This ‘N That

Summer’s final days have come and gone, although the hot temps have lingered a bit. In the meantime, I continue to read and to write and to prepare for the Middle of the Map SCBWI Conference later this fall in Kansas City.

I’ve switched writing gears from my monsters and am busy polishing a contemporary MG novel with a girl protagonist. And I’m also working on a narrative NF PB as well about an endangered wildcat.

Two of the recent #kidlit titles I’ve truly enjoyed are A STITCH IN TIME by Daphne Kalmar, an endearing Historical Fiction MG. And ALL ARE WELCOME by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman, a sweet and inclusive PB with a message of diversity told in verse.

I hope your reading and writing are going strong too!
Happy Fall!!!

Summer Update

I don’t know about you, but for me the summer is flying by! I can’t believe it’s half over. Hopefully you’ve been up to plenty of fun, whether it’s outside or inside. I’m trying to learn some new things this summer. One is outside–golf. The other is inside–piano. Both require a lot of practice, but I am seeing some improvement at both of them.

Are you trying some new adventures this summer?  Even reading a new type of book–like a mystery, or historical fiction, or SciFi, or nonfiction–can be a new adventure.

Yesterday, I visited my local library and found plenty of interesting titles to choose from there. Here are some of the middle grade books I’m going to dig into:

SAVE ME A SEAT by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan, about a new kid at school. I can relate to that, since this was my experience several times as a child.

ROSETOWN by Cynthia Rylant, about a young girl dealing with the death of her dog and her parents’ divorce. Big changes in our lives can be tough. I’m looking forward to meeting this character and seeing how she deals with her problems.

STINKBOMB AND KETCHUP-FACE AND THE BADNESS OF BADGERS by John Dougherty, a totally off-the-top fantasy which I will share with my grandson. I think he’s going to laugh-out-loud at this one.

And yes, I am writing as well this summer. I’m editing a middle grade novel as well as a nonfiction picture book. Plus, I’m writing a fun picture book that’s hopefully quite moo-velous!

One other summer adventure I had a few weeks ago was an evening at our local butterfly house with camera in hand. It was incredible to closely observe so many beautiful butterflies and try to capture them with my camera. I am only a beginner at photography but our instructor, a professional photographer, gave me some pointers. I’ll share a few of the photos here.

Keep me posted on your summer adventures and your summer reads!



Emmie Enchanted featured FROM THE GRAVE on her book review blog this week.

I am pleased to share the link to this well-read nine-year-old reviewer’s look at Book 1 of MONSTER OR DIE. It was thrilling to see that Emmie was swept up into the monsters’ world and greatly enjoyed her time there. In fact, she’s informed me that she is busy reading Book 2, INTO THE SHADOWLANDS, right now!

These are the type of reviews I truly love–from my target audience. It pleases me beyond words to know that my story has entertained this reader and encouraged her to want more with the second book.

Miss Enchanted has a wide range of books reviewed on her site, Fantastic Books & Where to Find Them. I am thrilled to see my book on the same page as such greats like Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I hope you’ll check them out and show these and other book recommendations found on the site to middle grade readers you know. A good review from a student reviewer means so much more to a young reader since it comes from one of their own.

Here’s what Emmie had to say about FROM THE GRAVE:

Reading & WRITING

Emmie has also written a book of her own–THE MAGIC MYSTERY! This also thrills me. I love sharing writing tips with students–getting them excited not only about reading but about writing their own stories. For it is in sharing our words, our thoughts, and our ideas that we draw closer to each other. Reading and writing are the keys to success on so many levels.

Summer is almost ready to start. Check out Emmie’s list for some great books for your summer reading!



Ready for Summer Reading?


by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

I just finished an Advanced Reader Copy of this amazing middle grade story by one of my Sweet 16 writer pals. I suggest you add it to your Summer Reading List. It’s great fun!

Below is my review.

THE FRAME-UP is a truly clever story, woven with art, magic and issues from contemporary life. The setting itself is a bit magical, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery with its wide array of paintings—including a portrait of Mona Dunn, a thirteen-year-old from the early twentieth century. When twelve-year-old Sargent Singer arrives for a summer visit with his estranged father, he soon discovers the magic within the museum’s artwork and befriends Mona who has a life within the frame. As Sargent and Mona build their friendship, so too does Sargent learn to reach out to new contemporary friends he meets through the summer art program. He and his father make some progress toward repairing their rocky relationship but face complications when events put them at odds. Things also take a turn for the worse for Sargent and Mona when evil plans threaten to upend their friendship along with the museum’s artworks. The author has filled this story with great imagining, skillful plotting, and endearing characters. The mystery will keep readers turning the pages, and the ending will leave them feeling more than satisfied. Highly recommended for middle grade readers who love mystery, magic, and an artfully grand read! [Release date: June 5, 2018]

My Monsters Continue to Travel the Globe

February and March have continued to be busy months for me with my Microsoft Educator Community Skype Classroom visits—over 75,000 virtual miles total now. Whew! Yesterday I traveled from north Texas to New Jersey and all the way down under to Australia! G’day, mates!


In the past two months, I’ve also squeezed in a couple of in-person school visits in St. Louis at Lone Dell Elementary and Bayless Elementary, meeting hundreds of eager 4th and 5th graders.


