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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pep Talks I Give Myself

*Who am I kidding?  I cannot write this kind of book. I don’t even know the kind of book I can write, but it is not this. Maybe I should just give it up.  Okay, fine. I give up. BUT THEN WHAT??  What then would I write?

*What story calls from my soul, demanding to be told?  That is tough to find sometimes.  But keep looking. Keep listening.  It will be worth it.

*Do not lose faith.  Each story is its own entity.  It cannot be anything other than itself, just as you cannot be anything other than yourself.  

*Right now, it’s just about continuing.  The ability to make this happen.  The ability to reach the end.  That is all it is about right now. Continuing.

*When I have scenes that I don’t want to write, it is usually because I have lost my voice somehow—I no longer know what/how to say it. Find the voice again and the words will come. 

*Having compassion for ourselves and where we are is one of the most important things. Do not forget.

*It is amazing how 238 little words can bring me such hope and joy.  And it will allow me to write the next bit because I know that this bit exists.

Hoping these words bring you a little encouragement if you find yourself needing it.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scary Books for October

I don't know what the deal was, but I ended up reading three scary middle-grade novels right in a row this summer.  Each made my spine tingle in a different way.  I started with:
Great cover, yes?
This book puts the creep in creepy.  I remember thinking as I read it in July that is would be a perfect October read--it totally screams Fall.  It's author, J.A. White, also managed several surprises in this book which blew me away.

I adore this cover, too.  Something about the branches...
The first page of this book completely captivated me.  I could NOT put it down.  And yeah, it is best read during the daylight hours if you are a chicken like me. Well done, Aaron Starmer!

Again with the branches.  I am a sucker for branches.
This one took me far away--incredibly mysterious circumstances.  And Jonathan Auxier managed to make me care about his characters from the get-go, which them made me want them to GET OUT OF THAT HOUSE NOW!  But of course, they didn't. *cue evil laughter*

Anyway, if you are looking for a book filled with suspense and chills, you can't go wrong with THE THICKETY, THE RIVERMAN, or THE NIGHT GARDENER.

Happy reading!



Sunday, September 28, 2014

What I Am Working on Right Now

It is not unusual for me to work on multiple projects at a time.  Right now I am working on FOUR!  But since they are not all in the same genre, it seems to work out okay.

1. Picture Book--This books is about a narwhal.  I love narwhals and have been dying to write one into a picture book.  Right now, I have gone two different directions with the same narwhal character in two separate manuscripts.  I am just not sure which one is better.  Yet.  I will eventually.  That is the thing about picture books--like a fine wine, you have to give them time to breathe.  I have opened the cork on these two attempts, and they smell pretty good right now, but I am only going to use one of them, so I have to wait and see which will end up tasting better.

2. Easy Reader--I am SO excited about this book--well, this is actually a planned series.  It is a book with friendship at the heart of it, kind of like Frog and Toad (which I LOVE!).  But my characters are NOT very Frog and Toad-like, which makes it different in all the right ways.  I have one of the books completed, but after a few conversations, it was decided that they needed an "origin" story, so that is what I am working on now.

3. Chapter Book-If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am dying to write a chapter book.  (It's the kind of books that happens between an easy reader and a middle grade novel.) Seeing as I have written both in the past, it seems logical (to me, anyway) that I should be able to write this type of book, too.  Also, I teach third grade, which is a hotbed of chapter book love.  It would please me so much to write something accessible to the majority of my students (my middle grade novels are a little too hard for some.) Anyway, I have been waiting for the right vehicle, the right idea to come along that I could work with in this format.Finally!!! IT IS HERE!!

4. Middle Grade- I am about half way through a middle-grade sci-fi that is warming my little eleven year-old heart.  Growing up, I was shaped by Lost in Space, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, the X-filess (okay, I watched this as a grown up, but still).  I have been wanting to write something out of the box for myself, take some real chances and write the book that my younger self needed.  But here is the rub:  It has been HARD!  I have struggled with the voice, just recently deciding to change the point of view.  Climbing out of the little, comfortable Celtic box I've built for myself is risky.  But worth it, I think.

So, here are a few pictures that I find inspiring as I work on this stuff. I am not going to tell you which picture inspires which book--you can figure that out on your own!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

What's New, Pussycat?

I am slowly crawling out of the craziness that is my life at the beginning of the school year.  I seem to have a mental block against remembering how I manage to get everything in the classroom (and out of the classroom) into the "groove." Daily schedules, packing lunches, dinner time, homework--those kinds of things, always throw me for a loop.  I never seem to recall how long it takes me to be able to sit and take a deep breath again.

But things have calmed down a bit (not really, actually--spent yesterday in the ER with my teen, as it were) and I am finally ready for Fall*.

That being said, I have a few AUTUMNAL ANNOUNCEMENTS (nifty alliteration, I know.)

First off, here is the cover for my latest book, out in March.  Are you ready?  It is so adorable!!  It is a picture book about a very cute but subversive kitten.

Wait for it.....

Wait for it......

Ta Da!!

Oh, Kitten!  I do so love you!
The pictures were done by Lori Nichols.  She is awesome!! Here is her website if you want to check out some more of her stuff: .  Maple, which came out this Spring, was just so sweet.  I am anxiously waiting for her follow-up, Maple and Willow.

