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Friday, March 23, 2018

Five Minute Friday - ROUTINE

Is ROUTINE a positive or a negative?

  • 5:30 alarm goes off--
  • I “rest” a bit more, then shuffle down to make my coffee.
  • That Keurig I was sure I didn’t need is probably the item I use most in my kitchen. (Thanks, Doug!)
  • Cup of coffee under the covers while I “think/pray” then off to wake up the kids, take a shower, and rush off to work. 

That’s what I do. Monday through Friday.
Day after day after day.

Then there is WORK ROUTINE
Classroom routines are a must.  You know, the "ways" that you do things so students know that you are organized and what to expect. 
  • I have a "greeting"
  • I have the "sonrisa de hoy"  (a daily meme)
  • I have the "daily conversation questions" (most days)
  • I have a way I stamp homework, and a system of points for completion and partial credit.  
  • Homework always "counts."
  • I have an agenda I keep on the Canvas Calendar.

The list goes on...

But in the classroom, I don't want to get so "routine" that my students dread coming to class.

So I work hard to be creative, trying to keep it fresh--doing different things, in different ways, appealing to different learning styles. I incorporate technology and student choice.  I connect content with culture. I give comprehensible input.... You get the picture...

So enough about teaching!

Can a ROUTINE be negative? 

I think it can. If my life is in such a pattern or box that I never glance around to see what others are going through, then that is a problem or at the very least a red flag.  I never want my routine to keep me from seeing people the way Jesus sees them. And I especially do not want to miss opportunities to be light and life to those who are hurting and in need of someone who cares.

The bottom line--

I want to say yes to routine to prevent chaos, 

but I want to be willing to

drop my routine when God places a person or task along my path for a reason.

What about you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Promo and Author Interview with Annemarie Riley Guertin..HOW THE FINCH GOT HIS COLORS

I recently became acquainted with a fabulous group of writers.  We all have one thing in common.  We are 2018 debut picture book authors.  We have a new website that promotes our books.  You can find all of us at:  Fireworks and Foliage Debut Picture Book Authors and Illustrators

One if the authors is Annemarie Riley Guertin. Her book, HOW THE FINCH GOT HIS COLORS recently released.  I'm thrilled for her accomplishment, and wanted to take a moment to interview her and get the inside scoop.  Her book looks so beautiful with its vibrant colors!

Book blurb from AMAZON:

Many years ago, before the world bloomed in magnificent colors, the Earth lay stark and gray. The animals that graced its skies and roamed its lands were the colors of dirt, clay, and stone . . . 
. . . until Rainbow descended to bestow her colors on the creatures of the world. Each bird asked for a bright and beautiful color: green for Parrot, red for Cardinal, and yellow for Canary. But will there be any colors left for little Gouldian Finch? He soon learns the power of patience and the beauty of all creatures. Based on a Belgian folktale, this beautifully told and illustrated tale is a timeless treasure for every collection.

Hi Annemarie, I am thrilled to have you joining me today on my blog. I can't wait to get started with my questions...

I see that you are an elementary teacher. How did that help you as you shaped your story?

Being an elementary teacher plays integral part in the stories that I create. I have a front row seat (every single day) for the audience that we are writing books for.  I know what captures their attention, what they wonder about, and what types of books they favor. I also know firsthand where the gaps are in the market place for this audience.

Finch was written out of necessity. I was teaching a unit of study on folktales as part of the Common Core standards. I had a few folktales in my collection but many of them were read in Kindergarten and my students already knew them (The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk.) I really wanted to expose my students to lesser known folktales and that is where I hit a wall.  I had a bit of a challenge finding ones that were standalone picture books. Many titles were found in anthologies that are no longer used in public school classrooms.  After pulling a handful from libraries, I remembered my aunt had given me a collection of books and one of the had folktales in it. I pulled one out that was written in the 1920’s and that is where I found How the Finch Got Her Colors.  It wasn’t a story per say, it was more of a short story with a moral. I was drawn to it and knew if I tried my hand at it I could create a story using the characters and the moral. So, I sat down and got to work. That is how the Finch was born 😊.

What has been your students' reaction to your book?

My students were in awe the first time I read it to them. The illustrations are so vibrant that they pull you in. 

I agree! Your book is absolutely stunning. I love all the colors. 
Because your book is a folktale, I'm interested to know what lesson you hope children uncover as they read the story of Finch?

In terms of lessons, I want my readers to connect with the messages of patience and friendship. Patience comes with practice and at 5 and 6 it’s still not an easy concept to grasp. In the scene where Finch is awaiting his turn, Helena’s illustration captures that emotion so beautifully you don’t even need the text to figure out what’s happening. In fact, I stopped on that page and had the children discuss the illustration and all of them made the connection that Finch felt sad because he waited and then the colors ran out. They connected emotionally with his sadness and the feeling of being left out.
The other message I want readers to connect with is friendship. The birds realized that something was wrong and wanted to help their friend. The true meaning of friendship is something I think they can and will relate to as well. 

