Borders Book Signing

14 authors and illustrators from Guardian Angel Publishing came together on Saturday at the South County Borders in St. Louis for a mega-event. What a fun celebration of children’s literature!

Thanks to publisher Lynda Burch for making it all happen. And thanks to all the amazing authors and illustrators who traveled from across the United States to “meet me in St. Louis.” It was great to get to know them and share our stories.

I’ll share more pictures of the two-day events, but for right now here is a picture of me with two of my Pet Grammar Parade books.

Book Events

A number of Guardian Angel Publishing authors and illustrators will be in St. Louis today and tomorrow.
This afternoon from 1:00-4:00 pm, they will be hosting a series of activities at the Children’s Illustrated Art Museum in Crestwood Mall.
Tomorrow from 11:00-1:00, they will all be signing books at Borders at South County Mall.

Please stop by for a visit if you can.

An Evening With Uri

Here is the link to an article I wrote on Uri Shulevitz, celebrated children’s author and illustrator.
The article, “An Evening with Uri,” is in the current online edition of MO SCRIBBLES, the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators newsletter.
I hope you are able to enjoy at least a few of his picture books. You’ll be in for a treat.

Fun New Reads

Although it gets rather crazy this time of year, I have been able to read some new picture books. A few I really enjoyed–both for the stories and the illustrations–are listed below:

THE ODD EGG by Emily Gravett/ Simon & Schuster, 2008.
I love the softly drawn animals–who all have an egg, “except for Duck.”
Duck finds a special egg and proceeds to hatch it, despite the hoots from the others.
The book has some fold-and-reveal flaps which young readers will enjoy.
And when Duck’s egg finally does crack, everyone is in for a surprise.
ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon/ illustrated by Marla Frazee/ Beach Lane Books, 2009.
Even though this is not a Christmas book per se, its message is the Christmas message of “hope and peace and love and trust.”
This is a lyrical book, with an unassuming rhyme and easy flow, as writeen by Ms. Scanlon.
I was already a fan of the illustrator, Ms. Frazee–who I’ve had the privilege of meeting.
She creates lush pages, splashed with color and life.
This would be a sweet present to find beneath the tree for most anyone.
YUMMY: EIGHT FAVORITE FAIRY TALES by Lucy Cousins/ Candlewick, 2009.
I’m a fairy tale fan from once upon a time, and this new collection–written and illustrated by Ms. Cousins–presents easy to read stories with bright, bold pictures sure to capture young readers’ interest.
I shared this book with a second grade student, and he thoroughly enjoyed reading three of the eight tales–we ran out of time for more.
Too many young readers are not given adequate exposure to the richness and fun of classic fairy tales. Thanks, Ms. Cousins, for creating this wonderfully magic tale collection.
Reading with the children in your life is the best gift you can give them.
Have fun!

More from Bruge–Weaving Lace and Stories

Bruge is famous for its lacework. How did they make lace before modern machinery? By hand, of course. The art of braiding this type of lace is tricky. This lace is called bobbin lace. Bobbins are used to hold the threads on a small pillow. Originally, the bobbins were made from bones, so it is also known as bone lace. And sometimes it’s called pillow lace as well. For more pictures, click on this Wikipedia link.

Stories are woven together also. Some of the threads of a story would include the characters, the setting, and the plot. Each story forms a different pattern, just like lace.
I’ve done only a little weaving in my day, on a small loom and knitting and crocheting as well. It’s tough to keep all the strands in line, forming the pattern you want. It’s tough to keep them from becoming tangled sometimes.
So it is with a story too. I work hard at twisting the plot here and turning a character there or weaving in the setting–just right. This week I’m revising a couple short stories and reviewing a middle grade chapter book in progress. I’m untangling a few knots here and there in each, trying to make wonderfully woven stories for my readers to enjoy.
Sometimes that involves a fair amount of unraveling–which makes it especially hard to keep the pattern of the story in tact. But a completed story, intricately woven with beauty and finesse, is always worth all the hard work.
Now, I’m back to my story weaving.

