Up-Coming Author Visits

SCBWI Fall Conference
September 25-26, 2015
Lindenwood University
St. Charles, MO

Writing Children's Books
Guest Speaker
October 1, 2015
Instructor Nancy Polette
Deer Run Library Branch St. Charles County
O'Fallon, MO

Local Author Open House
November 19, 2015
Spencer Library
6:00 to 8:00 pm
427 Spencer Road
St. Peters, MO 63376

Brentwood Middle School
Author Visit
November 12, 2015
Brentwood, 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

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

Author visit at Troy Buchannan HS March 2015

Scholastic Book Fair, St. Charles, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Fenton, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Columbia, Missouri December 2014

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

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

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

Indiana SCBWI Spring conference April 2014

Chesterfield, MO children's writers group at Christmas 2013

scholastic Warehouse Book Signing December 7, 2013

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

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

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

Carlin Park Elementary School Angola, IN

Sherwood School Scholastic Book Fair in Arnold, MO

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

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

Book signing at Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with Mary Igras

Author Visit to Immaculate Conception School (ICD) April 2012

ICD library staff

Edison Elementary School Hammond IN

Lincoln Elementary School Hammond IN

Beta Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Hammond IN

Keynote Speakers
MO SCBWI Fall Conference

Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers

Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency

Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER

Author Visits
Spring 2011

Kids Ink Independent Children's Bookstore, downtown Indianapolis

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

Thank You cards from Holy Family School in South Bend

Fieler Elementary students

Ms Hanneman's class at Northview Elementary

In the classroom at Northview Elementary School

Talking to students at Northview Elementary

Working together to create a poem in Starke County

Talking with students at Starke County

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

Indiana SCBWI PAL Luncheon and Bookfair at B&N Bookstore

Booksigning at B&N Bookfair

Anderson's Bookshop Children's Literature Breakfast

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

December Booksigning at The Bookstore in Michigan City

friendly staff at The Bookstore

Holiday Author Fair
Hosted by the Indiana Historical Society

Author Book Signing

Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols

Bellaboo's Play and Activity Center

Turkey for Thanksgiving?

Stuffee and the author

Stuffe's lunch!

November: Picture Book Idea Month

October Author Events

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

Kate Collins: adult trade publishing, mysteries

Peggy Archer: children's trade publishing, picture books

Katherine Flotz: self-publishing, memoir

Michael Poore: adult trade publishing, fiction

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

Author visit to Portage Public Library, October 23rd

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

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

Esther shares resources, experience, and opportunities

Trish Batey, Indiana RA

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

Smiling faces

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

Karen Kulinski gives an update on Indiana's HoosierLinks

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

door prizes

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

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

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

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

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

Autographing for a young reader

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

Reading to young bankers at Citizens Financial Bank in Valparaiso

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

Some of the crowd at the SCBWI conference in LA

Ashley Bryan, Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction

with Keynote speaker and Golden Kite winner, Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrator and Keynote speaker, Loren Long

E.B. Lewis, Keynote speaker

with Keynote speaker, Gennifer Choldenke

Keynote speaker, Gordon Korman

Chris Cheng, Australia RA and SCBWI Member of the Year

Kris Vreeland, Independent Bookstore manager, Vroman's Bookstore

Eva Mitnick, LA librarian and reviewer for SLJ

Greg Pinkus and Alice Pope on networking

Bruce Hale--Skyping

with Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI

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

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

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

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

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

IWC Writers' Picnic

Anyone for Literary Bingo?

Children's Corner

Knee-high by the 4th of July!

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

Springtime Author Visits

Local Authors Day, Valparaiso B&N

Welcome to the Young Artists Fair in Plainfield, IN

Signing books at Van Buren Elementary School in Plainfield, IN

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

Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!

Little reader loving that dog book!

Celebrating the Book Launch!

Doggy treats at the book launch party

More springtime author visits

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

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

Our new grandpuppy, Dudley!

Chad & Sara's Wedding Day

The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!

Focus on the Novel:
Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference

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

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

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

Lisa autographs books with a smile

Introducing Helen Frost, YA author and poet

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

Registration, getting to know you

Schmoozing with other writers

Trish with author, Valiska Gregory

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

Taking it all in.

