August 2018
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"If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good!" -- Dr. Suess
“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.” ― Shel Silverstein
"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder." --E.B. White
"Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That's a gift you have received from God. Don't waste it." --Laura Ingalls Wilder
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."--Annie Dillard

Book Deals


Great news! I recently signed a contract to write two books for an educational publisher.


I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to materials kids will use in the classroom. Children look to books for answers. Literature is powerful.


Some things that helped me connect with this market:


The Institute of Children’s Literature. They have writing courses and free podcasts. They will give you an edge in the field.

BOOK MARKETS FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS  2017 is what I use to find publishers looking for writers.



The challenge is to write 12 PB drafts in 12 months. They help you hone your skills, and meet others who love writing for kids. You can get critiques online in the forum. They also have webinars.



The society helps you connect with other authors in your area. They have conferences all over the country.  They also have writer’s groups and tons of helpful information. I met my writer’s group through SCBWI, and I love them.


Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s

Register August 15th

Prairie Writer’s & Illustrator’s Day 2018

Date(s) – 10/27/2018
9:00 am – 6:00 pm

Wojcik Conference Center, Harper College
1200 W. Algonquin Rd. – Palatine, IL 60067

The Running Dream

Just finished Wendelin Van Draanen’s THE RUNNING DREAM. What a great young adult book to use in a lesson on diversity and overcoming tragedy. See my last post on getting kids motivated to read.  It also won the Schneider Family Book Award.

The Running Dream

Getting our kids motivated to read

516450790-612x612After reading Kate Messner’s comment on Twitter asking teachers NOT to advise our kids to read at a certain Lexile range, I thought to do a quick post about research-based motivational strategies.


This is a big topic since we don’t want our kids reading at a level of frustration and throwing the book down, but we also don’t want to stick them in a box, and tell them they can only read books at a certain level.


We don’t want to pit kids against each other by sticking labels on them. What we really want to do is get kids excited about literacy. Then they will always be making personal advancements.


If we want to get kids motivated to read, here are some suggestions:


Websites: Create a website or blog with your child. There are lots of free sites out there to help you like . With Padlet, you can control the parameters and monitor what kids are doing.  And it’s private. There are lots of fun fonts and backgrounds to choose from. Kids are sharpening literacy skills when they build websites.  Plus, when they see Mom and Dad involved, they are making the connection that it’s important.

Digital storytelling: Have kids interact with friends and practice fluency by reading a cool poem and playing it back with online voice recorder Vocaroo.  Interactions with friends promote a motivating environment for reading. Remember to compliment your child on what they are doing well and what they can improve on.

Family Reading Time– Have kids read to you or other family member daily. Books read and time spent reading can be recorded in journal/log. Display their proud achievements on the fridge. It makes a difference. Imagine 20 minutes a day for a year. That’s over 121 hours of reading!


Make connections to the real world: Visit a museum like They have a whole floor on children’s literature writers. They also have author visits.


Model good reading strategies: Read to your kids the way you want them to read to you. Kids can see exactly what is expected of them and can mentally refer back to the way you model. Children are more at ease and motivated when they hear how you demonstrate.  Make connections as you read. I always find ways to connect to the characters or what’s happening in the stories.


References and further reading:

Fisher, D., Brozo, W., Frey, N., Ivey, G. (2015). 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content      Literacy 3rd ed. United States: Pearson.

Protacio, M. (2012). Reading Motivation. A Focus on English Learners. The Reading       Teacher, Vol. 66,  Issue 1, pp. 69-77, DOI:10.1002/TRTR.01092.

Reutzel, D.R., Cooter, R.B. (2011). Strategies for Reading Assessment and Instruction, 4th ed. Boston, MA:Pearson.

Sutton Flynt, E. and Cotter, B. (May, 2005). Issues in Urban Literacy. The Reading Teacher 58 (8), 774-     780.



Brain Development

Hi Everyone,

We had to watch and discuss three fascinating PBS videos about brain development for my Intervention and Remediation of Reading class at Lewis University. I wanted to post them. The first 2 deal with development in the younger child while the third examines schizophrenia and drug use in the teenage brain. I have personal experience with friends and family who suffer from mental illness, and the videos helped me understand exactly what happens to the brain when disorder occurs (and how to watch for it).


My oldest son, Rudy, is starting middle school in September. Learning about what changes his brain is about to embark on is good to know. He even watched the videos. Development of the prefrontal cortex really takes off in the second decade of life. This part of the brain is responsible for making future plans, reasoning, personal responsibility, and self-control (among other things).


