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Sunday, March 25, 2007


My local SCBWI is full of fantastic writers and illustrators. Not only are they supportive, creative, and great fun to hang out with, they are also talented! I just want to shout out to a few of my friends who have had some recent and well-deserved good news.

Congrats to Terry Pierce author of Tae Kwon Do! and Barbara Jean Hicks author of Jitterbug Jam. Their book were included on the Bank Street College Best Children's Books of 2007 list.

Mary Hanson was awarded the Zaniest Title from Publishers weekly for How to Save Your Tail*: *if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls... and cookies, too.

Well done!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


This is way off topic, but it does come under the umbrella of research about teens, so I'm not going to apologize! My boys - my son Trevor,his cousin Zack, and their friends Josh and Jeff - aka HYDRO HOT AND THE HYBRID BUFFALOES are the winners of the Oak Park High Battle of the Bands! My friend Tina promises that there is a story somewhere in this life experience - so that's my excuse for sharing!

The night was magical - the multi-purpose room brimming with teenagers are their parents, many of whom brought ear plugs. I must say, that each group was far more entertaining that I had imagined. It's not like I don't like rock music, I grew up in the rockin' 70's, after all! These kids were all terrific - full of energy and enthusiasm. Hydro played their set, and they were great - but I hear them playing in my garage on a regular basis. It's kind of like critiquing my own story. By the end of the night, we had no expectations for our boys. The final announcements were as exciting as an overtime play-off game. When all the bands had been announced, we realized Hydro was the only name left. I glanced over at the boys (who were of course not sitting with their parents.) I could only see Jeff's face. Jeff is normally pretty low-key, but his jaw dropped. The announcer said "First place goes to ...HYDRO HOT AND THE HYBRID BUFFALOES!" All the practicing, all the schlepping drums, all the pizza was all worthwhile!

Someday a Battle of the Bands will find its way into a story, and you will know where I did my research! Until then, I'm looking for a reality show that will to turn my garage into a music studio - we've got work to do!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Little Roaring!

Please forgive my indulgence - I try not to write to much about "me,me,me," on this blog, but I do want to share with those of you who might care! Like a Maccabee received a STARRED review in Jewish Book World! I am pinching myself.

Here is an excerpt:

Using the backdrop of the Hanukkah holiday, the author realistically captures the challenges of peer pressure and positive ways to overcome adversity against a bully. Written for children of all backgrounds, the story of Hanukkah is retold through the narration of the grandfather. Black and white cartoon-like pen illustrations add a comical flair and complement Ben's age appropriate and comic musings... this heartwarming novel marks a promising debut for this first time author. Kids will enjoy this book at Hanukkah time or throughout the year.

This is just the motivation I needed to keep writing!

Have a Happy Sunday!

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Friday, March 16, 2007

True Colors

I was sitting at my computer with The View airing on my television. Yes, shame on me, I do keep the TV on while I work. Cyndi Lauper, one of my favorite musical artists, was being interviewed. She spoke about the impact of her song True Colors, and of all the people who contacted her to share their stories. This song has touched hearts, given people strength, and helped heal wounds. I stopped typing as I watched Cyndi talk about how this has affected her, and I realized that what she has achieved with her song is exactly what we hope to achieve as writers. As artists it is easy to diminish our importance in the bigger world - but acknowledging and honoring the human spirit through our music and words is important, in fact essential.

Cyndi then performed True Colors, and I was mesmerized but the lyrics that I have heard countless times. For those of us who struggle with our own artistic journeys, these are words of wisdom.

Don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

Have a wonderful weekend – let your colors show!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

School Shout Out!

Last night I attended Reading Night at Walnut Canyon Elementary School in Moorpark. What a wonderful event! Along with a traditional book sale, students and families had the opportunity to attend small sessions including poetry programs, reader's theatre, bookmark making, creating illustrations, and more. The kids were so excited - some were even dressed up as their favorite book characters. The entire school buzzed with energy. I had the opportunity to present to a group of small group of students who were enthusiastic and responsive. What a treat!

In today's busy world of distractions, it is refreshing to see a community coming together to celebrate books!


Thursday, March 8, 2007


A friend of mine once gave me a poem called Sustainers. I have long lost the poem, but the impact has stayed with me. Sustainers are those people in our lives who we can count on, day in and day out. They support us, nurture us, celebrate our achievements, and lift our spirits in the dark times. When it comes to writing, which can be an isolating endeavor, Sustainers are a necessity. I am lucky to be a part of a wonderful SCBWI chapter, a community of Sustainers. This photo is of a few of my Sustainers - Alexis O'Neill, Yuki Yoshino, and Tina Nichols Coury, my close writing friends. Over the last twelve years they have read my manuscripts, graciously offered critiques, and shared countless baked goods and gallons of coffee. Writing may be a solitary process, but I am never lonely!


