Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Legend of Sleepy Elf

When I was little, one of the thrills of Christmas was decorating the tree. What I loved absolutely best of all was unwrapping each of the decorations, cradling them in my hands, and recalling (or inventing) a story about them. There were the tiny-china-angel-bell and the tiny-china-snowman-with-the-top-hat bell who were best friends. Of course, there were the trinity of fairy angels with their gossamer skirts and netted wings who resided in heaven, which could only be reached by climbing to the very top of the Christmas tree.

And then there was Sleepy Elf.

My sister and I loved Sleepy Elf. LOVED HIM. My little brother probably would have too, if we ever let him hold him. But we were too busy fighting over Sleepy Elf ourselves to ever let him out of our own hands.

 So yes, he became a little bit worse for wear over the years

And his head began to flop over to the side in a not-very-alive sort of way.

When I moved out, I'd always look forward to finding where my mom had chosen to place Sleepy Elf. Personally, I always liked him under the tree, but he found his way into baskets and onto mantles from time to time. When I brought my children to Nana's for the holidays, the first thing they did was search for Sleepy Elf.

And then I moved with my little family to California. The only time we saw Sleepy Elf now was occasionally in the background of Christmas pictures from home.

This year at Thanksgiving, my family traveled back to New Mexico to visit my folks. My mom had decided to pass on many of her Christmas things to her children and grandchildren, so she set up a room displaying all of the ornaments that were looking for new homes. Tiny-china-angel-bell and tiny-china-snowman both found a new home with my daughter Cali.

Sleepy Elf lay there on the table, My daughters nearly squealed (and they are mostly grown up) "Mom! You have to get Sleepy Elf ."

But I had already decided that my gift to my sister would be to let her have him. Maybe I would devise some sort of game and let her win him. Or maybe I'd just claim to be the bigger person (which I was being--haha) and let her have him. We had both loved him so much as children, but I would be willing to be satisfied with my memories.

She was touched. She cradled Sleepy Elf in her hands the way she cradles so many new lives when she brings them into the world as a midwife. Yes, Sleepy Elf was going to a good place.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas package from my sister and there, wrapped in a Christmas napkin, was Sleepy Elf. No note--because there was nothing to say. I had given him to her, and she now gave him back to me.

That's how it is with love.

You give.

You receive.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

On Teaching

On twitter, I have been obsessed with the hashtag ncte15, which refers to the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference.

Truth #1--I have never attended this conference.  I long to, but November is a difficult time of the year to be gone from my classroom, especially this year. Our staff is taking an International Baccalaureate class and already having to miss 8 teaching days this year. That is kind of a lot. It is hard to justify missing even more days.

But anyway, I follow along on "the" twitter (as my kids call it), looking for those gems about teaching reading and writing to young children, hoping someone out there will say something I truly believe in so I can give a virtual fistbump of solidarity through my computer screen. Hoping someone will say the things that sometimes I am afraid to say.

Because sometimes I am afraid to say things that I really think. Like this:

Truth #2--Even though I write a lot, even though I have published books, I am not an expert on the teaching of writing. I have no magic gadgetries, no perfect 5 step lesson plan, no cute template that makes children produce amazing, thoughtful responses on a writing prompt every time they attempt it. The more I am in the classroom every day with my students, the more simple everything becomes. If you want children to write, you must allow them to do it. You must encourage it. You absolutely MUST give them time. Time to succeed. Time to fail. Time to reflect. Time to actually LEARN.

Truth #3--And you must try not to do things in your teaching that have the exact opposite effect you are going for. When you make a child feel like less of a writer, guess what?  She becomes less of a writer.

It is so affirming to read snippets of presentations on the twitter that mirror these thoughts. My teaching heart is bursting.

So anyway, a big shout out to all of the NCTE folks who are both living the dream and keeping it real. Perhaps someday, I'll manage to attend a conference and hear Donalyn Miller and Lucy Calkins in person. But for now, know that if you are sharing your special moments via twitter, via #ncte15, your reach is very far. You are having an impact on my teaching.

By sharing your thoughts and reflections, you are making a difference in the life of this teacher.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

November Thoughts

This school year is no harder than any other school year. Really. My class is delightful--on Friday we had a writing session together that just blew me away. So many little pencils furiously scratching the page. I was inspired and humbled by their writing pursuits. And their talent.

