Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time for Me to Stop at the Pump

I am absolutely loving all of the different writing contests that are in full swing right now. The people that I have digitally met (I have not met any of you in person yet and would love to, so if you are ever in LA please let me know), and the support that I have found are unbelievable. PiBoId month in November got my wheels turning, and 12 x 12 in 2012 has gotten my vehicle to drive forward.  However, I am feeling like I am running out of gas and it is only March.

As I sit here at my desk I am looking at my lists that are taped on my wall and feeling overwhelmed.

  • I have one that is my ever expanding topics from PiBoId (even though November is over, I continue to add to the list).  
  • I have one that is a month by month listing of the drafts that I have written for 12 x 12.  I have one that outlines which manuscripts I have submitted to which agents and the date that I should be expecting to receive their rejection.  
  • I also have a list of who I am critiquing and who I am waiting on for critiques from my critique group this round.  

Now I feel like I really should do something with all of these lists.  I have so many stories running through my mind, that I am having difficulty knowing where to focus my attention so that I can really edit.  Editing is the part of writing that I enjoy the most, and I have so many things to edit that I don't know where to begin.

I know that I have dedicated this school year to writing, and I have done a very good job of sticking to that.  For me, however, it is time to stop at the pump, refuel, and get on with this challenging, uphill drive.  I will never make it to the top of the mountain unless I step on the gas.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Words From the Wise #6 - Jez Alborough

I must say as we are entering week 6 of Words From the Wise, I have learned an incredible amount from all of the very talented people that I have had the pleasure of interviewing.  I hope that you have all been enjoying this feature, and will continue to enjoy in the weeks to come.  As always, if you have someone who you are interested in meeting here, or would like to be featured yourself, please let me know.

Today we are honored to learn all about author/illustrator, Jez Alborough.  Since 1984 we have all enjoyed his picture books about animals.  His books have helped us all to smile, laugh, cuddle our children, and to learn from his craft.  This year he comes out with his latest book, Six Little Chicks.  He also has a newly revamped portion of his website called The Club.  Be sure to check it out and to join.

Without further ado, here is a guest post by Jez Alborough. . . take it away!

I have two fantastic jobs: writing children’s books and illustrating them. My wife came up to my studio at the top of our house last week and found me cutting, folding and sticking pieces of card to create a paper engineering version of the dashboard of a truck belonging to a Duck. I had spent all day finding a way to have the movement of a tab change the gears, raise the needle on the speedometer and the engine temperature gauge. She looked at me as I sat there, tugging at the tab - driving my make believe truck and said: "You just sit up here and play all day."

How I spend my time now is not that dissimilar to how I spent it as a child - drawing and making up stories. Nowadays however I do it at a desk instead of lying on my belly with my feet waving in the air. Back then, when I wasn’t outside playing football (my other great love as a child) I could be found inside, spread-eagled on the carpet creating a football match in two dimensions with a pen, a sheet of paper and a fertile imagination. As I sketched my favourite players displaying their skills – with correct kits, haircuts and facial likenesses - I would speak the words of the imaginary commentator: ‘it’s Charlie Cooke... just look at him - weaving through the defence... past Bremner, past Peters, and he’s through...’ Then, as I scribbled in the circles representing the distant faces in the grandstand (a trick learnt from SHOOT magazine) I would give voice to the roar of the crowd reacting to Charlie Cooke’s break for the goalmouth.

Later I started drawing my own made up characters using a repertoire of funny voices to express out loud what I Imagined they were saying to each other. Giving them the power of speech added a whole new dimension to the creation; it made the characters as real as they were in my head - and it was a lot more fun.

Using a convention I had learnt from Dennis the Menace in the BEANO I started writing down what they were saying in speech bubbles above their heads. In retrospect I can see that comics were my first teachers on the road to being a children’s book author and illustrator. Comics gave me a graphic vocabulary which I still use today; they taught me how to break up the story into important scenes and how to compose these scenes within a frame. Most importantly I learnt how beautiful a simple black line can be when it is drawn with the confidence to allow a certain amount of relaxation.

