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Writer, Unboxing


A few weeks ago, because of a work related transfer for my husband, we moved from Texas to Missouri. Not a move we planned, more of a dumped in our lap, huge life decision with little time to make it kind of thing. We never intended to leave the house we lived in or the community we’d grown to love over the past many years. We never dreamed we’d move away from our extended families or have to transfer our kids out of their school district, away from their lifelong friends.

And yet, here we are, starting over, unpacking twenty+ years of accumulated *stuff*, box by box. It’s been tough.

Families move all the time, of course, often unexpectedly. We’re certainly not alone in this experience, and realize we have much to be thankful for. So we’ve powered through the range of emotions, the countless hours of lost sleep, strained backs and biceps, and soggy, toppled boxes full of broken items in our flooded moving truck…and again in our storage unit. And our experience here so far has been rewarding. People are warm and friendly, the schools are impressive and welcoming, and the weather is beautiful (85 degrees in August/September feels much better than the 100 we’re used to).

Good times are ahead, I know, and I’m sure it will start feeling like home if I can just finish unpacking all our stuff! It’s hard not to get distracted…as I’m unboxing, I’m finding gems: photos, keepsakes, and precious notes my kids wrote in their early years. Things that I might not have seen for another twenty years, had I not had occasion to move them. And I’m revisiting story ideas, too–finding inspiration as I sift through my writing notebooks.

Change is hard, but with change comes tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. Life feels fresh, invigorating, and ripe with possibility, and that excites me! Boxes can wait, time to write!



An Agent Worth Waiting For

So. It has been eons since I have updated my blog. But, oh, I have been busy writing. I have a freshly revised middle-grade novel, a young adult novel still in progress, and many, many (many!) picture books. And oh, yeah, one more shiny, new, wonderful addition…an agent. MY agent. That sounds just as awesome as I dreamed it might:) I am ecstatic to report that I am now agented by the amazing, witty, wonderful Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Lit! She gets me. She gets my writing. She believes in me, and is excited to help me get my books out there, in readers’ hands!

I started writing for kids fifteen years ago. Mostly poetry, in the beginning. It took a long time to break into the magazine market. I remember my first Highlights acceptance. I think that’s when I felt I could legitimately call myself a writer (I was wrong, by the way. If you are actively writing and learning and writing some more…you are a writer!) Over the years I was fortunate to have more magazine sales. I joined SCBWI. I worked hard. I kept writing. I frequented Verla Kay’s amazing Blueboard, (which has now merged with SCBWI and is THE message board to hang out at, for anyone writing for children).

I started to have *almosts* with agents. I had R&Rs. I had personal rejections with great feedback. I MADE AMAZING WRITER FRIENDS WHO HELPED ME GROW AS A WRITER. That really does warrant all caps. Being actively involved in crit groups and socializing online with writers at all stages was crucial to getting to this point. Learning to take–and give–constructive criticism, staying abreast of the ins-and-outs of the ever changing KidLit market, and cheering on writer friends each step of the way…these things are all part of the journey. Necessary, life-changing, character-building steps along the path. And I hope to never stop growing as a person, as a writer.





Here I am, on the children’s floor of the beautiful Kansas City Library, signing my author-agent contract…and another shot of the children’s reading area. #LoveThisLibraryIMG_3528

And in front of the 25-foot book spines that line the library’s parking garage


And this is the giant chess board on the rooftop terrace of the library. That’s right, they have a rooftop terrace! I could have spent the entire day in this library, but only had a couple of days in Kansas City. Put it on your library bucket-list! It is truly amazing!







Picture Book Writing

Even when I’m working on a novel, I can’t stop writing picture books. I. Love. Picture. Books. Playing with words, creating fun characters, telling a funny or quirky or touching story, all in just a few hundred words. It’s the best kind of magic.

I’m super excited to be participating in PiBoIdMo again, and coming up with more fun picture book ideas! It starts in just a few days, so if you love writing picture books and you’d like to learn more about it, click on one of the PiBoIdMo images in the sidebar. Hope to see you there!

Summer School 2014 for Kidlit Writers

Looking to be inspired? Work at your own pace? Have access to webinars and great info from successful kidlit authors and illustrators?

Me too!

Oh yeah, and it’s all FREE. The focus is on writing great characters. There’s still time to sign up for Nerdy Chicks Rule: Summer School 2014. Here’s the link: Kidlit Summer School 2014

Funny Stuff!


I was honored to be named First Runner Up (North America) in the 2013 Greenhouse Funny Prize contest, recently! I’m excited and hopeful…for my Ninja Baby series, my current YA WIP, and my new teaching position:-)

Congrats to Lisa and all the short-listers!

Also, thrilled to have sold another poem to the wonderful folks at Ladybug/Carus!

Happy Writing, friends!


Great Picture Books–without pictures (aka, Group Hug for text-only PB writers)

I write middle grade and young adult novels, but my first love was picture book writing. I love the challenge of telling a complete, entertaining story in a few hundred words. One that children and adults will want to read again. And again.