No, the climate in the classroom is not the reason for the tremendous fatigue I feel. Nor is there anything I can point to easily. I think it's simply the usual.


Or lack thereof.

I feel like a mouse on a see-saw, running up to the writing end of my life, then back to the teaching end. Back and forth. Up and down. High and low. (Except that this see-saw has more than two ends. There's home/family life in there somewhere, too.)

I recently gave a talk to interested folks about writing for children and the question invariably came up: "How do you do it all? How do you write and teach?  Where do you find the time?" I joked that I steal time, because that's what you have to do. Steal it. (Nobody is going to give it to you willingly.) Then I talked for a bit about how I manage to balance it all.

I kind of exaggerated about the balancing, because the truth of it is that I'm not doing it as well as I'd like.

*cues mouse to begin running back and forth again*

And now, somehow, I find myself on the cusp of Thanksgiving. THANKSGIVING.

How did that happen? Where did the time go?  (This is my constant whine.) Have I been so busy being the mouse running around like crazy that I missed the entire Fall ???

I don't know.  Really I don't even know.

 My gut says that I need to just embrace the mouse--that the mouse's struggle for balance is really just part of the human condition. Is my purpose really simply to balance the see-saw?  Or is it to make my peace with the ups-and-down-of-it-all?

The reflection continues.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Oh October!

I really don't know how it became October.

It was August---and now October. September was a lovely blur.

I always forget how all-consuming the beginning of the year is. I should know by now. I have taught for many years. And yet, the tidal wave of September always, every single time, crashes down upon me until I find myself eventually in October, treading water, finally able to breathe again (thank goodness).

The thing about teaching is that you really have to know your students, and making that kind of a connection takes time. So you have to give it time.

And then there is the fact that I am in a new classroom this year, so I have to re-learn everything spatially. The room is a different shape and it is messing with my ability to decide where I want to put everything. (Or to remember what I decided...)
But I am getting the hang of that, too.

The year has begun and all of the players are in their place. I'll blink and it will be parent-teacher conference week, then Thanksgiving.  Time is moving quickly.

And still, I am striving to write during all of this. Worse yet, I am revising.

I am a goal setter by nature, so here are the Autumn 2015 goals:

1. Finish WIP (It involves a rabbit, destiny, a sinking island...and lots of weird stuff.) I am so close to the end, yet so far. Maybe this weekend I will be successful.

2. Revise space-animal picture book. It needs more of an ending...but I really like it. Actually, you can put just about anything in an astronaut uniform and I'll think it is adorable.

3. Revise Chapterbook featuring robots. I am really struggling with the kind of story this will be. A chapter book/novel from 5,000 to 20,000 words. Yes, that's quite a gap. It's either Princess in Black length, or Sarah Plain and Tall length. BIG discrepancy.  And I need to figure this out, because I love this book so much.

4. Revise middle grade sci-fi novel (AGAIN). I am currently awaiting some notes of a project that I love. I am looking forward to this revision, however, I am fearful as well. I really want to hit the mark with this book. It is not autobiographical or anything, but it carries within its pages the insides of my heart.

AND, I'd like to do something completely unexpected in writing....eager for a new idea to thwack me upside the head.

So that's where I'm at.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Finally---The Launch Party for Secrets of Selkie Bay!!

I know, I know. It took long enough.

But you see, having a launch party in the summer just doesn't make sense for me--I need to celebrate with my "people".  (And most of my people are still in elementary/middle school, so it just makes sense to do it when school is back in session.)

Here are the details:

Wednesday, September 23rd, 6:00 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, 
Oceanside, CA

I'll have some of my puppet friends, of course, including Opie, the seal. (He has generously agreed to play the part of a selkie for the evening, so anyone who wants a "Selfie with a Selkie"* have only to ask him.)

I am going to raffle off chances to adopt these lovely little seal plushies:

They are named after the baby seals in the book!!

My dear friend Mr. Schu premiered the trailer for Secrets of Selkie Bay on his blog here.

Yes, it is a busy week here.

I'd love to see you at Barnes and Noble on Wednesday if you can make it:)



*Brainchild of the amazing Nikki Loftin who blurbed the book:)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

There is No Try

I have a long standing philosophical debate with Yoda and his famous line, "Do or do not, there is no try."

Most of the time, I think, Yoda, dude, you are so wrong. There IS a try. Try exists.

But then I think sometimes that maybe he is right. Perhaps, if we work hard enough, we can will things into being, or into becoming the way we want them. We either succeed, or we do not.

