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A Not-Quite-So-Strange Gift for a Writer


In just a few hours it will be Christmas! We celebrate the season in many different ways, but I think that spreading joy and helping others is a common thread that we all share.

Giving gifts is one way to do that. And finding just the right gift for people that we care about doesn't have to be about what we can buy for them. You can put your creative mind to work and come up with something special. For example--

What can you give a struggling writer for Christmas? A new idea? Some patience, and perseverance? Time to write? Maybe a little bit of inspiration!

This year I gave my writer friends a sewing kit. It sounds like a strange gift for a writer, but if you think hard enough, you can turn anything into some inspiration. It’s all in your presentation.

My sewing kit contained the following items:

Thread
A needle
A needle threader
A thimble
Scissors
Buttons
A safety pin
A straight pin

I added the following instructions:

Thread—use to sew the right words into your story
A needle—use to pull a common thread through your story
A needle threader—use to get that thread started
A thimble—use to keep from getting stuck when writing your story
Scissors—use to cut words in the right places
Buttons—use to hold the pieces of your story together
A safety pin—use to keep it all together
A straight pin—use to help you stick to it when things get tough

Now, if this was a magical sewing kit, it would help get us through a few of the obstacles of writing a good book! And wouldn’t that be great!? But even though it’s not magical, the message is that I’m there for them, wishing them much success.

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays to all my writing friends as we keep on working to create great books for kids (and adults), and to readers, young and old!

To everyone, as you celebrate this special season, may your holidays be bright and filled with peace and love.  Read More 
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Christmas Carols--"Thank God for Kids"


I've got my Christmas cd's out and even some old Christmas tapes, and the radio station in our car is tuned in to the Christmas channel. I stopped to think when I heard Kenny Chesney sing “Thank God for Kids,” which was originally done by the Oak Ridge Boys. There are many Christmas songs that wouldn’t have been written if it weren’t for kids.

See if you can guess the names of the following Christmas songs.

1—a song that might inspire a child to be good before Christmas.
2—a song about a chilly winter creation who magically comes to life
3—a song about a child who asks for something that will help him wish everyone a Merry Christmas
4—a song about a child who was naughty all year
5—a song about a baby born in an unusual crib in a barn
6—a song about a boy who gives the Baby Jesus the gift of music
7—a song about the leader of Santa’s team
8—a song about someone who took over when the leader of Santa’s team was sick (think country music)
9—a song about a magical place filled with what children hope to get on Christmas morning
10—a song about a child whispering to Santa what he and his friends want for Christmas

There are Christmas stories all around us at this time of year. If you celebrate the season in a different way, similar inspiration is sure to surround you.

Ok, here are the answers to the songs listed above:

1—Santa Claus is Coming to Town
2—Frosty the Snowman
3—All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
4—I’m Getting Nothin’ For Christmas
5—Away in a Manger
6—Little Drummer Boy
7—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
8—Leroy the Redneck Reindeer
9—Toyland
10—Jolly Old St. Nicholas

Happy Holidays to all who celebrate the season!

And a very Merry Christmas to all, from my blog to your home!  Read More 
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Christmas Greetings!


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!
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Don’t just wait—Do something!


We do a lot of waiting at this time of year! Waiting, and wishing, and hoping. There’s a lot of waiting going on for writers, too.

Some writers wait for ideas. You don’t get very far when you do this. You need to make the ideas come to you. Ok, it’s snowing outside. There are stories about snowflakes, snowmen, kids making snow forts, snowball fights, sledding, skating (let yourself get off on a tangent), and much more. All ideas that came from the fact that it snowed.

Other writers wait for time to write. First their house has to be spotless. Then they cook, shop, garden, iron, organize their closets, alphabetize their pantry, watch their favorite TV show, facebook their friends that they just drank a cup of coffee. You get the picture. Writers who write make time to write. They get up at 4 am or stay up until 2 am. They write in the car, waiting in line to pick up their kids, or at the doctor’s office. Their house might be clean but it’s usually messy. They wear clothes that don’t have to be ironed, and they cook once a week (sometimes for the whole week at once). They DVR their favorite TV show to watch next summer. If something happens and they miss a day, or a week, they jump right back in.

Sometimes waiting can be a good thing. Like when we’ve written a first draft that we love, then put it aside, and wait. We forget about it for a couple of weeks, then take it out and read it again, for a fresh look. Because then we can see that it’s not as great as we first thought. And we revise. Because good writing is re-writing.

So finally our manuscript is ‘done,’ and we send it out to publishers. And we wait, and hope for acceptance. But waiting doesn’t mean that we can’t do something else in the meantime. Ok, maybe we’ll celebrate with a piece of chocolate first, or make the bed. But get ready, and start something new! Pick another idea from things going on around you, or from memories. Make it fresh. How will it start? Who is it about? Where will it go?

Woo-hoo! Our manuscript is accepted! And with it comes—more waiting. Waiting for the contract. Waiting for the editor to send her revision requests. Waiting for an illustrator (in the case of a picture book). Waiting to see their sketches and color prints. Waiting for the cover art, and finally the finished book. Done!

But wait! There’s more. We wait for the reviews, and hope that they’re good. We wait to get our books in the mail. We wait to see it in the stores and libraries, and hope that kids (and parents) like it.

Editors (and agents) wait for us, too. They wait for that manuscript that will make them laugh or cry, and that they just can’t put down. They encourage us when they tell us what they’re looking for, on the web or at conferences. And they help us with revisions when we’re lucky enough to have our manuscript accepted.

Like the season we’re in now, we need to do something while we wait. Whether it’s Christmas or another holiday that you celebrate this season, we all do things while we wait for the day to arrive. We decorate our homes, sing carols and songs, light candles, and do things for others.

Writers write new stories, blog, write, read, write, go to critique groups, celebrate children’s books, write…. and wait.

So Happy ‘Waiting’ Times to you! And Happy Stories to all!  Read More 
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Countdown Continued, Day 9: 'Show' Us a Character


Day 9: December 16th
Thinking back to songs of the season, and yesterday’s blog, you might just recognize the following words, taken randomly, from another well known song.

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

Wow, what a guy! What great similes and metaphors. Ok, so here’s the challenge—create a vibrant character for a children’s book, and SHOW us that character without telling us anything about him or her!
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Christmas Greetings!

December always flies by so quickly! Decorating, baking, and remembering those who mean the most to us feels good. Part of the joy in celebrating Christmas includes my friends who write for children. I belong to two writers' groups. One meets every month and the other every other month. Both groups always meet in December with lunch or dinner followed by critiques.

Sharing gifts at these meetings has become a tradition. But not just any gift.  Read More 
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