Wondering how to combine ELA and STEM?

Author and empower-er Patricia Newman hosts a blog series called LitLinks for teachers and learners about how to connect English Language Arts (ELA) with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). She’s using children’s books as the connector. I was thrilled to receive an invitation to contribute to the series and talk about how to use STRETCH TO THE SUN: FROM A TINY SPROUT TO THE TALLEST TREE ON EARTH in the classroom. Click HERE to view the post. I hope you can use some of the tools I shared with your young learners. Let me know below if something resonates with you.

I hope you’ll follow Patricia’s blog and find her on Twitter. She’s working hard to support teachers and now we can support her!

How To Build a Better Story Without Writing It

PictureRecently I had the opportunity to be a special guest as part of the Picture Books and All That Jazz Workshop (PB & J) at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center. You can see I was jazzed about being part of this workshop. And a Highlights experience has been on my bucket list for years, so…CHECK!

Now, I’ve attended literally hundreds of workshops, webinars, seminars, sessions, intensives and breakouts over the years and frankly, I’m usually not surprised these days by “how to write a story” material. However, during the Highlights workshop, co-instructor, Darcy Pattison, offered an approach that I found both helpful and unique.  I’m going to give you the cliff notes version here. (If you want the longer, better version, you’ll need to attend PB & J next year!) 

Darcy is the author of many award-winning fiction and nonfiction children’s books and writing instruction books so she understands story making. She lead us through an exercise in which we we TALKED TO a partner about our work in progress picture book story. We took turns telling our story quickly, then in more depth, and finally in enough depth that we had to really think about details and layers.

All of this happened without one letter of the story being written (or typed).  Because we weren’t committed to something on paper or screen, we could morph it based on reactions from our partners and our own reaction when hearing it.

When it came time to write, we began with a story that had been tested and thought through.

Guess what? The benefit of the oral storytelling approach surprised me! It shifted my view and my future approach to works-in-progress. Darcy mentioned she uses this exercise with students in workshops, too, and they also make great strides.

​Innovative first grade teacher, Mrs. Sarchet in BC, Canada, takes the idea one step further and provides ‘loose parts’ for her students to build their stories before “capturing” them on paper or screen. Check out her blogs for more info.


“Telling a story from summer memories” Mrs. Sarchet

I’m hoping Darcy will add this element to her next workshop!

So if you are looking for a way to build your next story, find a partner, or a pet or even a microphone, and tell it before you write it.

Tell me how it goes!

Looking to Up Your Picture Book Game?


I’m pleased as punch to be a Special Guest for the fifth Picture Books and All That Jazz Workshop at Highlights. Every year, this Workshop receives high praise from attendees. The Workshop is run by award winning authors, Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski (also an author/illustrator) who focus on helping writers bring their manuscripts to higher levels. Here is the webpage from Highlights with much more information. A quick video below will likely get you all JAZZED UP. There are a literally only a few open seats so if you are thinking about it, don’t think anymore — just click TO REGISTER. Hope to see you there!

The Surprise, The Honor, and The Challenge

“Here lies one doubly blessed. She was happy and she knew it.”  — ​Gwen Frostic’s epitaph written by herself


The Surprise
On March 9th, 2019, during the Michigan Reading Association‘s (MRA) annual literacy conference, I was honored with their 2019 Gwen Frostic Award.

I hadn’t a speck of an inkling this was in the works. So imagine my confusion when I was packing up my belongings after a presentation and was commanded to the late afternoon general assembly by a dear friend, author, and MRA board member, Deb Gonzalez. I think her exact text read, “Get here. Now.” She immediately ushered me to a seat in the front row of a 1700-person packed room. Call me perplexed but I didn’t have to wonder long because about a second later, the Award was described and I was announced as this year’s recipient.

The Honor
​From the MRA websiteGwen Frostic Award
“In 2006 the Michigan Reading Association established a Board Award that would honor a Michigan author and/or illustrator. The candidate must have strongly influenced literacy in Michigan in any dimension of literacy: which may include but is not limited to: children’s fiction/nonfiction, young adult fiction/nonfiction, adult fiction/nonfiction, drama, song, poetry, newspaper, magazine or multimedia.”

Sara Gwendolen Frostic was a beloved artist, author, and lecturer sharing “her observations of the universe.” She was owner and president of Presscraft Papers, Gwen Frostic Prints, of Benzonia.  Gwen was awarded honorary degrees from many colleges and universities, was inducted into the Michigan’s Women’s Hall of Fame, and was even given her own day, May 23rd, known as Gwen Frostic Day in Michigan.

Her nature-inspired art themes resonate deeply with me as does her willingness to pursue her passion for creativity. Her art is breathtaking in its simplicity, the way it engages the eye, and in its respect for subject. Through Gwen’s art, we learn about the subject in its environment and like her printmaking technique, that subject is indelibly imprinted in our hearts.