School visits
Chesterton, IN

Mitchell, IN
Library Event

Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell

Alexis talks about storytime for the very young

Starke County Young Artists Day
North Judson, IN

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

HOW many dogs do you have?!

Authors of the day

Keynote address: Growing an Author with Peggy Archer

Making a book with Katie Mitschelen

Research--detective work, with Peggy Miller

Crafting a poem with Mary Ann Moore

Becoming an artist with Edwin Shelton

Music with the Band

One small hand holding onto another

Sharing the Christmas holiday with writer friends

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

Writers Christmas lunch and meeting in Michigan City

Meeting up with Esther and Karen in Chicago

F&G's for Name That Dog!

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

Christmas Writing Celebrations

Writing friends from the beginning!

November Author Visits

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

Autographs at Hussey-Mayfield Library, Zionsville

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

Thank you cards from Morton Elementary students

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

Ladies Tea
St. Mary's Church

Family Book Basket

Indiana SCBWI Fall Picture Book Conference

Courtney Bongiolatti, Editor S&S

Laurent Linn, Art Director S&S

Terry Harshman, Editor CBHI

Author-Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo

Kristi Valiant, IN-SCBWI logo winner

Our volunteer crew (minus a few)

author Katie Mitschelen and Peggy enjoying the conference

...Pawprints on the heart.

Snickers 2009

Snickers 1998

IWC Dinner Event
The Business of Writing

Janine Harrison, opening remarks

Sharon Palmeri, President IWC and speaker

Kathryn Page Camp speaks on Taxes for Writers

Kate Collins, mystery book author and Keynote speaker

Gordon Stamper, secretary IWC

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

Autographs with a smile :)

Smokies in the morning

Writing the Picture Book
Rensellaer, IN

Smile and say 'author'!

Ready to start!

"Ghostwriting" with Sara Grant, Editor,
Working Partners

Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners

One on one with Sara

Author and Editor...

Getting to know you...

Sharing thoughts... connecting


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


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.


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

Rhyme and Meter Clinic with Renee' LaTulippe on KidLit 411

October 5, 2015

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

In May I signed on to “KidLit 411 “Rhyme and Meter” with Renee’ LaTulippe. Renee used poems submitted by participants and talked about what worked and what didn’t, and why. She started off with some basic vocabulary.

Meter = stressed and unstressed syllables + metrical feet + metrical lines
A metrical foot = a unit of measurement made up of stressed and unstressed syllables which are repeated in a line of poetry
A metrical line = the number of metrical feet in a single line of poetry

iamb = u/s da Dum
trochee = s/u Dum da
anapest = uu/s da da Dum
dactyl = s/uu Dum da da
spondee = s/s Dum Dum
pyrrhic = u/u da da

truncated foot = leaves off a beat at the end of a line
enjambment = when the end of one line flows into the next—it carries the reader and the story forward

Renee stressed that when writing poetry, you should count stressed feet—NOT syllables.

Rising meters—create an upbeat or happy mood
ends on a stressed beat (iamb and anapest)
Falling meters—create a heavier mood
ends on un-stressed beat (trochee and dactyl)

Types of Rhyme

1—Perfect Rhyme—also called exact rhyme, full rhyme or true rhyme
1—the last stressed vowel is the same in both words
2—all subsequent sounds are the same
3—consonants preceding the last stressed vowel are different
As In—light/sight groovy/movie crispy/wispy flamingo/bingo
Perfect rhyme is the most common type used in children’s poetry and rhyming picture books.

2—Slant Rhyme (also called near rhyme, half rhyme, approximate rhyme, partial rhyme, off rhyme, or oblique rhyme)
1—the sounds are close, but not identical
2—the words often (but not always) contain a repetition of the final consonant or vowel sound
As In—bug/rag slant/vent who/through tougher/suffer
Slant rhyme can be used to good effect in free verse and prose.
It’s best avoided in rhyming children’s poetry and picture books.

Some tips for writing poetry
Rhyme shouldn’t drive the story
1—stick to plot—write it out in prose to test it
2—write a 1-sentence summary of each stanza, in the right order; then read it in order —is it vague or general?
3—use words that move the story forward
4—every word counts and is there for a reason

Ways to Vary Meter—Tools for Varying your verse
1—enjambment—keeping thoughts flowing from one line into the next
2—Caesura—a pause in the middle of a line so the reader takes a breath
3—Really Specific imagery—to take us into the world of the story
4—Really Specific diction—to give us concrete people and places and events to hold onto
5—Sound devices—to delight the ear—don’t overdo it—don’t create tongue twisters
6—Refrain—use a refrain with a slightly different meter or rhyme scheme (careful!)
7—Variations in meter—subtracting or adding an unstressed beat now and then (careful!)
8—Mixed meter—Do Not Try This At Home unless you know the 4 main meters inside and out, and how they do and do not work together!

