Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

December 9, 2014

One Big Pair of Underwear Blog Tour – Writing with Kids by Laura Gehl

Yesterday I reviewed Laura Gehl’s engaging, wonderful picture book One Big Pair of Underwear. Today is my pleasure to have her stop by the blog and discuss ways to encourage and inspire kids to write.

A big thank you to Darshana for hosting me on this stop of my One Big Pair of Underwear blog tour.



Darshana asked me to talk about writing with kids.  Many authors agree that a big part of becoming a good writer is simply to write as much as possible.  Most of us have about a zillion bad stories to write before we write any good ones.  So here are three techniques I love for getting kids excited about writing:

  1. New Ending: Take a familiar story, whether a fairytale or a favorite picture book, and write a completely different ending. (Note: for parents, this is a good opportunity to take the annoying characters in the books your children have forced you to read over and over and kill those pesky characters off.  Or at least orchestrate a move to Antarctica.)
  2. Character Swap: What happens when Elephant and Piggy go into the Three Bears’ house and find cooling porridge? What happens when Cinderella visits a farm and finds cows with a typewriter?  Kids will love transporting characters from one favorite story to another and writing about the chaos that ensues.
  3. Editors’ Club: For older writers, have each kid type up her or his story and save as an MS word file. Then ask kids to swap stories and use “track changes” to edit one another’s manuscripts.   For kids who have email addresses, Google Drive is another great option to allow kids to comment on one another’s stories.

With the holidays coming up, you might also want to consider gifts that encourage kids to write:

  1. Very inexpensive: Blank lined notebooks with new pens and pencils
  2. Slightly more expensive but still cheap: Blank books without lines for writing and Some are simple blank books such as these and some come with stickers, markers, and word prompts, such as these.  You could also throw in some pens that write in multiple colors, which are lots of fun.
  3. Splurge: There are several companies that will take your child’s illustrated story and bind it into a real hardcover book. One company is Illustory, but there are other options as well.


If you’ve already done your holiday shopping, you can teach kids to fold their own “books” out of regular paper.  Check out one method for this here.

I wrote another post recently with additional ideas for getting kids excited about writing.  You can check out that post at

Happy writing!


Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, as well as four upcoming picture books: Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel; And Then Another Sheep Turned Up; Peep and Egg: I’m not Hatching; and Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick or Treating.  Her own kids love writing stories…including, recently, The Maze of Death (K, age 10); The Gangster (N, age 8); The Presidents (S, age 6); and The Rainbow, the Butterflies, and the Giant

November 15, 2014

SCWBI SF/South Bookstore Night at Hicklebee’s

scbwi This past week I attending the SCBWI event at our awesome independent children’s bookstore, Hicklebee’s. A lovely, casual mixer where members got to meet each other surrounding by the latest and greatest in books. You can check-out some of the photos on the SCBWI SF/South Facebook Page.

During the second hour of the two-hour event, Valerie and Ann, owner and manager of the store gave loads of tips on how to get your books onto the shelves, doing author visits, and more. I have tried to capture some of the tips and tidbits below. Hope you find them helpful!


Valerie Lewis and Ann Seaton from Hicklebee’s


  • When requesting a bookstore to review your book to get it onto their shelves please provide the following: Your Name, Title, Publisher and a Copy of the Story (for self-published folks a final copy, for traditional published folks an Advanced Reader or F&G). Be prepared to wait 3-4 weeks.
  • For people who are self-published, Hicklebee’s has set up a program which you can read more about here.
  • On average publishers pay $200-$300 to the bookstore to host an author event. This is needed to cover the overhead of setting up the event and promotional activities the store has to do.
  • For debut authors some publishers are setting up meet-and-greet dinners between the debut author and key people in the book community (bookstore buyers, librarians) to get the buzz started.

Tips for a successful author event

  1.  Be FLEXIBLE. There is no way a bookstore can predict whether there will be 5 kids at your event or 25. (My Takeaway: Prepare your main presentation for your target audience, but then have back-up plan ideas – for more people, fewer people, younger aged crowd, older aged crowd)
  2. Having people at your book event is the “icing on the cake”. They stressed that all the promotional work (newspapers, name on website, social media) to make you and your book known has already taken place. So do not feel discouraged if there is a low turn-out for the event. They provided an example where they only sold four books the day of the event, but at the end of the month they sold twenty-four copies for that author.
  3. Stop at the peak! Try to gauge your presentation such that you are leaving your audience wanting more. This the point before adults start playing with their iPhones and when kids start getting restless and fussing about. They did advise that figuring out the “peak” is something that comes with practice in front of an audience.
  4. Be Engaging! Figure out ways to be interactive with the audience. They spoke about Tim McCanna’s engaging event for Teeny Tiny Trucks. Since he is a musician he performed songs, had coloring sheets, and other activities to keep the little tikes attention.
  5. Other things that helps Hicklebee’s to build great promotional material is getting the following items from the author: multiple author photos (different photos), book and author blurbs, links to professional reviews. They mentioned a pair of authors that made a flyer.
  6. Keep crafts simple! Already have the pieces cut out, since you don’t want kids standing around because there weren’t enough scissors. (My Takeaway: It’s hard to predict how many people will show up. Also kids aren’t patient, for that matter neither are adults. 🙂 )
  7. Check out storytime or other author events at the bookstore to garner ideas.
  8. Courtesy tip – when promoting your author event at said bookstore, link back to that bookstore and not some other place.

