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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy news...I have a new agent!

I am excited to announce that I have switched literary agents.  

I am now agented by Drew Chamberlin of Credo Communications.

I received the completed paperwork yesterday... Merry early Christmas! 

I am very thankful to God for this turn of events, 

and I look forward to 2018 and its new opportunities and new beginnings.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Look what came in the mail!

This little mouse arrived in my mailbox today as a gift from Rebecca Angus!  It is so darling and was such a day brightener.  I'm really looking forward to the release of MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT in October, 2018. Hope you are, too!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

5 Minute Friday (or Saturday) -- ONLY

If only...   two sneaky words that can rob each day of joy!!

Recently I read and studied author Shannon Popkin's Bible Study Control Girl.  In it, she reminded me that "Transformation begins in our thought patterns."

She continued, "When you reflect on truth, you wear new grooves in your mind."

"Thoughts are powerful.  What we believe shapes the direction we take in life.  So to change direction, we must change our thought patterns."

She tied it in with Romans 12:2 which says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

So how does that apply to the key word "ONLY" for 5 minute Friday?

Lately I have gotten into a bad habit of thinking "if only"

If only _______, then I could really have joy and/or be happy.

If only _______, then life would be fair and/or better.

If only _______, then I would really have it all together like "insert name of person I can't quite be as perfect as." 

You get the picture.  But the problem with "if only" is that I am wallowing around in the darkness and missing out on so many current experiences of JOY!  Time to stop that, and start being transformed by the renewing of my mind!

My "if onlys" may never happen.  (and probably won't).  So what is it in my present situation that I can give thanks for?  Many, many things!  There's the big stuff like...

  • my salvation
  • my husband
  • my kids
  • my job
  • my fantastic students
  • my friends
  • God's provision for my needs

Then there is all the beautiful extra blessings that happen along each day...

Such as... (I love details, don't you?)

  • Doug (my husband) putting up the Christmas light this year--they make me smile.

  • Going to the movie Coco with my daughter and loving all the great Día de los Muertos tie-ins for class.

  • Facetiming my daughter who is in college.

  • Getting to analyze an Agatha Christie novel with my son as an assignment for his class.

  • Coffee with a student from our former youth group where I had the privilege of hearing about her trip to Africa and all of her adventures.

  • A light sprinkling of snow this morning.

  • My students--I love our conversations in Spanish and English...they make my day brighter EVERY day!

  • God's voice to me through his Word as in the Control Girl study.

In conclusion:

I need to spend time reflecting on truth.

I need to stop saying if only and start living in the joy-filled NOW.  What about you?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Author Interview with Denette Fretz about upcoming title I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE

I am thrilled to have Zonderkidz author Denette Fretz with me here today on my blog.  She is the author of the Next Door Series, PIRATES ON THE FARM and CONRAD AND THE COWGIRL NEXT DOOR.  Today we are going to discuss her newest book I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE.  Here is a picture of the cover!  So adorable...I love it!

This book will be released in April, 2018.  You can preorder it now at this link:

Preorder on Amazon

And now to start the interview...Here we go!  
Hi Denette!, Thanks for joining me.  First of all, I notice that you include a lot of humor in your writing.  What inspires your humor?

Hi Mindy, glad to be here.  As a picture book collector, most of my best-loved stories are humorous.  If I had to name a favorite book, it would be Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day--but at the top of my list would also be Mercer Mayer's Little Critter series, Helen Lester's A Porcupine Named Fluffy, and Jon Klassen's This is Not My Hat.  I love humor, but kids do too--which make it an excellent vehicle for teaching biblical principles without sounding preachy or hackneyed.

I love humor, too.  Do you have a favorite page in the story of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile that makes you chuckle each time you see it?

I brought a sneak peek into the book.  Here it is!

Oooh! Thank you so much for bringing that!  

The main character of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile is a spunky meerkat named Jack.  Illustrator Jackie Urbanovic did a fantastic job of introducing the reader to Jack.  With one illustration, she captured Jack's attitude, while making him cute and loveable.  Her portrayal always make me smile.

Truly adorable.  I can see why that is a favorite!  My next question is in regards to writing technique.  Do you have any writing techniques that you use that help you to add bits of humor into the story?

If you were to read any of my manuscripts as straight text, the humor would be intermittent.  It is the complement or contrast between text and illustrations that generate humor on almost every page of my three books.  My favorite humor is when the text contradicts the illustration.  For instance, in I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack believes if he has a crocodile smile, kids will "stand in line and wait" for him to grin; however, the corresponding illustration portrays chaos as zoo visitors flee his new look.