The biggest obstacles to publication of rhyming picture books
meter—when the reader stumbles reading it
pacing—plot—page turns

Renee is a children’s author and poet, and freelance editor. She teaches an online writing course, The Lyrical Language Lab. You can find details at http://www.nowaterriver.com/the-lyrical-language-lab/. Read more about Renee on her blog, No Water River.

The ABC's of Poetry Webinar

September 25, 2015

Tags: Writing children's poetry, webinars, The ABC's of Poetry, Leslea Newman, TX SCBWI

Earlier this year I discovered some interesting Webinars for children’s writers. In February I signed on to The ABCs of Poetry: Writing in Poetic Form for Children & Young Adults, hosted by Texas SCBWI, featuring Leslea Newman. Leslea is an award-winning children’s author, and teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.

Leslea’s focus was on formal poetry, and poetic forms.
“Formal poetry is poetry that sticks to a traditional pattern or structure that often uses rhyme, rhythm, and repetition as well as other poetic techniques.”

Poems that don’t stick to a rigid form still make use of attributes of formal poetry such as rhyme, rhythm, repetition, meter, and uniformity of stanza length. Rhyming couplets, which contains four-line stanzas with the second and fourth lines rhyming, is a simple form of formal poetry.

Many of her own poems are written in rigid forms with prescribed structures. These include the pantoum, villanelle, terza rima, sonnet, sestina, cinquain, haiku, rondeau and triolet.

Just hearing those words intimidates me! But Leslea’s webinar explained the types of poetry in a way that even I could understand, giving examples of each. Here are just a few.

The ghazal, a Persian form of poetry, contains internal rhyme before a repeated refrain at the ends of the lines. Read Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s poem “NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT.”

The ballad is a French form of poetry consisting of four-line stanzas. Using simple, direct language, the emphasis is on plot and story-telling (a heroic act). An example is THE PIRATE QUEENS by Jane Yolen.

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines. The entire poem should be as long as one breath, and should contain some description of nature, and have an aha! moment and an element of compassion. Read GUY KU by Bob Raczka, or WONTON by Lee Wardlaw

The pantoum, from 15th century Malayan literature, consists of 4-line stanzas of indefinite length and optional rhyming. Every line in a pantoum is used twice.

Leslea gave a few reasons for writing formal poetry. A few of them are:
•It develops your ear.
•Formal poetry soothes the reader.
•It provides a built-in tension of expectation and surprise.

Leslea said “I find writing formal poetry especially helpful when writing about emotionally wrenching situations.” See her book, I CARRY MY MOTHER.

Books on poetic form

Leslea Newman is a poet, a teacher, and a mentor. Find out more on her website at: http://lesleanewman.com/

Check out these upcoming or ongoing webinars and podcasts for children’s writers:

Picture Book Craft Intensive: Telling Children's Stories in Today's Market
An On-Demand Webinar
Guest Speaker: Mary Kole

Chapter Book Craft 101 with Simon & Schuster editor, Amy Cloud
October 20, 2015 from 7:00-8:30 pm
hosted by North Texas SCBWI
very reasonable price with reduced rate for SCBWI members

Keep your eye on this Writers’ Digest link to up-coming webinars

SCBWI Podcasts, which are free to members!
SCBWI brings our members engaging podcasts with leaders in the children’s book field. Sit in on these conversations to get informed and inspired!

For information on how to become a member of SCBWI, click here or go to http://www.scbwi.org/about/.

What Makes a Good Picture Book

September 16, 2015

Tags: webinars for children's writers, SCBWI podcasts, Emma Dryden, Julie Hedlund

Earlier this year I discovered some great webinars on writing for children. A webinar is a seminar conducted over the internet. The cost of attending varies. Some are free. Some, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) regional chapters, are offered at a reduced rate for members. Others cost more. All are easily accessed if you have internet access.