Solid messages for children! My next question is about your experience as a new author.
Many people aspire to write children's books. What advice can you offer them based on your journey to publication? How did you find the right match with your publishing house?

When I set out on this journey I had no idea where to begin. I started with contacting a local author and asking her for advice.  She offered one piece of advice and that was to join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating). She told me that everything I needed to know would be on this site. So, a few weeks later I joined. I read every forum on publishing that I could find. I researched how to write a query letter and where to send unsolicited manuscripts as I didn’t have an agent (I still don’t for that matter!). I also found a few people who were willing to critique my story. After a few weeks of editing both my story and my query letter, I felt confident enough to send my story out. I selected a few publishers that were open to unsolicited manuscripts, sent them off and waited to hear. To my surprise in 2 months time I had a few offers on it! Of the 4 contracts I was offered, I narrowed it down to two. I reached out to authors from each of the publishing companies to ask about their experiences. I spoke with the CEO’s of both publishing houses and asked a lot of questions. I was given the contracts to review and I went with Familius. From my first email with them, through the phone calls etc. I knew this was the place for Finch. Everyone in the Familius family has been wonderful to work with. It has been an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be experiencing.

The best advice I can offer aspiring authors is to ask someone outside your circle to critique your work. Your friends and family love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. You need someone who doesn’t have a personal connection with you to evaluate your writing. I would also strongly encourage them to join SCBWI. One last piece of advice is not to give up. There will be many nos along the way and those can get you down-- but just remember J.K. Rowling didn’t take no for an answer 😊imagine if she had?!!

It sounds like it has been a wonderful journey...and thanks for the excellent advice.  I really appreciate your willingness to stop by and share your story. I wish you the best of luck with Finch as well as your future writing endeavors!

Author Bio: Annemarie Riley Guertin graduated with a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from Wheelock College and a master's degree (summa cum laude) in elementary education from Fitchburg State University. Annemarie is an adjunct early childhood professor and a first grade teacher. She lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, with her husband, Michael and their two children.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book recommendation--LITTLE RED'S RIDING 'HOOD by Peter Stein

Hey everyone-- I found a new favorite book and I just have to share!

LITTLE RED'S RIDING HOOD by Peter Stein with pictures by Chris Gall

It is a wonderful example of humor, word choice, and kid appeal in a picture book and just have to share it with you.

It is a winner of the 2017-2018 Young Hoosier award, and for good reason.  

As you read the book, you will understand why... such a fun read from cover to cover!

The book plays on the beloved story of Little Red Riding Hood, done "transportation" style.

Little Red Riding Hood is "Little Red the scooter," and the Big Bad Wolf is "Tank, the King of the Road."

Here are some of the word plays that made me smile!

"Poor Granny Putt-Putt is feeling run down." 
"Vroom! Didi-didi-didi"
"Well, burn my rubber!"
"They've got the goods to make Granny feel showroom-new!"
"Something felt out of alignment."
"Why, Granny! what big wheels you have."
"That crash cooled his engines for good."

I loved it all!  Especially the ending which I will let you read to find out...but its a happy one.

Happy reading!

You can visit Peter Stein at

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Author interview with Katy Farber about new book release SALAMANDER SKY

I recently became acquainted with a fabulous group of writers.  We all have one thing in common.  We are 2018 debut picture book authors.  We have a new website that promotes our books.  You can find all of us at:  Fireworks and Foliage Debut Picture Book Authors and Illustrators

One if the authors is Katy Farber. Her book, SALAMANDER SKY released this week. I'm thrilled for her accomplishment, and wanted to take a moment to interview her and get the inside scoop.  Her book looks fascinating!

Here is the link where you can order SALAMANDER SKY online:

Katy, thanks for stopping by!  I'm so glad you could join me today to talk about your new book, SALAMANDER SKY.  If you don't mind, let's get right to the questions!

It seems like you have a true passion for nature.  Have you always had this passion, or was there a life experience that caused it to exist and/or grow? 

I remember visiting my grandmother and wading up the stream behind her house. I loved the way the mud felt between my toes, and discovering growing tadpoles among the mossy rocks. But I also remember my parents calling me in from the creek, saying, that water is polluted! The pipe above stream is pumping in waste! I was outraged in my 8 year old body. I wrote a series if tiny books about that creek, a local river, and a giant teddy bear that was missing an eye. Turns out, the bear saves the creek and river from pollution. 

The tree behind my house was my world away from everything. I would take my pillow up into the giant tree and read, draw and daydream for hours. These memories fueled the kind of writing I do today. 

I can see how the wading experience would leave quite an impression on you as a young child. I love that you were a writer even from a young age. I'm also fascinated by the giant tree--that seems like something out of a book. Every child should have a tree like that! I know I would've loved one.