As I grew up I used every opportunity to practice my love of drawing and story telling. At primary school I remember the excitement of finishing an exercise book because this became a passport to get me into the Aladdin’s cave of the stockroom to obtain a new book. Some artists talk about the fear of a blank page of paper but to me it has always been an exciting invitation to catch with my pen the images and ideas that were floating about in my head.
What I treasured most amongst the pens, erasers and sugar paper were those exercise books which had ruled pages on one side and blank pages on the other. For me these were an invitation to create my first picture books. Now my character’s speech would appear in a block of text opposite the illustrations. I recall Custer, with long flaxen hair and droopy moustache being the hero of one of these early books – the influence of a television series. I don’t recall showing these books to my teacher or parents - they were made solely for my own enjoyment, for the pure pleasure of play.
This same principle applies to the books I create today. The best stories come out of a pure sense of play – without thoughts of how they might be received by an audience. These more grown up considerations come later. The first stage is purely selfish; I’m making a book simply because I love doing it.
Having mentioned comics and T.V programmes as sources of inspiration for my creativity (lets not forget TOP CAT) I would like to be able to reel off the names of many treasured picture books which had enriched my development. The truth is, back in the early sixties there simply wasn’t the array of fantastic 32 page works of art that bookshops are bursting with today. I do remember the poems and drawings in WHEN WE ARE SIX by A.A. Milne (thank you whoever brought that into our home) and a book of riddles by (Bennet Cerf?) illustrated with beautifully simple brushline drawings. Years ago, just before giving a reading to a group of children in a library, I found a copy of this book on the shelves. As I scanned the graceful drawings which I hadn’t seen for decades I realised that I knew every brushstroke by heart. As a boy I had the memorised lines just as faithfully as if they had been lines from a favourite poem. I hadn’t just seen the pictures, I had read them, and the language I had learnt from studying was utilized in my drawings and still is today.
After school I spent three years at Art College – accompanied the whole time by a succession of sketch books. These were whipped out at every opportunity to record the minutiae of student life in drawings. Any interesting, quirky things being said would be scribbled underneath or in a speech bubble. Once again the words helped to bring the picture to life.
I have always been interested in the marriage of words and pictures and it is this fascination which informs my work today. I am lucky in that if I have a story to tell - I have two versatile and complementary tools with which to tell it. With picture books the fun comes in deciding what you tell in words and what is best said in the language of pictures.
In my book Hug it became clear to me that my story was best told by the pictures (I cut the text down to only three words!) This meant that the pictures had to carry most of the story development. The expressions on the character’s faces, the body language, the colours, the compositions all had to work together to give the information which the child would need to engage emotionally with the twists and turns of the story. My central character in the book is a chimpanzee called Bobo (yes, one of the three words in the book). In the story Bobo’s sense of lostness and bewilderment at losing his Mum has to grow page by page. If this is conveyed convincingly then the reader will identify with Bobo and hopefully feel the same sense of joy and relief as he does when he is reunited with his Mummy (you may have guessed the third word by now). The emotions on Bobo’s face are therefore crucial to the story. When you consider that the raising or lowering of a line describing a mouth by as much as a millimetre can radically change an expression (and therefore the emotion of the character) things can get a bit scary. If I thought about this sort of thing too much I could never put pen to paper.
When you are writing and illustrating for children you have the pleasure of knowing that you have the most attentive audience for your work. Even if children are not yet able to read the words they are nearly always fluent readers of the pictures. They will read the lines and interpret the expressions on the faces. In this respect they are often better readers than their parents - who will miss many details that the child is instinctively picking up on.
One of the things I love about being an illustrator is that there are so many different materials that can be used to make pictures. For me to use only ink and line in my illustrations would be like a musician only ever playing one type of music. Why play just classical when there’s jazz, blues, boogie woogie and many other styles to explore? In my book Some Dogs Do I used gouache paint with no line at all and in Guess What Happened at School Today (a collection of my poetry) I used coloured paper to make collage illustrations. By ripping, cutting, sticking, splodging, scratching, and scrawling my way through varied mediums I find that I get to express different aspects of myself as an artist.
So I confess, it’s true: I do play for a living. I’ve been getting away with it for twenty years now and no-one’s blown the whistle for playtime to end yet!