Last month I logged on to the 12 X 12 Webinar--What Makes a Good Picture Book with Emma Dryden and Julie Hedlund. The talk was about what makes a good picture book and how to write one.

Emma Dryden talked about qualities that make an outstanding picture book. They are—
1—Read-aloud-ability—Read your own text over and over, ten times in a row!
4—Illustration possibilities

As a freelance editor and consultant, Dryden looks for distinctive main characters, and a main point of view. The reader, who is a child, must be able to relate to the main character.


One way to develop your picture book character is by giving them a distinctive, memorable voice. Ways to do that:
Use rhythm
Use a refrain or a tag
Change some of your narrative into dialogue

One example of a book whose main character has a great voice is THAT BOOK WOMAN. The author Heather Hensen’s main character has a narrative, Appalachian voice which gives his voice a ‘tone.’

“Why, even critters of the wild will keep a-hid come snow like this. But sakes alive—we hear a tap tap tap upon the window-glass. And there she be—wrapped tip to toe!”

Regarding whether to write your story in 1st person or 3rd person, Dryden said that most picture books are told in 3rd person, and there is more than preference to consider here. Young readers (ages 3-6) are not emotionally developed enough to understand (or make the connection to) ‘I’ in a story. Making the leap from ‘me’ to ‘I’ is more difficult because the young child can’t put themselves into someone else’s shoes. They ‘get’ the narrator better. She said that it’s often the same with middle grade books and for the same reason.


A great picture book ‘shows’ emotions well. One example of a picture book that ‘shows’ emotions is LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; Candlewick Press 2000). I checked this book out from the library and it’s become one of my favorites. Here’s one example of ‘showing’ emotion from the book—

“Story hour is over,” a little girl told him…. The lion looked at the children. He looked at the story lady. He looked at the closed books. Then he roared very loud. RAAAHHRRRR!"

I think the reader can easily figure out that the lion is not happy that there are no more stories.

Show, Don’t Tell

Dryden looks at whether the author can ‘show’ not ‘tell’ the information in the manuscript.

Ways to do that:
Do something with body language
Use dialogue

Dialogue can get dull, and feel flat. What to do?
Have some activity along with your dialogue.
Change it up—think ‘page turns.’ Dummy your picture book to see what page turns can do.
Alternate dialogue and narrative.
And if no one else is around, your characters can talk to themselves.

Regarding non-fiction picture books, the advice was very similar.
Develop your main character.
Create a voice in narrative non-fiction.

A wonderful example of a non-fiction picture book was MOON SHOT by Brian Floca (Atheneum 2009). This book is also one of my favorites. Floca uses a poetic (but not rhyming), rhythmic, narrative style:

Here below
there are three men…
who—click—lock hands
in heavy gloves,
who—click—lock heads
in large, round helmets.

One quality of a good picture book is ‘musicality.’ Like music, a picture book text has a beat and has pauses. Is writing lyrically or rhythmically a learnable skill? “Absolutely!” both Dryden and Hedlund agreed. But it takes discipline.
Read a lot of picture books out loud!
Use sound effects to help create a rhythm.
Use the help of a critique group.

Keep in mind the top two qualities of an outstanding picture book
Read-aloud-ability and
Rhythm—even in narrative.

Now it’s your turn to sit down and create an outstanding picture book!

Emma Dryden is a past editor of board books through YA and has edited over 500 books. She currently does freelance editing and consulting. You can find her at:
@drydenbooks (Twitter)
Dryden books (on facebook)
Emma's blog

Check out these upcoming or ongoing webinars and podcasts for children’s writers:

Picture Book Craft Intensive: Telling Children's Stories in Today's Market
An On-Demand Webinar
Guest Speaker: Mary Kole

Chapter Book Craft 101 with Simon & Schuster editor, Amy Cloud
October 20, 2015 from 7:00-8:30 pm
hosted by North Texas SCBWI
very reasonable price with reduced rate for SCBWI members

Keep your eye on this Writers’ Digest link to up-coming webinars

And take a look at the SCBWI Podcasts, which are free to members!
SCBWI brings our members engaging podcasts with leaders in the children’s book field. Sit in on these conversations to get informed and inspired!

For information on how to become a member of SCBWI, click here or go to http://www.scbwi.org/about/.

