Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Writing Life Wrap-Up

Thanks to Julie Hedlund's 12 Days of Christmas for Writers for getting me to actually write a blog post!

Our task for Day 3 is to write our SUCCESSES - all of them, big or small. Mine are still relatively small compared to some, but I do agree with Julie that it is important to celebrate our achievements because we spend SO much time beating ourselves up over rejections.

*Made an awesome writer's vision board in January of 2018 that I love to look at
*Did Tara Lazar's STORYSTORM for the first time and it was totally worth it and productive
*Wrote and revised (many times) 3 new picture book manuscripts for 12x12
*Submitted 26 times (up from 18 for 2017)
*Had a great idea for a new MG and wrote the first 10 chapters at the end of this year!
*Completed a year of co-leading our SCBWI Critique Group
*Got involved with another group and came together to create a SCBWI local Meetup group - helping to coordinate the January MEETUP as we speak
*Managed to send in a 12x12 submission each month (whether I should have or not!)
*Spent many valuable Tuesday mornings (and a few afternoons) with a writer friend at a local coffee shop, writing and ok, chatting a bit about writing!
*Storystorm, 12x12 for 3rd year, NESCBWI Spring Conference, Mini Study Hall w/ Marcie Colleen
*(related more to my job but benefits here too) Read over 150 1st-3rd grade books as part of our state book award - Nutmeg Elementary Book Award Committee
*Got some nice comments from an Editor saying a pb I questioned had "great pace and a cute storyline"

And to all my writer friends, may you have great SUCCESS in 2019!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On Kids & Halloween...

It's no secret that most kids love Halloween. Costumes and candy. That's what it's all about, right?
I, too, still love Halloween, though I think it has more to do with being around children at the libraries where I work, than actually enjoying parties or dressing up as an adult.

By the end of September, kids are taking out Halloween books from the library - and we have gobs of them! In storytime, I start to hear from those who already know what they will dress up as.

A cat.
A Ninja Turtle.
A mermaid.

This year, one of my 4-year-old storytime kids has decided to be a hermit crab, just like the pet he got for his birthday. I started to think back on the costumes I chose for myself as a child, and I also wondered, why?

It's safe to say that I was an anxious kid. I'm pretty sure a childhood illness and an absent father left thier marks. So it's no wonder that I often chose powerful characters to become on that one day of the year.

A princess with a magical wand.
Miss Piggy (quite possibly the bossiest, karate-chopper ever)
Wonder Woman.

When so many things in my life were out of my control, it must have been fun to be one of these, even if just for one night. I started to look at kids and their costume choices in a different way. Sure, sometimes you just want to be a taco. Who doesn't? But sometimes, kids want to be a beautiful mermaid who garners attention, a superhero who is way stronger than they feel, or a firefighter to please their firefighter Dad. Who knows what goes on in their little heads at this confusing time of year.

In storytime, I am careful about what books I choose if I do a Halloween storytime. Some kids love stories with mummies and bats and all the ghoulies. Others are afraid of costumed characters in general and suspicious of the holiday. One book that I made a matching flannelboard set for a few years ago is Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart. I'll do this story with the 3-5 year olds and get them to help add some of the characters. Basically, the three ghosties go around and scare ghouls and witches and eventually children. But the jig is up when a child sits up in bed and scares the ghosties! Sounds perfect, right? Well, one year, a little girl sat completely unphased through the witches and even the giant ogre, until the part when the three little ghosties' mother comes into the story to scold the ghosties for scaring everyone. As she was sending them to bed, my storytimer stood up and began to cry uncontrollably, to the point where I had to get her mother. Turns out, she could have cared less about the creepy characters in the story. She was so worried about the three little ghosties and how they had gotten in trouble!

So maybe Halloween is about way more than costumes and candy. It's a darn scary world out there and Halloween stories, costumes and creepy things prepare us to deal with our fears. It's okay to read about monsters when you know you can scare them away. It's okay to go to a strangers house when you know you'll get candy and your parents are waiting on the sidewalk. It's okay for me to go see the new Halloween movie when I know that Jamie Lee Curtis is going to face her fear. Okay, maybe I'm still working on facing mine...

Some of my favorite Halloween books:

By the Light of the Halloween Moon by Caroline Stutson
Ed Emberley's Halloween Drawing Book
Hist Whist by e.e. cummings
In a Dark, Dark Room & Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Pumpkin Heads by Wendell Minor
Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt
Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart
Which Witch is Which? by Pat Hutchins

Monday, April 23, 2018

Permission Granted

I, an official, MLS, 20+ years-experienced librarian, am granting you permission to get rid of your books. Why, you ask?
It's spring - book sale time at many libraries, and the time when many well-intentioned people bring their old books to libraries so they don't physically have to do that gut-wrenching thing and throw them in the trash themselves. Yes, I just let a secret slip - sometimes, libraries throw out books. 

Before I go furthur, I feel obligated to say that, OF COURSE, do these things first:

If you love the book and want to re-read it or it has HUGE sentimental value, keep it.
If you love or like the book but won't re-read it, share or donate it.
If you hated the book but think someone else could like it, share or donate it.
If you loved, liked or hated the book, it's in great condition but you don't want it cluttering up your life, share it or donate it.
Regardless of your love for it, if the book is in bad condition, moldy, smelly or falling apart, throw it out.
If someone gave you the book and you feel like you need to hang on to it for that reason, share or donate it. They won't know and it will help de-clutter your life.

