How to Keep Your (and My) Eyes On the Real Prize

If I start thinking about how many eyes (read: opinions) are needed to bring a book to a child, I can get overwhelmed to the point of resorting to cleaning the refrigerator.   


But, it is important to step back and remember to write for (NO! Not Santa!) this little girl. Me. The little girl who wanted to tell Santa about my Christmas list and who wanted to please my parents (who wanted me to be a “big girl” and sit on Santa’s lap for a cute picture), but I was scared of him and he smelled bad. So while it looks like a Hallmark moment, in my memory, it is full of layers. If I focus on writing for this little layered girl, I stop thinking about infographics and gatekeepers and suddenly, writing a story for that girl feels like what I really want to do. Does this ring true for you?

The Michigan Reading Association Summer Literature Conference Is Almost Here!


When I accepted the invitation to speak at the 2015 Michigan Reading Association Summer Literature Conference on Mackinac Island, July 8th/9th seemed so far away. But now, here we are on the almost-eve of the conference and I’m really excited. Aside from the obvious way the Island captivates (no cars allowed!), it will be a treat to be surrounded by lit lovers at every turn. I’m looking forward to sharing my talk, The Intersection of Fiction and Nonfiction, with teachers and librarians and the mind-expanding discussions that always follow. Safe travels to all who are headed to the place where time forgot but fudge survived. 

Let me know if I’ll see you there! 

Hook of the Book Illustrators (and Authors) Day

PictureLet’s go!

Our Michigan SCBWI chapter has been busy creating a stellar spring conference for illustrators (and anyone interested in how art influences storytelling). Although I am drawing-challenged, I am particularly excited about the opportunity to learn how art moves story forward.  Here’s a link to the registration and more information. Maybe I’ll see you there? May 16th in Dexter, MI

Drowning in Your To-Do’s? Try This Approach.

It’s not about time management, it’s about energy management.”
                                                                         — Kat Cole, CEO of Cinnabon 

Having just returned from five days away from my busy life at home to attend the extremely busy SCBWI International Conference in NY, I am a bit wacked to spend time posting on my blog this morning. But on my flight last night, I read the brilliant quote above and decided I would heretoforward adopt it as my mantra. I thought you might like it, too. 

Kat says managing our energy means doing more of the activities that fill up our tanks and less of those that deplete it. For me, that means:

  • more writing/less talking about writing
  • more strategizing with others about how to make their dreams come true/less pouting about how hard it seems  
  • more letting go of words and actions that don’t feed my intentions/less hanging on because I might need them some day. Hey! That applies to shoes, too!

Try this re-framing and let me know how it works for you. But only if that fills your tank…

Connection Isn’t Only Social Media


Do you ever have that feeling that something amazing is about to happen? I do. In fact, I’ve been carrying around that feeling for seven days now. Every hour or so, the skin on the back of my neck tingles and I can feel how I’ll feel the moment the amazing thing is revealed. Weird, eh? 

This has happened before and I wish I could correlate it with an actual amazing thing, but alas, that isn’t the case. Most of my amazing things seem to happen out of the blue. Boom!  I open my email and there is the offer for the contract three months after the possibility was dangled. Boom!  There is the “yes” on a research grant although I’d had no confirmation that the application was received. Boom!  There is the invitiation to speak at a great conference I’d never set my sights on. 

But during this current round of feeling like something amazing is about to happen, my view has changed. I’ve realized that events about me are happening without my present knowledge and this could be the cause of the feeling. Really weird, eh?

Maybe a teacher is using A Warm Winter Tail in his classroom and the children enjoy it. Or a conference planner is searching for nonfiction writers and my name pops up (thank you, the wonder of google). Or maybe an editor opened an email with my manuscript that she didn’t know she needed until that moment. Of course, my view is only positive. Because, why not? 

This is happening to you, too. Events are being played out about you without your present knowledge. (Only positive events, though.) Because despite living in a transparent world, we don’t know everything about everything that happens — yet. But, the magic is that we are all connected somehow. After five decades on this wonderful planet, I’m pretty sure about this. And that connection causes ripples like wind across a snowcovered field and it also causes tingles on my neck.  

Amazing, isn’t it?  

