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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Story Storm -- How did I do?

I loved participating in Story Storm.

It was very motivating to receive tips in my inbox each day from published authors and illustrators. They had some unique suggestions on where to get ideas for stories!

Here's what happened to me this month:

I brainstormed 40 ideas.  (I was hoping for more, but it was great to have a push to get some new ideas cooking.)

I began developing two of the ideas because I am so excited about them.

I also joined a critique group through SCBWI and went to my first meeting.  It was fun! I look forward to receiving feedback about some of my writing pieces.

Finally, I even edited and worked on a few proposals for manuscripts that have been on the back burner for awhile.

Thanks STORY STORM, for helping me be productive and push forward with my writing!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Author interview with Rebecca J. Gomez

I'm thrilled to welcome children's book author Rebecca J. Gomez to my blog today.  Rebecca is the author of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE (Atheneum 2015) and HANSEL AND GRETAL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam  2016). 

Rebecca, thank you so much for being willing to join us and answer a few questions.  I can't wait to hear the inside scoop on your writing.

Let's get to the questions! 

First, I see that you have a writing partner, Corey Rosen Schwartz.  How did you get started working together? How do you collaborate together to create a manuscript? Do you still write together?

Corey and I met in 2005 when we were members of the same online critique group. Corey liked working with a partner, and she asked me if I would consider collaborating. I said yes, and we have been writing together ever since!

We do a lot of brainstorming together. Once we hit on an idea that appeals to both of us, we open a document on Google drive and just start writing! For the most part, we write together from beginning to end, but we occasionally separate if we get stuck or if our visions aren't completely meshing. 

Technology makes that possible--so fascinating. That must involve a lot of mutual trust and respect. Your collaborations have definitely produced some wonderful books!

I wanted to ask you about rhyme and rhythm. Your book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE demonstrates that you have a wonderful flair for rhyme and rhythm.  Do you have any "tips" for authors who are trying to hone their skills at rhyming?

Thank you! I think one thing that makes my and Corey's rhyme really work is that we live in different parts of the country, so what rhymes for me doesn't always rhyme for her. We have to work extra hard to make sure the rhymes "work." This is true for the rhythm too. I think authors who write on their own can learn from that. So one piece of advice is to find a variety of readers, especially readers who talk a little differently than you, to see how well your work flows for them. 

I also suggest reading a lot of rhyming books and taking note of what works and what doesn't. Rhyming well is hard work, so don't do it if you're not willing to commit. In truth, no rhyming book will be perfect for every reader, but it's worth the effort to make it as smooth as it can be.

I never considered the different ways of pronouncing English, and I'm even a language teacher. Great advice!  

Next, I noticed that you are working on a middle grade fantasy novel.  How is the technique for picture book writing different for you than when you are writing a longer manuscript? Which you do you prefer and why?

In some ways it's very similar. When I write, whether it is a short picture book or a novel, I tend to focus on getting the story down and not worrying about good writing. Then I let the draft sit before reading through it to tackle revisions. For a picture book, I leave it for a few days or a week. For a novel, I leave it for a few weeks at least.

But writing a picture book, especially a rhyming picture book, is generally harder than writing a novel. I think that's because there is so much story to fit into so few words. When I'm writing a novel, I feel like I have so much room to work with, so much of the story and characters that I can explore. There's a sense of freedom that I don't have when writing a picture book. But I love the unique challenge that writing a picture book presents. A well-written picture book is one of life's best things.

That said, my favorite thing to write is the verse novel. It combines the conciseness of a picture book with the freedom of a novel. It's the best of both worlds!

Now I really respect you!  (I have to admit I googled verse novel) A verse novel sounds very complicated. I admire the skill it would take to do that! 

The next question comes from your social media presence. You seem to have a heart for parent-child connection through reading.  I notice you offer a free ebook, "How to SUPERCHARGE your story time," and I see that you tweet regularly highlighting activities that parents can do with their children after reading a story.  What advice do you have for parents in today's world of technology when it comes to reading with their children?  Why do you feel it is so important? 

Books and reading played a significant roll in my childhood. Though I don't have a lot of specific memories of reading with my parents, poetry, stories, and books are woven in to my childhood memories. I remember books being around, especially Dr. Seuss and Shell Silverstein, and I can still hear my mother's voice reading The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. And I remember my mother telling me about her favorites and recommending some of them to me as I got older.