More All-Stars Plus Robin Falls Kids Story Time Event

Just a few more photos from the big game on Tuesday night.

The theme for the evening–GO BEYOND–was celebrated in a tribute to numerous hometown heroes from across the U.S. whose charitable efforts were truly amazing.
My son Dan and his wife Megan wait in line with us to enter the stadium. Megan is a true-blue (and RED) Cardinals fan. Some of their wedding day photos were shot at the old Busch Stadium.
All-Star Cardinals first baseman, Albert Pujols, walks with President Obama after the ceremonial first pitch.
Glittery streamers filled the sky as the game got under way. I felt like a little kid at the bestest birthday party ever!
Visit the link above to replay the Blog Talk Radio presentation of five children’s authors from across the U.S.
Linda Bryan reads from her delightful, poetic picture book–THE SOUND SNATCHER.
Judy Cox shares her fun picture book–MRS. MILLIE GOES TO PHILLY
Scott Heyt entertains with a chapter from his middle grade novel–MICE DON’T TASTE LIKE CHICKEN
Pat McCarthy gives excerpts from her brand new history book–HEADING WEST: LIFE WITH THE PIONEERS (true tales of children who braved the frontier)
And me– peeks into all three of my PET GRAMMAR PARADE books, including HAMSTER HOLIDAYS
Thanks to host Laurie Zieber and helpers Roz Dellani Oakes and April Robins at Robin Falls.
Be sure to have your child enter to win one of the free books to be given away next month on the Robin Falls Kids Story Time.

No Fooling–April Is All About POETRY

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Has anyone played a joke on you? I can remember on one bright and springy April 1st when I was about 6 my dad called from the front room. “Hurry! Come and look. It’s snowing.” 
My brothers and I came running. All we could see out the big front window was sunshine and almost green grass. No snow.
“April Fool’s!” Dad said with a grin.
Snow would be an unexpected event for April–although not unheard of. Mother Nature does have a way of playing tricks on us sometimes. One Easter in Oklahoma, we had several inches of snow. No fun looking for Easter Eggs in snow mounds.
April is a fun and busy month. In April we celebrate POETRY and NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK and EARTH DAY.
If you’d like to learn how to write a poem, go to Kenn Nesbit’s Poetry for Kids website. He has lots of fun stuff for you–funny poems, poetry games, podcasts, poetry links, and more.
Mr. Nesbit has a new poetry book out this month–My Hippo Has the Hiccups. What a great title! I’m sure the poems are just as silly. In fact, you can read one, “Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister,” when you click on the title above.
Can you write a poem every day this month? Why not give it a try.
Start right now…

A Presidential Book

Last night I stayed up to watch Barack Obama as he claimed his victory in the U. S. presidential race. I wanted to be a part of this important time in history. I was not disappointed. His speech was inspiring– hope-filled. A unifying speech for all of our people.

I had the great opportunity this June, while attending a writing workshop in Arkansas at Harding University, to meet Nikki Grimes and to see the galley version of a picture book biography that she had just completed. It was BARACK OBAMA: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
Ms. Grimes explained how she had been approached to write the book in a bit of a hurry–to be completed and ready for publication by September. She, of course, had many other works-in-progress demanding her time as well. Could she squeeze in one more book? A book that must be completed in three weeks time? 
Three weeks to research, write, edit, revise, and complete–in order to have the book submitted to the illustrator in time. 
Even though her other projects tugged her in the opposite direction, Ms. Grimes felt called to walk down President-elect Obama’s road. She would do the research. She would piece together word snapshots of his life, like a tenderly stitched quilt. She would help share his story with young readers, eager to learn of this remarkable man. I’m very glad she did.
Click on the link if you’d like to read Ms. Grimes’ tips for writing poetry.


Today MAX ANDERSON–author of action-adventures and mysteries for middle grade readers–stops by to share some of his secrets for creating stories that reluctant readers love. Mr. Anderson’s latest short story, “Big Foot,” has just been published in LAY-UPS AND LONG SHOTS, an anthology from Darby Creek Publishing.