I found a great quote by Margaret Mead this week, "I learned the value of hard work by working hard."

As teachers, we always work so hard at the beginning of the year to get things off to the right start, to make sure everything is in place for the year to come--and this is even before we meet our students. There is just so much behind the scenes stuff.

 Then we meet the students.

And this is where the magic happens. This is where there is no try. You, as teachers and students, either come together to create an awesome year...or you do not. Except the "do not" is not really acceptable for me. For anyone.

So, here are some of the things that WILL happen this year in room 303:

1. My students will feel valued and cared about by their teacher.

2.Together, we will appreciate literature and literacy.

3. We will ask good questions and seek answers.

4. We will learn to love writing and help each other grow as writers.

5. We will OWN math and make it part of our lives.

6.  We will strive to learn even when we leave the classroom.

7.  We will make the school a better place because of our very presence.

For me, these are non-negotiables. There is no try--these things must happen or my very purpose is in question.

This week, I asked my students what they were curious about. One student replied, "The point of life."


Eight years old and he already is asking one of the big ones.

This year I decided to give myself a one word teaching goal--Mindfulness. I must always keep in my mind what I am doing and why I am doing it. If what I am doing is not addressing one of my non-negotiables, then I have to ask myself some pretty tough questions. I am not a puppet of curriculum creators. My job is not to open a box (or a binder) and simply spew out lessons, fling them against the wall and hope some of the stick (like spaghetti). My job it not to scour internet sites searching for the cutest math worksheet.

My job is to be mindful. My job is to know my students. My job is to create a place where they can learn and thrive. My job is to be mindful, to use my knowledge and expertise to create the best possible learning situation. School is not only about meeting standards. It is about enriching the lives of humans, and in doing so, creating a better world.

There is no try.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

Summer is winding down here.

Usually I don't like August. There is just something about it. (And I'm not a fan of February, either.) But this year, I didn't seem to mind August so much.

August is a time of endings and beginnings. Transitions. And the creature of habit that I am does not like transitions. The creature prefers schedules.

But transitions are important. They are how we move from one thing to the next. Always during transitions I have to make time to reflect or I will lose my mind. I need to see what I'm leaving. I need to envision where I am going. As a teacher, August is the perfect time for this.

So, in my writing life, this past year has been busy.

NO, NO, KITTEN came out in March. Such a fun and silly book, and the first one I ever dedicated to someone other than my family. (This one went to the kids of Jefferson Elementary, my school). Working with the folks at Boyds Mills was awesome. And you should see what is coming from them (and me) in 2016!  It's about dragons, except that there are none in the book. None at all. That's why the book is called THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT DRAGONS. I've seen a little art for it and guys, it is so funny.

I wrote another picture book (or two) but I will have to tell you about those later.  Spring was a very picturebook write-y time for me.

SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY came out in July. I haven't ever had two books come out in a single year before. It makes things a little crazy. It's kind of like having twins or two very young toddlers while you are carrying a third child, (or in this case, book). They both needed lots of my attention. (But I kind of pretended that SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY didn't come out yet, at least to myself. I am planning a launch in September (more info soon) and will be releasing the trailer soon, so.....I know. Weird.)

But during all of this, I was busy writing. I finished a very difficult revision on a sci-fi book I've been working on for a bit. I really love it, but it needed a lot of patching together. As a matter of fact, I saved it in a file I called FRANKENSTEIN because I felt like I was always stitching it back together, trying to jolt it into life. I've got a little more I still want to do to it, but it is coming along.

I revised a chapter book that I love. Chapter books are a hard sell, but that didn't stop me from writing it and loving it, so that's all I can say about that. We shall see about the rest.

And because I am a crazy writer, and it was summer, I started a new project. I had been toying with an idea that had a little of this:

and maybe something like this:

And, I dunno, lots of other things. And I told myself I could make anything happen in the story that I wanted to. Anything at all. I could put in everything I've always wanted to in a story (which I have---sort of) and I could also put in things that I absolutely hate (which I have--definitely). And I told myself the only rule was that I had to write 1k words a day.

Which I have.

I have no idea what the final shape of this story will be. It is...strange. It is already 32k, which is not too bad. I would like to finish it before August 31, but it might need a few more words after that.

When I finish, I will set it aside for a bit and tweak the sci-fi a little more.