At least, that’s what I strive for.

Oh, but there are days I moan and groan and fear I’ll never have the satisfaction of knowing my picture books are *out there*, in the hands of readers.
It’s SO HARD, I cry.
So many doors are closed, I wail.
Yes, and especially for writers like me, who aren’t also illustrators, I shout. (to myself. in my head. though very emphatically.)
Authors who are also illustrators have two ways to wow an editor, I lament.
(But then, I imagine the flip side of that coin is that an author/illustrator has to wow an editor on both fronts. Hmm.
*Offers author/illustrators some of my pity-party cake and punch*)
Yes, if only the (enlightened, gorgeous, amazing) agents and editors who rep/acquire picture books could *SEE* what I see in my mind, as I read my 500 words of picture book text…
the expression on the main character’s face as the fun, twisty-bit at the end is revealed,
the illustrated subtext that would yield such fun discoveries for the reader,
the potential for another rich layer of understanding to be woven throughout, on each page spread.
They can’t possibly *get it* without *seeing it*!
Except, here’s the thing…
(this is the bit where I quit smacking my pity-party piñata)
They can.
Picture book editors–and agents who represent picture book authors–see hundreds of picture books each year.
Thousands, maybe, depending on their submission policies.
They can envision those amazing illustration possibilities.
This is their area of expertise.
A story can be great long before it becomes an illustrated book.
In fact, it pretty much has to be.
And agents and editors recognize great picture books, with equally great illustration potential, that are right for their list.
(this is the bit where I step away from the chocolate and pick up a pen)
Text-only picture book writers, group hug and pity-party favors for you as you go. And then, let’s get back to it.
There are great agents and editors on the lookout for great picture books. With or without pictures.
(And P.S., a shout out to the  illustrators with the amazing artistic vision and skill to infuse stories with charms the authors often didn’t even imagine, creating that 50/50 perfect marriage of great story + great pictures that = 100% perfect picture book!)

Pretty, yes?

Blanco River


There’s a small window…not more than a couple of weeks…when the colors are this pretty. That sliver of Fall when we see some reds, oranges, yellows. For the past several years, I’ve wanted to venture out over the bridge, brave the traffic rushing past, and inch my way along the narrow ledge to take this picture. I’ve missed the window every year, until now. Fingers crossed that soon there will be other windows of opportunity I hit just right:)



Austin Teen Book Festival 2012

Writers and book lovers, mark your calendars for this fabulous, free event next year. I took my daughters, 11 and 14, and all three of us were bubbling over with creative inspiration by the time we left. This is the first year I’ve gone, and I didn’t know what to expect. Here’s a rundown:

Amazing, kick-a$$ opening keynote by author, Libba Bray. She gave us a bullet-point list for life that included such gems as, “Testing is bullsh@#!” (referring to teachers being forced to stick to a strict curriculum focused on standardized testing, which leaves no room for encouraging the kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking that really makes a difference in the world), “Be nice!”, “Writing is revising!” and, “Serial killers are always interesting.” Here’s a link (thank you, Laura, for this post!): Libba Bray’s Opening Keynote ATBF12










Oh, and there were light sabers and a great video sing-along to Total Eclipse of the Heart (remember that one?)









There were six different panels, based on genre, with authors giving us an inside look at their writing process and a short Q&A with the audience. I had time for three panels…

“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” panel, with authors Sarah Rees Brennan, Libba Bray, Leigh Bardugo, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, and Rae Carson.










“What Would You Do For Love?” panel, with authors Tracy Deebs, Ally Condie, Kresley Cole, Jessica Shirvington, Tamara Ireland Stone, and Jessica Khoury.








“Real Life Happens” panel, with authors John Corey Whaley, Jesse Andrews, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, EM Kokie, and Jessica Lee Anderson. (John and Jesse were SO funny! And weird. And FUNNY!)










And of course we had to get in the giant Reached bubble for a picture, before we left! (Oh, and spend a small fortune on new books, autographed by the authors. Money well spent:)

The Morning After

My heart is heavy.

Yesterday, we took my mother in law to her new home…a room in the memory care wing of an assisted living facility. It wasn’t possible to talk to her about this ahead of time. To explain, to reassure, to ease her mind. Anything we told her would have been forgotten within two minutes. That’s the sad reality of Alzheimer’s. Her husband of sixty-two years–my father in law–was diagnosed with  blood cancer just as her Alzheimer’s was escalating to the point of necessitating 24 hour care. This morning, his heart and immune system weakened by chemotherapy, he is in a hospital ICU, fighting cancer, pneumonia, and a dangerous spike in his blood sugar, while his wife is waking up in a room completely unfamiliar to her, sure of only one thing: for some reason, her husband is not with her. She will ask for him every few minutes, all day long, for many days to come. She will wait for him indefinitely. And even if, at some point, she stops asking for him, she will love him forever. This much I know is true.

For information about Alzheimer’s, including ways to help find a cure: