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Local Author Night at the Library

Local Author, Margo Dill and Sharon

The St. Charles Library system sponsors ‘Meet the Author’ events with individual authors throughout the year. They may be authors from out of the area, or authors from around St. Louis. But every November our local library, the Middendorf-Kredell branch in O’Fallon, Missouri, hosts a Local Author Night where patrons can meet the authors from their own neighborhood.

This year 60 authors of books of all genres, from children’s books to books for adults, gathered throughout the library to showcase and autograph their books. It was a wonderful opportunity for both authors and library patrons.

This time I attended as a patron rather than as an author. I came with my friend Sharon, who writes and also illustrates books for children. Some of the authors signing books were new to me, and others were friends. I met the author of a series of mystery novels with a medical background, which caught my interest since my background is in nursing. I also met a couple authors of picture books.

I connected with an old friend that I hadn’t seen for many years. I had met Louis Launer long ago at a writers’ retreat in Illinois, when I still lived in Indiana. He was signing copies of his new Young Adult mystery novel, Rurals and Townies.

I also spent some time talking with children’s author, Margo Dill, whose picture book Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies was recently released by Guardian Angel Publishing. Margo and I met just after I moved here from Indiana to Missouri.

Whether you came to browse, to purchase an autographed book for yourself or as a gift, or just to schmmoze with the authors, it was a good way to spend an evening. I hope to see you there next year!  Read More 
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Local Author Night

Louis Launer YA author
Local Author Night at MK Library in O'Fallon, Missouri
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One Lovely Blog!

I received the One Lovely Blog Award!

Thank you, Diana Jenkins, for selecting my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award. You are so sweet, and a blessing to me also!

Here are 7 things that people might not know about me:

1. I play yahtzee with my husband when we take a lunch break.
2. I do Sudoku while I’m watching TV (which is probably why I never know what’s going on!)
3. The TV show, The Middle, is based on my family—ok, not really, but some of the things in that show could be!
4. I do not like the cold weather in winter but my favorite winter thing to do when I was a kid was to go ice skating!
5. I once had so many tomatoes in my garden that I made catsup—it tasted good! But it took so long to make that I never did it again.
6. My favorite vacations are going places where we can get outside and walk or hike and enjoy nature.
7. My favorite nursing job was working as a school nurse—I still remember those kids!

I am passing on the One Lovely Blog Award to the following bloggers. Please check out their ‘lovely’ blogs!

Karen Kulinski
Katie Mitschelen
Peggy Reiff Miller
Kristi Valiant
Kim Piddington
Angie Karcher
Judith L. Roth
Kate Collins
Joyce Ragland
Stephanie Bearce
Sharon Biggs Waller

Here are the rules for accepting this award:
• Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
• Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
• Share 7 things about yourself.
• Nominate up to 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog.  Read More 
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Shop at Your Local Indie Bookstores on Small Business Saturday!


This coming Saturday, November 29th, is Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, encouraging people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It was first observed in 2010 when it was conceived by American Express. In 2013 it was also observed in the UK.

When my husband and I moved from Indiana to the St. Louis area 3½ years ago, one of my first contacts in the writing community was Vicki Erwin at Main Street Books. There is nothing that compares to the atmosphere of an indie (independent) bookstore! I have warm memories of this cozy bookstore with friendly faces who welcomed many local authors. I was lucky to be invited to sign copies of my books there as well. In February of this year Main Street Books switched hands to new owners, Emily, Ellen and Andy Hall, who keep that same friendly atmosphere, hosting book events and local authors. Click the link above to see who will be there this Saturday.

We’re fortunate to have several Independent Bookstores in the St. Louis area. For information on these indie bookstores and events, visit the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance website.

Stop in and say hello, and shop your local indie bookstore this year on Small Business Saturday! (Tell them I sent you).  Read More 
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Thanks for Thanksgiving—and for Thanksgiving Picture Books!


Thanksgiving is a time to stop and count our blessings. I’m thankful for many things, but mostly for the people in my life—my husband, my children and grandchildren, family and friends. In my writing community I’m thankful for my critique groups, friends in SCBWI, my editors, professionals who share their gift of writing for children, for those of you who read and enjoy my books, and for readers who visit with me here on my blog. Thank you all.

The GoodReads website has a list of
Best Children’s Thanksgiving Books
. Some of those are on my bookshelves here at home, and others on the list are among my favorites. A few others that I like, but that are not on the list, are—

The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving from A to Z by Laura Crawford,
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, and
Bless This Mouse by Dianna Hutts Aston.
And what Thanksgiving Day would not be complete without Turkey Riddles by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg.