Jez’s new picture book  6 LITTLE CHICKS has just been published, to find out more please go to ;

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I am Disappointed in My Bookstore

I love bookstores.  I love to browse and get lost in the stacks.  I love the sound of children laughing as they page through new stories.  It is the one place that I truly have a difficult time saying 'no' to the barrage of 'I want' from my daughters.  I can always find a justification for going into, and making purchases in the bookstore.  EXCEPT FOR THIS WEEK.

I am mad at my bookstore.

Let me back up for a minute here to explain.

I am currently taking an online class with Anastasia Suen (which is absolutely FABULOUS) and needed to find some books for my weekly homework assignment.  I went online before going to the store to figure out which books would work for the assignment.  I came up with a list of about 25 different books, all of which were listed as something that the store carried both online and in the store itself.  Keep in mind, I only needed 3 of them.  Since our local library is still quite small, and very disorganized (hopefully the new library will be better), I figured going to the bookstore was my best bet.

Upon my arrival at the store I went straight to the picture book wall and began my search.  I COULD NOT FIND EVEN ONE OF THE BOOKS ON MY LIST.  This couldn't be right. . . I went to the woman working in the children's department for help.  She went to do a computer search, and sure enough, they didn't have any of the books in stock.  She suggested to me that I visit another branch of the store.

I visited another branch and had the exact same situation occur, only this time they offered to order the books for me.

This whole scenario really bothered me.  When I have a traditionally published book (notice I said WHEN  and not IF) will it be in the stores?  What is happening to bookstores?  I looked around. . . the children's department is filled with toys!!!!

Go to a toy store if you want toys!!!  Save the bookshelves for books!!!  I can understand some little trinkets that are associated with the books themselves, but do we really need a huge display of Legos?  Don't get me wrong, I think that Legos are one of the best toys ever created, but they don't belong in the bookstore.

Aisles of board games, puzzles, and art kits?  Are they really necessary at the bookstore?  We have ONE bookstore in our city and it is a large chain store.  I am disappointed.  If they are going to be our only outlet for purchasing books, aside from the few that can be found at the grocery store, then they should sell books. Leave the other merchandise for the other merchants.  Stick to what you do best, and that is stock quality books for those who are looking for a great read.

Thank you for reading today's rant.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Words From the Wise #5 -- Paulette Bourgeois

I have been anxiously waiting for today so that I could share this special interview with you.  For years we have all loved the Franklin series of books, and today we get to have an up close and personal look at Franklin's creator, Paulette Bourgeois.  As many of you are pre-published authors, keep in mind that Paulette's first book, Franklin in the Dark, was rejected 6 times before Kids Can Press saw its potential.  

Now, having sold more than 60 million books world wide in 38 different languages, I introduce to you Paulette Bourgeois!

1. Can you let us know a little history about how you became a children's author?

I had been an Occupational Therapist and then a journalist working in television and magazines before having my first child. Very naively I thought... hmm, I am a writer and I have a child perhaps I should try writing books for children. I took my newborn to the library and read picture books from A to Z. It was a wonderful immersion into the world of children's literature but I didn't have an idea until one late night as I nursed my daughter and watched an episode of M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye tells Hot Lips that he can't be evacuated into a cave because he is so claustrophobic that if he were a turtle, he'd be afraid of his own shell. I wrote Franklin in the Dark the next morning. Before long it had become a series. I wrote other picture books as well and because of my journalism background, I also felt very comfortable writing nonfiction science books for readers age 8-12. 