There are lots of reasons to read with your children, not the least of which is that it helps establish a foundation for learning. But to me, the best reason to read with your kids is because of the way it helps you connect with them. Sharing a story is like sharing an experience that opens doors to discussions and even more experiences! That's the thought behind my Read, Discuss, Do! social media campaign. When you read with your child, discuss the story with them, and do a fun activity together, you are creating fond memories, building a foundation for learning, and creating connections that will last a lifetime. 

My advice to parents is to read with their children every day, even before their children are born. I also think it's important to make "story time" as pleasant as possible. Some kids are always willing to curl up with their mom or dad for a story. Other kids want to go, go, go! So, work with your kid. Read to them while they're busy playing with blocks or splashing in the tub. Read to them at bed time or on the road. Don't stop just because they get old enough to read on their own. Talk about the books you read together, and the books your kids read on their own. Draw pictures, act out stories, make the recipes at the ends of books! You can check out #ReadDiscussDo on Facebook and Twitter for more simple ideas. 

I also think it's important to delay your children's access to electronic devices as long as possible in order to encourage them to seek more healthy options of entertainment. This may seem obvious, but look around at how many parents are letting their toddlers play games on a tablet or phone when they are in public. It's disheartening. Give your children books instead! (Or let them get bored. It's good for them.) 

I couldn't agree more! Keep up the great work producing resources for parents! I love the #ReadDiscussDo activities that you suggest!

Finally, I have to ask, what's next? Do you have any upcoming publications that you can share with us?

Corey and I have a picture book forthcoming with Scholastic titled TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, which will be published some time in 2019, with a sequel to follow. I also have more news that I hope to be able to announce soon. Stay tuned!

WOW! Congratulations!  Two truck books on the way AND the promise of an announcement!  We will definitely be watching for your good news and celebrate with you!

Click here for Rebecca's website

Author bio:

Rebecca J. Gomez doesn't know much about building a tree house, but she is an expert at setting up blanket forts! When she isn't building forts or writing books, she enjoys reading, making recycled art, and hanging out with her family. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, three kids, two poodles and one parrotlet. Visit her online at

Once again, Rebecca, thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and chat with me. I learned a lot from your answers and I wish you all the best!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A picture is worth 1,000 words

A friend recently posted this about her efforts starting a business.  For me, it applies to my writing. How does it apply to you?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Five Minute Friday (or Saturday) - SIMPLIFY

The word this week is “Simplify.”

Honestly, writing about “simplify” gives me heart palpitations and a nervous sweat.  I put so much pressure on myself to once and for all “get organized.” I think of my closets, my drawers, my schedule…

I would love to be able to open each drawer or cabinet of my home and proudly say things like, “Here are my cleaning supplies, alphabetized by name brand.”


“In this drawer are my socks, coordinated by color and outfit for which I might need them.


“Here is this month’s calendar…all perfectly coordinated with no double bookings or emergencies.”

But honestly, that is not how I live. And probably never will.

So how could I possibly have anything to say about the word, “Simplify?”

I went to the expert—my 14 year old son. I asked him what was the first thing that came to mind when he thought of the word, “simplify.”

His answer made me smile.

“Math,” he said. 
“What?” I asked.
“You know, fractions.”
Simplify fractions.  I love it!  It was enough to get my brain moving in a different direction.
Maybe my post doesn’t have to be about organization!

And I thought of Jesus. What would he have to say about this topic?

Jesus told Martha, the queen of all organization, that only one thing was needed.


That was sitting at his feet and spending time with him.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

So that is my challenge to you and to myself—
Have I done the one thing that is the most important? 

I’m pretty sure the rest will fall into place.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Writing tips with Jackie Yeager, Author of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHTBULB


 Thanks for joining me again today, Jackie. Congrats on the release of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHTBULB! I appreciate you being willing to share some writing tips with us.  I would love to glean some wonderful words of advice from you!   

First of all, I would like to talk about character development.  As an author, how do you go about creating your characters to be unique and realistic?