Contrary to what you might think, most librarians I know are NOT in love with all BOOKS. Really. Yes, we may love the ideas, the words, the covers, the smell. We may collect some for a variety of personal reasons just like you. For the average person, just because a book is a book, it does not make it a treasure to hold on to for a lifetime. Sure, some are. But that 10th reprinting of a James Patterson best-seller in paperback from 1999? Nope. That thousand-pound cookbook from 1954 that even you did not make a single recipe from? Nope. That copy of The Giving Tree that your old college roommate gave to you but you never really liked it anyway? Nope. Obviously I am not speaking to people in third world countries or a child in a homeless shelter whose books may be her lifeline. These people are why we donate books.

I have maybe six bookshelves in my house, and after I write this, I'm going to purge those and bring the good ones to the library book sale. I'm getting rid of the old hiking trails books that we really don't use anymore, the parenting books we have aged out of, and some gifty books that I haven't looked at since they were gifted. I'm keeping a few books my mother-in-law passed on to me for that day when I'm desperate for a book to take in the car, craft books on writing, a book that a friend wrote and included me in the dedication, and two boxes of children's books in the basement that were my kids' favorites. Everything else I can get at the library or borrow or buy if needed. Then go through the process again.

Librarians serve, among other reasons, to give you access to books and information. Our job is not to save every book in the world from destruction, nor is it yours. Re-read the rules at the top. 

What I am saying is, I GIVE YOU PERMISSION not to have to hold on to every book that has crossed your path. 


DE-CLUTTER, DONATE and DO yourself and the world a favor. 

Permission granted.

"Sharing education, sharing a book...that's what 
changes the world." - Brad Meltzer

Besides your local library, here are some places you can contact to possibly donate your books:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

THE THAW - #50 Precious Words Challenge

It's that fun time of year again for Vivian Kirkfield's


In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, Vivian is asking us to write a story using only 50 words, unlike Dr. Seuss who used limited words over and over again. Get it? Two different approaches to a fun writing prompt that I suggest you try!

So here's mine, inspired by a little critter I found on the sidwalk at work this past January. Thanks for reading!

While groundhog slept
and bear snoozed
woolly bear thawed her Halloween fur
in the golden sun of
this unusually warm January moment
while trudging over gritty sidewalk
through not-yet-crimson clover
on her way to somewhere
before the re-freeze from the approaching storm.
Her presence? Quiescence.

Here's a great book on the subject by Laurence Pringle!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year, New Inspiration

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, probably because I know I will just feel worse when I set about breaking them. However, I do like the idea of fresh starts, and as a children's librarian, the idea of themes per month and a set number of days in a month and....well just all that good stuff!

Soooo, having never tried PiBoIdMo before, I am on my second day of Tara Lazar's STORYSTORM (previously PiBoIdMo - thank you Tara for changing the name!) and can't wait to see how long I can stick with it!
(You probably know all about it since I am late to the party, but if not, go here):

Basically, you are spending the month of January coming up with at least 30 story ideas in 30 days. Why is that revolutionary? Because apparently I had 4.5 stories just sitting around inside my head and they would have not materialized at this point (maybe never) but for STORYSTORM. 

I also like the idea from some guest bloggers on Tara's site that changing location is good for inspiration. Again, something you KNOW, but don't DO. So since I'm in the arctic freeze, I relocated to our newish craft room/dance/yoga basement and found some inspiration as I played with the latest products from my 11-yr-old's slime studio.

I read 15 picture books I'd been meaning to read (and also because I'm on a book award committee and had to), re-wrote 2 picture book texts I really like the rhythm of, typed up a pb draft I'd written out on paper and came up with 2 new ideas! (I also did 4 loads of laundry but that doesn't seem to count).

So at least for this month, this will be the year where I focus on new ideas and lots of writing. Maybe less querying and less re-working of the same old stories. I'll check back in in February and see how it went...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Halloweensie Spirit (Pt. 2)

Ok, I am SOOO in the spirit that I wrote ANOTHER entry for Susanna Leonard Hill's



I am not usually a writer of rhyme, but this seemed like the perfect place to give it a try (and Halloween seems to call for scary atmosphere or silly rhymes!) A huge THANK YOU to my writer friend and rhyme-guru Nancy Tandon for helping me in record time! I still can't believe I got it down to 88 contest words - just goes to show that you can ALWAYS cut more...


Treat bag in hand, this monster was dressed,

Trick-or-treating was finally in sight.

But my tummy rumbled, my monster guts grumbled,

I asked mom “what’s for dinner tonight?”  

She said, “Candy for dinner!” What could be better?

I danced down the shadowy streets.

I ate sour things, gooey things, candy corn chewy things,

My insides filled up with sweets.

When we got home, I counted my loot,

With a belly that rumbled and hurt.

I shed monster fur, pulled off my mask

And asked Mom, “Hey, what’s for dessert?” 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Halloweensie Spirit!

I had such fun with Susanna Leonard Hill's holiday writing contest last year that I wanted to try this one:


~ for children’s writers ~

Check out her blog at

  So the rules are that you have to use 100 words or less, and include the words MONSTER, CANDY CORN (1 word), and SHADOW in a Halloween story. Here goes! I can't wait to read all the fun entries this weekend!


Curious George got the last chewy fruities.
The purple monster nearly bumped me off the step when she grabbed the giant chocolate bar.
Mint patty? Candy corn?
My costume itched.
“Trick-or-treat!” I heard behind me.
I had to think fast – mint patty or candy corn?
Grabbing the candy I jumped off the step, not sure I chose right.
I saw a shadow of big ears by the bushes.
“I dropped all my chewy fruities,” said the sad monkey.
I pulled out the mint candy.
“Want it?”
“Yuck,” said George.
“I know,” I said. “Want to hunt for more chewy fruities?”
George smiled.