Upcoming Author Visits


April 2, 2014
Lakeview Elementary School
Lake St. Louis, MO

April 14, 2014
MO Association of School Librarians
Spring Conference
8:30-9:00
10:30 to 11:00
St. Louis Union Station
Doubletree Hotel
St. Louis, MO

April 15, 2014
Providence Christian Academy
Author reading
Fenton, MO

May 9, 2014
Ozark Writing Project Youth Conference
Springfield, MO

June 28, 2014
Saturday Writers
"Writing & Marketing the Picture Book"
Chimis Restaurant
St. Peters, MO

I would be glad to autograph copies of my picture book, NAME THAT DOG, at your school's Scholastic Book Fair.

Recent Author Visits


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

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!

Celebrate Spring with Poetry!

April 7, 2014

Tags: William Wordsworth, A Child's Garden of Poetry, J. Patrick Lewis, Ken Nesbitt, Rene LaTulippe, Reading Between the Lions


The weather was beautiful here yesterday. My husband and I went to the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, and after a winter that just won’t quit it was like stepping into spring! There was a Daffodil Show indoors sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Daffodil Society, but outside daffodils and other spring blooms were everywhere! I didn’t realize that there are nearly 700 different varieties of daffodils! Inspired, I wrote this short poem—

Daffy-dils
Laffy-dils
Usher in the springtime,
Fill my yard with sunshine—
Daffodils!

On the bottom of one of the posters at the show was a poem called “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth. It begins this way:


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….

Don’t stop here! A Child’s Garden of Poetry, presented by the Poetry Foundation, features a video of the poem, DAFFODILS, read by David Matthews on their website. Listening to the poem, and watching the short video, I could just imagine myself ‘dancing with the daffodils!’ A child’s Garden of Poetry also has two other videos that feature readings of poems.

As U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said in a recent interview, "Poetry should be read out loud even if you are all alone in a room. Readers should want their ears to have as much fun as their mouths are having."

Here are a few more places to watch videos of children’s poetry being read out loud.

J. Patrick Lewis can be found reading his poem, “Chromosomes” at Scholastic.

Go to Ken Nesbitt’s website, Poetry4Kids.com, where you can hear and watch some of his funny poems for children, including “My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes,” and “I Taught My Cat to Clean My Room.”

On the pbs website, Reading Between the Lions, you can listen to even more poems for children on video.

Hear Renee LaTulippe, children’s author, read her poem Jake the Snake!

Listen to some poems by Ted Scheu and hear a little about what inspired them.

Enjoy childrens' poetry this month by listening to some poems being read out loud. Go a step further, and read some of your own favorite poems out loud. But better yet, celebrate spring by writing a poem of your own. Read it out loud to your family. It will tickle your ears and your tongue as well!

Celebrating National Poetry Month!

March 31, 2014

Tags: RhyPiBoMO, Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem, 30 Days/30 Poets, 30/30 Poetry Challenge, National Poetry Month

In less than two hours it will be April, and the beginning of National Poetry Month! Here are a few links to get you started.

Join Angie Karcher on her blogsite for RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month. This is a month-long celebration of poetry and rhyming picture books. Enjoy blog posts from well-know poets as Jane Yolen, Lee Bennet Hopkins, Myra Reisberg and others. I feel honored to be a part of the list of guest bloggers for this event. My blog post will be featured on April 14th. During the month enjoy short lessons and writing prompts, and other resources. Register to be eligible for daily prizes. You can also join RhyPiBo Mo on facebook. Check out today's post with poet Lisa Wheeler!

Join the 30/30 Poetry Challenge 2014 and receive daily poetry writing prompts. Take the challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days.

Go to Irene Latham’s blogsite, Live Your Poem, to follow the 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem. What is it? A poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line. Watch as a poem grows from day one to the end of April.

Check out 30 Days/30 Poets with Greg Pinkus. 30 Days/30 Poets 2014 will feature two poems per day by well-known poets in a blast from the past.

National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. It is celebrated every April in the United States and (since 1999) Canada. For information about National Poetry Month, go to Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets.