Floyd Cooper (and Tara Lazar) Helps me Get It


Remember that PiBoIdMo adventure I posted about recently? I love it because it gives me permission to throw ideas out there without mental-censoring. And the posts Tara Lazar has lined up by creative people are always inspiring. Today’s post, however, did more than inspire. It shifted my thinking on a point that has stuck in my throat since I started writing picture books:

You must leave room for the illustrator” <finger wagging>

In picture book writing speak, this means that we don’t need to AND SHOULD NOT write in details (such as “the cinnamon-haired girl with the polka dot dress”) that can be illustrated. The marriage of art and words are what make a picture book effective. I understand this cerebrally, but have secretly rebeled because who knows my story better than I? Despite my appreciation — okay, slathering jealousy — of artists, I’ve always felt the story started with me and my direction is the right direction so maybe I can and should sneak in few sign posts along the way. 

But the amazing artist, Floyd Cooper wrote today about his Muse and how he lost and found it again. He said he is most inspired by, “a text that sings, that embraces my imagination and injects it with energy.” That makes sense to me, but when he said, 

“Good story inspires great art.”

I finally Got It. It isn’t about leaving room for the illustrator. It’s about writing story good enough to inspire great art. My throat (and intention) is now clear and I’m looking forward to seeing how this impacts my writing. How about you?

I’m Supporting the We Need Diverse Books Campaign. How about you?

Raise your hand if you are aware of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Many of us don’t realize how few books are either published or marketed with characters that represent diverse communities. Here are some sad stats about this:

Of course we all want to see ourselves in the books we read. But we also need to see others who are NOT US in the books we read so we can expand our view of what is normal, right, and should be valued.

I’m supporting the Indiegogo campaign (click sidebar to the left for more info). I’m hoping the campaign will result in books both written and published for and about all children.

PiBoIdMo? What the heck is that?

Once again, I’m excited to participate in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) extravaganza that kicks off November 1st. She’s pulled together an amazing cast of inspiring people in the world of children’s books and I can’t wait to start my next 30 days with their insights. Plus, during PiBoIdMo I give myself permission to collect at least 30 off-the-wall-and-who-cares-if-they’ll-sell ideas. It’s all about the “ideas” — not the execution — and that is just plain fun. So thanks, Tara, for pulling this together.  

BTW, watch for a Mentorship interview with Tara coming soon!

Do you want to spice up your school visits? Better check out this webinar!


Don’t miss this ​90 ​minute ​live ​webinar ​with ​noted ​author, ​former ​teacher, ​and ​school ​visit ​expert, ​Suzanne ​Morgan ​Williams. ​Fees are: ​$25 ​for ​current ​SCBWI ​members, ​$30 ​for ​not-yet-members, ​and ​free ​to ​Michigan ​P.A.L. ​members. ​It will be great ​for ​illustrators, ​pre-published, ​and ​seasoned ​presenters. 

The ​best ​school ​visits ​are ​age ​appropriate, ​energetic, ​engaging, ​and ​add ​value ​to ​the ​curriculum. ​How ​do ​you ​design ​amazing ​presentations? ​Gain ​confidence ​in ​your ​performance, ​teaching, ​and ​negotiations? ​How ​do ​you ​get ​schools ​(or ​more ​schools) ​to ​hire ​you? ​Handouts, ​exercises, ​and ​the ​online ​presentation ​will ​help ​you ​plan ​programs ​based ​on ​your ​strengths, ​your ​books, ​and ​students’ ​needs. ​ 

Suzanne Morgan ​Williams ​will ​share ​her ​best ​tips ​for ​connecting ​with ​schools ​and ​negotiating ​fair ​deals. ​If ​you’re ​serious ​about ​giving ​presentations ​that ​leave ​schools ​buzzing, ​tune ​in. ​The ​webinar ​will ​end ​with ​an ​optional ​online ​question ​and ​answer ​time. ​ ​Homework ​and ​supplemental ​information ​will ​be ​forwarded ​to ​registered ​participants ​prior ​to ​the ​live ​event. ​Your ​link ​to ​the ​webinar ​will ​be ​active ​for ​three ​months ​after ​the ​event. ​Click below to register! Seats are limited and filling quickly…