Friday, December 30, 2016

Author Skype Visit

I recently attended an author Skype visit with Suzanne Slade for my daughter’s 5th grade class. And let me just say, that it was amazing. My daughter’s teacher was blown away, and the kids loved it. Suzanne did such a great job, and kept the kids engaged the entire time. I, too, had a wonderful time, and I was so glad that I could attend.

As an aspiring author, I want to learn more about author visits, and there is no better way than by attending one. It was such a great opportunity for me, and I learned so much. It was fun to see what really got the kids excited, and what interested them. I also got to observe how an author sets up her visit, and things she incorporated and did. It was very informative for me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Now I’m off to find my next opportunity.


Kids are amazing. They can come up with anything simply by using their imagination. When my youngest daughter was sad because she couldn't go inside Minnie Mouse's house in Disneyland, my older daughter built one for her out of a cardboard box. The two of them played for hours in the makeshift house. It was amazing. And my youngest was never again sad about not being able to go inside Minnie Mouse’s house. To her, she had been there, and now she could visit it anytime she wanted in her own room. All it took was a cardboard box and imagination. As a writer, I want to do be just like them. I want to take my piece of paper and imagination, and create something amazing.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Student Council

This girl just got chosen for student council in her fifth grade class. She is so excited. Only two kids from each class were picked, so she feels very honored to be one of them. But the funny thing is, she almost didn’t even try out for student council. She thought she would not be picked, so why bother. She almost let her fear keep her from doing something she really wanted to do.

I told her that we do not do things just to win. We also do things just to try. Just to see what we are capable of. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but the important thing is we are trying. Failure only means that we are one step closer to our goals. And the more we try, the more we succeed. We can learn just as much from our failures as we can from our wins. And we never know what our potential is, or what we might achieve, until we take that first step.

I am so glad that she didn’t let her fear rule her. She put in her application, and she won. Now she is doing something she loves. What if she had let that fear keep her from trying? What if she had never applied, because she thought she might fail?

We can’t give up. We have to try. We have to overcome our fears. We have to keep working towards our goals. Only then will we know and become our very best selves.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I am so excited! I just found out that I won an Author Skype Q&A visit for my daughter’s 5th grade class with Suzanne Slade. All I did was comment on a blog post on the blog, Picture Book Builders, and then my name was randomly drawn. So exciting.

I was thrilled to email my daughter’s teacher and let her know what I had won. She was equally as excited. And I even get to attend the day they do the visit. That makes me really happy, because I want to learn more about author visits, and how to best do them. This will be a great opportunity for the kids and me.

It just goes to show that you never know what can happen, so it is always worth trying. I didn’t really think I would win, but I thought it was worth a shot. I am so glad I tried.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


My son loves to collect rocks. Big rocks. Little rocks. Large rocks that I trip over on my front step. Rocks that go unnoticed in his pockets, and end up in my dryer clumping around. (That’s always fun.) Yes, my son definitely loves rocks.

The other day, I went upstairs to clean the bathroom, and I found a fresh set of rocks next to his bathroom sink. I assume he found them at some point during his day at school, put them in his pocket, and brought them home. He most likely remembered them when he was brushing his teeth, and put them next to the sink. So thoughtful of him.

But as I moved the rocks so I could wipe the dried toothpaste smeared all over the counter, I couldn’t help but smile. This is my son. It’s his quirk. And it makes him him. And, at the end of the day, I love this about him.

So what are the quirks of your characters? What makes them them? And what makes you fall in love with them?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Burned Toast

The other day my daughter asked me to make toast for breakfast. Our toaster had not been working all that well, and it would sometimes forget to pop the toast out. I would have to remember to pop the toast out myself by hand, or be stuck with burned toast. On this particularly morning, I was busy getting too many things done in too little time, and I forgot about my daughter’s toast. It came out black, and not very appetizing.

I told my daughter that I would make her new toast, because the first piece was gross. She told me that she still wanted it. I said, “No, you won’t like it.” She then proceeded to throw a tantrum (she’s two after all), because I would not give her the black toast. I tried to tell her again and again that she would not like it, and that I would make her a new piece. She was having none of it.