Thank you Kristi Wright (SCBWI Volunteer), Ann & Valerie (Hicklebee’s), Tim & Naomi (Regional Advisers) for putting on a wonderful event!

Do you have any author event tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

November 11, 2014

Blog Tour: I’M MY OWN DOG by David Ezra Stein



Last week I reviewed the hilarious new book I’M MY OWN DOG. Checkout the review and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Today I am excited to share my interview with David Ezra Stein. The first book we read in our house by him was INTERRUPTING CHICKEN which was a constant request by my toddlers at that time. A few years ago I feel in love with his book BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED. I am constantly amazed my Mr. Stein’s talent in crafting engaging pictures books which are beautiful inside and out.

Q1) What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?

Hi Darshana! That is a lovely question. I guess I like to capture the storm of emotions that a kid feels every day. Frustration, elation, sadness. They all run so close to the surface for a child. Humor seems to come from these strong feelings. If you portray them in earnest, they can be hilarious. But that is not to say that they should be the butt of a joke, but rather, an example of a life lived to the fullest degree of passion. I like to create characters that CARE about something very much. It could be something that is not a big deal in the grownup world. But then, the grownup world has its fair share of trivia that one can get worked up about.


Q2) Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh, this is such a hard question. It’s kind of like: List the many, many foods that have ever nourished you. Anything that is strong, and funny, and touching, and colorful. So this includes textiles, Matisse, TV commercials, funny ‘80s movies, P.G. Wodehouse novels, Calvin & Hobbes comics, Tintin comics, Klaes Oldenburg sculptures, East African sculpture, Robert McCloskey, Uri Shulevitz, Sondheim, Gilbert & Sullivan—the list is different each time I write it!


Q3) As a beginning writer, I often hear write the story that drives you and not to worry about market trends. What advice do you have for beginning writers in finding that balance between what resonates with the writer and what is marketable?

Try to do something you’re fascinated by, or think is hilarious, or very scary, or whatever you are trying to evoke in the reader; try to come from that place yourself. What’s marketable is something people really want to read. And I think people want to see familiar things in a new way, and laugh. That’s what I try to do in my own work.


Q4) Your story “I’m My Own Dog” is so clever and witty. I love his personality. Can you tell us what inspired this independent character?

Thanks! He occurred to me as a voice in my head, speaking about himself. This is often how characters come to me. He told me the first few lines of the story: I’m my own dog. No one owns me, I own myself…. I was as attentive to this as possible, and tried to get it all down on paper as it was happening. Then I began the work of expanding him and his world. Anyway, I think he came from a desire to really master myself and my career. And to choose the way I respond to the challenges of life. That is true mastery, to me.


Q5) How is the dog handling his celebrity status? Is he begging for more stories?

Ha, ha! I have been knocking around a story where the man gets a cat as well. So far so good, but we’ll have to see if this book does quite well enough to warrant a sequel. It’s sort of up to the publisher.


David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York. You can learn more about him at his website, or keep up with him on Facebook.  

Be sure to checkout other stops on the blog tour:

11/3/2014 Smart Books for Smart Kid
11/4/2014 Read Now, Sleep Late
11/5/2014 Cracking the Cover
11/6/2014 Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
11/7/2014 The Fourth Musketeer
11/8/2014 Picture Book Palooza
11/9/2014 Randomly Reading
11/10/2014 Children’s Corner
11/11/2014 Flowering Minds
11/12/2014 Teach Mentor Texts
11/13/2014 KidLit Frenzy
11/14/2014 Literacy Toolbox

September 9, 2014

Interview with Jen Cullerton Johnson

jenYesterday I reviewed the enlightening story Seeds of Change. Today I am happy to share my interview with the author Jen Cullerton Johnson. She has published fiction and creative nonfiction in literary journals and leads writing workshops for elementary through highschool students. Her book, Seeds of Change, is about the life and work of Wangari Maathai, Noble Peace Prize Winner and founder of the Greenbelt Movement. Jen has also spoken on Green Literacy, the role of environmental books for children and adults with various organizations such as the EPA and the Green Schools Conference.