2.  What types of books are you drawn to-- both children's books, as well as adult books? 

I read voraciously and I honestly like almost any book that is well-written whether it is are character-driven, plot-driven, or fascinating non-fiction. I always have a couple of books on my bedside table and they range from YA fantasy to books on the plasticity of the brain. I have a soft spot for books that can make me laugh and cry within pages of each other. 

3.  Many of the followers of this blog are prepublished authors.  Can you describe the process that you go through when writing a new story?  Brainstorm to the book shelves?  

It has been a while since I have written a new book. I recently returned to graduate school for a Masters in Fine Art in Creative Writing where I studied screenwriting and I am focusing on writing an animated feature film for children. I found that with almost all of my picture books that I would get a kernel of an idea from a memory, an emotion, a overheard conversation or an incident and it would run around my head until it became a story with a solid beginning, middle and end. Only then would I sit down to write. Rarely, the first draft would be good enough to send to my talented editors. More often, I would rewrite the story three or four times before sending it off. Editorial always had comments and that would be another two or three stabs at getting the story just right before sending it to the illustrator. I have worked with very talented illustrators, including Brenda Clark who co-created Franklin the Turtle with me. I trust  illustrators to come up with their creative vision from my words and I rarely collaborate directly with them but I am always delighted with how they enhance the story. I also trust the art directors and designers to find the best covers. Once the book is published and on the shelves, I try to work with the publicity department  to best promote the book. It's much different today than when I started. Authors have to sell themselves and their books. 

4.  If you could travel back in time, what historical figure would you like to spend time with, and why?

Nikola Tesla was undoubtably one of the most brilliant minds of the last century.  He had visions for inventions that continue to influence scientists today. 

5.  Who is your all time favorite picture book character?  What about this character makes them so desirable to you? 

I have never thought about this before but I would have to say, The Grinch who shows us all that it is never too late to open our hearts and our minds to love and joy. 

Canadian author, Paulette Bourgeois, holds a MFA in Creative Writing.  You can find all of her children's books at Kids Can Press .  

Friday, March 16, 2012

April Fool, Phyllis!

Every afternoon when my children and I pull into the driveway after school, the same discussion/argument occurs.

"I am checking the mailbox"
"She got the mail yesterday!"
"Fine, I will see if there are any packages on the front porch."
"You checked the porch yesterday!"
"Today, I want to get the mail and check the front porch!"
"I never get a turn.  IT'S NOT FAIR!!!"

Yes, that is a daily conversation with all 4 of my daughters as very active participants.  I have decided not to get involved, as they always work it out-- sometimes with tears and sometimes without.   I don't quite understand the excitement about getting the mail, as it is usually bills and ads.

Today, however, after the argument, my 6 year old twins went to check the porch and found a package and then began to argue over who would get to open it.  Since my name was on it. . . I opened it.

On a side note, I know that the girls are dressed alike in the picture, they did that themselves.  I NEVER dress them the same!  I believe that even though they are genetically identical, it is important that they celebrate their individuality.

Back to the book.  We were all very excited to find April Fool, Phyllis by, Susanna Leonard Hill.  Phyllis had landed in Los Angeles for her US Tour, and made her LA stop at our house!  My girls love to read new books, but they especially love to receive new books in the mail.  We read the instructions, and were eager to begin.

We sat down to read it and now that they both know how to read, they enjoyed reading the treasure hunt clues to me.  Susanna does a fantastic job of integrating so many different concepts into the book.  Weather, practical jokes, and a treasure hunt are all intertwined and enhanced by the amazing artwork of Jeffrey Ebbeler.  I also loved the back matter about the history of April Fool's Day and how it is celebrated in different places around the world.

Since I have to give up the book and send Phyllis on her way to the next stop on her US tour, I plan to purchase my own copy.  

Benjie NEVER misses out on story time with the girls!  

