walk at Heartland Park in Wentzville, Missouri. Visit the St. Charles Library foundation website
for more information including locations and featured picture books for May, June and July.
In Quail Ridge Park
in Wentzville you’ll walk around the lake on a paved walking path surrounded by trees and plants. You might see a turtle, a fish, a dragonfly or other wildlife as you walk.
At St. Charles Community College
in Cottleville the story is set on a paved path around a scenic lake with a fountain. On our walk a couple of days ago, the evening sun shined through the waters of the fountain to create a beautiful rainbow. A crane kept turning its back on me as I tried to get a picture.
I have yet to visit Heartland Park
in Wentzville and Fox Hill Park
in St. Charles, but they’re on my list.
So if you haven’t already signed up, visit your local library and kick off your summer reading with a walk, and a story!
May 22, 2016
It’s always very special to be able to share good news and a new book by a writing friend, but especially so when it’s such a great picture book. I learned about the Heifer project and the seagoing cowboys from Peggy Reiff Miller
when we met through our critique group for children’s writers in Northwest Indiana. Since that time, through her research and interviews with former seagoing cowboys, she has become an expert on their history. Peggy has had several magazine articles published about the subject, as well as a DVD documentary, A Tribute to the Seagoing Cowboys
. Her first picture book The Seagoing Cowboy
, was released earlier this spring. Peggy has also had children’s stories published in Highlights for Children
and in My Friend
. Please welcome, Peggy, as she tells us a little bit about her book and her passion for writing it.
What was the inspiration for your book? Why did you feel a need to write it?
My grandfather was a seagoing cowboy to Poland in 1946, but I never heard him talk about his experience. When I got interested in writing, I thought the topic would be great for a YA novel. I had an envelope of photos from Grandpa’s trip that my father had given me, and I knew some men who had been seagoing cowboys, so in 2002, I started interviewing them. I realized this was a lost, but important, history that needed to be told; and I’ve been telling it for all ages in as many ways as possible ever since.
What kind of research did you do before writing your book?
I started with the interviews of men who had made the livestock trips to Europe after World War II. One cowboy led to another, and another, and I’ve interviewed nearly 200 of them and have been in contact with about that many more. For my novel (still unpublished), I did a lot of reading about the organizations involved in the livestock shipping, the ships, World War II on the home front, Poland’s history, etc. I read books written and watched movies made during that time period. I collected copies of diaries and photos of the seagoing cowboys and studied those. I made trips to several archives to find the historical materials behind the story. So I was able to draw on all of this research for the picture book, which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the larger story but, at the same time, is a composite summary that captures the seagoing cowboy experience.
What kind of marketing did you do—was it easy to find an editor who wanted to publish this book?
I’ll answer the second part of the question first. I had seven rejections before Brethren Press
bought the manuscript. The story is a piece of Brethren history, so they were the natural fit for the book. The kind of marketing I did pre-publication is the reason Brethren Press was willing to take on this project. I had been researching, writing magazine articles, and speaking about this history for ten years before I received my book contract. In addition, I had produced a DVD photo-story documentary from the photos cowboys had shared with me, which I had successfully marketed; and I had created a seagoing cowboys website. With this platform, Brethren Press knew I would be actively involved in marketing the book. Had I not had any of that past involvement, I seriously doubt they would have taken the chance on it, as they are a small press and picture books are quite expensive to produce.
What were the challenges in bringing your book to life?
The biggest challenge was finding and creating a concise story line that did everything I wanted the book to do. With so much research behind me, it was hard to let go of the nonfiction “telling.”
What encouragement helped you along your way?
Our writers’ critique group, The TaleBlazers
(we miss you since you moved to Missouri!), and another critique group I was in at the time gave me incredible encouragement and support. As did my husband and daughters and my church family.
What kind of networking do you do as an author?
I belong to SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
, and I’ve made many wonderful contacts through that organization, networking not only with other writers, but also with publishing professionals. Because of having submitted my manuscript for a marketing critique by the wonderful Blue Slip Media
team at an SCBWI conference, and then recommending Blue Slip to my publisher, Brethren Press hired them for some promotional work that has gotten the book into places that would have been hard for us to reach without their help. I’ve also done a lot of networking among seagoing cowboys and their families, as well as within Heifer International
, the development organization of which the seagoing cowboy history is a part.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m serving as a historical consultant to Heifer International and doing research for a German author who has been contracted by Heifer to write a book about their shipments to Germany throughout the decade of the 1950s to help Germany recover from the war. I’m also gearing up to write an adult history of the beginning decade of Heifer. An adult book about the seagoing cowboys has long been in the works, and I blog twice a month about this history on my seagoing cowboys website. I also have another picture book manuscript related to Heifer’s German shipments that I’m ready to start submitting. More than enough to keep me fully occupied!
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
The seagoing cowboys are my inspiration. Sitting in their homes and hearing stories from a very formative time in their lives has been an honor and a privilege. As for the future, I keep telling my friends that I have enough work to keep me busy until I’m 110 (I’m currently 68). So my plans are to keep doing what I’m doing, but hopefully at a slower pace than I’m currently managing. When my husband retires at the end of this year, we’ll want to make more time in our lives for our married twin daughters, their husbands, and two little grandsons to whom the book is dedicated.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given about writing?
Not to take rejections personally. Revise when needed and re-send.
Do you have any advice for beginning children’s writers?
Persistence pays off. There are many talented writers who are never published because they give up when the rejections start coming in. And there are many mediocre writers who become good writers because they continue learning at every opportunity and persist in sending out their work. It’s not a profession for the faint-hearted. But the rewards of hearing from satisfied readers or watching a child hug his or her new book makes it all worth the effort.
Thank you for your insight and inspiration, Peggy! Peggy lives with her husband, Rex, in Goshen, Indiana. You can find out more about Peggy and her book on her author website
. Read more about the cowboys on Peggy’s Seagoing Cowboy website
and her Seagoing Cowboy blog
The Seagoing Cowboy
, Brethren Press 2016
by Peggy Reiff Miller, illustrated by Claire Ewart
April 20, 2016
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!
April 12, 2016
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.
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
April 3, 2016
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
High Hill Press 2016
March 16, 2016
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!
February 28, 2016
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!
February 17, 2016
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
--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
Rainbow Star Books
Follow along with the Children’s Book Council at
— @litworldsays and #wrad16
January 31, 2016
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.
by Ryan T. Higgins
, author and illustrator
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
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!
January 27, 2016
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.
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!