Monday, December 8, 2014

A Short Holiday Story

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
The Contest:  Write a children's story in which wild weather impacts the holidays! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words.

For more details check out

My Holiday Story:  

"Lost my head, again."

On top of my Snowman

On top of my Snowman, 
covered with fresh snow,
I lost his round head, 
when winter winds started to blow.

His head rolled off the lawn, 
and into the lane
Then my snowman’s head 
was slurped up by a plane.

My Snowman was headless 
until Christmas Eve,
When Santa flew over 
and guess what I received.

Outside my front window, 
I heard Santa say,
“I’ve returned your friend’s head 
and hope it will stay.”

So if you have a Snowman, 
covered with fresh snow
Hold onto his round head, 
‘cause a winter wind may blow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Raising Awareness through Picture Books

Can art raise awareness about serious issues? 

During Green Week at Purdue University, I listened to Joel Sartore, present "Photo Ark: Communicating Science Through the Lens." Sartore is a photographer for National Geographic who has spent his career documenting the world around us.
As more than half of the world's species are threatened with extinction, Sartore has also embarked on a personal mission to document a world worth saving. The Photo Ark Project looks animals in the eye and shows why people should care.

Here are some amazing, endangered creatures.

Following Sartore’s presentation, I asked him whether he felt photographs or illustrations of animals in picture books touched people more.  His answer boiled down to two words, “It depends.”

So I went into research mode. I searched my county library for animal picture books. By reading nonfiction, based on actual events, and fiction picture books, I learned that “It depends.”

Really! It depends on how the story is shared with the reader.

Here are two examples. Jimmy the Koala has a documentary style. Photographs are a good fit to share the experience through the peoples’ eyes.

Jimmy the Joey: The True Story of an Amazing Koala Rescue by Susan Kelly 
“A workman in Australia finds Jimmy, a six-month-old joey (baby koala), lying by a road. Staff at the Koala Hospital check his health and give him to a trained volunteer, who raises him until he is old enough to live with other koalas in the facility’s outdoor “tree area.” When he has adapted to that environment and is ready to live independently, his volunteer releases him in a protected forest area.” – Booklist

In a picture book based on a real gorilla, illustrations share the young gorilla’s experience and emotions. 

A Mom For Umande by Maria Faulconer and Susan Kathleen Hartung
“Because his own mother is too young to take care of him, Umande, a newborn gorilla, is fed and cuddled by human zookeepers until a surrogate mother is found.”

Photographs and illustrations can both tell a story. But the best choice is the one that conveys the strongest emotions. Stories only succeed when they connect with readers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Picture Book Artists Share their Stories

Show Me a Story! is a collection of 21 interviews with renowned children's illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard Marcus. He asked illustrators to share who or what influenced their work; the mediums they prefer and why; and their most famous titles.

In Marcus's words, "I am on a kind of mad quest for the vital thread that links an artist's life story to the stories and images for which he or she is known. How does a young person grow up to become an artist?"

The first artist in this collection is Mitsumasa Anno who created numerous books. His first picture book, Topsy-Turvies: Pictures to Stretch the Imagination, was published in 1970. 

"When I was a child," Anno said, "I pictured the world-is-round concept as a rubber ball turned inside out with the people of the different continents living inside the ball. Of course it was a boy's way of imagining . . . another sort of eye for perceiving what things really are. And it is the source of all (my) books." 

One of my favorite picture book creators is Mo Willems, who wrote and did animation work for Sesame Street. Willems recalls as a child, "All I was being told was, 'No. No, no, no.' " Now Willems says, "I go to a library, and I've got five hundred kids yelling 'No!' to me at the top of their lungs . . . It's a very super-cool thing." 

Willems created the Pigeon books and Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Leonardo stated out as a little bad wolf. Then one day, his three-year-old daughter yelled, "ROAR! I'm a terrible monster!" And really she was his adorable inspiration. 

Rosemary Wells inspired my boys to keep turning the pages of her picture books. It's hard not to love Max and his rabbit sister, Ruby. Wells drew pictures as a toddler and never stopped reading. Her favorite among her books is Voyage to the Bunny Planet (1992). 

I was surprised to read that not all the illustrators in this collection drew pictures as children. Check out or buy a copy of Show Me a Story! And find out for yourself.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Let the PiBoIdMo Magic Begin

November is Picture Book Idea Month! 
Sign up at

Authors, illustrators and picture book professionals will provide daily doses of inspiration to help you along on your 30-day idea journey.
And then in early December, there’s Post-PiBo to help you organize and prioritize your ideas.
Thanks to Author Tara Lazar for creating this Picture Book love fest.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Taking the 777 Challenge!

Thanks to Gail Nall, I was tagged to join middle grade writers from the Kidliterati blog and beyond in a blog hop. Gail's debut MG novel is BREAKING THE ICE, which hits bookshelves next January. 
            The rules of the blog hop are simple: Once you're tagged, then you go to the 7th page of your WIP, count down 7 lines and post the next seven lines.
            My MG WIP is titled RUNNING VERSE. 
           Since her protective older brother joined the Army, Samantha has been running from her alcoholic father. Now with trouble brewing at school, she has no safe place to run. Samantha must stand her ground and fight back.

Here's my 777:
            Tiffany sends me a threatening glare from the football practice field. But I’m not afraid of her. I have bigger problems.
            I sprint off the school grounds, past the happy homes and green yards. The weight of my book bag thumps against my back with each step. I cross the street into Strawberry Hills Park. Out of breath, I drop my bag near the big kid swings and slump into a curved rubber seat.
            Pushing against the ground, the swing rocks into motion. I kick my legs out and lean back. Air rushes past taking my dark brown hair off my shoulders. I could swing for hours. No one watches me here. No one throws anything at me here. 

What's your 777? Join the challenge.