Did you always want to be a writer?

No I didn’t. I grew up hating to read. My father was the author of over 70 books, and I never read any of them. I’d rather be out playing, as a child, and my interests were more visual as I grew up. That’s why I became involved in the production of dramatic films, video programs, and television commercials. I’d be the last person I would have ever thought might become an author one day.

The events of 9/11 closed many of the doors for my client based video productions and commercials. I was faced with the decision to get out of that business, or find a way to work on something else while I waited for it to return.

I felt compelled to find out why I hadn’t enjoyed reading. What I discovered surprised me, and I charted a course to see if I could make a difference for others who might not enjoy reading today.

Tell us about your short story, “Big Foot,” in the new anthology from Darby Creek—LAY-UPS and LONG SHOTS. What was your inspiration for the story?

From the very beginning of my quest to become an author, my father became my mentor. This was a critical factor in my sticking with the process. But for most of us who are new to writing, the publishing of our work can take a long time. For some, sadly, it may never happen.

I’d had some early success in getting a few books published through a small publisher. There came a time to make a change, because I was writing too much material. I stopped writing book length manuscripts because I had completed 35 of them. Right now I have more than a dozen new book ideas that are ready to be written. Next I focused on finding an agent, and building a stronger platform. I signed with an agent about a year ago.

But while I was searching for the agent, my father suggested I try writing other things. I sold a true story to Guideposts. This was the first short piece I had written. My dad had written a lot of short stories throughout his career. That market is greatly reduced today, but he challenged me to try writing a short story. I wrote a little football story called BIG FOOT. I submitted it to a few magazines, but nothing happened. Then I saw a call for submissions on one of my writer’s online groups. Darby Creek Publishers was planning to publish a sports anthology for tweens and teens. My story fit the age group and the subject matter, so I submitted it. The story was selected to share the pages with children’s authors Joseph Bruchac, Terry Trueman, David Lubar, Dorian Cirrone, CS Perryess, Jamie McEwan, and Peggy Duffy.

This new book was just released on September 1, 2008.

Tell us about some of your other children’s books. I know that you like to write for boy readers primarily. From my school library experience, I know boy readers—especially at the middle grade level—are often reluctant readers. How do you make your books appealing for them?

Because I grew up hating to read, becoming an author of action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys, was a calculated decision. It was a personal challenge, really, to see if I could write the kinds of books I would have enjoyed as a child.

Based on the findings from my research, into why I didn’t like to read, I set out to tell exciting, interesting stories that were highly visual. Readers won’t find excessive details in my books. I use short sentences, lots of heart-pounding action, humor, and dialog. Young readers tell me that reading one of my books is like being in – not watching – but being in an exciting or scary movie. That’s music to my ears.

For many boys, one of my books has been the first that they have ever read all the way through. Families then tend to buy all that are published.

Here are some examples of the comments that I receive:

* “I can’t believe it …. as the concerned mother of two struggling readers (boys ages 13 & 16) .. who is also the daughter of a children’s librarian … I think I have purchased EVERY book recommended for reluctant readers HOWEVER, they have ALL fallen short UNTIL today. We were able to purchase your book from Amazon and we’re hooked !!!

We are now looking for the next one. Any other titles out there ?? Any way to convince you that we need you to write faster ??

I can’t thank you enough for your efforts ………. I actually think I caught my husband listening too!!!”

* “This was one of those books that made me feel like I was right there in the action. I really like the way that you honored those who died in the 9/11 attack and showed that even young people may have a chance to serve our country. The boys seem like normal, everyday boys who like to have fun together and that makes it fun to read about their adventures. “

* “This book was wonderful! I don’t know which book you wrote is better, they’re both my favorites. It’s adventurous, mysterious and leaves you with wanting to know what happens next. I wanted to know what they got in the package. It was so exciting I stayed up almost all night trying to finish the book.”

NEWSPAPER CAPER, TERROR AT WOLF LAKE, NORTH WOODS POACHERS, MOUNTAIN CABIN MYSTERY, BIG RIG RUSTLERS, SECRET OF ABBOTT’S CAVE, & LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

Do you experience writer’s block? And if so, how do you deal with it?