Finding ‘Voice’ in Children’s Picture Books

September 7, 2015

Tags: Voice in picture books, writing for children

We went to our grandson’s Kindergarten celebration the other day. When it was over he gave me a big hug and said, “You smell like you guys’es place.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the smell of an older relative’s house when I was a young child came to mind. Then I thought of the building where our granddaughters’ gymnastics classes were held and how it smelled like sweaty socks. I hoped I didn’t smell like either of those! But I think I was ok, since he gave me a loong hug.

Later that night I started thinking about voice, and how in the same way that you sometimes identify certain places with smells, you identify certain authors and their characters by ‘voice.’

When I think of Robert Munsch, I always think of his humor and use of onomatapoeia— ‘Varoooooooooommmm,’ and ‘blam, blam, blam, blam, blam!’

When I think of the Frances books by Russell Hoban I can’t help but think how the voice of Frances comes through in the short rhymes that she makes up when she’s thinking or talking.

No one can write about farm animals quite the way that Doreen Cronin does. And the voice of Steven Kellogg is unique, whether he’s writing about a snake eating the wash or bringing characters to life as in Johnny Appleseed or Pecos Bill.

Voice is the way that only you can write.

Laura Backes says in Writing-World.com— “Voice is like a fingerprint; it makes the story uniquely yours.” Click on the link to read Laura’s post on voice.

Voice is probably the least ‘teachable’ part of writing a picture book. Because it’s not really taught, it’s a part of you already. You just have to ‘find’ it.

The way to do that is to write. Write spontaneously, without thinking about a polished manuscript. Write your first drafts, and don’t go back until you’ve finished. Don’t stop to correct grammar, or to fix story or develop your characters. All of that comes later, with revision. The more you write, the more your ‘voice’ will come through.

Here are a few more books to look at—

THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Hensen is told in a narrative, Appalachian voice.
HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODIGHT? and other ‘Dinosaur’ books by Jane Yolen

Read more about Finding Your Voice at —

Highlights Foundation blog for children’s writers.

Lee and Low Books

Live Guru

Read Some Books and Celebrate National Dog Day!

August 26, 2015

Tags: National Dog Day, Name That Dog

Today is National Dog Day! I didn’t have a dog when I was growing up, but we did have two dogs (at different times) after my husband and I got married.

We got our first dog, Skipper, because our son had been begging for a dog when I found out we were having another baby. So we ended up with a new puppy and a new baby at the same time.

Skipper was more of an outside dog. We had him in a large fenced yard, but that didn’t hold him back. He would jump over the fence and visit the neighbors around the block. Once when we were walking him, an older lady sitting on her porch said to us, “Oh, I see you have my dog!” That’s when I found out that Skipper led a double life.

Skipper was the main character in a true story that I wrote for Guideposts magazine in 2007. It involved building a stable for our new outdoor Christmas nativity scene and our ‘lost’ dog. It ended finding Skipper snuggled up next to the Baby Jesus in the stable in our front yard.

Our second dog, Snickers, was the inspiration for my picture book NAME THAT DOG! Puppy Poems from A to Z. Snickers was more of an indoor dog, though she loved being outside. We got her when our youngest daughter was in high school, so I had more time to get attached to this dog. She’s in many of the poems in my book.

Pets are a great inspiration in many ways. Here are some of my favorite books about dogs, including some classics from the past.

A PET FOR MISS WRIGHT, by Judy Young, illustrated by Andrea Wesson, Sleeping Bear Press 2011
Miss Wright is a writer, and writing is a lonely job. She decides that she needs a pet to keep her company, but finding the perfect pet for a writer is not easy. Find out what makes a dog the perfect pet in this book.

PINKERTON, BEHAVE! by author/illustrator Steven Kellogg, Dial Books for Young Readers 1979
Pinkerton is a loveable puppy, but he just won’t behave. He sets a bad example for the other dogs and flunks out of obedience school. But when a burglar comes into their home, it takes a little girl to know just the right commands. Anyone who has had a new puppy will relate to Pinkerton and his family in this book.

THE HALLO-WIENER, by author/illustrator Dav Pilkey, The Blue Sky Press and Scholastic 1995
The other dogs tease Oscar because he is short and long. But sometimes using what makes you a little bit different can save the day.