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

And They Call it Puppy Love

My childhood dog was a mutt named Bagel. By today's standards, he might be considered a high-end mixed breed, but we referred to him as a cockashpoodle - part cocker spaniel, part sheltie, and part poodle. I loved that dog. I thought he was the cutest thing going and I was proud to have such an adorable dog in my family.
He didn't do any tricks or predict natural disasters, but he always woke me up for school with a wet kiss and would bark until I dragged myself out of bed. He also listened to my tales of woe with sympathetic eyes. One night when I was a teenager, my mom woke me up because Bagel was sick with kennel cough. This was in the days before emergency veterinarians, so we were on our own to save him. My mom turned on the hot water in the shower and we sat all night in the steamy bathroom with our beloved Bagel laying across out laps. The next day, Bagel was miraculously better and that night he slept next to me. I knew it was his way of saying thanks. We lost Bagel when I was twenty two years old. I felt like I had lost my best friend, because I had. Many years later I came across a photo of Bagel and I was shocked to see that he was a scruffy, chubby, somewhat homely dog, not at all the prized pup that I had remembered. That's the power of puppy love.

As an adult, I have a weakness for a sweet pup. This probably explains why I have more dogs than children! I can't imagine our family without our furry friends. True, I need new carpeting, and my floors have been known to don a paw print or two, but it is well worth the price! My two Field Spaniels, Chester and Oliver, are loving, adorable, and so naughty! I once came home to find Oliver with a cereal box stuck on his head! Chester will eat anything within reach, including a sandwich that you only left for ten seconds. The problem is that he is so cute - he gives a look of innocence with his big brown eyes and can actually convince us that he didn't do it! Chloe is our little Bichon Frise, who is the boss of everyone. She is cute and sweet and the feistiest one of the bunch! Our family wouldn't be the same without any of them.

How does this relate to writing for children? From My Friend Flicka to Because of Winn-Dixie, there is no denying the importance of animals in children's literature. As writers we must remember that pets play a significant role in the lives of children. Pets provide unconditional love, emotional bonding, and friendship without judgement. The next time your story needs a new dynamic - add a pet!


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fostering Creativity

Writing is a craft. It is a craft that requires nurturing and inspiration, along with skill and knowledge. Most writers look for news ways to be creative and inspired. I remember years ago listening to the audio tape of Julia Cameron talking about THE ARTIST'S WAY. I realize she is most well-known for the implementation of morning pages - but it was something else she said that struck me. She spoke of the possibilities that open up when you allow yourself to be creative. In my own words that means when you let creativity in the front door, it's amazing what comes in through the back door. Julia said to notice the things you start doing - suddenly you will be making curtains for your windows. The concept gave me pause. If I spent time doing other creative things, I would run out of time to write! I didn't have time to paint, or sew, or even plant flowers. If I made the time for these pursuits, wouldn't it detract from my writing? I struggled with this notion for years - really! I found myself actually avoiding other creative endeavors in rebellion. But the universe gave me signs, and friends!

My friend Tina Nichols Coury is an illustrator/artist who made the decision to become a writer - and her first book about Mount Rushmore is coming out in the Fall of 2008. Tina showed me the similarities between art and writing - they are skills that require passion, commitment, and a tenacious spirit. She writes in her studio, surrounded by paints and canvases - and the colors nurture her words.

Then I had the blessing to have Julie Williams, author of ESCAPING TORNEDO SEASON, in my critique group. Julie is an artist's artist. She creates beautiful works of art - she loves pens and beautiful papers and incorporates photos into her art. Knowing Julie made me realize that different art forms will actually foster the creativity needed to write. Art nurtures art.

Finally, I took a wonderful workshop from author Robin LaFevers. She encouraged us to create collages of our stories to provide insight and inspiration. I was hesitant, tentative - but I felt myself beginning to let go. I went home and pulled out a stack of magazines. I cut and pasted with abandon. I looked at my final product with awe. It was my story - with details I hadn't yet discovered in my words. That's when it hit me. I am a writer. I am an artist. I finally gave myself the permission I needed to be a fully creative person.

Now I gotta go - I have to sew some new curtains.

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