FISH HAWK IN THE SKY: A Tale of Two Ospreys

Now that spring is showing  us some signs that it just might stay awhile, have you ever wondered how birds know – sometimes before we do – that the weather is warming up and it’s okay to hang around? My writer, scrapbooking, and nature loving friend Shiela Fuller is back with a very interesting post about Ospreys that sheds some light on that question.
Each year since May 2012, wildlife biologists have been studying the migratory track of two adult ospreys from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York to their wintering site in South America. Queens is the easternmost of five New York City boroughs and the second most populated. The main goal of the project was to gain public awareness of the refuge and cultivate interest in the inhabitants that live there.

The first osprey outfitted with a transmitter was Coley. During the summer of 2012 his movements were monitored 12 hours a day. He began his winter migration and headed south on September 10th, 2012. Seventeen days and 2600 miles later, Coley arrived at his winter home, Columbia, South America.
On May 5, 2013, Coley began his round trip back to Queens, NY and he arrived in 15 days and 7 hours.

Later in the month, Coley’s transmitter was removed and placed on another male osprey, Coley 2. Scientists would now track the movements of this bird. During the summer, Coley 2 spent a lot of time perched with his mate after nest failure. Staying close to the nest assured the pair that it would still be their home the following spring.      IMG_9450
Weather can affect migration and when Coley 2 left New York on September 2, 2013, he was headed into some pretty serious thunderstorms. He only traveled 44 miles and settled in Trenton, New Jersey for the first night of his trip. Coley 2 continued onward and made remarkable time considering his damp start. He arrived at his winter home, Lake Valencia in Venezuela, South America on September 17, 2013.
While at Lake Valencia, Coley 2 will spend his time fishing, eating, and resting until his internal signal tells him it is time to return to the nesting area.

What inspires birds to migrate north or south and how do they find their way? There are only scientific speculations but some say it is hormonal changes and/or the changes in the length of day/night hours that motivate migration. Navigation is a bit trickier to understand but some say birds rely on the position of the sun, those that travel at night rely on the North Star, and some scientists say that birds use landmarks to help them find their way just as humans do. That doesn’t explain a bird’s first migration. How would they know the landmarks if they never traveled before?

Scientists had been monitoring Coley 2 at Lake Valencia and were happy to note that he must know the weather is bad in the northeastern US and stayed a little longer at his warm winter home but on Sunday, March 16, 2014, just a few days ago, Coley 2 left and was traveling at a remarkable 250 miles per day.       IMG_9705
Scientists are not monitoring Coley 1, but he and his female partner were spotted on their platform nest in Jamaica Bay on March 23, 2014. Will Coley 2 be far behind? Will his female partner arrive before he does? Follow Coley 2 on his magnificent journey and you can even predict when he might arrive at his summer home:

For more details about the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy osprey project and to predict when Coley 2 will arrive go to:

Footnotes: Another fabulous place to visit is the Cape May Bird Observatory. Their website for information is:




Rock Tumbling a Picture Book:The Art of Revision.

Today’s Post comes from my writing friend and soon to be published Picture Book Author Beth Ferry, who writes about the revision process she goes through for her picture books.

Here’s Beth:

I can clearly remember the summer I was given a rock tumbler. It was a gift of transformation. A gift of possibility. It was THE gift of the 70s. I can remember carefully placing those dusty rocks into the chamber, knowing that very soon I would be the proud owner of sparkling, gleaming gemstones. I remember how LOUD it was and how LONG it took. I also remember being amazed by what emerged.

