May 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

Teaching To Learning Styles

Teaching Like A Pirate:
Some of you know I teach throughout schools in Dupage County. This helps me stay connected to students, so I can hear their voices when I am writing. Plus it’s fun.

In October, I worked mostly in 5th grade.

During that time, I was invited to attend a workshop on Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like A Pirate. This book focuses on ways we can increase student engagement and boost creativity.51Z+rNAKzOL._AC_US218_[1]

When I am teaching, I try to find ways to engage all learners. We learn new concepts in different ways—depending on our learning styles. And anyway, there is a better chance of a student soaking up something new when her senses are engaged and when she is having fun.

340391762[1]For example, this week when introducing a new unit of spelling words, I had the children use Play-Doh to spell the words on their desk. They were thrilled.


This activity went so well that I later used Play Doh to teach about adding details to our writing. The students realized that the more detailed their Play-Doh works of art, the more real they became. It is the same for our writing, I explained.

Details are paramount. They help us experience the moment as our character experiences it. What he smells, touches, tastes, hears, and feels all count. They are things we feel just as our characters do. They make our stories come to life.



The 2017 Chicago Writing Workshop


This weekend I attended the Writing Workshop of Chicago at the Congress Hotel.0624171250a-2-e1498581241946.jpg


Hearing Chuck Sambuchino speak was a highlight.  He spoke about the new world of publishing, giving the audience a list of 10 things to keep in mind when writing. One thing on the list was to make time for your writing. Chuck said that success was proportional to the hours you put in. We all have things in our lives that need our attention, but to quote Michael Jordan, “If you put in the hours, results will come.”


Another highlight of the workshop was meeting Gemma Cooper from the Bent Agency.

Gemma talked about writing great kidlit novels by keeping your main plot arch in mind when writing:

  • What does your main character want?
  • What is preventing them from achieving this goal?
  • What are the stakes if they don’t achieve them?


Gemma said a good book to pick up is Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Speaking of books, I also like to keep novels on the table with me while I write. Next to me this week is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. If I’m getting lost or discouraged, I open it up and read a few lines. I am transported to the deep woods and the innocence of childhood. Love that magic.


This week marks the beginning of a new training class for our dog, Daisy. Here is a picture of Daisy, our trainer, Sidney, and myself.Daisy

Daisy is taking the beginning class to learn how to be a therapy dog.  How cool would it be to share the love of an animal with others in such a way! She brings our family a new level tenderness and devotion.  I hope she’ll be able to share her love with others to promote healing, and I hope to be able to write about it.

Happy writing!

2017 Chicago Writing Workshop


The 2017 Chicago Writing Workshop will be June 24th. Held at the Congress Plaza Hotel, I have heard good things about it from our SCBWI Geneva organizer, Janet Riehecky.


Pitch it anyway!

This year will be my first year attending. There will be workshops on how to get published, but attendees can also pitch to agents for an
extra $29 (for 10 minutes). I think that’s a good price to pay to get in front of an agent face to face and pitch your manuscript (or multiple manuscripts).There will be agents looking for all kinds of genres.


Here is more information:

About the 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago


This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Saturday, June 24, 2017, 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. By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey.

The 2016 Chicago Writing Workshop was a success, and we are excited about the 2017 event. Registration for 2017 is now OPEN.

This independent event is organized by coordinator Jessica Bell of Writing Day Workshops, with assistance from the Mystery Writers of America’s Midwest chapter.

Here is the link:

Happy writing!







Free Seminar on How to Write Children’s Books

Happy New Year!

Greetings writers. Local author Janet Riehecky is going to be speaking at B&N in West Dundee this Saturday. Janet is the co-leader of the Geneva SCBWI writer’s critique group. She has written numerous books and articles. If you have time to stop by this weekend you will learn much about writing for kiddos.  Plus it’s free!

Janet Riehecky: Children’s Author, School Visits, Library Visits

Library Visit Janet Riehecky with dinosaur femur

Here’s The Info:

How to Write Children’s Books Free Seminar

Janet Riehecky

Author Event, Educator Event
Saturday January 07, 2017 1:00 PM Is there a great children’s book inside of you just waiting to be written? Is 2017 the year you finally write that book? Free seminar for anyone who has written or is considering writing children’s books. An overview of the process from first words to art to publisher considerations, followed by Q & A, led by local author Janet Riehecky (Judson University). Educator Giveaways & Prizes.

B&N Store & Event Locator

Author Spotlight: Kym Brunner


YA author Kym Brunner’s new book, Flip the Bird, comes out this week. I spoke with Kym earlier in the week. Check out what she has to say about her path to publication.