Children’s Writers and the Common Core and What School Librarians and Book Store Owners Look For

March 14, 2014

Tags: Common Core Standards

Panel of school librarians and independent book seller
Recently I attended a program on the Common Core Standards (CCS) and how it relates to children’s writers. Not having a teaching background can make understanding the CCS a little more difficult. But with 45 states, the District of Columbia and four territories using the CCS, it’s something that children’s authors should be aware of. Here are a few things that I learned.

The purpose of the common core standards is to provide consistent and clear understanding of what students must learn. CCS are a ‘guide,’ and are not specific.

There are different requirements for different grade levels, but the anchor standards are reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Reading is at the core of the CCS.

So how does this apply to us as writers of children’s literature? Ask yourself, where does your book fit into instruction? How does your book fit into the Common Core Standards taught in the schools? In other words, how can your book be used to reinforce what is being taught in schools.

What ways can you find in your book to connect to the Common Core Standards?
What is the grade level or reading level of your book? Books are made more marketable by using guided reading levels. For example, I can find the Flesch Kincaid reading level of my picture books by going to ‘Review’ in Word and clicking on ‘Spelling & Grammar.’ After it finishes the spell check, it will tell me the word count and readability, including passive sentences, Flesch reading ease, and Flesch-Kincaid grade level. If my picture book is a 2.9 reading level it might be included on the accelerated reading list for grade 2, which boosts sales to school libraries.

Teachers are concerned about having enough non-fiction for students. But your book doesn’t have to be non-fiction to have a connection to a historical event if there are facts within your story. Is there a math connection using counting, money, time? Does your story contain facts about plants, animals, planets? Is yours a book of poetry? The use of ‘language’ and ‘poetic form’ fits into the CCS.

Include how your book aligns to the CCS on your website. Post some book-related activities.

As part of the program, a panel of school librarians and an independent book store owner talked about how they choose the books that they buy. Big on the list was recommendations from sales reps, teachers and readers. Some other influences were—
books with good sales history
award-winning books
books with ‘kid’ appeal or ‘boy appeal’
books with kids as main characters
books requested by students

One librarian from an elementary school said she would like more books about animals and more multi-cultural books.

For non-fiction, in general, panelists wanted non-fiction that is not ‘text-heavy,’ good narrative, readability, and curriculum tie-ins. For biography, they look for non-fiction that reads like fiction. They also look for books about their state or about people from their state.

All agreed that their book purchasing budgets were down this year. All read reviews such as School Library Journal and Booklist, and they look for books with starred reviews. For some, they can only purchase books that have had three favorable reviews in the major publications, such as those above.

All looked for that curriculum tie-in. But—“Do not ‘write to’ the curriculum or the common core standards!” we were told. “Because whatever you write, is relative to someone.”

Using Difficult Words in Picture Books

March 1, 2014

Tags: Dirty Gert, Ted Arnold, language in picture books

Dirty Gert

Picture books are intended to be read to, or read by, younger children. They’re usually labeled as age 3 to 5 or age 5 to 8. When writing a picture book, we’re told to keep the age of our reader in mind. Picture books help a child develop language and concept. A picture book can either stick to the familiar, or introduce new words or concepts, or maybe do a little bit of both.

One of my critique groups raised a question about language, and words used in picture books that seem to be well over the age of the intended reader. I had questioned some words in a short picture book manuscript that seemed above the age level for picture books. But if you look at some picture books that children love, you can find some very difficult words in them.

Take for example DIRTY GERT by Ted Arnold. Arnold writes some very funny picture books, including PARTS and MORE PARTS, which I love. Here are some of the words used in DIRTY GERT:

idolized
internalizer
tantalize
supervised
civilize
reorganized
photosynthesized … and so on.

The story is about a little girl who loves to eat dirt. What child wouldn’t find that hilarious! The rhyme feeds into the unfamiliar words. Will they ‘get’ all the words? I think not. Will they ‘learn’ new words? I think most kids would learn at least some of them. Will they ‘get’ the story? Absolutely.

A picture book is a combination of words and pictures. The illustrations help the child to figure out what’s going on in the story. Illustrations are a learning tool. And Arnold’s illustrations are hilarious as well as the text.