Many, many years later, the idea of the rock tumbler came back to me. In so many ways, writing is a lot like tumbling rocks. In addition to rocks and water, rock tumbling requires sand-sized particles of silicon carbide, also known as GRIT. Grit is tough and hard and unrelenting. It wears down the rocks, smooths them and rounds them. GRIT is a crucial part of WRITING.           Beth_Ferry_photo

There are 4 steps to Rock polishing:

1.                  Shaping the rock

2.                  Removing the scratches

3.                  Smoothing and polishing the rock

4.                  Burnishing the rock

What do these steps have to do with writing? Well, think of them this way:

1.                  Writing and shaping the story

2.                  Big picture edit

3.                  Small picture edit

4.                  Polishing edit

My first step is to unearth the story, get it down, write it! Ideas truly come from everywhere, but I mostly get my inspiration from words that I like. Some words just speak to me louder than others and an idea will often spark from that one particular word. My FIRST DRAFT is very much like a lumpy brown rock. It usually isn’t pretty, but it has potential. With a little work, I know I can expose the beauty within.  During the FIRST DRAFT, I shape my story. I explore the plot, characters and conflict.  I don’t worry about each word, just the essence of the story. Am I telling the story I planned to tell? Does it have an arc? Is the ending satisfying? Just the first draft alone takes many, many rewrites.

Once I’m happy with the overall shape of my story, I drop it into the tumbler. Here’s where it gets LOUD. I read the story out loud. Again and again and again. I read it inside; I read it outside; I read it to my dog and to my family. Nothing is more useful that hearing my words out in the air. This is where I hear my mistakes, the slow parts, and the beautiful parts. What goes on inside my head is very different than what goes on outside of it so it is crucial to read your story out loud.

Once my story is tumbling around in my head and in decent shape, it’s time for the BIG PICTURE EDIT. This is truly the hardest part. This is where I ask myself who will be reading this story? Who will be buying it? Is it too much like another story?  It’s basically a question of worth. Will my story add to the greater good? Will it make the reader think, laugh, cry or clamor for more? Does my story belong out in the world and will it enhance not only the shelf, but the reader him/herself? Is it a gem? Hopefully I’ve answered yes to these questions and, if so, I move onto the SMALL PICTURE EDIT.

The SMALL PICTURE EDIT may be the longest process. I might rewrite a story 12 times or 83 times. When I think about how many times the rock revolves in the tumbler, I know that I might possibly make hundreds of tweaks to any one story. Tweaks that involve line editing, using my thesaurus, and more reading out loud. I check for clear, concise sentences, for matching tenses and consistent POV. I ask myself if the resolution is not only satisfying, but hopefully unexpected or fun as well. Does my story make me happy? Is my word count satisfactory? Rocks lose approximately 30% of their size during tumbling, so I am not afraid to cut, cut, cut.  I try to lose as many words as I can in this step of editing. This is also when I share with my critique group. A critique group is essential. There is no better support than other committed writers writing the same genre, and no better eyes to point out not only your mistakes, but your successes as well. Whether in-person or on-line, a critique group adds a valuable layer to your editing process. Finally, when I feel that my story has a nice shine, I put it away.

Yes, indeed! It’s like walking away from that rock tumbler and letting it churn for weeks.  As eager as I am to peer into that barrel and see my shining gems, I don’t. I need some distance so that I will have fresh eyes when I read it again. This is the part of the process where I work on another story. Remember, besides water and GRIT, a rock tumbler needs to be filled with other rocks or the process won’t work. I always have more that one story tumbling around. I work on those. Then after a week or two, I take the story back out and read it OUT LOUD with fresh eyes. This is the polishing step. I can usually identify the problem spots right away at this point. I work on those. Then if I love the story as much as I did before I walked away from it, I know I am done. Finished. My story is shaped, sanded and polished. It is ready to meet the world, a gleaming gem full of possibility.

Beth Ferry lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. She is represented by Elena Giovinazzo of Pippin Properties and her first picture book, Stick and Stone, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld will be released on April 7, 2015.  In addition to this, she’s sold two other picture books:
Land Shark illustrated by Ben Mantle, Chronicle Books, TBD   and,

Pirate’s Perfect Pet, illustrated by Matthew Myers, Candlewick Press, Fall 2016


Go Green Part 3: Gardening With Children

I don’t know about you, but after this long and tenacious winter, I look forward to getting outdoors as soon as the weather is warmer.  Most kids love the natural world and what better way to introduce them to the wonders of nature than with a garden. Planting and watching things grow is rewarding, satisfying and good exercise. Don’t know where to begin?  There are many wonderful resources and websites with specific tips and ideas for gardening with children.  Before I list some of these sites, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Keep things simple. You don’t have to dig up your entire yard to reap the benefits of gardening. Start with a small raised bed or a large container or two.

