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…

View original post 238 more words

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!

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,


View original post

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.


Want Summer Fun? Try Making Your Own Bubbles.

I can think of few things that bring out the kid in all of us more than bubbles. What is it about soapy water that is so much fun?  As the dog days of summer beckon, here are a few water related activities you and your children can enjoy throughout the warm weather season.

1.  Water painting.  This is a great activity for keeping little ones occupied.  All you need is a bucket of water and some paintbrushes of various sizes.  Add a few drops of food coloring and let the kids “paint” to their hearts content.  They can paint the sidewalks, steps, driveway.  So  what if they get wet or spill the “paint” – it’s only water.

2.  How about making your own bubble wands and bubble solution?  It’s easy to bend wire into wands for blowing bubbles of all sizes. And Red Ted Art has a great recipe for soap bubble solution:  Easy as 1…2…3

Gently mix together: 1 liter (1/5 gallon) of hot water, 1C good quality liquid soap, 2-4 T glycerin (this makes the bubbles thicker and longer lasting and is available at craft stores or supermarkets).    Gently stir and leave overnight.  The longer you let it set, the better the bubbles will be.  If you’re using it for a party, make it a couple days ahead.

Check out Red Ted Art for other outdoor fun activities.  http://www.redtedart.com 

3.  Put on your bathing suits and have a Water Balloon Fight.  You can get a bag of water balloons at most Dollar Stores.  Fill them with water, and once you have a pile, have a blast (pun intended).

Find the Forest For Summer Fun.

Now that summer vacation is here, why not try taking the kids for a real adventure by exploring nature’s wonders at a nearby forest or state park.  These beautiful, natural areas are in every state and many have free activities for the whole family.  Camping, hiking, bird watching, water sports, fishing and learning about plants and animals are some of the things you can discover at your local park, forest or nature preserve.

Visit: http://www.discovertheforest.org   for tips on how to enjoy nature, how to be safe in wild areas, and DID YOU KNOW facts.  All you have to do is enter your state and a list of all the forests and wildlife areas will appear.   Discover your inner explorer by visiting a forest or natural area this summer.  You won’t be sorry.

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

Kudos: Kirkus Review 2014 Nominees

Congratulations for the accolades. A wonderful selection of books!

Writing and Illustrating

Last week, Kirkus Review put out a 27 page list of their 2014 Young Reader Book Nominees. They did a really good job of putting all the information about each one in an easy to use display. The link is at the bottom of this page. I took the books from the list that were written or illustrated by people I know for this post, but it is a great list to use to find books you might want to read.

Kudos to all my friends who made the list below:

SLEEPYHEADS by Sandra J. Howatt
Released: May 6, 2014
Reviewed: March 17, 2014

by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan

“A superb execution of soporific shapes and sounds perfect for the bedside table. (Picture book. 2-6)

Sleepyhead readers explore a hushed woodland at dusk, where they discover animals nestled in their cozy places at bedtime. Read full book review >

TEA PARTY RULES by Ame DyckmanReleased: Oct. 3…

View original post 868 more words

30 Favorite Children’s Books.

Everyone who loves books for children has their favorites.  Those special books that have  left a mark or demand to be read over and over again.  So here are 30 of mine…in no particular order.  Some are old classics, others new.  Some picture books, middle grade and young adult.  All are wonderful additions to every child’s library.

Picture Books:

The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Suess

Leo the Late Bloomer – Jose Aruego

The Runaway Bunny/Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown

The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

Inside the Slidy Diner – Laurel Snyder

Middle Grade:
Anne of Green Gables – L M Montgomery
Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
Charlotte’s Web – E B White
Because of Winn Dixie – Kate DiCamillo
A Northern Light – Jennifer Donnelly
Harry Potter Books –J K Rowling
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly
The Midwife’s Apprentice – Karen Cushman
The Phantom Toolbooth – Norton Juster
Ramona Quimby series – Beverly Cleary
An Unfinished Angel – Sharon Creech
Moon Over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool
Flora and Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street – Joanne Rocklin
When Audrey Met Alice – Rebecca Behrens
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky – Holly Schindler
Glory Be – Augusta Scattergood
The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
Wonder – R J Palacio

Young Adult:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series – Anna Brashares

13 Reasons Why – Jay Asher

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Which treasured books would you add to this list?