My picture book Turkey Surprise is on Goodreads’ at number 8. I’ve always had such fun sharing Turkey Surprise with others, especially with children. A friend recently wrote to me to tell me that her daughter is ‘adamant that she won’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving this year because she is going to set it free like the pilgrims’ in my book! She promised her mother that she would get a pumpkin pie to eat instead. I apologized to my friend. But I’d love to be the mouse in the corner and observe what will happen at their Thanksgiving dinner table!

Another woman sent me a video of her four year-old son singing the pilgrims’ song from the book—I love it! I remember the little girl from a reading that I did who covered her ears every time I sang the pilgrims’ song. Turkey Surprise is out of print right now, but you can find it at your library. I’m hoping that it will be back in print one day, or perhaps be released as an ebook.

If you click on ‘My Works’ here on my website at the top of the page, then click on ‘Turkey Surprise,’ there is a link on the left to print a coloring page of the cover of Turkey Surprise. There are also some links to a crossword puzzle for kids and some Thanksgiving crafts.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers here!

I’ll leave you with a riddle from the book Holiday Ha-Ha’s, Thanksgiving Jokes + Riddles:
What did the Pilgrims tell at the first Thanksgiving?
Corn-y jokes!  Read More 
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PiBoIdMo--Picture Book Idea Month


I’m often asked where my ideas come from when it comes to writing picture books. I am never at a loss for ideas! I get ideas from what other people say, from what I see around me, from music, trivia and other books. And especially from being around children.

I love being around kids. And they give me lots of food for thought! Two of our grandsons play soccer. Have you ever watched four year-olds play soccer? It’s a hoot! Here’s one scenario.

Four year-old is on the field and casually walks over to sit on the bench. His coach patiently coaxes him back onto the field.
A couple of minutes later the same player comes back to the sideline. “I’m tired of playing,” he says.
Coach again coaxes him back onto the field, only to have him come back to the sideline, face his coach with hands on his hips, and say in a loud voice, “BUT I DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANYMORE!”
I’m not sure how his coach did it, but the player ended up back on the field and he suddenly seemed to be having fun.

By the time the kids get to second grade they’re more into the game. I went to one of our older grandson’s games and my friend’s son was playing on the opposing team.
“He thinks you’re here to watch him play,” Susan said.
“That’s ok,” I told her. “I am watching him.”
I cheered for our grandson, and I also cheered for my friend’s son.
A couple of weeks later I saw them at church and he asked me, “So—did you come to the game to see me or someone else?”
Groan! He must have figured it out! I thought fast and said, “I came to watch my grandson and you, too! And I had so much fun I cheered for both of you!”

There’s got to be at least one picture book and one early reader book in there someplace!

PiBoIdMo stands for Picture Book Idea Month. Every November, on her website, Tara Lazar hosts PiBoIdMo. The challenge is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write 30 picture books, only come up with the ideas. Every day in November there is a new guest blogger who talks about writing picture books. And there are some great prizes to win. I’ve participated in years past, and I loved it! This year I just wasn’t able to manage it, but I hope to meet the challenge again in 2015.

What PiBoIdMO did for me was get the creative juices flowing! It got thinking, and made me more aware of the things I saw and heard each day. I used a large calendar page to write them down. Each time I participated I came up with at least 20 new picture book ideas, and sometimes more than the 30 that I needed.

Even if you didn’t sign up as a participant this year, you can still go to the PiBoIdMo website and read the daily blogs posted by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals.

It’s more fun to do with other writers to share the challenge and cheer you on, but if you missed out on signing up this year, you can still start you own personal challenge any time. Write down your ideas for a week, or ten days. The following PiBoIdMo posts are only a few of the ones that I liked about how to get those picture book ideas.

Day 7—Jennifer Arena, author and editor, shares The George Stanley Idea Generator chart to help you come up with ideas for books with hooks.

Day 11—Tammi Sauer talks about the ‘How To’ structure. Fill in the blanks to come up with more picture book ideas.

Day 13—Corey Rosen Schwartz talks about how to get your 30 ideas, beginning with ‘Write down everything!’

Day 20—Henry Herz says “Everything I know about writing picture books, I learned from animals.” His post offers readers the nine B’s of inspiration for creating picture books.

Day 24—Read what agents have to say about why they love picture books.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the PiBoIdMo challenge in November 2015!  Read More 
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Celebrating Picture Book Month!