2. Try fast growing crops such as lettuces, chives, radishes, spinach, herbs and the like.

3. Let your kids have a say in what they grow. If you’re trying to encourage them to eat more veggies, let them pick the ones they would like to try. I’ll bet they get excited about tasting them once they see them pop up in the garden.

4. Make weeding and watering part of the daily routine. That way you will keep the unwanted weeds under control and ensure that the seeds get a fair chance at sprouting. Always weed when soil is moist to avoid damaging roots of tender plants.

5. Check out the library for gardening books for beginners and children.             lettuce

Make it fun!  See whose seeds sprout first, whose veggies grow fastest, are tallest, etc. When it comes time to harvest, let the kids plan a meal using the fruits – and veggies – they grew.

Here are some great gardening sites to get you started:

Gardening with Children from Earth Easy

Ten Tips on Gardening with Kids from the American Community Gardening Association

Gardening with Children from the BBC  This site tells you how to compost, cultivate earth worms, use beneficial insects for pollination and has many child-friendly activities related to gardening and the outdoors.

 Stimulating Imagination in the Garden from Kids Gardening

My First Garden  from the University of Illinois

Happy Growing – and eating!                                tomatoes

Go Green Part 2: Spring Planting

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of winter and being confined indoors.  Spring  officially begins today and what better way to celebrate than to make something grow.  You can start with a few pots of seedlings on  a sunny windowsill.  Chives, lettuce, spinach, radishes, parsley, or other herbs, all grow fairly quickly and are easy to care for.  Red Ted has some wonderful ideas for spring planting. Try their SEED BOMBS  and GRASS HEADS    and watch your kids get hooked on making things grow.

As I stepped outside this morning, I was greeted by a sure sign of spring:  Daffodils. Check out this photo from one of my flower beds.              daffodilsHappy Planting and Happy Spring!

Go Green Part 1

With St. Patrick’s Day arriving next week, why not plan a Green Day and serve green foods, wear as much green as you can and plant some seeds in a pot to get a head start on the growing season. Lettuce, parsley, and chives are all quick sprouters and don’t mind the chilly days of early spring.   While you wait for the lettuce greens to grow, try this recipe for a healthy green salad:

MIXED GREENS SALAD:  1. Wash and pat dry a mix of salad greens such as romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, or any combination you like. Now the tasty fun begins.

Add any or all of the following to make a plain salad a satisfying main dish: sliced cucumbers, olives, shredded carrots, dried cherries or cranberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or grapes. Add toasted, slivered almonds or walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and grated Parmesan cheese (or any cheese of your choice). If you’re a vegetarian, you can stop here.   salmon salad

The photo version has a packet of salmon on top. I’ve eaten it with shredded chicken or tuna as well. ANY leftover meat works well.

Sprinkle with your favorite dressing – I used a raspberry balsamic with olive oil – and serve with breadsticks or garlic toast and you will get rave reviews.

Another GREEN food treat that is fun and easy for kids to make is KALE CHIPS.  Check the recipe section of this blog for the recipe.

Stay tuned for some kid-friendly gardening tips to make things turn green in your own backyard.



Big Congratulations to all!

Writing and Illustrating

There is a lot of happiness in this post. You can see it and feel it. I hope it rubs off on all of you.

vesperVesper Stamper: Don’t you just love this picture? This is Vesper showing off her acceptance letter for the School of Visual Arts MFA program in NYC. “Vesper said, “HOLY HOLY HOLY–I just received my acceptance–I got in to the MFA!!!!!!”

I’ve decided whenever I feel down, I am going to look at this picture, because it just makes me feel so happy.

katialife-2014-and-nyc-internship-0141The happiness just keeps going. Katia Raina has been attending VCFA for her MFA in children’s writing. After one year under her belt she has decided that becoming and editor or agent is in her future. She has started down that path already by interning in New York City with Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency. She has been there for a month and doesn’t she look…

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Welcome to Middle Grade March:Check out my Interview!