Hmmm. This is a weird reflection. I thought I'd be focusing more on endings and beginnings, but everything seems to be running together in a much more fluid manner. I finish one thing, only to go back to another. Very circular. Much like the hare coin above.

But I do have a few Fall goals:

Finish sci-fi re-revision.

Revise fun proposal involving picture book(s)

Write 3 picture books

And of course finish (and revise) weirdo novel that does not even have a name (or genre!!) yet. Well, actually it does have a genre, but if I say too much, it will disappear into the mist.

It might seem like a lot, but I am looking forward to it!!



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Selkie Talk

Here are what some bloggers are saying about SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY--That awesome new book I just wrote--

It looks like this when it is relaxing on the beach, in case you were wondering:

This picture was taken for the trailer, which I am getting some feedback on but should be out soon!

If your blog reviewed Secrets of Selkie Bay and I didn't include it, let me know and I'll link it!  (I know there are a few more out there...I just couldn't find the links...?) And if you wanted to review Secrets of Selkie Bay but didn't get a review copy, email me at and I'll see what I can do.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the people that read books and take the time to write reviews of them. It is truly a labor of love--as much as it is to write a book in the first place. (Except that authors usually get paid and book bloggers do not. So yes, writing about a book is truly a work of the heart.)



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Story School #6

Hi guys!

Sorry again for missing last week!  I was teaching kids In Real Life, so....

Anyway, today's Story School prompt is PICNIC.  I was inspired to choose this by a questionnaire I am currently filling out which asked me what famous people I would invite to a dinner party. Immediately, I changed the setting (writers can do that, you know) to a picnic because I always have a hard time when it comes to serving the food at the same time--I must work on my timing--because something is always too hot or too cold. (Hmm..maybe I should ask Goldilocks to my dinner party. She'd have a problem with the food anyway so it would be no big surprise.)

Anyway, in my mind, I changed the question from dinner party to picnic, because who doesn't love a picnic?

Image result for picnic
I think I should invite these guys to eat at my picnic, except that they are already stuffed!  Get it?

Then I started thinking about all of the cool kinds of picnics a person could have, and all of the great food....yum.   You could have a traditional picnic with a basket and a checkerboard blanket:

Or you could have a fairytale picnic in hidden woods:

Or a scary picnic:

Yikes! I can't even think about this one!!

Anyway, have fun writing about a picnic this week. You can send it to me if you want at 

Or even better, you could just GO on a picnic, which is what I think I am going to do...


Monday, July 27, 2015

Last Week

Last week I taught a writing workshop for kids. It was pretty remarkable and pretty intense. I mean, I even forgot to post Story School on Wednesday. (Thank you Kevin and Alexa for reminding me!)

Anyway, whenever I am teaching writing, I always end up re-learning some very important truths:

Just like the wand chooses the wizard in Harry Potter, sometimes the story chooses us.

Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places.

Expect the unexpected.

Being part of a writing community is better than not being part of a writing community.

Other people have amazing ideas.

Kids are the best.

Go deep.

Writing is for everyone.

Stories bring us together.

Have a great week!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Story School #5

Story School is back!  Sorry I am a little late in posting today. Had to make an IKEA run this morning--and there is not such thing as a fast IKEA run.

In case you are new here and are wondering what Story School is--let me tell you.  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!

This week's prompt is: PLUTO!!

Isn't he adorable?
I am just so excited about New Horizon's flyby. I mean--there it is!!  This is what it looked like before New Horizon when the best pic we had was from the Hubble:

It should be called Pixel instead of Pluto.
And before that, it looked like this:

Just a pretty little dot.
Anyway, so maybe you can write an Ode to Pluto, or a space adventure where you travel to Pluto, or maybe even an alien invasion story (I am writing one of those right now!)

Whatever you do, have fun with writing!!  And you can send me your story and I'll write back to you!



Tuesday, July 14, 2015



So it's been a busy week for SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY. A couple of Comic Con sessions:
So, R2, what did you think?

And Spidey!!  You read it, too!

I know this past week has been all about Selkies, BUT No, No, Kitten!  had a cool moment this week, too. Here she is at a birthday party with her new friend, Skyy:

Happy Birthday, Skyy!  So glad I could be a part of your big day!

I'm off to go make some swag for the Secrets of Selkie Bay launch.  More details at it approaches!