1. What inspired you to write Seeds of Change?

Wangari Maathai’s life is incredible. She is an environmentalist, scientist, and women’s right’s activist who inspired her country of Kenya to plant 30 million trees and in doing so helped give women skills to earn a living so they could feed their children. What moves me the most about Wangari’s story is her message of harabee, which means “let’s work together.” We can solve problems if we work together.

2. I noticed in your book you cover more than just the “planting of trees” aspect of Wangari’s life. You cover village life, education for girls, and activism. What did you want your readers to walk away with after reading your book?

I want young people to believe Wangari’s message: “Young people, you are our hope and our future.” Go plant a tree. Know that an idea as small as a seed has the possibility to grow into the tallest of trees. Work together.

3) I understand the book has made a significant impact on the students at Brier Creek Elementary School in North Carolina. Can you briefly tell us about it?

Brier Creek Elementary School wants to give every person in their school community a copy of the book in order for everyone to use it as a springboard to think, talk and act on change. Their music teacher wrote a song. Children designed art.

In the middle of seeking books for their own school, the students decided to donate books to a school in Kenya. Now, we are looking for people to donate copies of Seeds of Change. I’ve listed a link to the Lee & Low blog page for more information.

4. How can people help out?

You can:

  1. Post the [Lee and Low] link on your Facebook [or other social media].
  2. Donate a book
  3. Send us good wishes

5.  Any projects coming up in the future you would like to us to know about?

Yes, I am in the final stages of a new picture book about women in Liberia and then in Fall 2014 I am turning my attention to a totally new area: a memoir about teaching incarcerated youth through gardening called: The Karma Garden.

Wow those are really interesting topics. Can’t wait to hear more about it in the future. Thanks for stopping by.

December 17, 2013

Guest Post: Stacy McAnulty on Letter Writing Fun

I am delighted to welcome picture book author Stacy McAnulty to the blog today. She has a wonderful post about how to get kids writing letters! Also be sure to check out her yummy cookie recipe.

Letter Writing Fun | By Guest Blogger Stacy McAnulty


In this age of e-mail, texts, and Skype, the art of writing letters is becoming extinct. My debut picture book, DEAR SANTASAURUS, is an epistolary book—meaning a book written as a series of letters. My own children write letters to Santa annually. And it’s often the only letter they write all year. (I’m not including the obligatory thank you notes I make them pen after a birthday party.)

Here’s a quick list of letter writing ideas to get kids corresponding.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

No one would love a letter more than grandparents. These letters will likely be kept in a drawer or a shoebox forever. A kid can tell Gram about scoring a goal in soccer and tell Poppy about her speaking part in the spring play. (I used to love writing to my grammy because she always wrote back and she always included a dollar. Score!)

Dear Soldier,

You don’t need to wait until Memorial Day to remember our men and women serving in the military. Kids can write to soldiers any time. This is truly a win-win situation.  Look online for more information. Here’s one such organization

Dear Teacher,

I can still remember my favorite teacher from elementary school—Mrs. Chew. If a child has a favorite teacher, why not write a letter telling her/him. I have a feeling that a heartfelt note would mean a lot more than a #1 Teacher mug.

Dear Manager,

My kids are already expert complainers—usually it’s about my dinner choices. I don’t want them writing me a letter of complaint every time I serve a casserole, but if they have a legitimate complaint I will encourage them to share their discontent. If a kid has bought a toy that doesn’t operate as shown in a commercial, he/she could write a letter to the manufacturer. If a kid thinks a slide at the local park is unsafe, she/he can write a letter to the mayor.

Dear Author,

Authors love getting fan mail. If a kid loves a book, let the author know. Questions and suggestions are also welcomed. Of course, kids can also write to superstars like Taylor Swift, but an author is more likely to write back. (Writing—it’s what us authors do!)

Dear Pen Pal,

Pen pals can be arranged through school or online. They can also be cousins who live seven-hundred miles apart or friends met at summer camp. Pen pals are a great opportunity for enthusiastic letter writers.

The list of potential recipients for your child’s letters is endless. You can even start with letters between family members within your own house. Everyone can create mailboxes to hang on their bedroom doors. (Think of the Valentine’s Day boxes you make in elementary school for all the cards.) Then let the letter writing begin.

And now for the daily cookie…

Christmas Crackle

(visit for the recipe)


About Stacy:

Stacy lives in North Carolina with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She loves books, Christmas, letters, and sweets. DEAR SANTASAURUS (Boyd Mills Press, 2013) is her first picture book. For more information on Stacy, please visit


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