Welcome to Middle Grade March 2014.  Today I am highlighting Deb Marshall’s new blog about all things Middle Grade. She’s already featured Holly Schindler and her wonderful book THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, some great book reviews. My interview about writing Historical Fiction appeared yesterday,  March 15.I couldn’t be more thrilled and hope you’ll check it out!

This is a blog started by Deb Marshall & Akossiwa Ketoglo to celebrate middle grade literature, all month, starting March 1, 2014. This is a continuation of Jill @ The Owls original March of Middle Grade Books.

Expect fun and informative interviews, book reviews, giveaways and all sorts of fun shenanigans.

Deb is also hosting a readathon for the Kick-Off and here is the link to the post about that:

Here’s the link to the site and the post with my interview.

Books and Smiles for Haiti (plus a critique giveaway)

Wanted to pass along this post for a great cause. Got books? Here’s a worthwhile thing to do with them.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

chieu by author Chieu Urban

Thank you Tara, for inviting me to spread awareness of Books and Smiles for Haiti to this talented group of authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and children’s book enthusiasts.

For the past few summers, I have shared my books with the children of Haiti, and the pictures and smiles and thankful notes I’ve received remind me of why I enjoy creating books for kids. I think that it would be fantastic if they were to receive even more books from our community.

Please join me in sharing your wonderful books for the sweet children of Haiti. Although their needs are much bigger, these gifts will bring smiles to their faces and joy to their day.

I am thankful to President Steven Mooser of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for kindly donating two boxes of books and jump starting the campaign! The amazing people of…

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Chores Driving You Crazy? Get Kids to Help. Here’s How.

I came upon this website and blog hosted by the Flanders Family, parents of twelve (yes…12!) children.  One of the messages they posted that really resonates is how to keep such a large household running smoothly: assign chores to all the children.  Even the youngest toddler or pre-schooler can do some simple tasks and contribute to the running of the household. Not only do chores help parents, they encourage independence, self esteem and teach children that everyone is responsible for the success of the family.  Kids who do chores are better problem solvers and feel better about themselves than those with no responsibility at home.  Here is the chart they developed that lists some of the jobs that are appropriate for children at each age and stage of development.

Age-Appropriate Chores for  Children   © Copyright 2013       Check out the website for some wonderful information about parenting, home schooling, organization, arts/crafts/games, and raising kids in a large family.

Ages 2-3
! Put toys in toy box
! Stack books on shelf
! Place dirty clothes in
laundry hamper
! Throw trash away
! Carry firewood
! Fold washcloths
! Set the table
! Fetch diapers & wipes
! Dust baseboards

Ages 4-5                                                              chores 1
! Feed pets
! Wipe up spills
! Put away toys
! Make the bed
! Straighten bedroom
! Water houseplants
! Sort clean silverware
! Prepare simple snacks
! Use hand-held vacuum
! Clear kitchen table
! Dry and put away dishes
! Disinfect doorknob

Ages 6-7
! Gather trash
! Fold towels
! Dust mop floors
! Empty dishwasher
! Match clean socks
! Weed garden
! Rake leaves
! Peel potatoes or carrots
! Make salad
! Replace toilet paper roll

Ages 8-9                                                              farm photo
! Load dishwasher
! Change light bulbs
! Wash laundry
! Hang/fold clean clothes
! Dust furniture
! Spray off patio
! Put groceries away
! Scramble eggs
! Bake cookies
! Walk dogs
! Sweep porches
! Wipe off table

Ages 10-11
! Clean bathrooms
! Vacuum rugs
! Clean counter tops
! Deep clean kitchen
! Prepare simple meal
! Mow lawn
! Bring in mail
! Do simple mending  (hems, buttons, etc.)
! Sweep out garage

Ages 12 and up
! Mop floors
! Change overhead lights                                               chores 2
! Wash/ vacuum car
! Trim hedges
! Paint walls
! Shop for groceries w/list
! Cook complete dinner
! Bake bread or cake
! Do simple home repairs
! Wash windows
! Iron clothes
! Watch younger siblings

Got a Story To Tell? Here Are 2 Ways to Do It.

