NJ Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference Highlights

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the annual NJSCBWI Conference held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Princeton, NJ.  It’s a great weekend of reconnecting with friends in the writing world.  It’s also a chance to network with agents and editors looking for the best conf9in children’s writing. In addition to giving the Keynote address on Saturday,  Illustrator Floyd Cooper,     demonstrated one of his techniques of smudging with an eraser until an image appeared. Amazing!

We enjoyed workshops on every aspect of the art of writing for children.  Saturday and Sunday were filled with these “mini” lessons on how to: craft the perfect Picture Book, develop characters, write for magazines, write non-fiction, write a query, find out what editors and agents are looking for and much more.  There was a book fair with a chance to buy autographed copies of books and  meet authors from all over the world.

We also enjoyed a hilarious hour of stand up comedy by Robin Fox.   c19

The conference is always inspiring and re-energizes me with new ideas.  And, I got to show off my book with my Agent Liza Fleissig…even though it won’t go on sale until September.   c18

Here are some photos of the weekend. Many thanks to RA Leeza Hernandez and her crew for another successful conference!

For more about the conference visit: http://www.njscbwi.com


With Shiela Fuller and Jody Staton

With Shiela Fuller and Jody Staton

With Marina Cohen

With Marina Cohen


with author Audrey Vernick

with author Audrey Vernick

With YA Authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

With YA Authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

With Author Carole Lindstrom.

With Author Carole Lindstrom.


Summertime and the Reading is Easy: Tips to Make It So.

As promised last week, Gail Terp is back with a wonderful post about encouraging reading and literacy throughout the summer.  Here’s Gail:

Summer is a great time to bring home the message that reading is fun. It’s a time for reading just what you want, rereading favorites as often as you choose, discovering new information, and listening to great stories in a leisurely way.
Summer is a time to leave homework and reading instruction behind. It’s all about reading pleasure and practice. Just let it flow….
Although I run a reading tips post every summer, each year I find new ideas. Here are some old and new ideas for you to consider.

Be a reader yourself. Show your kids that you value reading by reading yourself.
Read aloud, read aloud, read aloud! Be creative—read alouds aren’t just for bedtime. Try between chores, while waiting for appointments, dinner to be done, food in a restaurant, standing in line…

Listen to audio books.  Car trips are a perfect time to listen to audio books. They give a shared experience and can spark conversation. Kids can often listen to a higher level book than they can read. They’re great vocabulary builders, too!

Ask friends and classmates for reading recommendations.  And don’t stop there—ask relatives, neighbors, and other trusted adults about their favorite books when they were kids. This could set your kids down brand new reading avenues!

Allow your child to choose his books. Summer is for fun! Sure, we want to learn too, but fun comes first. Don’t get hung up on the reading level. Let you child choose what is interesting.

Read the newspaper. Newspaper writing can be tricky, but some is very straightforward. Let your child choose a story and you can read it together. See an interesting picture? Try to guess its caption and/or write a new one.

Write new words to a favorite tune. This is a wonderfully creative idea and could be hilarious!

Write stories and plays. This is a time for creativity, not writing instruction. If your child wants help, he’ll ask, otherwise, let it be all about ideas.

Write letters Letters can take all forms: emails, postcards, letters, paper airplanes… Try designing your own stationery and postcards. Create a box or bucket of fun writing materials—paper, cardstock, markers, fancy pens and pencils, glitter… Send to: friends, relatives, authors, experts…

Board Games.  Many games have a reading component, and even if they don’t, play them anyway because they’re fun!

Don’t limit summer reading to books. Try magazines. Your library probably has a good selection to start with. Also try brochures, comics, directions, maps, atlases, cereal boxes…

Read a book and watch the movie together. This works for movies in theaters and movies you rent or get from the library.

Reread your favorites Summer is a great time to read old favorites, either independently or as a read aloud. Maybe create a shared book list of everyone’s favorite kids’ books. Then trade books!

Check out reading programs at your library Many local libraries have summer programs. Some schools do, too.

5 more ways to motivate summer reading Click here for ideas from Education.com

Resources used to compile this list:               gail photo
PBS Parents
Reading Rockets
North Shore Pediatric Therapy
Living Montessori Now
Teach Preschool




New Book…on my Birthday Again…???

Congratulations to my writer friend Tara Lazar.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

It’s my birthday, but I’d rather not be reminded, because I’m slipping ever so closer to eligibility for the “AARP Junior” card, as my father likes to josh. (Thanks, Pops.)

Last year on my birthday, something fun happened—my agent and I announced the acquisition of LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Heidi Kilgras at Random House Children’s. And this year, Meredith Mundy and Merideth Harte of Sterling have stepped up to the birthday cake. They have acquired NORMAL NORMAN, a story that began with just the quirky title. (Always have pen and paper on you, folks. I jotted it down on the grocery check-out line.)


Many thanks again to Ammi-Joan Paquette for brokering the deal. Here’s the full scoop:

Who here has yet to pay a visit to THE MONSTORE? It’s okay, we’ll wait. (You won’t regret it!)

Once you’ve stopped off to visit Tara Lazar’s deliciously quirky debut picture book, you will…

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They’re Finally Here!

After running errands this morning, I came back home to find the mail truck parked at the curb.  I got out of the car and greeted my mail woman Dawn.  “I have something for you,” she said.

As soon as I saw the box…I knew…they had finally arrived….



My box of….       my books!



BOOKS!  MY BOOKS…The one I wrote and was lucky enough to have published!

You should know that I have the best mail person in the Universe!  What a way to start a day!

Caring For Baby Birds.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.


Free Fall Friday – Pen Awards

Three Cheers for our Own Ame! Fingers Crossed!

Writing and Illustrating

amesmallIMG_20110605_083124Have to give a shout out to my friend Ame Dykman who made the 2014 Pen Literary Awards short list. Best of Luck!


PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing ($5,000): To a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2013.

Judges: Mac Barnett, Ted Lewin, and Elizabeth Winthrop


Train (Orchard Books), Elisha Cooper
Tea Party Rules (Viking), Ame Dyckman
The King of Little Things (Peachtree Publishers), Bil Lepp
Crabtree (McSweeney’s McMullens), Jon & Tucker Nichols

– See more at: http://www.pen.org/press-release/2014/06/17/shortlists-announced-2014-pen-literary-awards#sthash.07UYoF42.dpuf


Talk tomorrow,


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Take Literacy Fun to the Beach!

My blogging friend Gail Terp has some wonderful ideas for extending learning throughout the summer…even while at the beach.  Kids will be having so much fun, they won’t realize they’re also learning. Here’s Gail:

Going to the beach? Looking for ideas for fun, exploration, and learning? Here are some good places to start.  There are activities and fun for kids of all ages.

25 Beach and Ocean Activities for Kids from Reading Confetti
LOTS to do here: sensory play, crafts, literacy activities… http://www.readingconfetti.com

The Beach from Enchanted Learning    http://www.enchantedlearning.com
Rhymes, crafts, and printables

10 Best Beach Games from Mom.me   http://mom.me/playroom/7916-have-blast-beach/
Games for active beach play

22 Summer Beach Activities Fun for Kids and Parties from Craftionary
Activities, crafts, ideas…    http://www.craftionary.net

 Preschool Beach Games from Everything Preschool
Intended for the young set but some stuff older kids might like    http://www.everythingpreschool.com

Best Beach Games from Beach Tomato     http://www.beachtomato.com
Good ideas for older kids

Have a great time at the beach!           gail photo

Next Friday Gail will have tips for how to encourage reading throughout the summer.