Looking back, what do you wish you would have done differently on your path to publication?

Here’s the thing: you don’t know exactly what was the tipping point for an editor’s decision.

Was it my social media presence in addition to a well-written story? Was the editor Polish herself and loved how I wove Slavic folktale lore and a grandmother (Busia) into the plot? Did I catch him or her on a good day and they were in the mood for humor?

There are so many other factors that matter, in addition to telling a great story of course, that it’s difficult to separate why my first book was chosen and the ones prior weren’t. So the simple answer is NO. Everything I did was part of the journey.

Do I wish it had happened sooner than nine years? Sure. But then maybe I would have missed some family parties when my kids were younger, or not have gone for my Master’s degree in education.

So I’ve made peace with the idea that “Everything happens for a reason” and believe that the year, publishing house, and novel were published right when it was supposed to. 🙂

What was something that you are glad that you did, that really helped you?

 Take chances: submit things to top agents/ write in a different genre/ be open to suggestions.

Seeing a falconry show at Medieval Times made me want to know more about the ancient sport, which led to a delightful discovery into this special world. I went for one seven-hour falconry apprentice lesson but ended up coming back for eight more.

But I’ve always been that person who, if someone says, “You want to come with me to see this show/hobby/weird thing?” I always say yes.

While writing my current WIP about Mars, I took a chance on filling out an application on NASA and got to fly to Virginia see a test splashdown of a prototype of the spacecraft Orion.

I went to a ballroom dancing competition with a friend and thought the whole scene was odd but delightful and may use that as one of my character’s hobbies one day.

I recently sat in the pilot’s chair in the cockpit of an American Airlines craft (pre-takeoff, of course) when we were early and the pilot offered the opportunity. Which, by the way, no one else took advantage of. That too will influence one of my stories in some way.

So say YES more often and take chances––it can open your mind to a ton of cool story ideas and character descriptions.



Editorial Reviews


“Brunner writes an impassioned story with real-life moral dilemmas. Abundant details of falconry, the result of the author’s own falconry apprentice lessons… root the story solidly in a fascinating world new to most readers. An engaging story of a young teen finding what’s most important in his life.” —Kirkus “Lovers of Sterling North’s Rascal, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, and Calame’s Dan Versus Nature will flock to this tale about a teen and his hawk. . . Get multiple copies for nature-loving reluctant readers.” —SLJ “An exciting adventure into the art of falconry and the heart of a young man.” —David Lubar, author of Hidden Talents and Character, Driven

About the Author

Kym Brunner is the author of the YA novels Flip the Bird, Wanted: Dead or In Love, and One Smart Cookie. She teaches 7th grade and lives in Illinois. Visit her website at


Beat Sheets

Stuck writing in circles? Use the following  Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from his book, Save The Cat to help you set the stage for your story. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler is also helpful for many writers I work with.

  1. Opening Image
  2. Theme Stated
  3. Set-up
  4. Catalyst
  5. Debate
  6. Break Into Two
  7. B Story
  8. Fun and Games
  9. Midpoint
  10. Bad Guys Close In
  11. All Is Lost
  12. Dark Night Of The Soul
  13. Break Into Tree
  14. Finale
  15. Final Image


susan kaye quinn

Indie and best-selling author Susan Kaye Quinn, writer of more than 50 books, presented a workshop on self-publishing at Barnes and Noble in Schaumburg. She offered some great advice on structure and writing serials using the power of three:  Act I-Thesis, Act II- Anti-thesis and Act III the fusion of the two.

Third Daughter

One of the many things I learned from Sue’s talk, was to make sure to have your pivot point/ stumble/ change/ mirror-moment right smack in the middle of your book. If you don’t, you risk knocking your whole manuscript off balance and upsetting your readers-which we absolutely don’t want to do!


Other things to keep in mind when writing your masterpiece: check out what’s selling on Amazon to see what people are reading and to see where on the spectrum your work-in-progress falls. Self-published and traditionally-published books are grouped together.


But if you are self-published you don’t have to pay an agent or a publisher any royalties. I like that idea.


And I like the freedom you have over your writing when you self-publish. You don’t have to worry about finding the right agent or publisher. You can just think about your readers.


Here’s some more food for thought- did you know that those books on the front shelves at Barnes and Noble are paid placement? Just because the book is right up front doesn’t mean it’s any good. It just means someone paid to have it put there. Say what? Hey, I didn’t know that!

Open Minds

Check out Sue’s information below and learn more about the self-publishing revolution.


To learn more about the indie publishing world, you can visit Sue’s video on facing you fears in indie publishing (video) at:

To read about other helpful stuff for authors visit


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