Don't miss out on having this book in your home in a few weeks. Check out April Fool, Phyllis on Amazon and order it today!  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World Read Aloud Day 2012

Yes, World Read Aloud Day was last week, but I am posting about it today.  Last week I was scheduled to read to 2 different classes, but had to cancel because my daughter was sick and she needed my full attention.  I was able to reschedule, and today I read to a kindergarten in Bloomingdale, New York.

What an amazing experience!  I connected with the class via Skype and had the opportunity to read 2 stories with them.  I specifically say WITH  them and not TO  them because they participated in the story as much as I did.  They pointed out things that they liked in the illustrations, they laughed at all the right parts, and they shared their thoughts throughout the stories.  Those 32 kids brought the stories to life!

I began by sharing Annie and Me with them.  Being that this is only the second time that I shared it publicly, I was a little nervous about how it would go.  Thank goodness I had my husband, technical guru, standing behind me to make sure that it worked.  The class loved it!  It was such an adrenaline rush to hear their laughter.  They made my day!

We had more time, and I shared a story called A Porcupine Named Fluffy, by Helen Lester.  Once again, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the story.  I hope that they all take as much from this experience as I did.

A special thank you goes out to Diana LeBlanc, Literary Coach of the Bloomingdale and Petrova Schools, for making this experience happen for all of us.  I hope that I can come and 'visit' you again.

I look forward to participating in World Read Aloud Day 2013!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Words From the Wise #4 -- Beth Stillborn

For this week's guest, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Beth Stillborn.  Beth is a pre-published author who has truly devoted herself to being a wonderful children's author.  I hope that you learn from her and enjoy her thoughts.

1.    Can you please give us a history on how you became a writer for children? 
I dabbled in writing for years. In the late 1980s when I was going through a rough patch in my life, my mother said, “Why don’t you write?” That moment was the catalyst for all that followed.
For years, writing was something I did in my spare time. I no longer work outside the home, so I now have much more time to devote to writing.
When I started submitting – and receiving rejection letters – I realized I needed some instruction. I started Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for Kids online course in picture book writing in September 2010. Lessons arrive by email each week and there’s a website where one can give feedback. Emma’s responses were enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging to all my progress reports and questions.
My confidence in myself and in my writing grew enormously because of my participation in JWFK, as did my understanding of crafting a story, creating characters, building a plot.
I readily recommend Just Write for Kids, to anyone who wants grounding in the basics of writing picture books – noting that the lessons can then be applied to any genre.

2.    You are very involved with Children's Book Hub.  Can you please explain a little bit about what Children's Book Hub is, and your involvement? 
The Children’s Book Hub began in January 2011, an offshoot of Emma’s Just Write for Kids course. Membership is by paid subscription. I was one of the first subscribers. There are resources, teleseminar interviews, as well as question and answer sessions with Emma. For more information, go to
In December 2011 I suggested to Emma that the Hub start a Facebook Group that would be open to writers, illustrators and editors whether or not they were paid members of the Children’s Book Hub.
As Emma and I developed the idea, we envisioned the Facebook Group being a place where children’s writers and illustrators could interact, discuss topics pertaining to writing, share links and resources. We also saw it as a way to give people a taste of the Hub itself. Emma asked me to co-administer the Group with her, and I was honored to do so.
If any children’s writer, illustrator, or editor is interested in joining us in the Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group, check out our main page at  Emma and I will be glad to make you welcome.
(Note: Membership in the Hub Facebook Group is free, but it is a closed group, so you have to request membership. If your connection to the kidlit world isn’t clear, we’ll send you a message to clarify that before we approve your request.)

3.    What goals do you have for yourself as a writer, and do you have a strategy as to how you hope to achieve those goals? 

