Why Freedom of Information is Important.

As writers and book authors, we value the written word and our protected right to express our views without fear of imprisonment, censorship or various other punishments.  Many people are not so fortunate.  Today’s post celebrates our right to KNOW what takes place in this country we call a Democracy.

Take a moment to recognize what we take for granted: the right to demonstrate and express opposing points of view; the right to read whatever we want to; the right to ask our leaders to change laws we don’t think are working; the right to know what goes on behind the doors of government.

Tomorrow is FREEDOM OF INFORMATION DAY.  Here is more information from http://www.ilovelibraries.org  about this important aspect of our freedom:

Freedom of Information Day 2018: Liberty and open access to all

By jfalcon on March 8, 2018

On March 16, we celebrate the anniversary of former President James Madison. But that day, we also celebrate the legacy he and the founders of this country left us – open government.

Madison, known as the Father of the United States Constitution, once wrote that a “popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”




Another Winner: Give-away of 7 Keys to Research for Writing Success

Drumroll please:

The winner of the copy of the book: 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR WRITING SUCCESS by David L. Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch is:  Don Barrett.

Thanks to all who entered the contest.  I will pass on your information to David.

Teacher Resources 2: YA Author Yvonne Ventresca.

Here is the second selection in the series of CURRICULUM GUIDES AND MATERIALS for use in the classroom based on popular titles.  Today, YA author YVONNE VENTRESCA presents the curriculum guide and core content study questions for her second novel.

Black Flowers, White Lies    

 Black Flowers, Whites Lies is a young adult psychological thriller by Yvonne Ventresca that won the 2017 Gold Medal Independent Publisher’s Award for YA fiction. Sky Pony Press published the hardcover in 2016, and they officially released the paperback version in March.

The paperback includes bonus content, including sample discussion questions for educators. The complete guide was created by Marcie Colleen to help educators use Black Flowers, White Lies for classroom study, book clubs, and independent reading. To download a free copy of the complete educator’s guide, containing over fifty discussion points, activities, and writing prompts, visit Yvonne Ventresca’s website at YvonneVentresca.com.

Black Flowers, White Lies Education Guide: Common Core Alignment for Grades 7-12

 7th grade: ELA.

RI.7.1,2,3,4,5,6,9;; W.7.3a-­e,4;; SL.7.4,5;; L.7.1,2,3

8th grade: ELA.

RI.8.1,2,3,4,6,9;; W.8.3a-­e,4;; SL.8.1a,3,5;; L.8.1,2,3,4a,c,d

9–10th grade: ELA.

RL.9–10.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9;; W.9–10.3a–e,4;; SL.9–10.1,4,5;; L.9–10.1,2,4a,c,d

11–12th grade: ELA.

RL.11–12.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9;; W.11–12.3a–e,4;; SL.11–12.1,4,5;; L.11–12.1,2,4a,c,d

About the free education guide

The education guide encourages analytical thinking and more in-depth discussion of the story. For example, there are suggestions for map-drawing activities, rewriting scenes from a different character’s point of view, and creating a brochure for a walking tour of the setting.

One of the themes of Black Flowers, White Lies is dishonesty. The education guide includes several activities to help students discuss this theme. How does it feel to tell a lie or to discover that someone else has lied? Why are the characters dishonest in the story? Students can play two truths and a lie and practice looking for signs of untruthfulness. They can also investigate topics like gaslighting and how someone’s perceptions can be manipulated.

Sample Activity for Black Flowers, White Lies

Fact vs Perception

Sometimes it is difficult to sort through what is fact and what is perception.

Have someone unannounced (a teacher or a student from a different class) come into your classroom while students are working quietly on a task at their desks. Plan with the mystery visitor ahead of time to make sure he or she does several things in your class during his or her brief visit such as:

  • Borrow something like a book, a craft supply, money, etc.
  • Talk to a student in the class
  • Give a note to the teacher
  • Ask a question
  • Set something down on a table

After the visitor leaves the room, have the students write down as many details as they can remember about the visit.

  • What details do they recall? What was the visitor wearing? How long was the visitor in the room? What did the visitor borrow while in the room? Whom did he or she talk to? What did he or she say?

Once everyone has finished writing, ask students to share their observations. Compare notes. What are the similarities and differences between student reports? Discuss what might be facts and what was simply perception.