PRETZEL, by Margret Rey, illustrated by H.A. Rey, Harper and Row and Scholastic 1944
Pretzel started out just like his brothers and sisters, but by the time he was grown he was the longest dachshund in the world. Read about the different ways that Pretzel uses his special size, and how he wins the heart of Greta in this story.

BARK, GEORGE, by author/illustrator Jules Feiffer, HarperCollins 1999
When George's mother tells her son to bark, he meows. She tries again and he quacks, oinks and moos. George is a dog and something’s definitely not right. So his mother takes him to the vet, who finds some interesting things when he reaches down George’s throat.

The BISCUIT books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, HarperCollins I Can Read series of books about a puppy and his adventures.

The HENRY AND MUDGE books by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin Ready to Read series of books about Henry and his big dog, Mudge.

Books about HARRY by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, and the books about BENJY by Margaret Bloy Graham, Harper & Row and Weekly Reader Books.

A couple of middle grade books about dogs that I like are:

LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech, HarperCollins 2001
This novel in verse is told from the viewpoint of Jack, the main character, as he learns to enjoy writing poetry when he writes about his dog. A great introduction to novels in verse, this one is hard to put down once you begin.

ADVENTURES OF PACHELOT, books one, two and three, by Wendy Caszatt-Allen, Mackinac Island Press 2007
Travel back in time with fur traders, sailors and Native Americans as Pachelot, an Australian Shepherd, tells his story of life in the wilderness with the early explorers in the seventh century.

More Stories in the Park

August 15, 2015

Tags: Storybook walk, St. charles Community College Cottleville MO, Bark, George, Library Lion, Ginny Louise and the School Showdown, Water Is Water

What’s better than a walk around the lake? How about a Storybook Walk around the lake on a beautiful summer evening! BARK, GEORGE! by author/illustrator Jules Feiffer was the featured picture book on the Storybook Walk at St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, Missouri last month. Three of our grandchildren were visiting, so we decided to make an unofficial stop and check it out.

When George's mother tells her son to bark, he meows. She tries again and he quacks, oinks and moos. George is a dog and something’s definitely not right. So his mother takes him to the vet, who finds some interesting things when he reaches down George’s throat. Our four-year old granddaughter used her imagination to add even more hilarity to the story!

BARK, GEORGE, by author/illustrator Jules Feiffer, HarperCollins 1999

Last week I took home a new bunch of picture books from our local library. Here are just a few of my favorites out of the two bags that I checked out.

MEMOIRS OF A HAMSTER by Devin Scillian, Illustrated by Tim Bowers, Sleeping Bear Press 2013
Seymour has the perfect life—a bowl of seeds, a cozy pile of wood shavings, and room to run. He never wants to leave. Until Pearl the cat convinces him that life outside his cage is even better. If you’ve ever had a hamster (or not) you’ll love this book about Seymour’s adventure. Illustrations are colorful and a great compliment to the text.

LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Candlewick 2006

One day a lion enters the library, upsetting Mr. McBee who works there. Since there are no rules about lions in a library, the lion makes himself at home. While he waits for story hour, he makes himself useful, helping the staff and the people who come to the library. However, when the librarian falls and the lion is caught running and being loud, things change. Is there ever a good reason to break the rules? Find out in this story. Illustrations fit the quiet atmosphere of a library and compliment the story, adding detail.

GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Disney Hyperion, 2015

The Truman Elementary Troublemakers were a bad bunch. Cap’n Gatastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May did not follow the rules, and pretty much made school miserable for everyone. Then Ginny Louise came to school. Find out if she has what it takes to turn things around when she is challenged to a show-down. Colorful, fun illustrations and lots of play on words make this a fun book for readers young and old.

WATER IS WATER by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin, Roaring Brook Press 2015

“Water is water, unless…” I love the format of this book about water and its different forms—steam, clouds, fog or rain for example. Information is simply presented, in a wonderful poetic voice. More information is given at the end in greater detail. The book is illustrated in beautiful paintings, showing the different seasons and adding to the information presented in the text.

Click on the link below the picture to find out more about the Storybook Walk at St. Charles Community College!

It’s Picture Book Walk Time!

June 29, 2015

Tags: Picture Book Walk, Storybook Walk, St. Charles County Library, Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville MO, Birds by Kevin Henkes

Summer is finally here and it’s Storybook Walk time again! This year Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville, Missouri features the picture book, BIRDS, by Kevin Henkes.