My next question is... what inspired the story Salamander Sky?

Salamander Sky was a poem I wrote when considering the brief, magical, and fleeting migration events on the dirt road in front  of my house. I had always loved searching for salamanders and frogs in the spring, and had been helping them cross safely for years. Then I had my daughters, and I knew I wanted to share this with them. We have gone out and helped the salamanders and frogs cross since they could stay up late enough to join me.  I thought about how I could inspire kids and families to head out into the rainy nights and experience the magic themselves, and I wrote this story. 

But really, the inspiration started long before that, when I found my first newt in a Pennsylvania creek and found it fascinating and beautiful.

That sounds like a really fun parent-child adventure! For those of us who have not ever experienced a salamander crossing, can you describe the experience more in-depth? What is the highlight of experiencing it? If you go out to try this, what should you bring? What should you wear?  

The highlight for me is when the light from your flashlight falls on a tiny, vulnerable creature, and you go to it, carefully pick up, visit for a moment, and release it safely. You see the tiny toes, the round eyes, the long tail. There is a deep connection, a feeling of purpose and warmth in knowing that you helped this creature survive. 

You should wear all your rain gear, rain books, a reflective vest, and a headlamp. If your children are very young, a bucket helps for placing the animals in gently for the crossing. You should wear a ball cap so water doesn't drip into your eyes, and prepare to get wet! It is all part of the experience. You are also teaching your children to not be afraid of the night and dark. Of course, be on the constant lookout for cars and have a plan for moving to the side of the road immediately if one is coming, no matter what.

I think I found the next thing to put on my bucket list. Absolutely fantastic!  Thanks for sharing! My next question is in regards to those who read SALAMANDER SKY. What take-away do you hope your readers gain from your book? 

I hope that readers take away an awareness of the importance of salamanders to forest ecology and the biodiversity of our world, and how they can participate in citizen science to help vulnerable populations of different species. I hope readers fall in love with the salamanders like I have, and vow to protect nature in all the ways they can. I also hope we inspire more girls to become scientists and activists. 

I love your answer!  I hope they they gain those take-aways, too!  I am also curious, who is your illustrator?

I feel so lucky to have Meg Sodano's incredibly beautiful and moving illustrations in this book. They extend and deepen the story, they inspire, they transport, and they so clearly teach about the spotted salamander species, and April and her mom's experience and joy in helping them. 

Let's get practical. I'm sure you have a few writing tips and techniques up your sleeve that could really help beginning writers. Would you mind sharing some advice?

Write with reckless abandon. Explore your world through words, write about what bothers you, how you think the world should be, whatever is in your mind. Silence your inner critic and anyone else who limits your ideas. Bring a journal with you everywhere-- capture ideas and your thoughts before they move on. 

Those are some excellent words of wisdom. And, I just have to you have any other future works to promote? 

I have two other works in various phases right now, but I would love to share about my middle grade eco-adventure novel published in 2015 called The Order of the Trees (Green Writers Press).  Cedar was found as a baby under an old growth tree in the northern Vermont woods.  She’s as different from the other kids as she could be. Cedar finds her first friend, Phillip, and shares her forest home with him. When Cedar suddenly falls ill Phillip has to figure out why and fast-- before he loses her forever.

I learned something new about you today. I didn't know that you are also a middle grade author. That is so wonderful. A big congratulations on your 2015 eco-adventure novel, and now, with this debut picture book. SALAMANDER SKY looks very fascinating!  I wish you all the best.  Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with me today!

Katy Farber website

Katy Farber is a writer, researcher and educator from Vermont. She has loved and defended salamanders since standing in a Pennsylvania creek at the age of ten. Salamander Sky is her first picture book. Her other book for children is a middle grade novel called The Order of the Trees, which won Green Earth Honor book award in 2015. She also writes about education, the environment, parenting and sustainability for various websites and publications.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Are you a debut picture book author for July-Dec 2018? We want you to join us on this site!

Fireworks & Foliage

Are you a debut picture book author for the months of July-December, 2018?  If so, then we want you to join us!

Laura Renauld is currently organizing a promo website for us.  Click below:

Link for Fireworks & Foliage debut author website

If you go to the JOIN US tab and click on the google form, it will collect all of your info so that it can be added to the website.

Hope you join us!

FLAPJACK FRIDAY #50PreciousWords Challenge 2018 (my entry)

Vivian Kirkfield is holding a challenge on her blog to write a complete story in 50 words or less. It must have a beginning, middle, and end. The title is not included in the word count. is my entry.  (It is 47 words)

Link to Vivian's website:

Flapjack Friday

Flapjack Friday,
Hip, hip, hooray!
Each Friday night,
A holiday.
Pour the batter in a pan,
Heart, star, or circle?
Dad's the man!
Dad flips them high,
Then to my plate.
Butter, syrup,
Don't make me wait!
Come and get it!
Don't delay,
You're invited...
Flapjack Friday!