Inside an Author’s Mind


(A Morning at the Dentist’s Office)


An exclusive look into the mind of one middle grade author. Read her ramblings as she faces terror! (i.e: sits in the dentist office, having her six-month cleaning and check-up—hoping that no new cavities have emerged in the interim.)


An author’s work is not limited to time spent before the computer or with a pen clutched in hand. No, some of my most productive creative time is down time, when I’m able to let my mind wander. It’s then that I often find answers to nagging plot problems or discover a new twist or—like today—uncover the truth about Monster Dentists!


In my upcoming middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE (October 18, 2016), I do not have a monster dentist as a character. However, I do mention one ancient vampire improving his bite with a set of new false teeth, so therefore, I know that monster dentists do exist in Uggarland—my monster world.


Today, as I sat in the infamous adjustable chair listening to drills and teeth scraping and moans (okay, maybe the moans were only mine and had nothing to do with pain but only with totally unjustified apprehension), I pondered a monster dentist’s workday. The following is what I envisioned:


The dentist’s name would be something like Dr. A. G. Ony or Dr. Lotta Payne


He would look like a cross between a mad scientist and a mangy dog, or she might be a skeleton in blood-crusted scrubs with a necklace of teeth dangling from her neck.


Tools would include a hammer, chisel, pliers, and a knockout punch, although most procedures would be administered with no pain relief. The louder the howling—the better.


The dentist would also have a file to sharpen teeth for better biting. Every Moanday, there would be a special two for one price on sharpenings. (always popular with the financially fiscal monsters like werewolves and trolls)


Cosmetic dentistry would include the application of teeth tarnishing gel, multiple tooth extractions for that gap-toothed growl, and a take home kit for halitosis—bad breath to the max.


Okay, there you have it. A writer’s mind at work—all while wearing a paper bib and drooling most profusely.


Now it’s your turn! (No, not to drool—to write!)

Open the door, if you dare, and let your imagination out for a bit of fun. I’ve shown you ways a dentist might “operate” in the goofy monster world that I’ve created for my #MonsterOrDieBooks.




  1. Choose a setting for your story. (Feel free to use my monster world if you’d like.)
  2. Create a character.
  3. Fill in the blanks on how he/she looks and acts.
  4. Now write a story with this character. Keep thinking until you discover a problem. Such as: What if the monster dentist had to extract teeth from a crazed werewolf during a full moon? (Check out the classic picture book Dr. DeSoto by William Steig to read how this author wrote a similar story.)
  5. Finally, tell how the character tries to solve the problem. Does she do it—or not?


Presto! You’ve written a story! That’s how you make magic happen—one word at a time!

I’d love to hear about some of your characters. 🙂

Here’s to monstrous reading & writing!!!

An Evening with Author/Illustrator DAV PILKEY


How does an evening with children’s author Dav Pilkey begin? (well,after waiting in a looooong line wrapping all the way around Headquarters library…)

Waiting for Captain Underpants

Waiting for Captain Underpants

With, of course, a loud “Tra-la-laaaa!” yelled in unison by all the kids (and many of the parents) in the audience. It’s Captain Underpants’ typical call to action.

I had the fun opportunity to be part of this attentive and rambunctious crowd last night at the St. Louis County Library’s Author Event, celebrating the release of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT. (# 12 in the series)

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants



Dav Pilkey, who will have 60 books to his credit with 2016’s THE ADVENTURES OF DOG MAN, has revolutionized reading for boys especially. USA Today called him the “savior of the reluctant reader.” His short, graphic chapter books with their silliness, fast pace, and bathroom humor are a perfect fit for young readers. The kid-friendly author creates his tales based on his own elementary school experiences.

The Adventures of Dog Man

The Adventures of Dog Man

As a child who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia, he understood the power of pictures to tell a story. Even though he often found himself doing hallway detention for drawing in class, he couldn’t resist making more clever comics—to the delight of his fellow students and the dismay of his teachers.

“Underwear is not funny!” said Mr. Pilkey’s second grade teacher. “Grow up!” she cautioned him. “You can’t spend the rest of your life making silly books!”

Drawing favorite characters

Drawing favorite characters

Oh, how little she knew, and how very far Mr. Pilkey has enriched young readers with the delights of his underwear crew.