Nestled among the trees around the lake you’ll find the pages of the book displayed. You can read the story, one page at a time, at different markers along the path. You might even see some of the birds from the book in the trees as you walk!

Quail Ridge Park is a beautiful place to visit. My husband and I like to walk the paved trails. Our grandkids also like the playgrounds and the park creatures like toads and bugs and the animals they see there. There is also disc golf, picnic areas, unpaved trails, and a dog park.

For another Storybook Walk experience, check out St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, where featured books along the half-mile trail are changed each month.

‘Stories are handpicked by library staff with a child’s enjoyment in mind.’ Watch for a new Storybook Walk coming to the St. Charles City Park.

The St. Charles County Library Foundation created the ‘series of Storybook Walks throughout St. Charles County to offer a unique approach to reading. In collaboration with our community partners, the Storybook Walk provides a new outdoor adventure that champions family connection, early childhood development, and health and wellness. Each month a new book is posted at several stations along a trail, allowing families and friends to enjoy a story as they walk the path and take in the scenery.’ (from: St. Charles County Library Foundation website 2015).

Check out the blog, Coffee Cups and Crayons, for some activities to go with BIRDS.

Take a summer break and visit a Storybook Walk in your area for a new way to experience the joy of reading picture books with the children in your life!

Creating Fictional Characters With Psychology in Mind

June 18, 2015

Tags: Lori Galaske, Dr. Richard Johnson, Kid Lit Life, The Other Side, Catholic Writers of St. Louis, MO SCBWI

In February I attended a program offered by the Catholic Writers of St. Louis called “Enliven Your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical & Spiritual Psychology.”
Psychologist, Dr. Richard Johnson, talked about how a character’s personality makes him act the way he does, and he encouraged us to create characters with attention to their personality.

He covered such a range of information, and it’s impossible to cover everything that he talked about. But I wrote a brief wrap-up for our Missouri SCBWI newsletter that was recently posted on Lori Galaske’s blog, Kid Lit Life (June 16, 2015). Follow the link to Lori’s blog, and a re-print of the article. If you follow the link to Catholic Writers of St. Louis, you can read even more! Then check out Lori’s website, The Other Side.

Critique Across Missouri!

June 9, 2015

Tags: Critique Across Missouri, Missouri SCBWI, children's writers and illustrators

Missouri SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is sponsoring Critique Across Missouri, a week-long event during the week through June 13th. Critique groups are forming across the state to bring children’s writers and illustrators together to share each other’s work and offer feedback. All genres are included, and everyone is invited to participate, members and non-members alike.

Writing is a solitary business, and getting together with others who understand what you do is a great perk. My focus is on writing picture books—poetry, fiction and non-fiction. People who aren’t immersed in writing for young children often think that writing a picture book is quick and easy. Because the story is, for the most part, uncomplicated and simple, with a single focus. Only another picture book writer really knows the truth. Well, maybe your spouse, or your best friend, too.

They understand that finding the perfect word can take many revisions, that picture books have rhythm, and that writing a well-crafted story in such few words is an art, and can be more difficult than writing for the older crowd.

Picture books and poetry are meant to be read out loud, and a critique group is the perfect audience. Better yet is to have someone in your group read your manuscript out loud. You can hear the rhythm the way someone else hears it. Do they stumble anywhere? Some words are pronounced differently by different people. Sometimes it’s because of the rhythm you’ve created, and sometimes it’s just that there is more than one way to pronounce a word. This is the place to find out.

In a critique group, we tell each other what works in our manuscripts as well as what isn’t working or what might help to make it better. But besides the actual critique that we offer each other, we share the highs and lows of the business. Personal notes from editors, acceptances and rejections. No one understands the joy and the pain of trying to create a work of art than another artist—both writers and illustrators.

Besides critiquing manuscripts, we also share marketing tips and writing or illustrating tips with each other. Sometimes someone will suggest the ‘perfect place’ to submit your manuscript. We also share picture books that we like in some way, and how it brings home the writing tips that we’ve heard at events or conferences for children’s writers and illustrators.

Critique Across Missouri is a good way to get feedback from writers who haven’t formed that personal connection to you and your writing, because you are probably going to be meeting with some writers who aren’t in your regular critique group. So it’s a fresh point of view for your work.