I hope to have an agent by the end of 2012. I’m currently working on a picture book series and have begun a related chapter book series. I’ll begin my agent-search when three manuscripts in the picture book series and two in the chapter book series are submission-ready.I’m working on a middle grade novel. I hope to attend a conference this summer focusing on writing for middle grade kids. I plan to attend SCBWI LA in August, too. Writing is now my job. I’m learning to be systematic in my writing. Writing a draft a month for 12 x 12, and the critique group I have joined, are providing accountability.I’m working to build my “brand”. Since many of my writing projects involve the arts, my blog’s focus is mainly the arts. (By Word of Beth, I’m considering other ways to build on that, as well.

4.    Which picture book authors are you most fond of, what about their writing engages you? 

Kevin Henkes, particularly OwenJessicaChrysanthemum, and Wemberly Worried. I love the way he expresses the feelings, fears and misunderstandings that are part of childhood.
Peter H. Reynolds, particularly Ish, which I wish had been around when I was a child feeling that I was “no good” at art.
I love the spunky sparkle of Gerry in Julie Andrews Edwards’ and Emma Walton Hamilton’s Very Fairy Princess series, and the lyricism of their Simeon’s Gift.

5.    If you could be a character in any book, which book would it be, and what character would you take on? 
It’s hard to choose “this one and not that one” for anything! The book – T.H. White’s The Once and Future King; the character – Wart, the not-yet-king Arthur. The potential in Wart, the wise teacher Merlyn, plus Camelot – wonderful! At least, that’s what I’d choose today...

 Thanks so much, Sandi, for interviewing me!

Beth Stilborn is a pre-published writer of picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and adult fiction, and a published writer of hymn texts. She lives in a windswept city on the Canadian prairies. You can connect with Beth on her blog, By Word of Beth,, her Facebook page,, and her Twitter, @BethStillborn

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thank you Illustration Junky Kerie Miller

Thank you so much to Kerie Miller -- Illustration Junky for interviewing me about Annie and Me.

Here is how the story began, I invite you to check out her blog!

Interview with Kerie Miller

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Words From the Wise #3 -- Barb Dragony

This week in Words From the Wise, I am featuring Barb Dragony, the illustrator for Annie and Me.  Since you have all been learning so much about me, I figured that it was time we all learned some more about Barb.  Enjoy!

1.  How did you get your start as an artist, and particularly as an illustrator?
I've been drawing ever since I can remember. My grandmother always provided me with paper and crayons and I just drew! In kindergarten, I was coloring with wild abandon and the teacher tried to get me to color "in one direction" and the proverbial "inside the lines". I did like she asked, but  as soon as she walked away, I went back to my wildness. Again, she told me to color in one direction. How did she know? She wasn't watching me color? My 5 year old mind didn't grasp that she could see the crayon strokes…I just figured she was all knowing and all seeing. It wasn't until high school that I finally broke free of trying to stay within the lines.
When I went to art school I was thinking of going into Fine Arts or Photography, both of which held great interest for me, but decided on Illustration. I began to like the process of giving life to the characters that lived in my head…and those that lived in the heads of others through their stories.

2.  What types of art to you specialize in?  What is your favorite medium to work with?  Where do you find your inspiration?
I'm not a cartoonist by any means, but my drawings range from quirky little line drawings to children's books. Since the Mac came into my life in the mid 90's I work in Photoshop and Illustrator, casting aside the little tubes of watercolors, inks and brushes. I still keep a box of 64 Crayola Crayons nearby just to remind me of my roots! I scan in my sketches and redraw them on my Mac. I still like the feel of being able to create and put my ideas and layouts down on paper first.
Everything inspires me! That would be hard to pin point. On any given day it could be swatches of colors on fabric, an ad in a magazine, or my dog sleeping with her toys. When I get the story from an author, I first give life to the characters…what do they look like, what would they do…then I do a story board layout and break down the "scenes". 

3.  Can you describe for us the process that you went through in designing the artwork in the uTales format, and specifically for Annie and Me.
I went through the same process as I described, but this time  I had to be conscious of the limitations of web vs printed colors and also that animation and sound could enhance the story. This was my first time designing an ebook. When I received the story of Annie and Me, I really wanted the two girls to come to life! 