The text is written in rhyme, so it’s fun to read out loud. Rhyme is a learning tool. Children like to repeat words in rhyme, and it helps a child to remember the words.

A child may not understand the words, but they are fun to say. Even without considering rhyme, they are poetic.

Picture books are fun. And reading this book together is a way for an adult and a child to have fun together while learning.

Some ways that picture books help a child learn include use of language, visual thinking, developing imagination, understanding humor, and exploring emotions.

I wouldn’t worry about expecting a child to understand all of the words in this book. And I don’t think it’s necessary. There is more for them to get from it. And they’ll have fun reading it, which is an important part of childhood.

Check Out the Caldecott Medal and Honor Books for 2014!

February 17, 2014

Tags: ALA, Caldecott Medal, Locomotive, Brian Floca


The Caldecott Medal Books for 2014 were announced on January 18th. I was finally able to get copies of them from my library and have a look. The winner—

LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2013

Caldecott Honor Books are—
JOURNEY by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press
FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle, Chronicle Books
MR. WUFFLES! by David Wiesner, Clarion Books

A few things struck me as interesting.
The Caldecott winner and all three honor books were by author/illustrators.
The Caldecott winner is non-fiction.
All three honor books are wordless, or almost wordless in the case of MR. WUFFLES.

I love when picture books have illustrations on the inside covers as well as inside the book itself. The inside covers of LOCOMOTIVE are illustrated with different historical moments and maps as well as having text and pictures with additional information. On the inside covers of JOURNEY there are illustrations of vehicles of transportation.

FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO has flaps to open, like in ‘Lift the Flap’ books. The illustrations are very graceful, a good compliment to the type of dance that the flamingo and the little girl are doing in the book.

In JOURNEY, the girl with the red marker or crayon reminds me of Harold in HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson, and the door that she goes through reminds me of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by CS Lewis. You’ll have to ‘read’ it to see the surprise at the end.

Never underestimate the power of a cat in MR. WUFFLES! As in other David Wiesner books, the detail is fun and interesting.

Unlike the Caldecott Honor books, LOCOMOTIVE is filled with wonderful words and language. It tells the story of a train, its crew, and a family traveling west aboard America’s first transcontinental railroad. The use of different fonts and letter size, and the many ‘sound’ words (onomatopoeia) throughout the book make it both fun to read and to look at. It reads like poetry—

“…Men came from far away
to build from the East,
to build from the West,
to meet in the middle….”

I listened to a speech online given by Brian Floca at the 2013 National Book Festival. He talked about how his first idea for this book grew from something simple to something more complicated. He also talked about the research he did before beginning to write and illustrate his book. It included reading many books, visiting museums, looking at old photos from the era, as well as primary sources such as talking to people and taking the trip to get the full picture. He actually drove a train along the same path as the first continental railroad trip. From that trip he took what he found most interesting and began to write—notes, questions, phrases. He also drew things that he saw along the way. Revisions included re-writing the text, and changing and re-shaping his drawings as well.

LOCOMOTIVE has received many other awards and recognitions as well, including being selected as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, NY Times 10 Best illustrated books of the year and Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013.

Congratulations to all of the author/illustrators of the Caldecott Medal books for 2014!

Computers, Electronic Readers and Eye Strain

January 30, 2014

Tags: e-Readers, eye strain, computer vision syndrome, tips to reduce eye strain


I’ve joined the world of e-readers—we got an iPad mini for Christmas! So far I’ve only read a couple of children’s books on it and a magazine. It will take time for me to get used to turning pages with the swipe of a finger.

On the news the other day was a segment about e-readers versus printed books and eye strain. It’s sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome. They said that reading a book in print, the old-fashioned way, is easier on your eyes. For those of us with vision problems, that’s meaningful. I decided to do some checking on line.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Eyestrain occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as…reading or working at a computer. Although eyestrain can be annoying, it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes.” If your symptoms persist after rest, then you probably want to see your eye doctor.

Do e-readers really cause eye strain? From what I’ve read, it depends on many factors. An article in the New York Times on line says, “It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” among other things. And that also included the ink on the paper of a traditional book!