The week is already in full swing, but it’s not too late to join in the hype. Connect with other writers or illustrators who you know this week, in person or online, or even by Skype, and share a manuscript to critique. Or read some picture books, novels or poetry and share your thoughts on the writing or illustrations. Share your experiences in marketing, and writing cover letters or queries. Or just schmooze with others who do what you do, and understand where you’re coming from.

This week is dedicated to critique groups for children’s writers and illustrators in Missouri. Don’t miss out on the perks!

Author Presentations—Yours and Mine

May 29, 2015

Tags: Writers' Week, Troy Buchannan High School, Spoede Elementary School Family Book Night, Nancy Polette, Jeannie Ransom, Cathy Gilmore, Carol Benoist, Vicki Berger ERwin, Justine Riggs

Spoede Elementary Family Night
I recently did some author presentations in or near O’Fallon, Missouri, where I live. My goal— to inspire and encourage readers as well as writers and future authors. And for others, to show that if you believe in yourself and work hard at something, you can accomplish anything.

In March I participated in Writers’ Week at Troy Buchannan High School, where I talked about writing and re-writing and becoming a published author. While I was there, I listened to a wonderful personal essay written by a very talented student. And I was honored to have the cover of my book, NAME THAT DOG, painted on a ceiling tile, destined to join other visiting authors’ books on the ceiling of the school library. The painting was done by an amazingly talented high school artist.

Later that evening I visited Spoede Elementary School and spoke to the students and parents at Family Book Night. I felt right at home in the camping theme, with flashlights and stories around artificial campfires in the gym! But the most fun was talking to students one-on-one during and after the presentation.

In May I talked to authors participating in Nancy Polette’s class on Writing for Children at the Middendorf-Kredell library about my own journey to publishing and picture books. Nancy is an excellent teacher of children’s writing, and an excellent author as well. School Library Journal said that she is "an educator with imagination, creativity and an appreciation for the intelligence of children."

I remember the times before being published, and I relate to the uncertainty of ever being published, and whether our work is good or not. And I cherish the encouragement and help from published authors that I received myself. I enjoy being able to offer that encouragement to other children’s writers. And having contacts with other children’s writers, published and unpublished, keeps me going.

I also attended some local author appearances during the past few months. Going to another children’s author’s presentation is always food for thought, even if it seems very similar to what I do at an author visit myself, or even if their book is totally unrelated to what I write. Here are a few of my ‘take-aways.’

In March Jeannie Ransom, author of the picture book The Crown Affair, gave a presentation to patrons at the Middendorf-Kredell library in O’Fallon. Her presentation was very similar to what I sometimes do, but there were some added things that she did that connected with her audience. One was showing on a map the distance between where she writes to where the publisher is located, as well as the location of the illustrator, and the printing company.

Being able to view the presentation as an attendee gave me additional insight. I could see what parts held everyone’s attention, what they connected with the most, and consider why.

Later that month I went to a presentation and book signing by Cathy Gilmore and Carol Benoist, authors of Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day (Cathy is also the author of Little Lamb Finds Christmas) at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Fenton. I could feel the enthusiasm of the speakers during the presentation, and see how that enthusiasm ‘caught’ their audience up in it. A craft activity afterwards brought children into the book even more.

Most recently, this month I attended a presentation and book signing at the Spencer library in St. Peters with Vicki Berger Erwin and Justine Riggs, authors of the book for adults, Finally a locally produced Guidebook to St. Charles, by and for locals, Neighborhood by Neighborhood, City and County—which has to be the longest title I’ve ever read! Vicki has had many books for children published in the past, including some of the Babysitters’ Club books, and is the former owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles. Again, as an outsider, I could see what connected with the audience—not only by what they talked about in their presentation, but also how it was presented and how the speakers connected to the audience on a personal level.

Another perk of attending other author presentations is how the excitement of having a new book published catches me up in it with them. It keeps me motivated, and excited about my own work. And sometimes listening to another author speak inspires a new thought or idea that can be totally unrelated to their own book.

Another idea is to see what authors are doing presentations at your local schools. When I started out, I asked the school for permission to attend the presentation with the students. It gave me motivation, information and a base for myself as an author for future author presentations.

So take a moment to check out author appearances at your local library or bookstore. You might be surprised at how it can fire you up as a writer.