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Happy Book Birthday, Hippy-Hoppy Toad!


It's Spring! Happy Book Birthday to A Hippy-Hoppy Toad!

In the spring of 2013, five years ago, I had the first ‘toad sighting’ that would lead to the debut of my newest picture book, A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD. Who knew then what a journey that little toad would take me on!

Journey #1 was the walk that my husband and I took through the park that day. After an early morning rain we decided it was a perfect day for a walk, and headed out to Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville, Missouri. The sun was out and the air felt good. The path winds past fields and trees, around playgrounds and picnic areas. At a shady area on the path was a big wet spot, what was left of a puddle that had not yet dried in the sun. And in the middle sat a teeny, tiny toad. For the rest of the walk my mind was on that ‘teeny, tiny toad’ sitting in the ‘middle of a puddle in the middle of the road!’

Journey #2 came the following year on another warm spring morning, when we walked the same path with our grandson—listening to the sounds of new toads, stopping at the playgrounds, and reading the storybook posted around the lake. This time we ventured off onto a dirt path by the lake and discovered hundreds of tiny, hippy, hoppy toads that had been camouflaged by the dirt and leaves! Later, after convincing our grandson that it was not a good idea to take a wild toad home for a pet, Toad’s own journey began.

Journey #3 was the story of a “Toad in the Road,” which later became A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD. From the ‘middle of a puddle in the middle of a road’ the little toad flew to a ‘raggy-shaggy tree’ to a flower and other places in the park, meeting new characters along the way. As the story grew, my own journey as an author grew as well.

Journey #4 is the journey that I took as an author with ‘Toad.’. A journey that still continues! Here are a few of the highlights.

It took about a year and a half for me to finish the first draft of “Toad in the Road.” After multiple revisions and getting feedback from my critique groups, it was finally ready to send out into the publishing world.

I submitted it for a critique at the Missouri SCBWI fall conference in 2014 and it got the attention of an agent there. Eventually it was rejected because they ‘weren’t taking on many poetry or picture book texts.’

I continued to revise and play with the language and the rhythm in the story, and to get feedback from my friends who write for children.

In 2015 I submitted “Toad in the Road” for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress (WIP) grant. I’d submitted other manuscripts for the WIP grant before, and knew it was a long shot. But I thought it couldn’t hurt to try again, with a new manuscript. At the same time, I signed up for the KS/MO SCBWI fall conference, and a critique with agent Kirsten Hall. I decided to send TOAD for my critique. And that’s when things started to ‘hop’ forward.

In September I received an email from Steve Mooser, one of the founders of SCBWI, that “Toad in the Road” had won the WIP grant for picture book text! I was stunned. And thrilled! Now what!? I would have to wait a bit and they would create a secure website where they would post the winning manuscripts and invite editors to read them.

The next month at the SCBWI conference I met Kirsten Hall of Catbird Productions. She critiqued “Toad in the Road” and asked about my other manuscripts. We seemed to hit it off, and I enjoyed getting to know her over those couple of days.

Later that month SCBWI posted the winning WIP manuscripts on their new website, and on our way to vacation in Tennessee I received an email from Anne Schwartz (yes, Anne Schwartz!) at Schwartz & Wade saying that they wanted to publish my manuscript!

Kirsten and I had been in touch after the conference, and over the next three days I had an agent and an acceptance for my book from Schwartz & Wade! A few months later I found out that the illustrator would be the amazing Anne Wilsdorf.

I was looking forward to working with my new publisher, and was assigned to an absolutely wonderful editor at Schwartz & Wade—another Ann. I knew that she would have ideas and suggestions for edits in the manuscript that would make it even better, and I was right. Many of her suggestions were small things that would make a big difference. I have absolutely loved working with her!

In the spring of 2017 I finally had a publication date—March 20, 2018!

Since then many exciting things have come Toad’s way which I’ve shared on the book page for A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD here on my website. I hope you’ll follow along!

If you live near St. Louis or near Crown Point or Valparaiso in Indiana, check out my author appearances on the left of this page. I’d love to meet you if you have time to stop by to say hello!

Happy Book Birthday, A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD!
And Happy Book Birthday to all the SCBWI members with books coming out this month!

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Thanksgiving Blessings—On Family, Friends and Writing


This year, as always, I’m most thankful for my family—my husband, my kids and extended family, too. I’m also thankful for friends—friends through the years of growing up (past and present), friends I’ve met through writing and through church. Some years I have other special things to be thankful for, and this is one of them.

Here are some special moments in my writing journey to be thankful for this year.

I’m very excited today to share my news that my picture book TOAD IN THE ROAD will be published by Schwartz & Wade (a division of Random House)! I’ve been sitting on this news for awhile, just waiting to be sure that it wasn’t going to ‘go away!’ You won’t see the book in bookstores for a couple of years yet, but it’s definitely coming! So I’m thankful for Anne Schwartz and for Anne Kelly at Schwartz & Wade who share my excitement and my vision for TOAD.

Last month I signed with agent Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency! Kirsten is a children’s author, former editor of children’s books, as well as a picture book agent. We met at the Missouri SCBWI Fall conference at the end of September. After talking with her at the conference and later on the phone, I knew she would be a great agent for me, and we’re off to a good start! So I’m thankful for SCBWI, and for Kirsten, who has already been a blessing.

In October I talked about the SCBWI Work-in-Progress awards, and how TOAD IN THE ROAD won the award for picture book text—another thankful moment this year for my writing!

This year I have two board books that were published by Highlights for Children’s Let’s Grow book club for toddlers age 0 to 2 years. They are WHEELS GO ‘ROUND and A DAY AT THE ZOO. I’m thankful for editor Susan Hood who worked with me, and for Highlights for publishing my books—my first board books for children.

I’m also thankful for the author visits that I’ve had this year, visiting schools and events for children’s writers.

I want to add that these things did not happen without quite a bit of work and study over many years. In this year, I attended two small writing events and one major conference for children’s writers, one online conference and four webinars, and five local author events. I chose events that were for or by children’s writers, some where I would be able to submit my work to editors or agents following the event.

I participate in two critique groups every month with other children’s writers (unless I’m out of town). At these meetings we read each other’s manuscripts and give and receive valuable input on our writing and story. I also keep in touch with a group of writing friends from Indiana, and we sometimes critique each other’s manuscripts—and receive more valuable input. I also do volunteer work for Missouri SCBWI. So it’s very exciting when things come together and we have those great moments in writing!

And I’m thankful for those of you here, who read and share my thoughts on writing for children, and who share my good news. Thank you for visiting, and coming back! I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving Day, but mostly I hope you have lots to be thankful for.  Read More 
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