What I enjoy so much with school visits—whether in-person or via Skype—is sharing my love of words with the students. Seeing them become excited about reading and writing is the best! Today, out of the blue, I received a note from Mark Nechanicky, 4th grade teacher in Albert Lea, MN, expressing appreciation for my January Skype visit with his class.

Thanks again for the Skype. We purchased and received books from you. Our media specialist told me that they are checked out all the time. Thought you should know the students really like the books.

This totally made my day! As a former school librarian, I know how awesome it is to have students lining up for a good read. And it’s totally amazing when that read is one I’ve written!

Chandra Hale, school librarian from Celina, TX, where I visited 5th graders yesterday, said: I’m trying to get a copy of each of your monster books for our library… Several students are already asking about checking them out:) And 4th grade teacher, Maria Krudzlo from Marlton, NJ, had this to say after my recent Skype visit with her class: They learned a lot. Thanks again! I ordered your books and the kids are arguing over who gets them first.

Again, that’s so super cool!

My books FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS are published by Jolly Fish Press/North Star Editions. This is a small indie press, so it is much tougher for my books to be noticed by schools and libraries and middle grade readers. But I’ve found through my visits that WHEN my books and students connect it is a winning combination. I hope you’ll pass the word on about my monsters through social media with an Amazon or Goodreads review or a Tweet.

The REAL critics (the student readers) from all of these states so far: Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Washington, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa—as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Wales, and Australia—give a big “Scary on!” for my stories.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to share my monsters with the special students in your life!

Skype Visits Reap Writing Rewards!

January Journeys

It’s been a busy start to the New Year for me–juggling time zones and virtual jet lag. I’ve been connecting with students across the U. S. and even as far away as Canada and Wales. Next month I’ll be off to many more national locations–even to the territory of Puerto Rico.

Students and teachers have been eager to discover tips on bringing sensory details into their writing. I like to encourage the students to use “juicy words.” Specific nouns, power-packed verbs, and creative adjectives are all helpful in making a story come to life.

I take the students through the five senses, exploring words that amp up a story and take it to the next level. I use a variety of props to aid them in selecting sensory words to fit the scene. I even “put them in a scene” to find the right words to entice their readers to read more.

Most of all I encourage the students to reach for their reading and writing goals. I stress how important words are for all of us. Words can be powerful when used for good, for change, for sharing ideas and knowledge. Words can unite and enlighten!

And I love sharing some of “my words,” a brief slice from one of my books: FROM THE GRAVE or INTO THE SHADOWLANDS. The monsters seem to have a way of connecting with kids and helping them connect to reading and writing.

Here are tweets from two of the teachers about my visit to their school in Minnesota:

If you are interested in inviting me to visit your class, check out the Microsoft Educator Community or contact me directly here.

And check out these Thank You’s from students in Iowa who shared in sensory word fun!



Happy Holidays!

The Monsters Have Been on the Move

Frank, Malcolm and all the crew have continued to entertain classrooms. This week I shared the mayhem with 5th graders at Marian Middle School in St. Louis. The students had a fun time brainstorming sensory words and discussing story: beginning, middle, and end. It was wonderful to return to this awesome school, “educating girls for life!”

Looking Ahead

I will be taking part in the World Read Aloud Day (February 1, 2018) free Skype visits to classrooms. I’m already signing up schools. If you’d like to have me “come visit” your students, please contact me here on my website or visit Kate Messner’s blog for a list of other authors as well.


February will also find me at the Write to Learn Conference (February 15-17) in Osage Beach, MO, for K-12 Language Arts teachers. Reading and writing are fundamental skills for student success. I take great pleasure in doing whatever I can to help kids love literature–whether it’s through the stories I write for them or the author visits I do to share my joy in language.


For Now

Happy Holidays!

Now is the time to grab a monster gift for someone special. Books always make the best gifts! You can save 20% right now on FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS.

North Star Editions    promo code: social

If you’d like a signed bookplate for your Monster or Die book, please contact me and I’ll mail you one!

I hope you all have a wonderful season shared with family & friends–and maybe a few monsters too!

What’s Happening With the Monsters???

More School Visits & NCTE

This week I visited Holy Infant School in Ballwin, Mo and shared writing tips with the 5th & 6th grade students. They enjoyed listening to a clip of INTO THE SHADOWLANDS as well, and they asked insightful questions about writing. Scary on!

Next I’m on the National Council of Teachers of English Conference at St. Louis where I’ll be enjoying hanging out with awesome teachers and authors. Plus, I’m teaming up with fellow authors, Vicki Erwin, Stephanie Bearce, and Jeanie Ransom for a presentation encouraging teachers to write as well!

N.07 – The Write Life: Authors Empowering Teachers to Find and Share Their Authentic Voice with Students Come join us if you can! My books will be available there at the Left Bank Books booth. Check it out!

Happy Halloween and Here’s What I’ve Been Up To


Halloween is finally here and the monsters have free reign tonight.

Mayhem when appropriate–to the max!

If you need some spooky jokes, check here for 100 Frighteningly Fun Jokes perfect for Halloween.

School Visits

As you can see I’ve been busy bringing my monsters out to the world. School visits and bookstores. Always so fun to meet my readers–and put on my Books-A-Mania shoes!

And even a spooky party–and a skeleton dog! Now it’s Trick-or-Treat Time! Have fun!!