Copyright © 2017 by Marcie Colleen. Reproduced with permission from Marcie Collen. All rights reserved.

About the novel:

 Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a connection that transcends the grave. Since her mother disapproves, she keeps her visits to the cemetery where he’s buried secret. But when Ella learns that her mother may have lied about how Dad died sixteen years ago, it’s clear she’s not the only one with secrets. New facts point to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom always claimed.

When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger, as he did once before, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks on her. But as the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her.

Soon the evidence points to someone new: Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering from a mental breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers—no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

To obtain a free copy of discussion points, activities, and writing prompts, visit YvonneVentresca.com and download the Black Flowers, White Lies education guide.

Laura Sassi Gets Her Diva On + Enter to Win a Copy of Her New PB DIVA DELORES

Today it is my pleasure to be the first stop on a blog tour for picture book Author Laura Sassi’s new book: DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE.  You’ll find other stops on the tour at the end of the post.  Now, here is Laura:

How to Write Picture Books – Diva Style!   by Laura Sassi

Thank you, Darlene, for hosting me on my DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. I’m so excited that my protagonists, Delores and Fernando, are finally making their debuts, but as any well-trained diva knows, singing on stage is just the final thrill. What comes before that?  Hours and hours, even years of hard work! But is it all worth it? You bet!   

So now, in celebration of opera and divas and picture books, here are five fun tips for writing picture books – diva style! Enjoy!

1. Go to the opera… a lot!

If you are going to be an opera star, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the glorious world of opera by attending operas, listening to opera music, and all-around saturating yourself in all things opera.  Likewise, if you want to write picture books, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the world of picture books.  For me, this means making regular trips to the children’s section of my library, or my favorite local bookstore, and reading, reading, reading!  I read with two purposes:  first, just for the pleasure and joy of it, and second… to learn. That’s why I always bring along my writerly opera glasses and a notebook so that I can thoughtfully ponder and record what makes each opera (i.e. picture book) sing… or not.

2. Rehearsal is important. If you want to be a diva, you have to spend time rehearsing and developing your craft. For opera stars, I imagine this means a daily routine of warming up with scales, practicing a variety of pieces, working on voice projection etc. Similarly, if you want to write picture books, you have to be willing to invest the time and effort into writing daily.  My daily writing routine includes free writes (my version of scales), as well as working on a variety of poems, blog posts and the handful of picture book manuscripts I’m playing with any given moment.

3. Control those crescendos.

I’m not an opera expert, but it seems to me that in the field of opera, like in the field of picture book writing – less is more!  I mean divas don’t just cut loose and sing at the top of their lungs willy-nilly!  No, they artistically control their voices so that it plays a magical role in telling the opera’s story. Likewise, as a picture book writer – and especially as one who loves to rhyme – I work hard to control my crescendos so that every word, sound, phrase, action, magically and purposefully moves the story forward.

4. Be confident, yet humble. (i.e. be willing to learn from others)

Confidence is good, but if you want your singing, er writing, to shine, I’ve learned over the years that confidence must be tempered with an open heart, open mind, and gracious spirit when receiving constructive feedback.  As a young writer I thought my writing was fabulous! But now that I’m more seasoned, I look back on those early pieces and cringe. They would definitely have benefited from a little more humility and willingness to productively process and put into place suggestions from more experienced writers!


(Which leads me to my last bit of advice.)

5. Everything’s better with a buddy!

As Diva Delores discovers at the opera house, the journey to success is just all-around better with a buddy. Likewise, I’ve found that the picture book writing journey wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of like-minded children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my last bit of advice for writing picture books – diva style! – is to find a buddy or two to encourage you and help you grow along the way.

BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Here’s the schedule for the blog tour.  Follow the links below to check out each website.

March 8   Darlene Beck Jacobson  TOPIC: Guest post: “How to Be a Picture Book Diva”  – writing tips:   http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

March 16:  Susanna Leonard Hill   TOPIC:  Perfect Picture Book Friday Review  – details TBA :   https://susannahill.com/blog/

March 19:  Melissa Stoller   TOPIC: “THREE QUESTION INTERVIEW” on story, creativity, connection- through the lens of DIVA DELORES:   https://www.melissastoller.com/blog

March 23 and 24   Vivian Kirkfield  TOPIC: Cookie Interview/ PPBF:    https://viviankirkfield.com

April 3  Kerry Aradyha  TOPIC:  TBD but something dance/music/opera related because that’s the focus of her lovely children’s blog:  http://kerryaradhya.blogspot.com

April 10   Carol Gordon Ekster   TOPIC: Interview:   https://writersrumpus.com

For a chance to win a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, leave a comment on this post. Your name will be entered in the random drawing.  Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win.  Winners will be announced on this blog on 3-28-2018.