Here are some tips for reducing eyestrain while using an e-reader or working at a computer:

Blink more often—
Many people blink less than normal when working at a computer, which can lead to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears, which moistens your eyes and prevents dryness and irritation.

Exercise your eyes—
Another cause of computer eye strain is ‘focusing fatigue.’ Follow the "20-20-20” rule. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at an object that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces fatigue.

Use proper lighting—
Be sure that your light is directed on what you're doing. Use a brighter light source if you need one. You can also try turning down the backlight on your e-reader. Make sure that your entire room is well-lighted to reduce shadows, but not brighter than your work area so as not to create a glare.

Minimize glare on your screen—
The glare from other sources of light makes it difficult to view the screen and causes eye strain when you try to see past the glare. Position your computer so that neither you nor the monitor faces a window, or close the blinds to reduce glare. LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface.

Adjust your display settings—
Consider brightness, text size and contrast. Try pressing 'control +' to make print larger, and 'control-' to make it smaller again. For more information on this, go to the All About Vision website.

Take breaks—
If you sit at a computer or are using your e-reader for a long time, take mini-breaks. Focus on something else for five minutes or so. Give your neck and back muscles a stretch while you’re at it.

Modify your work area—
Tilt your monitor so that the top of the monitor is slightly farther from the eyes than the bottom of the monitor. If you’re typing from a written page, place your pages on a stand next to the monitor. Make sure the pages are well lighted.

Maintain good posture—
Poor posture not only adds to neck and back strain, it also contributes to computer eye strain. If you are at a desktop computer, adjust your chair to the correct height so that your viewing area is just below eye level. It’s best if your computer screen is at least 25 inches from your eyes.

More tips for those with vision problems:

--Use a larger print size.
--Use bold type.
--Avoid decorative fonts, italics or all capital letters.
--Use 1.5 or double spacing when reading something online.
--Use black rather than colored lettering.
--Try reading with lighter lettering against a darker background.
--Use a font with more space between the letters, such as courier.
--Make sure your eyeglasses are clean and free of scratches. You might consider a separate pair of glasses for use on the computer or e-reader.

Read more on the following websites:

Read Simple.com
American Foundation for the Blind

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new electronic reader. It’s quick and easy to get connected online. It’s easy to hold and read on when I’m eating lunch, or in bed at night. I like that you can make the text larger, and change the appearance of the page. It’s less to carry when I’m away from home. And I found a Sudoku app that’s more user-friendly than pen and pencil and eraser! As I get more used to it, I’ll enjoy testing out reading books on it, too!

Happy Reading, everyone!

Creating Some Creative Energy During Winter!

January 17, 2014

Tags: Indiana Writers' Consortium, writing slump, creative energy boosters


Why does the new year have to start in winter?! It’s cold outside, even here in Missouri! Your brain seems to want to hibernate with the bears instead of sparking those creative juices. If you’re feeling less motivated this season, check out one of my past blog posts featured on the Indiana Writers' Consortium blogsite this month and find some suggestions that might help you out of that slump! Happy writing!

Happy New Year’s Resolutions!

January 14, 2014

Tags: Resolutions, writing, writing for children, failure success quotes


I personally think the official new year should start a couple of weeks into January. By then you’ve made your new year’s resolutions and know which ones you’re going to keep. You’ve got your Christmas decorations put away, probably, except for the ones you didn’t see. Holiday visits and parties are over, and you’re ready to settle back into a routine.

As for those new year’s resolutions—how about changing it to ‘new month’s’ resolutions? That way we get to start over, fresh each month! So January is only half over. Here are a few of my resolves that relate to writing.

Read a book, other than a picture book, each month—by making it a resolution I give myself permission to stop everything and read! I read Glen Beck’s THE SNOW ANGEL, and Richard Peck’s A SEASON OF GIFTS. So check that one off for January.

Write at the very least three days a week—this means working on a manuscript of some kind, and does not include blogging or other writing related things. Ok, I’m going to blame this one on the holidays. I’m giving myself a chance to make up the work these last two weeks. I think I can do that. ReviMo is helping me with that, too. (Click on the picture on the right for some great inspiration).

Submit something to a publisher, be it a book manuscript or something to a children’s magazine, once a month—I have two great manuscripts ready to go. I also have quite a few poems polished. So I just have to get them out in the mail. This is a ‘can do.’