So far I can say that I’ve been fortunate in never experiencing writer’s block. I understand it’s a serious problem for writers and sympathize with anyone who faces it. The main reason I don’t encounter it, for the most part, is because before I begin writing, I already know the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I also know who my main character is and what the major thrust of the story will be.

While I’m writing, I use props and photographs to help in setting the scenes. I play mood appropriate music too. That means that while writing a funny scene, I’ll play comedy music in the background. Scary scenes are always written after dark, while spooky or frightening music plays. It’s a very effective way, for me, in order to see the right pictures in my mind.

What I don’t know are the many minor characters, all of the plot twists, or circumstances that will be faced throughout the story. Some of that is as much fun for me to discover as it is for readers.

How do you find your inspiration?

Ideas come from all sorts of sources. Much of it comes from my own days of growing up. Since I used to play with my friends from morning ‘till night, I have a lot of material from those adventure filled days. It’s a wonder some of us are still alive today. But I also find story ideas from the newspaper, reports on the Internet, the evening news, radio reports, magazines, and simple personal observation. Since my film and video productions have taken me all over the country, and around the world, I have a lot of personal experiences, people, and locations from which to draw.

When creating your stories, do you use detailed outlines or write more from a stream-of-consciousness style?

No, I don’t outline. When a story idea first hits me, it has always suggested a title first. I make sure to write that title down, and to create a title page on the computer as soon as possible. I set that aside, mentally, until major impressions begin coming into my thoughts. At first I’ll write those down, no matter where I am.

In the beginning, I used to make those notes no matter where I was. Since my best ideas hit while driving, mowing the grass, or taking a shower, this part of the process can create problems. Driving and note taking became the most dangerous, and showering made for wet floors and messy papers.

After my author-father became my mentor, he suggested a small recorder. Now I keep one of those close during the idea phase. It isn’t unusual for me to be whispering into the thing in the middle of the night sometimes.

Then there comes a time, and I can feel it each time it happens, when I have to stop everything, and tell myself the story, from beginning to end, into the recorder. This usually results in 10 – 12 double spaced, typed pages, but it gives me the framework from which to begin. However, these notes are put aside and not looked at again until the first draft has been finished. I have yet to leave any of those details out, and am always amazed at how the mind works in areas like this.

Normally my writing takes place beginning in the early evening. I’ll write from one to three chapters during each session. A usual completion time for the first draft is two to three weeks.

At the end of each session, I write on a post-it-note what would happen next, if I were to continue writing. This gives me a jumping on point when I sit down to begin the next session. In between times, I can feel my mind working on story elements. Sometimes I have to make notes from these impressions, and sometimes bits and pieces of dialog will come in this way too.

As I write, it is as if I’m watching a film on a screen, and I write what I see and hear. While writing LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF, I got so into the story that I couldn’t wait to see how everything was going to turn out, so I finished the first draft in three long days.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can learn more about you and your books?

Yes, I have three of them.

Author web page

Books for Boys blog (Ranks in the top 10 on Google)

50 Pages of Reviews

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Never give up on your dream, no matter how discouraging it might get at times. Even if no one in your family or circle of friends understands, don’t worry about it. There is a reason you have that spark inside of you, and not everyone does. Protect that spark, and do everything you can to turn it into a roaring fire within.

At the same time, you need to be realistic. Over 200,000 new books are published each year. Ask yourself why yours is special or different. This is a business, so also try to think like a publisher or editor, and think of yourself as the person who will be reading your proposal or manuscript. Then ask yourself why you would be willing to put your money into this project.

It is important to survey the books that are already in print, but never sacrifice your own unique voice. If becoming published one day is your goal, then make sure you are working toward that goal every day. Join online writers groups, read every book about writing you can get your hands on, and subscribe to at lease one writing magazine. Become a student of the market.

If there were only one point I could make it would be that writing and publishing is a business. It’s nice to think of it as art, and to embrace the creativity factor, but it is a business.