Finally, I gave up and gave her the burned piece of toast. She happily stopped crying, took her toast, and proceeded to eat the entire piece. I was shocked. I never would have eaten that piece of toast. But my daughter did, and she liked it.

As I thought about this moment with my daughter, it reminded me of my writing. Sometimes, as writers, we want to force our characters to act a certain way, because we think it is the way they should act. But we shouldn’t force our characters to do anything. We should let them develop. We should learn about them and understand them. And we should definitely let them decide whether or not they like burned toast. Maybe we wouldn’t eat it, but our character or daughter just might.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

One of Those Days

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know the ones where your two-year old eats an entire container of Bubble Tape, because it tastes like candy, and then you have to spend thirty minutes googling whether or not it will kill her. And then, while you are busy googling that the massive amounts of pink bubblegum will definitely not kill her, she sneaks upstairs, finds a pen, and proceeds to write all over her tiny little body. Since I was still googling in a panic and hadn’t seen her artistic ability, she proceeded to find one of my beaded bracelets and managed to break it and send beads all over my bedroom floor and the hall. Of course, those millions of beads could not be sucked up by the vacuum, so I had to get on my hands and knees and try to pick up every single bead that conveniently blended in with my carpet.

It was definitely one of those days. But guess what? It was funny. Even as I am writing this horrible chain of events, I can see the humor in it. And that’s a good thing.


You are probably wondering how bubblegum, pens, and broken bracelets could ever be a good thing. But trust me, they can. By finding the humor in everyday life, especially the unfunny, I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out situations, we are taking an important step to becoming a great humor writer. We have to find the funny in everyday life. We have to find the humor in even the worst of situations. And when we do, we will better be able to write that humor into our stories.

But for now, you’ll have to excuse me, because I have to go find some invisible beads and scrub some ink off my daughter. And I don’t even want to think about what the next few diapers are going to be like.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Get Your Silly On

Recently, our family made the long trek to Southern California to go to the beach and Disneyland. It is a long drive from Idaho, and has to be broken up in two days. With my youngest only being two, it is especially hard for her to have two longs days of traveling and only minimal stops. She does not like to watch movies, which is usually a good thing, but when one is stuck in the car for hours at a time, movies can be a life saver.

I knew the trip was going to be the hardest on her, so I tried to plan ahead. I brought different snacks, unusual snacks, and favorite snacks. I brought new toys, old toys, and favorite toys. I brought games, coloring, and crafts. But even with all this planning ahead, the car ride got hard. She was soon sick of the snacks, the toys, and the games. She was tired of sitting in the car. She was tired of her car seat. She was tired of the entire trip. What happened next, was no surprise.

She screamed.

She cried.

She threw tantrum after tantrum.

I tried to be consoling. I tried to distract her. I tried to reason with her. Nothing worked. In fact, it was turning out to be a disaster of a trip. She was miserable, and the rest of us were miserable, too. (Who wants to listen to a screaming toddler for hours out of the day while stuck in a minivan?)

It was at that point that I had to get creative. I dug out her Rapunzel and Anna Barbie dolls, and started playing with them. This brought her screaming down a notch. Encouraged, I started playing some more. Her cries slowly turned to sniffles. I kept playing. On an on I played, until she was no longer upset.

Soon, she was in love with me playing with her dolls, and she wanted to join in. For the next hour or so, my daughter and I made up the silliest stories with her dolls. We laughed and had a lot of fun, and there were no more tears. In fact, for the rest of our trip, anytime she got frustrated or tired with the car, I brought out her dolls and started playing. It made our trip a huge success.

So why am I telling you all of this? It is because I learned something as a writer while playing dolls with my two-year old. I learned that being silly and having fun brings out my creative side. And the sillier I am, the more creative I am.