That’s a great question and something that’s so important because a story may have the most fabulous plot, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters or relate to them on some level, they’ll never read to the end. When I create my characters, I usually have some hard to define ambiguous quality that gets me wanting to write about them in the first place. It could be their way of speaking, their mannerisms, or their determination—something that pops into my head and makes me want to write about them. Once I have an idea like that in my mind, I can add on to it. The most important thing for me when creating characters is to make them memorable. So hair color or height is not so important but a unique characteristic is. 

When I created Kia Krumpet, the main character in Spin the Golden Light Bulb, I knew that she was going to be a very determined and focused eleven year-old, with tunnel vision—a sort of one track mind when it came to the competition in the story, the Piedmont Challenge. From there it was easy to add characteristics like biting her nails—a lot and talking about the Piedmont Challenge—a lot in almost an obsessive way. I had to be careful not to make her stereotypical though, and instead unique. I guess that’s the challenge we all have when creating characters!

Secondly, I am curious about how to develop sequels.  When you began this novel, did you plan it to have a sequel, or did that just come about naturally through the writing process?

I guess I would say it came about naturally through the writing process. When I originally began thinking about the plot for Spin the Golden Light Bulb, the first of THE CRIMSON FIVE books, I had no idea that it could turn into more than one book. At first, the story was simply about an over-the-top creative problem solving competition based loosely on my experience as an Odyssey of the Mind coach. But as the ideas began to solidify in my mind, I realized that the world I was trying to create was pretty big and it was going to be very difficult to fit all of my ideas into one book!

At what point then did you know you had sequel material?

As I molded the plot, I soon realized with certainty that it would take more than one book for me to tell the entire story of these five kids. Breaking the story into two books was actually quite easy because it revolves around a competition and the different levels involved. So I decided to write a stand-alone book only, leaving the door open for a sequel, and developed a loose outline for the second book right away. 

Do you think there is potential for a third book? 

Yes, I do think there’s potential for a third book! With these five kids and the world they live in, it’s very possible. With that said, the sequel, is also written as a stand-alone book. But, never say never. I do have a loose outline written for a third, so you never know!

I hope that happens!  I think the whole process is fascinating.  As a writer of picture books, I admire the skill of creating a "world" as you have done!  

Once again, thank you so much for your willingness to talk with us and share your writing tips!  I wish you all the best with SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHTBULB and its sequel.  

About the author: 
Jackie has a Masters degree in Education, lives in Rochester, NY with her real life prince charming and two royally amazing teenagers, and would live in a castle if she could.  When she is not living in her own fairytale world, she spends time reading, practicing yoga, and cheering for the crew at marathons, triathlons, cross country meets, track meets, and hockey and baseball games.  She does a lot of cheering!  She is also a former coach of a middle school Odyssey of the Mind team who once upon a time competed at the World Finals.  They may or may not have been the inspiration behind the book, and even its sequel.

You can find Jackie at her website:

Also on Facebook and Pinterest

Friday, January 5, 2018

5 Minute Friday - MOTIVATE (My title: Know Your WHY)

I am back in action with the Five Minute Friday Blog Link-Up.

Today’s word for five-minute-Friday is MOTIVATE.

Recently at school (I’m a teacher) we had a training that helped me unlock MOTIVATION on several levels.
            First, we were talking about motivating our students. 
            This also transferred to us as educators.  We need motivation.

The big idea was the importance of knowing your “WHY.”  

When you know WHY you are doing something, and you buy into that reason, you become very motivated to do it!

-Students need to know WHY they are learning or studying certain topics.

-Teachers need to define WHY they are in the classroom each day.

-All of us, for whatever task we undertake, have a WHY, but maybe we have never taken the time to define for ourselves what it is.  

Knowing your WHY (or even reminding yourself of it) can make all the difference in the world.

Two quick examples:
My teaching:  Being a teacher requires a wide skill set.  Not everything I do is enjoyable. But here is my why—I’m there for the students. To help nurture them into becoming adults who will reach their potential.  Reminding myself of that flips a switch in my heart while I’m doing some of the “not so pleasant” stuff.

My writing:  My why is to PLANT SEEDS OF TRUTH in young hearts. That gives me focus, even as I’m selecting the topics I want to write about. Also, If I’m just out to make a name for myself, despair is going to set in quickly. But my WHY keeps me motivated to continue.   

In conclusion,
Knowing your WHY…it’s a game changer!  It MOTIVATES!

What is your WHY for the task God has given you to do?