Some of his other titles include:

The Ricky Ricotta Series 

Dog Breath

Paper Boy

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk

Super Diaper Baby



Nowadays, the author prefers drawing in more natural spots, like along the beach in Japan when visiting his wife’s family. But even there, he still suffers criticism—from some monkeys that is. Mr. Pilkey shared a video of himself at work sketching, while several monkeys attempted to confiscate his pens and offer vocal commentary on his work-in-progress.

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics




At the end of his presentation last night, Mr. Pilkey made a point about perseverance. He showed a picture of a scowling egg and a happy potato in boiling water. “Don’t let adversities overcome you,” he said. “Rather use them to build on. In boiling water, a potato softens but an egg becomes hard.”



Many young readers in the crowd wore red capes, similar to Captain Underpants. On back of the capes was the message, “Reading is Power!” Thanks, Mr. Pilkey, for enhancing children’s literature with your comic characters and delightful illustrations and proving that strong reading muscles really do rock!

Quite the Character!

The July Blogging Theme for The Sweet Sixteens (#SixteensBlogAbout) is CHARACTERS. With that in mind, I thought I’d look back on a couple of my favorite past blogs on the subject.

Getting Into Character highlights a simple strategy for helping young authors quickly develop interesting story characters–with just a few hats to set things rolling.

Oftentimes, DIALOG is overlooked in revealing characters. Read Character Talk to discover how the conversations in your story disclose amazing information–and help make the story so much more fun and readable.
Below I’ve included two templates for creating characters. If you want to you use a picture of your own, no problem. Write away!

Create a Character : Girl
Use the picture on the left to help you create a character by completing the form below.

NAME ______________________________________________________

AGE _________________ HEIGHT/WEIGHT ____________________
WHERE SHE LIVES ____________________________________________
TELL ABOUT HER FAMILY ________________________________________
FRIEND (S) ___________________________________________________
ANY PETS ____________________________________________________
LIKES ________________________________________________________
DISLIKES ____________________________________________________
FEARS _______________________________________________________
PROBLEM(S) __________________________________________________

Create a Character: Boy

Use the picture on the left to help you create a character by completing the form below.

NAME ______________________________________________________

AGE _________________ HEIGHT/WEIGHT ____________________
WHERE HE LIVES _____________________________________________
TELL ABOUT HIS FAMILY ________________________________________
FRIEND (S) ___________________________________________________
ANY PETS ____________________________________________________
LIKES ________________________________________________________
DISLIKES ____________________________________________________
FEARS _______________________________________________________
PROBLEM(S) __________________________________________________

Webster Groves Library Author Event

I hope you can join me this Friday evening at the first annual Missouri Author Expo at the Webster Groves Public Library. This event is designed for readers of all ages with authors of both adult and children’s works. Numerous authors will be doing readings from their books, as well as selling copies. What a fun way to meet some local authors and perhaps start your holiday shopping.
Here are the details:

Fri, November 8, 6pm – 9pm
Webster Groves Public Library – Adult and Teen Events
Come meet local authors! Enjoy readings from their books! Get a head start on holiday shopping! Fiction, non-fiction and children’s books! Refreshments!

Jonathan Stroud Interview

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend an evening listening to Patricia Polacco–the incredible children’s picture book author and illustrator. And this week, I was quite excited to have the opportunity for a live presentation with British children’s author, Jonathan Stroud–the creator of the Bartemaeus Sequence. I’d read the books some time ago and loved their rich storytelling, adventures, and humor. I thought it would be quite a treat to meet Mr. Stroud in person, as well as learn of his new series–LOCKWOOD & CO: The Screaming Staircase.

But alas, this author event was forced to be cancelled due to some misfortune with Mr. Stroud. It seemed rather like one of the blocked avenues in his tales when the protagonist’s best laid plans goes awry. Lucky for me, however, I stumbled upon an online interview with Mr. Stroud, via PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. In fact, they have a number of interviews with various children’s authors available for a listen.

So while the online interview couldn’t take the place of a live author sighting, it was great to hear Mr. Stroud. I enjoyed his enthusiasm for his books and characters and felt privileged that he shared some of his writing insights.

I hope to listen to more of these online interviews–hope you can too!
But I plan to keep all the lights on 🙂