A great way to remember and honor your favorite author is to post a review of one of their books on Amazon or Goodreads.  Happy reading.

Teachers: Need MG Historical Fiction? I’ve Got The Book.

Welcome to the first in a series of BOOKS TEACHERS CAN USE IN THE CLASSROOM.  Over the next several weeks I hope to feature a variety of children’s authors whose books can be used to enhance the curriculum in the classroom.  By providing teacher resources such as curriculum guides, activity sheets and vocabulary lists, teachers will have an easy way to bring more books into the classroom for enhancing the curriculum or getting kids interested in independent reading.

The first book featured is an MG historical fiction selection that happens to be my own book,WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – Creston Books 2014.   Many teachers in classes I’ve visited have said they are doing historical fiction units as part of their reading/writing curriculum. If that’s you , or a teacher you know, WOC MAY BE JUST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  If you know a classroom teacher in 3rd through 6th grade, share this post with them.  The book is a good Read Aloud for 3rd and 4th grades, and can be used for silent reading and discussion with older students.

Here’s a brief description:

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

The book has a downloadable CURRICULUM GUIDE for the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, CORE CONTENT study questions, VOCABULARY LISTS, as well as other supplemental materials for use in the classroom.   The book also lends itself to discussion of segregation after the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage and the roles of males and females in early 1900’s:  http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com/teachers.htm

I am offering a FREE SKYPE  VISIT to teachers who use the book in their classrooms and post a review of it on Amazon to share with other teachers/librarians.  I will also give away one  signed copy.  To enter the drawing for this give-away, leave a comment regarding how you would use the book in your classroom.

WHEELS OF CHANGE is a National Council of Social Studies Notable Trade Book and won Honorable Mention from the Grateful American Book Prize in 2015.

Stay tuned to this blog for more teacher-friendly selections in the weeks to come.

Celebrate National Pistachio Day.

Today is NATIONAL PISTACHIO DAY. Why not snack on a handful while you learn a bit about this amazing nut.   The following information was provided by:  http://www.foodreference.com/html/a-pistachios-208a.html

A Brief History of Pistachios

Pistachio Nuts are native to the Middle East. Archeological evidence in Turkey suggests that humans were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C. Pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, quickly becoming a treasured delicacy among royalty, travelers and common folk alike.


The pistachio has been used as a dyeing agent and a folk remedy for ailments ranging from toothaches to sclerosis of the liver. The pistachio’s high nutritional value and long storage life made it perfect for travel among early explorers and traders. Along with almonds, pistachios were frequently carried by travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.

Pistachios in the U.S.

Originally imported in the 1880s for Americans of Middle Eastern descent, pistachios were first introduced to the rest of America as a snack food some 50 years later. Sold in vending machines across the United States, these imported nuts were usually dyed red to mask imperfections and to draw attention from passersby.

Pistachio trees were planted experimentally in California beginning in the early 1930s.  By the 1960s, commercial cultivation of pistachios had expanded across California’s arid Central Valley. Today, California is the second largest producer of pistachios worldwide, boasting more than 100,000 acres of pistachio orchards and producing in excess of 300 million pounds of pistachios a year, with California accounting for about 98 percent of domestic production.

pistachio trees

One ounce – a handful – of pistachios provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and 12% of the daily fiber needed by healthy adults. There are lots of ways to enjoy them: as a snack right out of the bag, sprinkled onto a salad for extra crunch, in ice cream, in pudding, in muffins and cakes.  PISTACHIOS are one of Nature’s perfect foods in a nifty package.

Here are some popular books for children that feature this amazing nut:

The Pistachio Prescription  by Paula Danziger   

The Pistachio Prescription

The Adventure of Pistachio Mustachio Paperback – Large Print, July 19, 2016

What’s your favorite way to eat PISTACHIOS?

For additional information visit – pistachiohealth.com