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why Selkies? (The Story Behind the Story)


It is Saturday!
Today I will answer the question, "Why Selkies?"
There is just something about them. They hypnotize. Their playfulness intoxicates.

To begin with, I have always been fascinated by seals. Growing up in the desert, the only place I saw them for real was the Rio Grande Zoo.  I could watch them for hours. I can remember sitting on the bench in front of their habitat with my two young daughters in their double stroller, the three of us completely mesmerized. I was researching Celtic Folklore at the time (On my own, not part of any particular program. I just liked the 398.2 section of the library with a passion) and read several selkie tales. I was always searching to expand my storytelling repertoire. One story in particular listed “Connelly” as a family name particularly associated with the strange, shape-shifting creatures who could change from human to seal with the use of a magic sealskin. Connelly is my grandmother’s maiden name, and eventually the middle name of my third daughter. Years later she, too, was captivated by seals, so much so that she was left behind (accidentally) at Sea World on a school field trip. She couldn’t seem to tear herself away from the seals, and the class left without her.

When I finished The Seven Tales of Trinket, I knew I was not done with the selkie legend. I started a few pieces, but they came out too stilted, as if I were trying too hard. But then, Cordie and her sisters, Ione and Neevy, showed up on the page, all modern (ish) and I knew I had my way into the story. At first, SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY was high fantasy…but it didn’t quite ring true. My editor suggested I make the story more realistic and I balked. “I can’t write the story you want me to write,” I said. And so I didn’t. My agent prepared to put my selkie book on submission to sell  it elsewhere.

Then I wrote a few sentences, just three, really. 

I sent my agent an email and asked her to please not submit the book anywhere. I felt I couldn’t write the book my editor seemed to want, but in three sentences, I had found the book that I wanted to write—that I needed to write--and I didn’t want to sell the wrong book.

So, it took me a while. I drafted up a proposal, but while I was tinkering around with it, I couldn’t help but try and finish writing the whole book. I knew where I wanted to go with the ending, but I was uncertain if I would be able to get there. I’d not written magical realism before, and my only advice for writing it is this: You must totally, completely, with your whole heart, believe in the realness of your story. You must believe that not only COULD it happen this way, but that it MUST happen this way.

I believed in this story. It made me cry a lot. I read-and re-read it over and over until I hoped I’d gotten it right. I had my agent send it to my editor, who bought it shortly there after. 

And so, that is the story behind the story.

I hope you enjoy SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY. You can click to the book cover at the top right for purchasing information.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Story School #4: The Selkie Edition

 Welcome back to Story School!  As you know, Story School is a place to play with ideas, to draft quick writes, and to just have fun. Last week's BIRTHDAY post had me writing a draft of a little (possible) book called I WANT CAKE. The rhythm is not quite right, but I will tinker with it more this summer and see if I can make it work.

Since it's Selkie Week, ( in honor of Secrets of Selkie Bay--see yesterday's post about all of that craziness!) I thought I'd use the whole theme of SHAPE-SHIFTING for inspiration.

Selkies, if you didn't know, are magical seals that can turn into people if they take their sealskin coats off. And if they put the coats back on, then they turn back into seals. However, if you take a seal's coat while they are in their human form, they cannot change back until they get the coat back!  

But selkies are not the only mythological shape-shifters. 

There are legends of werewolves:

Leshies (creatures that change from people into plants...think of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy)

Kitsune (a Japanese fox with many tails that can shift into human form)

Pooka ( a horse/human shapeshifter--I wrote about one of these in The Seven Tales of Trinket)

Encantado (from Brazil--can change from a dolphin to a human)

You get the idea. Or you can create your own shape-shifter. Maybe your character shifts from human to broccoli form. (Gross, I know). Or maybe a shape-shifting mouse--that would be fun and cute. I have a story about a dog that shapeshifts into an otter that I really love. I will probably work on that story this week.

Anyway, Have fun. Write what you want. And if you want to share it with me, you can at

Happy writing!


PS I loved the poems and stories this week!  Thanks for sending. And J, I would totally read a book called, CAKE DANCE!  Great idea!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015



Finally, the little book that almost broke my heart is here!

Let me tell you a little about it. Here is the official blurb:

In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother's vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast-a mythical kingdom of the selkies.

I have also read some incredibly lovely descriptions and reviews of the book online that I'll share with you this week.  