To create humor, I start by knowing my main characters, setting, and problem very well.  I then imagine detailed pictures of unusual or unexpected circumstances for the character in his setting.  Because much of my humor is reliant on these visualizations, I juxtapose text and illustration suggestions when submitting manuscripts.  I don't think I would have sold any of my three now published manuscripts had I not relayed the pictures in my head.  Of course, none of the humor would work without excellent illustrations.  I have been blessed by two fabulous illustrators.  Jackie Urbanovic and Gene Barretta, who brought to life characters and humorous situations through their wonderful, unique interpretations.

Thank you for sharing that helpful information.  And I agree, you have had two fabulous illustrators!  Another question I have is in regards to theme.  In your previous books, your theme was "Loving Your Neighbor." What do you hope that your readers will take away from your newest book?

In I Want Your Smile Crocodile, Jack covets features of other zoo animals, but discovers that "God's great heart designed each part" of him.  Every child is gifted by God for a purpose.  My hope is that Crocodile helps readers understand that they do not need to imitate others, but are fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely designed by their creator.

That is beautiful and such an important take away.  I see that you are an elementary teacher.  Do you use your books in the classroom? 

I do! When I taught first grade, I used my Next Door Series books as read-alouds, at the listening station, and to help teach the concept of loving your neighbor. Now that I teach art, I use my books to talk about the career of illustrator.  Also, at the beginning of each school year, I use the characters, setting, and plot from Pirates on the Farm to speak to third grade students about story elements and arc in fictional writing.

I bet your students love to see and hear about your books.  I know I would if I were them.  I can't believe its time for the last question already.  I was wondering, do you have any other projects "in the works" that you are able to share about?

Although I don't currently have any other titles being published, I am working on new adventures for hopes that readers love him as much as I do.

Well, best wishes in all that you do.  I want your smile, Crocodile looks like a beautiful book full of heart and a great underlying message of truth for kids.  I really appreciate you being willing to take the time to join me today on my blog.

If you would like to stop by Denette's website, here is a link.

Denette's website

About the author:
Denette Fretz's passion is creating imaginative, engaging stories that help children understand and apply biblical principles.  A veteran elementary educator, Fretz resides in Medford, Oregon with her husband, a sassy cat, and a spastic Jack-A-Bee.

Other titles by Denette Fretz:

Friday, December 1, 2017

5 minute Friday -- NEAR

What is near?

It is a calendar date?  24 days until Christmas...Christmas is near!

2 months until my birthday is near!

But that type of nearness is relative.  Near could be a day away.  A week away.  A year away.  You get the picture.

But to be near is also "nearness of presence."  Nearness of proximity or physicality.  Your house is near mine because we are neighbors.  Another example, "Put the couch near the bookshelf."

So what about the verse in James 4:8, "Come near to God and he will come near to you."

That gets my attention.  Especially when you consider that one of God's attributes is his omnipresence.  He is everywhere present.

Not to get too deep, but is there a nearness that is nearer than being near? Don't laugh. :) Stick with me.

I think what I mean is a nearness of relationship that is deeper than a nearness of proximity.  God is always near.  But, is there something more that happens when we make an effort to draw near to God through reading our Bible, journaling, prayer, and being still before him and listening?

"Come near to God and he will come near to you."

I think that could be what the verse is talking about.  I know that I long for God to draw near to me.  I want a nearness of relationship with the Savior of the world.

He promises that when we seek him we will find him.  

I'm going to take him up on that promise!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Mentor Text for Rhyme--MAMA MAMA MISSES LLAMA by Anna Dewdney

Just finished reading this book.
Wow is all I can say. I am in awe.
If you want to know how to do rhyme...LOOK AT THIS MENTOR TEXT!

Three things that stood out to me

1. Perfect rhyme scheme.--No near rhymes at all.  Every line 7 syllables except for 4 lines (that were together) of 8 syllables.  Now that is magic!

2. Low word count--just under 350 words  Parents do not want long, drawn out stories, and pre-schoolers would not listen to it anyway.  (Reminding myself of this, too!)

3. She writes perfectly for the target audience.  Any pre-schooler or kindergartner will relate to EVERY PAGE of this book. She writes what they experience. Down to the last detail.