I think as adults, we often sensor ourselves, because we are well … adults. We think that silliness is for kids. But that is not true. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to be as silly and as goofy as we want. We need to allow ourselves to be creative and carefree. The best way to really be creative is to not restrict ourselves. We need to not worry about what others think when we are writing. We need to not be embarrassed by what we write. Not everything we write will be publishable. Not everything we write will be something we love. But the more we write, and the more we allow ourselves the freedom to be silly, then the better and more creative our writing will become.

So stop restricting yourself. Allow yourself to be silly. Get out those Barbie’s, and let the creativity flow.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Father's Day Gift

I have found a book that makes a perfect Father's Day gift: Hammer and Nails by Josh Bledsoe. It is cute, charming, and gives a perfect rendition of the relationship between a father and his daughter. It is heartwarming and relatable, and really will make a perfect gift.

I know what my little daughters will be giving their father this Father's Day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The 8th Annual Idaho Conference on Youth and Children's Literature and Writing

In April, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 8th Annual Idaho Conference on Youth and Children’s Literature and Writing. It is the annual conference for the SCBWI-Utah/Southern Idaho region. I loved having an entire day to immerse myself in all aspects of writing. There were fabulous speakers, guests, and attendants. I learned so many things, and I am glad I had the opportunity to attend.

One of my favorite speakers from the conference was Harold Underdown. I have frequented his website in the past, but to have the chance to hear him speak live was wonderful. His keynote talk was all about the top 10 things we need to know about children’s publishing. He covered things from market and social media, to craft and trends. It was all very fascinating, and I loved hearing his take on everything.

I also got the opportunity to do a revision intensive with him. In this 2 hour block, I, along with the other attendees, got a condensed version of what he does in his week-long workshop for Highlights. We learned how to approach our writing as an editor would. It was very informative, and gave us all better ideas on how to write and revise. One of the things he said that I really liked, was: “Revision is a re-vision.” I think this a great way to see why revision is important. It helps one get the best out of their manuscript. He also taught us tips, tricks, and useful ideas that I am excited to apply to my manuscripts.

Another great speaker that I was excited to learn from, was Angela Ruth Strong. Although she does not write picture books, she did a workshop on humor. She gave us different approaches she uses to make her manuscripts funnier. She talked about giving your character quirks, using different points of view, putting your character in silly situations, and doing something the reader is not expecting. Not only did I laugh a lot during her presentation, but I also learned many great tips and ideas for bringing out the humor in my writing.

The last speaker that I greatly enjoyed learning from was N. D. Wilson. He did two different presentations, and I found them both enlightening. In the first one, he focused on the power of concrete description. He talked about the importance of using the five senses to draw the reader in. He also talked about being an observer of the world, and then put those observations into words. It was fascinating to listen to him.
In his second presentation, he talked about how words are physical. He explained to us that words are physical objects that hit you and give you a reaction. We as writers have to choose the words we use carefully, to elicit a response from the reader. He also talked about how a writer has to be a lover of words, which is very true.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed my time at the conference this year. I learned a lot, I met new people, and I found things I can take and apply to my writing. It was a beneficial experience, and I am glad that I went.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Online Opportunities

There are so many opportunities for writers online. There are groups, challenges, webinars, classes, and the list goes on. There are free opportunities, and paid opportunities. There is something for every writer, one only has to look and decide what is right and beneficial for them.

I, personally, happen to love all the opportunities available online. I try to take advantage of as many as I can. Time permitting. I feel like I learn so much from the various writing groups I am a part of, and the different challenges that I participate in.

One such challenge just finished in March: ReFoReMo. This challenge is all about using picture books as mentor texts to better improve our own writing. I love this type of challenge, because this is an important part of my writing. I always use mentor texts when writing a specific manuscript. I also feel that reading in the genre you want to write in will make you a better writer. ReFoReMo is fun, because not only are we challenged to read picture books every day, but we also get guest posts by authors, illustrators, editors, and other people in the picture book industry. I love learning from others. I felt the guest posts were filled with information writers can use and apply to their own writing.