Second, I wanted to let you know that if you are interested in booking me for a school visit, my contact information has changed,  Please contact Catherine Balkin at  She is taking care of visits for me this year, which will be a great help, believe me. I've only a few spots available during the school year (since I am a teacher, too!), so let Catherine know soon if this is something you are pondering.  She has information regarding the types of performances offered (anything thing from wacky storytelling with puppets to more authorly types of things for older audiences).  Again, my availability during the year is pretty small and my calendar fills up quickly.

That's it for today!  

Hope you are getting into your Fall groove!


*Hey, SoCal, if you could change the weather a bit, you know, make it a little less hellishly hot, that would be awesome. Thanks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The End is Near (the end of Summer, that is)

Sorry the blog has been so quiet!  I meant to post  Story Schools 8 and 9  while I was away, but it didn't work out the way I had planned.  Sometimes Blogger is fun like that.  Oh well.

Anyway, you guys hit it out of the park on the last Story School.  So many different types of superheroes!  I couldn't choose a favorite if I tried.  But I will tell you that Celery Man has a very unusual power and you don't want to meet him if you are chowing down on junk food, and Star Baby is downright adorable, but watch out for the tantrums!  Oh, and the battle between The Pinkie and The Goldfish has to go down in the record books as one of the strangest things ever!!

And there was one piece, a poem, about what it really means to be a hero that tugged at my heart.  This young writer made me think about heroism in a new way.  Well done.

The school year is knocking on the door here, and some of you have already gone back. Can you believe how quickly the summer has gone?  I can't.  I mean, I just can't.  The other day I was in JoAnn Fabrics and they were selling CANDY CORN by the register!!  My first Candy Corn sighting of the season.  It was only August 8!!  (I wonder what Celery Man would have to say about that!!)

But I did manage to accomplish some of my summer goals, which is a good thing.

I did watch a desert sunset:
From the review mirror.  New Mexico sunsets are the best.
And I made it to the Santa Fe Opera:

The view from my seat before sunset.  Just to the left is the stage.  Those folks down there are just enjoying the awesomeness.
 And I rode in the tiny tram car to the top of a mountain:

The mountain was HIGH and Cali and Sean hiked the La Luz trail to meet us at the top.  Yes, they are beasts!
And I ate a cronut but I didn't get a picture because I ate it too fast.

I got to see one of my covers (for NO, NO, KITTEN) and the design but not finished product for SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY. Hopefully I'll have stuff to show you soon.

And...I got to breathe.  Lots of wide open spaces and big skies really helped me out some. 

So, not too bad--didn't get to Catalina yet, but that was mostly due to heat.  It has been HOT here.  It was actually cooler in New Mexico than it was here in SoCal for most of August.  

Now I feel like I can face my WIP draft again.  At least I hope I can.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Story School #7

First off, I want to thank you for last week's submissions.  The topic of What the Baby Ate brought us to a whole new level of weird.  There were babies eating normal things (like peaches and bananas), babies eating unusual things (like, um, I dunno...TIRES) and then there was also THE BABY THAT ATE THE WORLD!  Naturally, a young writer took it a bit further and had me cracking up with his story, WHAT THE BABY BURPED.  So there you have it.

This week's Story School is inspired by real events.  Well, kind of real.  But first, just in case this is your first week here, let me give you a brief recap of what Story School is all about:

Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me! 

So, on to this week's inspiration:  SUPER HEROES!!

I went to Comic Con last week and all I can think about this week are superheroes!!  I mean, just imagine all of the possibilities!  So many options in terms of superpowers.  Super vision. Super speed.  Flying power.  Invisibility.  And those are just the normal ones.  What about those obscure ones--like super pie eating power?  (And maybe the super pie eating hero could barf out whipped cream at his enemies in a phenomenal cream ray!)  Sorry, that's a little gross.  But you get the idea.  You can do anything with your superhero.

And superheroes don't have to be grown-ups now do they?

So, you  go ahead and get started on your writing about a superhero and I'll go and bake these cookies for us, okay?

And remember, if you want to send me your writing, you can:

Have fun!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Story School #6

Hi again!  Welcome back to Story School. Last week's stories/poems were mostly funny--actually MY chicken pie story is funny, too.  I guess there's just something about chicken pie that makes people think of silly things.

And if you need to know what Story School is, here is the description:

Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me! 

So, I am teaching a writing workshop for children this week.  We have only been meeting for 2 days so far, but we have already written so much. Such amazing young authors!  I thought it might be fun to base this week's topic for writing on something from the workshop.  We were talking and sharing and then someone said something funny, based on misunderstanding what someone else said, and the next thing we knew, we had some up with a title for what we decided would be a great book.

But first, a little about titles. I love coming up with good titles.  I make lists and lists of possible titles for things.  Sometimes I get an idea for a title for a book and I have NO idea what the book will actually end up being about.  Part of the fun is the mystery--what COULD happen within this story?  

The title we came up with was:  What the Baby Ate.

So, there you go.  Write something with the title of What the Baby Ate.  I have no idea what you might do with this, but have fun, okay?

And of course I'll read your stories and poems.  Send them to and I'll write back!