Today’s post features two children’s book authors who traveled a less traditional route to publication by self-publishing their Picture Books.  The first one is OSCAR HERNANDEZ.  Here’s his story.

When looking into publishing (or self-publishing) a kid’s book, I quickly realized that the options are surprisingly complicated and really tough. Children’s book authors don’t have the technical prowess to create their own book that is modern, competitive with the market, and provides the feedback that they need. Lil’ Readers, is a children’s bookstore app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.  Lil’ Readers allows you to bring high quality, beautifully illustrated and animated children’s books with you wherever you go. Essentially it’s a mobile bookshelf. It’s not an apple IBook, but and independent app through apple. I currently have 5 books in the app. I am still teaching in the classroom where I get to see all the reactions on kid’s faces from reading my books to my students.

                               Oscar book cover

I started writing mini plays for kids; some were good some were bad. Most of them made me laugh, so I kept writing more. Eventually I met a person that inspired me to write a lot; that person was Dr. Joe Robinette. Down to earth, but full of attention to detail, he made me love the art of writing. The writing didn’t have to be a long story; it didn’t even have to be a book. Often it was a two minute skit performed in front of about eight to ten children.   He knew how to make stories come to life, but most importantly he knew what the reader wanted to see. By carefully placing words and phrases in a certain order he would capture a reader and an audience. For all that he taught me, I thank him a million times over.

 Fast forward to my epic writers block and how my first book was born. I was thinking too hard one day, and so I continued to stare at a blank piece of paper. Five minutes went by, my phone rang, ESPN came on and my dog had to potty. The perfect storm of writers block and distraction forced me to put the pen down and go for a run. While on my run I came upon a dog. I also came upon its owner, who was yelling at me NOT to run! Now, I don’t know if you know anything about running for exercise; but running is a huge part of it! Long story short, the dog as old as he was, started to chase me. Luckily for me I was wearing my really, really short- shorts and was able to get a longer strides, leading to my escape.                         runningtailscover

 While on the same run I met another lovely dog, and then another! I couldn’t wait to get home. I started telling that story to people and then it hit me. Stories shouldn’t be forced; it’s not how crazy they are. They are about relating to someone and taking them away into your story as they read it. As it turns out, I’m writing children’s books now. Some are good, none are bad, most of them make everyone laugh and so I will keep going. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done but it’s one of greatest things I will leave behind. My latest book “Just Us” was illustrated by the 2013 finalist of Doddle for Google. The Book came out fantastic; I can’t wait to see where my pen takes me next.

You can contact Oscar at the following:  Facebook- Oscar Hernandez lilreaders  

Instagram-  oskhernandez             email-       Twitter- @osk_hernandez

Here are the books:

The second story comes from ADAM GIANFORCARO:

Adam Gianforcaro is the author of the poetry collection Morning Time in the Household, Looking Out and the children’s picture book Uma the Umbrella. He has had several other works published in print and online magazines, his most recent work forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review. Gianforcaro works as a writer in Philadelphia and lives in New Jersey.                                                        adam G


I began writing Uma the Umbrella as an assignment in a class called Writing Children’s Stories at Rowan University. I wanted to portray a story of someone— or something— not fitting in, but finding his or her way somehow, someway. It’s quite an unoriginal idea, but it’s a feeling that is relatable and difficult to accept as a child. The main moral I wanted to portray was that there is no set way of doing things, no set way of living, no set way to find happiness and be content with who we are inside or outside. I can’t remember why I chose an umbrella, but I suspect it was raining that day, and I was likely walking to class clasping the handle of my own umbrella.

When the class adjourned at the end of the semester, I filed the story away on my computer. I found it two years later when I was rummaging through old files. I sent it away for publication to several places to no avail. I was not used to writing for the children’s market, and it was difficult for me to find its way into publication. Ultimately, I went through Halo Publishing International who helped me find an editor and illustrator for my work.                     COVER.pdf-page-001

The book is available in paperback or e-book through the Halo website,  Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.