Here is a brief outline of the story arc.
1.  Waking up and going to school for the first time
2.  Getting dressed, brushing teeth, breakfast, running late
3.  Driving, meeting teacher and new faces
4.  Hanging up coat and saying goodbye
5.  Feeling shy, being asked by teacher what he wants to do
6.  Different activities at pre-school or kindergarten--blocks, train
7.  Story time
8.  Lunch time
9.  Missing mama
10.  Going outside for recess and play--tag, slide, hide and seek
11.  Drawing time
12.  Mama comes back--
13.  Showing mama the slide, saying good-bye
14.  He loves being with mom and school

So in summary, there is a reason that this book is so popular.  Nice work, Anna Dewdney!

Friday, November 24, 2017

5 Minute Friday --FAMILIAR

We love the familiar.

I’m famous for that at restaurants. 
Not really wanting to try a new restaurant.  
And even at a familiar restaurant, only ordering the same old thing instead of trying a new entrée. Why do I do that?  Two words.  It’s safe.

I only shop at one grocery store.  Why?
I know where everything is and I’m comfortable there.
It seems faster and easier than going somewhere else, even if they have the same stuff, just in a different place.

Ever been overseas and found a familiar brand or restaurant? Why is that so thrilling?
When I lived in Spain, everything I did, every place I went, everything I ate, was a cross-cultural experience.  After a while, I was starved for the familiar.  Even to the point of having my mom mail me a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. (I am being vulnerable here because honestly Kraft mac and cheese is pretty disgusting—how could that be the thing I craved?  But it was!)  I remember when it came in the mail and the Señora fixed it for my roommate and I.  You would have thought we had died and gone to heaven.  All for that familiar cheese sauce that is really not that good.  But it was a taste of home. 

Most of us like the familiar.  
Because, let’s face it, it is “the known.”  The comfortable.  The safe. 

We have to be careful, though.  
The familiar can become an enemy of stepping out and following God’s call.  

-Think if Abraham and Sarah had never left Ur.  

-Or if David had never fought Goliath. 

-Or if the disciples had never followed Jesus.  

You can fill in pretty much any Bible character.  

They had to take a risk to receive God’s blessing and experience his adventure. 

In my experience, God does not call us to the familiar.  

Instead, he calls us out of our habits, out of our comforts, and out of our normal into the unknown. 

But that’s where he can reveal his provision, his power, and his faithfulness.

The choice is ours.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

TURKEY OF THANKS--fun idea for your family at Thanksgiving

Looking for a fun Thanksgiving tradition for your family?  


 (Baker Family Turkey of Thanks 2009) 

1. On a posterboard, piece of butcher paper, draw a body of a turkey. Add eyes, beak and gobbler. Or print off a fancy cut-out from the Internet on colorful paper.

2. From colorful construction paper, cut out multiple feathers.  I like to make 5 feathers per family member or guest on Thanksgiving Day.

3. Each family member/guest writes something that he/she is thankful for on a feather.

4. Everyone takes turns sharing what they have written on their feathers, and then they tape them to the poster.

5.  Explain that we are thankful to God for all of these wonderful things that he has blessed us with.

6. Once everyone has their feathers taped onto the poster, it creates a colorful TURKEY OF THANKS!

--Do one or two feathers per night for several nights before Thanksgiving.  Try to memorize the Scripture verse(s) together as a family.

--Look up Psalm 100 in the Bible and read it aloud together as a family.  Notice verse four. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."

--Pray together as a family in short sentence prayers thanking God for the things that you wrote on the feathers.

Sample:  Lord, I thank you for our family.
               Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for our home.
               Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins.
               I thank you, God, for our dog, Buddy.

My kids (Throwback from 2009)


Friday, November 17, 2017

5 Minute Friday--EXCUSE

I’m a teacher so when I hear the word excuse, I think immediately of:
    -Excuses why your homework wasn’t done.
If you don't have an excuse, there is a consequence.


            -Excused and unexcused absences
(Meaning if you have a good reason or someone like a parent to vouch for you, your absence is not counted against you.  If not, it is "unexcused," and you are penalized.)


            -Being tardy without an excuse…
If you come into my class late without an excuse, I mark you tardy.  After 3 unexcused tardies, you receive a detention from the Dean.

(Don't you miss high school and all of its rules?)

As a teacher, when someone is absent, tardy, or without his homework, I want to know “What is your excuse?”

The Bible says in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

In my opinion, this means that God's Creation and his eternal and invisible qualities are enough to show all of us that he exists.  Those who choose not to believe in him are without excuse. 

So what happens if you are unexcused with God?  The Bible is clear that just like a “late” student without a pass/excuse deserves detention, "the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23a

Thank God there is more to that verse.

"but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23b

He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin.   He paid it to “excuse" or pardon our sin by having Jesus die on the cross in our place. By placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross, we receive forgiveness (our excuse) and eternal life.

Thanks be to God!