Taxes: have them ready by the end of February—that’s a tough one, since although I keep my records and receipts all in one place, I neglect to log them on my computer throughout the year. I am one of those people who is organized by having everything in neat piles, or spaces. It takes me a day or two to organize and categorize everything for the past year! I think I’ll add a resolution—

Organize my writing expenses, mileage, etc. monthly—ok, that can work since this is still January!

Attend at least two events for children’s writers this year—maybe I made this one too easy. I’ve signed up for the Missouri SCBWI program on Learning to Work With the Common Core in March, and I just signed up for the Indiana SCBWI Spring conference in April. I know I’ll also attend the Missouri Fall Conference in September. So this one’s a done-deal.

Work on my website and networking—this one is harder for me, so I’m just going to leave it up as a general reminder. I also want to visit other websites and blogs by children’s writers more often.

I’m a list person. So making a list of new year’s resolutions helps me to stay on track. For some people, this can take a negative turn if it bothers you when you fail at keeping a resolution. Here’s a more positive way to look at it.

1—Make your resolutions things that you will likely be able to accomplish. Make some easier, and some a little more difficult. For example, if I say that I’m going to write every day, I know that won’t happen because there is work to do, and I also like to do things with my family and friends, and I know that sometimes other things will get in the way. So I made it three times a week instead. If I do more, then I really feel good!

2—Reward yourself when you reach your goal. Ice cream, a day out, or a movie night works for me.

3—Don’t let yourself feel down if you don’t accomplish your goal. Every day is a new start! Re-evaluate your goals each month and revise them if you need to—we’re familiar with revision, right!?

4—Instead of looking at how much you didn’t do, look at how much you did do. Maybe I didn’t get my three days of writing in one week, but I did write two days, for a long time!

5—If you reach all of your goals too easily, then you probably need to revise them.

Here are a few quotes to leave you with:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” - Zig Ziglar

Happy writing 2014 to all!

Christmas Greetings!

December 24, 2013

Tags: Christmas, Santa, poem for writers


December is such a busy time of year for just about everyone. People celebrate the season in different ways. For me and my family it’s about celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, and Christmas. Many of us also tie in waiting for the Christ Child with waiting for Santa to arrive. Santa goes by different names in different cultures. Here are just a few.

St. Nicholas was a kind monk born in Turkey. He is known as a protector of children and sailors. St. Nicholas day is celebrated on December 6th.

Sinter Klass is given by the Dutch, who brought the tradition to America.

Christkind is German for “Christ Child, and was something like an angel that went along with St. Nicholas on his missions.

Kris Kringle most likely came from the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1820’s. He would ring his bell and give out cakes and nuts to small children, but if they misbehaved, they would receive a spanking with his rod.

Father Christmas came from England. He would come down the chimney and leave treats in the children’s stockings.

Pere Noel comes from France. He puts treats in the shoes of well-behaved children. He is joined by Pere Fouetard who provides spankings to bad children.

Babouschka comes from Russia. One story is that she put off traveling with the Wise Men to see the Baby Jesus, instead opting to have a party, and regretted it afterward. So she set out every year to find the baby Jesus and give Him her gifts. Instead, she does not find him and gives the gifts to the children she finds along the way.

Santa Claus originated in the 1800’s. By 1840 holiday ads featured Santa. In 1890 the Salvation Army began dressing up unemployed workers as Santa and having them solicit donations throughout New York. But it was Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal Minister, and Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, that brought us the picture of our modern day Santa. In 1822 Moore wrote a long poem titled, An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. It is what we now know as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays in whatever way you celebrate! I leave you with an unpolished verse for those of you who are fellow children's writers.

If Santa came to visit
Children's writers late tonight,
Would he leave some magic stardust
To help us when we write?

Would his elves tuck great ideas
in the stockings by our beds,
with words and plots and characters
to dance inside our heads?

Would jingle bells inspire us
and first lines come with ease?
Would action, voice and poetry
await beneath our trees?

May all your dreams become great books!
May ideas soon take flight.
And the joy and peace of Christmas
be with you when you write!