4.  Is uTales something that you would recommend to other illustrators, and is it something that you would be interested in working with again?
I really enjoyed the whole uTales process and have been recommending it to my artist and writer friends. To be able to collaborate with writers and other artists all over the world has been wonderful. And, the uTales team is very helpful!!

5.  Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully continuing to create books for kids! I was so blessed to have a grandmother who taught me the love of reading. I want every child to have the opportunity set their imaginations free. You don't have to color inside the lines!

Bio: Barb Dragony resides in Cleveland OH where she has lived all her life. Being close to family and friends, a plethora of museums and theaters, and of course that big, beautiful Lake Erie, give her the inspiration she needs for her creativity. When not at her drawing table giving life to the characters in her head, Barb can be found bringing life to characters on stage where she has performed for over 20 years.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Very First Author Visit

What better day to do my very first author visit than on Dr. Seuss' birthday and on Read Across America?

Now granted, I had an 'in' as I visited my twin daughters first grade classes, but you have to start somewhere.

When I got to school I walked past one of the classes and peeked in the window without my kids seeing me, and they were all wearing red and white striped hats in honor of the Cat in the Hat.  I felt a huge smile across my face, and I suddenly had a craving for green eggs.

I became a little bit nervous.  I shouldn't have been nervous . . . I am a former elementary school teacher, I have 4 kids of my own, and I know most of these kids already.  But here I was, about to publicly share my book for the first time in it's completed format.  I was not reading to my family.  I was not reading to my friends.  I was reading to an audience filled with people that were my target audience when writing the book.  What if it was to be a flop?  I know Dr. Seuss, I needed to get on my way and move some mountains!  I went inside.

What book did I share?  My only published book to date. . .Annie and Me, a book that I published with the help of amazing illustrator, Barb Dragony, and uTales!  Can you believe it?  I did an author visit with an e-book.  Never in a million years did I think that I would be doing that when I started on this writing journey so many years ago.

My children are very fortunate to attend a school that is technologically advanced, and they have SMART  Boards in almost every classroom.  For those of you not familiar with a SMART Board, it looks like a dry erase board, but it requires special pens for writing. It also can be connected to a computer and whatever is on your computer screen can be projected onto the board.  It has a sound system, and you can even touch the board as if it were a touch pad on your computer.  We projected the story onto the SMART Board, the classes sat on the floor, and I shared with them.

The children loved the animations, loved the illustrations, and loved the sounds.  Teachers and children alike were asking wonderful questions about the book writing process in general, but also about the specifics of digital publishing, and uTales.  They were amazed that this is how they could read a book, and they wanted to know how they could get the app at home.

One little boy asked how I was able to get the book into the computer.  Fortunately, I have another book that is in the editing process on uTales right now, and I was able to give the class a sneak peak as to how it works.  I showed them how to enter the text, and how the illustrator uploads the images.  They enjoyed seeing some images still in sketch form, and some in full color.  I think that they don't always realized that a book doesn't start out looking like it does when you check it out at the library.

Before I even had my coat on to leave, the first graders were lined up in front of their teacher as she wrote down the uTales website on sticky notes for each one of them.  I could see her wheels turning as she was figuring out ways to make use of this technology in teaching reading in her classroom.  One of the teaching assistants was so fascinated by the whole process that she said she would recommend that I come to other classes in the school at all grade levels (school is K-8).  Wouldn't it be great if we could inspire even just one child who has an interest in writing?

Thank you uTales for helping me to achieve my dream of being a children's author.

Thank you Dr. Seuss for inspiring so many authors, illustrators, and especially children.  We are all thrilled to have celebrated your 108th birthday with you today as we Read Across America.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And the winner is. . .


Congratulations Pam on winning a free copy of Hidden New Jersey, written by Linda J. Barth and illustrated by Hazel Mitchel.

I hope that you enjoy your travels through New Jersey.