The official Gwen Frostic website is linked HERE. I hope you visit and learn more about her and her work. PLUS, we now have a picture book about Gwen! NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY, a Michigan Notable Book,  was written by author friend, Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewan and published by Sleeping Bear Press.  Feel free to add this book to your collection and share with young readers.

The Challenge
The candidate must have strongly influenced literacy in Michigan in any dimension of literacy…” Although the Award language is past-tense, this moment has stoked my commitment to positively influence literacy in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I also challenge you — writer, illustrator, storyteller, teacher, librarian, parent, and/or guardian of our most special people on Earth — to positively influence literacy in any dimension that YOU can. 

Thank you to the Michigan Reading Association Board for this surprise, this honor, and this challenge.

To Gwen! To children! To books!

Pish, Posh, Let’s Get Cleaned Up


A quick look at the magazine rack at checkout counters reveals that January is the month to clean up and organize. I’m following suit inside my house but it dawned on me that I should peek into my digital home, too. 
Good thing I did because my online profiles looked like this…messy, cluttered, and disorganized. 

Cases in point:
1. My Google Knowledge Panel shows a book with no cover image and my profile picture is outdated. I’m in the process of getting verified as a the owner of that Knowledge Panel so I can make changes to it. Wish me luck.
2. The SEO site description on my website was clunky and didn’t reflect my current writing emphasis. 
​3. My Amazon Author profile was out of date even though I did revise it before the launch of STRETCH TO THE SUN in October.
4. My SCBWI profile was out of date. Gulp. 
5. My Facebook profile? Old and boring. Needed an overhaul. 
Thankfully, my Twitter profile was okay.
How do you look to the online world? Need a dustin’? I’m right in there with you. 

Agent Linda Epstein Dishes On Rejection

No nonsense literary agent Linda Epstein offers up some thoughts about rejection. The format you see below is created through an app called Thread Reader in which all the tweets in a thread are stitched together so you can read them more easily — like a blog post. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Read Linda’s thoughts and breathe them in. Remember that rejections are passes on work and represent opportunities.
Cheers, my friends.

What To Do While You Are Waiting. And Waiting. And Waiting…


Multi-published author, Lisa Amstutzoffers a helpful post for writers who are trying to traditionally publish their first book and experience long periods of time waiting for answers.

[Let me interject that published authors wait, too. In fact, I double dare you to find a published author that doesn’t!]

Remember Newton’s first law, “…a body in motion stays in motion?” It was meant to describe a physics concept but it also applies to writers — pre-published and published. We must keep moving toward our goals. Lisa helps us realize there are many ways to augment the goal of debut and sharpen our skills and connections in the process. 

What do you do while waiting that augments your career? 

The ARC is here and there’s no flood in sight!


The ARC, celebratory flowers from hubby, and a lovely note from the team at Charlesbridge.

Opening a package from your publishing company is a complete treat. Especially when you have an idea the package might contain the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from your latest book. It did and I am over the moon about this one.


On the cover alone, I adore the detail on the tree bark and foliage, the sweetness of the bear cub’s face, the rich sunny yellow behind the tree. And the font choices, oh the font choices! So many to consider and these are perfect. Artist Susan Swan and the design team at Charlesbridge have given readers a feeling of grandeur yet made the cover engaging and inviting. I CANNOT wait to hear childrens’ reactions. 

There are a few more sneak peeks of interior spreads HERE and they are equally awesome. Stay tuned for the book trailer currently under production with PookyHonk Productions.

I’d love to hear your reactions!

Is Fear Getting in Your Way?

Recently, a client who is working through the stages of my Find Me an Agent Match, Please service shared that fear gets in her way of submitting. When we discussed it further, she and I were both surprised to learn she did not have a fear of failure; she had a fear of success. It took some time to peel back the layers of this fear but she was open to learning why she, a grammarian at heart, sent out query letters with glaring sentence construction mistakes and obvious typos. She had even made the unforgivable error of addressing a query to “Mr. X” when it was directed to “Ms.  X.” 

Although her projects were ready for submission, she wasn’t. 

When I asked her what success looked like to her, she described a fairly dramatic scenario where she’d be on the road most of the time promoting at book fairs and presenting at book signings and school visits. Although this was exciting, it was daunting because she is a single mom of two children and because public speaking gave her the heebie-jeebies. We discussed how this scenario might actually play out. She realized she could say yes to people who had offered to help. She could find a balance between home and book life. And, she could send out submissions that reflected her years of work, talent, and her promise as an author. 

Is fear of success — or failure — getting in your way? Take some reflection time and see if you can let it go.