Often, an author gets asked to tell about her books. Confession:  This is hard for me. Usually, I say something stupid like:  It is about do stuff....  Sheesh. Well, this is because the easiest, most natural way for me to tell a story is through words on the page. I give everything I have to say about that book to the blank page and hope that it all works. 

So, while I was writing SOSB, I was taking notes, reminding myself what was at the heart of this book. Here is a glimpse:

Some things about Selkie Bay:

Secrets of Selkie Bay is about hope and determination. 

It is about loss and redemption.

 It’s about that line between what’s real and what isn’t and how we spend most of our lives dancing between the two.

It’s about trying to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.

It’s about sisters and loyalty and doing what you have to do. It’s about seriously bad choices and the feel of soft, seal fur underneath your fingertips.

It’s about voyages fraught with adventure, mushy bananas and a dark secret held for years in a dark cave on a dark island.

It’s about how mist can obscure your vision…or make it so you see things clearly for the first time.

It’s about what it means to lose something. 

And what it takes to get it back.

I am going to be celebrating selkies all week here on the blog!  Come back tomorrow for a StorySchool with a selkie theme. Then pop on by later in the week to find out the inspiration for the story, learn some selkie crafts, and maybe get a sneak peak at some selkie-trailer footage.

And special thanks to all of you who have been with me on this journey. I am so excited for Secrets of Selkie Bay to get into the hands of kids!  

If you are interested, you can click the link over on the side to purchase.  Ah heck. I'll put a link right here. This will take you to the Secrets of Selkie Bay page where you can click on the vendor of your choice.

Thanks for dropping by and celebrating with me!!



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Story School #3

Hello again!! Welcome to Story School #3

What is Story School, you ask--let me tell you.  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! 

Thanks for last week's stories!  I am still working on my Escape Chapter myself, so I am not quite ready to move on yet. Hoping to finish it today.

But I will not leave you hanging without a prompt. In honor of my husband's* birthday, the prompt is, in fact, BIRTHDAY. 

Maybe it will be one of your characters' birthdays. Maybe he or she will make a wish. Wishes are tricky things, you know how they say to be careful what you wish for.

Maybe you will write about a big party that is incredibly wild. Or a small party, with only a mouse, a snail, and a cricket.

Maybe you will write about cake.  

Cake is awesome. Here are a few inspirational cakes:

I usually like a lot of frosting on a cake, but this one looks like the frosting is all soaked in, which is probably darn tasty.
This one is pretty, but I dunno. Maybe something is hiding inside. 

Seriously, if someone dared me to eat all of the buttercream roses, I would. Seriously. #sugaroverload
Noel made this one (I decorated it with flowers) for Cali's birthday. It was Soooooooo Yummmy!!

So enjoy your birthday writing! And remember, you can leave some of your writing in the comments section, or share with me at


PS. Happy Birthday, Sean. You make all things seem possible.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What It's Really Like: #ALAAC15

I got home yesterday from the American Library Association Conference in San Francisco yesterday, although the festivities are still going strong. For those of you that don't know, this conference hosts the celebrations for the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards, (the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Wilder, the Printz, the Geisel, etc) so it is a veritable who's who in children's literature. The last time I went was three years ago, right before THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET came out. This year, I was there to celebrate the release (July 7th!!) of SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY.

Let me be honest here. It is an overwhelming event.

What happens is that there are so many people that you "know" either from their books or their online presence--like SO MANY PEOPLE. You kind of feel like you might be friends with them--the trouble is that you have never really talked to them in REAL LIFE so it is...weird. This is how it went for me:

Me:  Is that who I think it is? is!  Now wait...maybe, yes, it is!


Me:  Okay, so that person is totally talking to someone else. I won't interrupt. I'll just...hang out over here...close enough to say a minute, of course...not yet...L'll look over at the desserts so I don't look too creepy like I am eavesdropping or something...even though it is impossible to eavesdrop because it is SO LOUD IN HERE.  Hmm..that looks like salted caramel frosting on the cupcake...oh..darn..


Me:  So there's another person that I know...Hey!  It's my editor!  Yes!  Okay, I'll talk for a bit, try not to be too clingy or anything.  


Me:  Rats. Editor has to move on--I guess he edits more than just my books. Figures. Okay, back to spotting people I know. OMIGOD!!!  I cannot believe it!  It's really her!  I finally get to meet an author idol...I just...okay...well, what am I going to say?  "Hi, you don't know me but I know you from your twitter and your books, which I LOVE and it's not creepy, or anything, that I favorite everything you it?  Because I am just a fan, but I write books, too, not anything you've heard of or anything....blah, blah, blah, blah, blah..."  NO!  I AM NOT GOING TO SAY THAT.

Me: Stares blankly. Examines tops of shoes.


So, yeah, It is weird. There were so many people there that I knew in the virtual world, but only a handful I was brave enough to talk to. Don't get me wrong, it was lovely and all. I actually talked to more people that I "knew" than I thought I would.

This was the set up right at the beginning of the Macmillan Dessert Party. Look how friendly my book is to Caldecott Honor Book FRIDA by Yuyi Morales. They are having a conversation. Unfortunately, I never did get to have a conversation with Yuyi Morales and tell her how much my students loved her book and how, with her multi-media art, she is inspiring an new generation of artists. Alas
Before the dessert party, I didn't want to eat too much so I settled for bread and water. (NOT REALLY!) I ate a few grilled oysters that were awesome, but they didn't last for pictures.

Breakfast meetings would be incomplete without oatmeal at The Grove.

Obligatory Golden Gate Bridge Picture. I am pretty sure that there is an alien craft in the upper left part of the picture. 

At Dean and Deluca in Napa. So true
Stayed a night at Harris Ranch on the way home. Someday ask me why I needed to stay at Harris Ranch on the way home and I will tell you--it is far too long a tale for this blog, filled with events so quirky and unbelievable it defies reason. But yeah, there were cows there.
The takeway?  Actually, I don't know what the takeaway is. The ALA conference is awesome. I got lots of arcs and swag and had a great time looking at colleges with my daughter and her friend afterwards. I got to live in the world of children's publishing for a day and it's a lovely place to be. So many dedicated people.

But now I must venture back to the land of writing. It is a little less crowded, which is good for me. Just me, actually, and a desk, and my Darth Vader flash drive.

And Darth Vader doesn't seem to mind much if I don't make eye-contact or talk. He's probably sleeping inside of that mask anyway.



PS. If you saw me there and I didn't talk to you, it's probably because I was cowardly. Sorry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Story School #2

Hello and welcome back! 

What is Story School, you ask--let me tell you.  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! 

First off, thanks a bunch for the responses to last week's prompt. I foresee lots of books in the future about baby monkeys!!  I loved the poem that began:

"What do you do
When a baby mokey
shows up at your house
and demands
a banana?"

And there were several great stories.  A few were realistic, with an essence of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, but most were very funny. So were their names: Chim-Chim, Rascal, Bob, Margaret (a girl!) and Banana-Head. 

As for me, I named my baby monkey Babby. He was quite mischievous!!  He somehow ended up in the Space Program!

Now for this week's Story School idea.  

Here is the word:  ESCAPE.

I am hoping this prompt will help me out a little. I am in the middle of revising a science fiction book, and I need to rewrite an escape scene since it is boring--even for me to have to read it!  So, I need to completely re-do this chapter to is buzzes with intensity. 

As for you, well, have fun with the word ESCAPE. You can have your characters escape from a villain in an unusual and amazing way. You can pretend you are escaping from school (ha!) or someplace else into the wild and have an imaginary (or not) adventure . You can write a poem or a song about escaping--what do you wish you could escape from?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The New Book blurb #2

Se there's this book coming out in two weeks called SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY.  Perhaps you've heard of it?  (hahahaha!)

(I didn't make it as huge this time because I don't want you to get sick of the cover. I myself will never get sick of looking at it...)

Anyway, here's another blurb for my little book:

"Secrets of Selkie Bay lies somewhere between fantasy and reality, creating a wonderful place where readers can be both pragmatists and believers in all things magical, like the characters who inhabit the pages of this poignant, bewitching book. Shelley Moore Thomas has created a world layered with stories and mysteries and pain, one that calls like the sea, draws us in, and never lets go. After they turn the last page, readers will dream of seals and selkies and the deep love of family that shines in the darkest storms." - Nikki Loftin, author of Nightingale's Nest and Wish Girl

Yes, it's the same Nikki Loftin that wrote this: 

Oh, the creepy deliciousness!

And this:
Made me cry and that's the truth.

And this:

Image result for wish girl nikki loftin
Nikki Loftin just keeps getting better!

I am thrilled and honored to have her support for Secrets of Selkie Bay.

Come back tomorrow for our weekly Story School. Wait until you see what I've come up with!