I also wanted him to know what happens to the brain when someone is addicted to drugs like cocaine. The artificial high mimics dopamine—a neurotransmitter in our brains that regulates pleasure—and the body stops making dopamine in response to this wave of artificial high. That’s where the addiction comes in. You have to keep taking the drug just to maintain a normal feel-good feeling.

Below are the links.


Episode 1 The Baby’s Brain: Wider than the Sky

Episode 2 The Child’s Brain: Syllable from Sound

Episode 3 The Teenage Brain: A World of Their Own


One True Thing

What a great intensive I had with Carolyn Crimi. It was the highlight of my day at SCBWI’s Spring Thaw.

Carolyn Crimi


But I also loved meeting writers and friends like: Erin Zimmer, Chuck Mallory, and Anitra Rowe Schulte I always do. We are all on this writer’s journey together, and sharing with others who are kind and passionate is the best.


People who are positive and kind are people I want to be around. It was an added bonus meeting Carolyn because she is so stinking funny, too. No wonder kids love her books.


Some things I walked away with from Carolyn’s picture book intensive: irresistible weirdness in a manuscript is good, details must be essential to the story, and keep the stakes high. I also liked the advice on making a list of things you loved as a child and putting them in your book.


Next, I’m gearing up for the Chicago Writer’s Workshop on June 23rd.

Here’s the link for that and some information below:

I learned a ton last year, and you can pitch to agents. There are still spots open (as of 4/23/18).

The 2018 Writing Workshop of Chicago: June 23, 2018

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 10.34.26 PM.pngAfter successful 2015, 2016, and 2017 events in Chicago, Writing Day Workshops is excited to announce The 2018 Writing Workshop of Chicago— a full-day “How to Get Published” writing event in Chicago, IL on June 23, 2018.

This writing event is a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more. Note that there are limited seats at the event (250 total). All questions about the event regarding schedule, details and registration are answered below. Thank you for your interest in the 2018 Writing Workshop of Chicago!


This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Saturday, June 23, 2018, at the historic Congress Plaza Hotel, just south of the downtown area. In other words, it’s one day full of classes and advice designed to give you the best instruction concerning how to get your writing & books published. We’ll discuss your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries & pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the day’s classes will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

This event is designed to squeeze as much into one day of learning as possible. You can ask any questions you like during the classes, and get your specific concerns addressed. We will have literary agents onsite to give feedback and take pitches from writers, as well. This year’s agent faculty so far includes:

  • [NEW ADDITION] literary agent Cyle Young (Hartline Literary)
  • [NEW ADDITION] literary agent Mary Cummings (Betsy Amster Literary)
  • literary agent Cynthia Ruchti (Books and Such)
  • literary agent Michelle Grajkowski (3 Seas Literary)
  • editor Anna Michels (Sourcebooks)
  • literary agent Moe Ferrara (BookEnds Literary)
  • literary agent Kelly Van Sant (D4EO Literary)
  • literary agent Tracy Brennan (Trace Literary Agency)
  • literary agent Gemma Cooper (The Bent Agency)
  • literary agent Dawn Frederick (Red Sofa Literary)
  • editor Grace Menary-Winefield (Sourcebooks and Sourcebooks Landmark)
  • literary agent Alexandra Weiss (Jennifer De Chiara Literary)
  • literary agent Marcy Posner (Folio Literary)
  • editor Emily Clark Victorson (Allium Press)
  • literary agent Tina P. Schwartz (The Purcell Agency)
  • agent assistant Lesley Sabga (The Seymour Agency)
  • literary agent Kortney Price (Corvisiero Agency)
  • and more to come

By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey. This independent event is organized by coordinator Jessica Bell of Writing Day Workshops, with assistance from regional Chicago writing groups.


9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, June 23, 2018 — the historic Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605, just south of the downtown area. (312)427-3800.

Spring Thaw Conference this weekend


SCBWI-IL 2018 Spring Thaw–Pitch Perfect 2

Date(s) – 04/21/2018
8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Barbara Belding Lodge at Brewster Creek Forest Preserve
6N921 IL Rte. 25 – St. Charles, IL 60174
The Barbara Belding Lodge has free parking for all attendees.
Have you been writing and illustrating diligently the past several years? Submitting to publishing houses? Going to conferences? Do you feel like you’re on the cusp of publication? If so here’s another chance to multiply your opportunities!


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