The other day I asked my 4 year-old grandson what he wanted for Christmas. A lover of trains, he said, “Colored train tracks.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’ve never seen colored train tracks before. I didn’t know they made them in colors.”
“They don’t,” he answered, giving me a sideways look. “But Santa can.”

Oh, to have the mind of a child! Where anything can exist and anything can happen! It’s trusting, hopeful, and believing. And what better place is there to explore that concept than in a picture book!

Is there anyone who doesn’t have a favorite childhood book? Mine were “Nurse Nancy” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” I grew up and became a nurse, and although I don’t particularly have a fondness for talking with wolves, I do love nature and the outdoors.

November is International Picture Book Month. It was founded in November 2011 by author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas in response to a New York Times article in October of 2010 that declared “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” Picture Book Month is a literacy initiative that celebrates the picture book in print. Click here to read more about the story behind Picture Book Month.

On each day of November on the Picture Book Month website you’ll find a commentary about the importance of picture books by a different author or illustrator. Click the link above and scroll down to read all of the posts by these picture book champions. One of my favorites is the post by Alexis O’Neill, award-winning children’s author, which was posted on November 15th.

More on Picture Book Month tomorrow. In the meantime here are some links to check out.

Librarian’s Quest website

Activities related to picture books

Picture Book Month page on facebook
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Ten Twisted Tongue Twisters for Writers


If children’s writers only wrote books and stories it still would not be an easy job. But we do that and so much more!

We read—we read children’s books and magazines, books and newsletters about writing for children, author websites, blogs for children’s writers, children’s editor, agent and librarian blogs, and material for research on that picture book we’re writing.

We do market research—we search to find out who publishes books in the genre that we write (and we read those books), we search to find out what publisher is looking for the specific kind of book or story that we’ve written, we search to find out where and how to submit our manuscript to that publisher, we search to find out how to write a good cover letter or query letter, we search to find out what topics are wanted most by editors, teachers and librarians.

We attend meetings with our critique groups, because writing is a solitary job and we need feedback, and encouragement and direction—and understanding. We share each other’s rejections and we rejoice in their acceptances. We keep in touch with other children’s writers by email for the same reason.

We attend programs and events featuring other authors, to learn from their advice and experience, and just because we love children’s books. Sometimes we are the ones sharing our writing experiences. And sometimes we talk to children in schools and libraries about books and writing.

We volunteer at events and conferences with organizations for children’s writers like SCBWI.

We maintain an author website, and have a presence on the web on facebook, twitter and other sites. And we blog.

We also have families, other jobs and other commitments. As much as we love what we do as a writer, sometimes other things take priority for a while. The past month or so has slowed me down just a bit, so I’ve decided to re-post one of my past blogs today. I hope you have fun with it.

Ten Twisted Tongue Twisters for writers

Do you have a problem overcoming overuse of alliteration in your children’s stories? Do character names trip off your tongue like “Tiny Tommy Turtle?” Do your titles rock to the rhythm of “Rita Raccoon and the Rattletrap Rattlesnake”?

Well, here’s your chance to change all that! Take some time out and try these ten twisted tongue twisters and see how fast you reform.

One weary writer whiting out his writing.

Two choosy teachers choose children’s chapter books.

Three free critiques.

Four cool quick facts.

Five fine poets refuse to pursue prose.

Six short stories on a short shelf.

Seven spelling checkers checking spelling errors.

Eight easy-reader writers writing easy-readers.

Nine nice novelists notice no mistakes.

Ten tongue-tied typists typing in italics.

by Peggy Archer, originally published in OUAT magazine
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Inspiration from the ‘Seeds of Success’ Conference


Last month I attended the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference, Seeds of Success, in St. Charles. From the perspective of a picture book writer, I think it was one of the best conferences that I’ve attended. Here are just a few of the helpful and inspiring nuggets that I took home from the conference speakers.

Jodell Sadler, agent for children’s writers and illustrators, Sadler Children’s Literary Agency, talked about writing picture books.

She shared with us Twenty Tools for Writing Picture Books.
Among the ten verbal pacing tools were:
Repetition—Repetition rallies the reader, and can be used to highlight the emotional growth of your main character.
Rhythm—Rhythm is the ‘sound’ of the story; use words, repetition and onomatopoeia to create rhythm; use short and long sentences.

She also gave us ten visual pacing tools, which included:
White Space—Find emotional hot spots and see how you can pull back on words to let white space fill in with visual clues.
Poetry—Use literary devices to go beyond rhyme

She told us, “A good picture book is written with attention to musicality and language.”
Check Jodell’s website for information about her online class, Pacing Picture Books to Wow!

Steve Sheinkin, author of non-fiction books for children, told us that when you write non-fiction you should "begin with a mystery."
Start making a ‘witness’ list—begin by reading, and work toward primary sources.
Keep a really good list of where you find your information.
Keep following leads, and question credibility.

Finally, cut yourself off—and write!

Nancy Gallt, agent for children’s writers and illustrators, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, told us what she looks for in submissions.

Some of those were:
a story that transports her
a book that makes her feel inspired
childlike concerns
honest voice
strong plots with internal consistency and a fully imagined world

She advised us to research the agency and the publishing world, and to proof-read our manuscript before submitting it.
Regarding picture books in verse, she said: “Writers of picture books in verse are poets first.”

Cecily White, middle grade and young adult author, talked about the different stages in development, and the differences between middle grade and young adult books.

Among other things, she said—
In middle grade books there is a more hopeful ending.
Love in middle grade is undefined, and is more activity based—they do things together.
Middle grade characters reflect the ‘ideal selves’ of the readers.

If you write for this age group you need to ‘think like a gatekeeper’—parents, teachers or other adults who oversee what the middle grade child is reading.

Debbie Gonzales, curriculum specialist, talked about the common core and what teachers want.

Some of those things are:
inspiration
knowledge of topic
a story that is plotted to perfection
a well-researched book
a creative approach to the theme

She said that the writer should make an emotional connection—with your reader, and with your story.

Keep your eye on the Missouri SCBWI website for future programs. The 2015 Fall conference will be at the beginning of November—details will be on the website closer to the date.  Read More 
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Your Post Conference Plan

2014 Seeds of Success Missouri Fall Conference
What’s Your Post Conference Plan?

You attended that conference for children’s writers and now you’re really pumped! Your head is spinning with ways to revise that work-in-progress so it’s the award-winning picture book you’ve dreamed of. Attending the conference has opened doors to new places to submit your finished manuscripts, and sparked new ideas. And you’ve connected with some wonderful writers who were also at the conference.

Don’t let that drive get away! Here are some things to do to keep the ball rolling long after the conference is over.

Conference notes—

Hopefully you’ve taken good notes from the sessions that you attended. Now is the time to type them up, before the thought gets away from you, before you can’t remember what you meant by that scribble that you wrote down.

As you’re typing, you’re also going over all the great tips and advice that you received from the speakers. You’re thinking about how to use what you’ve learned in your own writing.

Handouts—

Don’t forget about those handouts that were passed out! Read or re-read them to keep them fresh in your mind.

Check out the websites or other links that are listed in the handouts. They may be market listings, great blogs to read about the craft of writing, or other helpful writing links.

Were there handouts about any upcoming events for writers that you’d like to attend? Check out the registration deadline and register on time, or before the event fills up.

Critiques—

If you received a manuscript critique at the conference, what suggestions did you get for improving your manuscript? Think about what was said, then revise while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Conference speakers—

Were there editors at the conference who are open to receiving manuscripts? Read their handout, and check out their website. What genres are they interested in receiving? If your manuscript fits what they’re looking for, is it ready for submission? If not, take the time to work on it now in order to submit it before that window of opportunity closes. Revise your manuscript, then take it to your critique group for their input before sending it out. Be sure to follow the guidelines given by the editor, and send it before the deadline!

If you’re looking for an agent and there was an agent at the conference, follow the same guide as for editors. Read their handout and check their website. Do they represent the type of manuscript that you write? Make your manuscript as perfect as possible before sending it to them. Follow their guidelines, and send it before the deadline.

Did you make a personal connection with an editor or agent at the conference? Was there an author who spoke or another speaker who offered advice that made a special connection to you in your writing? If so, think about sending a personal note to thank them.

Other conference attendees—

Part of the fun, and the benefit, of going to a conference is mingling and meeting other writers. There may be ‘old’ friends who you only see at writers’ events, but there are sure to be new people that you met as well. In this age of social media, it’s easy to follow up or keep in touch with other writers. Visit their websites or blogs. Check out who’s on facebook, twitter, or other social media sites.

New ideas—

Finally, did something spark a new idea in your mind? I always come away with new ideas-- it could be an idea for a new story, or a different way to revise something I've already started, or maybe it's something about marketing or author visits. If you’re like me, you need to write those ideas down, now! Before you forget them!

I attended the SCBWI conference in Missouri a week and a half ago. I’ve gotten some of my post-conference goals accomplished, and I’m working on the rest of them now. I hope to have some tips from the speakers ready to post soon!  Read More 
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