But I have yet to tell you the best part of participating this year. I won one of the prizes. Since I read picture books every day, and commented on all the posts, I was randomly selected to win the online course: Art of Arc from Alayne Kay Christian. I am very excited about this prize. It is yet another online opportunity for me to learn and grow as a writer.

So what are you waiting for? Go online, and find the next opportunity for you.

Friday, March 18, 2016


I had the opportunity to attend a picture book workshop last Saturday. It was put on by local illustrator, Joseph Cowman. Even though I am not an illustrator, it was wonderful to have the chance to learn from one. As a picture book writer, I have to leave room in my writing for the illustrator to illustrate. That is why I was so excited to attend this workshop. I had the opportunity to learn more about the illustration process, and how the illustrator goes about illustrating a picture book. I also got to ask questions at the end, which I found very beneficial.

I’m glad that my local SCBWI provided this opportunity. There are so many opportunities to learn in this industry. You just have to take the time to find them. And if there are not as many opportunities where you live, there are many great online options. I have joined numerous online groups and challenges that have given me insight and knowledge. It has also given me the opportunity to meet picture book writers from all over. It’s fun to make connections with people you might have not otherwise met. But the very best thing that I have gained from joining online groups, is that I have had the opportunity to learn from picture book authors and ask them direct questions. This has really helped me to better understand picture books and how to write them.

I highly recommend seeking out and finding opportunities for your writing. Whether online or in person or both, you will be so glad you did. You will be able to learn, grow, and gain new insights. The connections and knowledge you obtain will be invaluable. Take the time. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reading is Magic

Reading to children is magic. Together, with a book, we can discover new and exciting things. We can swim with sharks, sail across oceans, go to outer space, discover dinosaurs, uncover monsters, laugh until our sides hurt, and learn about things we’ve never seen before. The possibilities are endless. All it takes is one word, one page, one book at a time.

Lately, my daughter and I have been immersed in the magic of Harry Potter. Each night we sit down and read a chapter (or two or three if my daughter can help it). It is fun sharing this with her. She gets so excited each night. She cannot wait to see what happens next. And every night she gets to discover something new about wizards and witches, wands and spells, broomsticks and flying, potions and cauldrons, castles and sorting hats, and so much more. Without books, this would not be possible. We would not be able to share this experience together. She would know nothing of this exciting and magical world.

I am glad that there are so many good books. I love that all I have to do is open one, and my children and I can be taken to a place we have never been before. Or we can open a book and revisit a place we love again and again. There is no limit to the places we can go, or the things we can see. Reading really is its own kind of magic.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Cumulative Picture Books

I had the chance to go to my son’s classroom again this week, and teach more about writing and picture books. This time I taught them about the cumulative picture book structure. Cumulative stories add repeating elements as the story progresses. When a new event occurs in the story, the previous events are repeated. Basically, the plot builds on itself. These stories can rhyme, but they do not have to.

The kids really enjoyed the cumulative stories. We read: THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY by Lucille Colandro, and THERE WAS AN OLD MONKEY WHO SWALLOWED A FROG by Jennifer Ward. We then had an activity where the kids created their own cumulative stories. It was so much fun, and the kids really enjoyed it. There were a lot of giggles and smiles. And they were so creative. They came up with many unique ideas. Leave it to a kid to come up with the silliest and most outrageous concepts. That is exactly why writers need to think like a kid. That’s when creativity is at its best.

I am so happy that I get this chance to teach these children. I love being around them. I love their energy and excitement. I love how much they love books and writing. I love their zest to learn anything new. And I love that they love picture books as much as I do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Share the Love of Picture Books

I had the opportunity to go to my son’s classroom and talk, read, and teach about picture books. It was a lot of fun. His teacher even loved it so much that she asked me to come back twice a month. I am excited. I love picture books, and getting to share that love with children is the best. There is nothing like seeing a child’s eyes light up when they hear a story for the first time. Or the excitement they have when they see a book they love. Kids make books magical. They are the reason I write. I am grateful that I get to share this love of picture books with my son’s class.