Kindle School Rocks!

On Wednesday, 2-25-2015, I had the pleasure of an author visit at the Elwood Kindle School in Pitman, NJ.  While there, I met some amazing fourth and fifth graders who shared some of their knowledge of what life was like 100 years ago.  I read passages of WHEELS OF CHANGE, shared the origins of the story and then asked students to share some photos of their grandparents and great grandparents as children and young adults. 

pitman 6

We had a great time talking about fun and games at the turn of the Twentieth Century, how chores have changed, and what it might be like living during that time period. The students were very knowledgeable about what takes place in a forge, as well as how to care for the many animals that lived side-by-side in those days gone by.  Everyone was excited to know that Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses were popular candies in 1908!       Bookmarks were handed out, hands stamped with lucky horseshoes, and books signed as well.      pitman2

It was a delightful group of children, and I was thrilled to be able to share a bit of my story with them.    BIG THANKS to all the great students at Kindle for a delightful morning!      pitman 1

Fourth Graders at Kindle School.

Fourth Graders at Kindle School.

Fifth graders at Kindle School

Fifth graders at Kindle School


An Extraordinary Open Book Experience.

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in AN OPEN BOOK CHILDREN’S LITERACY FOUNDATION (AOB) program in Washington, DC. For those unfamiliar with this program, AOB brings an author to under served schools and provides copies of the author’s book to ALL the students in a chosen school in DC. These children often do not have an opportunity to own books and most have never met an author before.  Through the generosity of this non-profit group, more than 90 copies of WHEELS OF CHANGE were distributed to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

What a thrill it was to be welcomed by such an enthusiastic group of children and educators! I had the privilege to visit TWO schools on Friday 2-20-2015: The  KIMBALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 3377 Minnesota Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20019.

Here I met some amazing third and forth graders who knew a lot about their home town and asked some great questions about WHEELS OF CHANGE.

Kimball Elementary School, Washington, DC

Kimball Elementary School, Washington, DC

After a lively discussion on the changes in their town over the last hundred years, and learning about a forge and what a carriage maker and blacksmith does, the kids got to see a real horseshoe and seemed pleased to get their signed books.   open bk 8


open bk 4

Kimball Student

Kimball Student

open bk 3

Each child also got a "goodie bag" with a bookmark, stickers, and candy that was popular in 1909.

Each child also got a “goodie bag” with a bookmark, stickers, and candy that was popular in 1909.












open book g   open book i




My  second visit took place at the KETCHAM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 1919 15th Street SE, Washington, DC 20020. 


Dara LaPorte telling the students about how a horseshoe is put onto a hoof.

Dara LaPorte telling the students about how a horseshoe is put onto a hoof.

Here I met some amazing fifth graders who also astonished me with their knowledge of the nation’s capitol 100 years ago. We had fun talking about what wasn’t in town back then (cheeseburgers, sneakers, cars, TV, electricity) and whether or not they would like living in a time when horses and carriages ruled the day.      open bk b

Janet Zwick - one of the Open Book coordinators - and some fifth grade students at Ketcham.

Janet Zwick – one of the Open Book coordinators – and some fifth grade students at Ketcham.





Ketcham Student

Ketcham Student

After the presentation, I again had the privilege of signing books for the students and answering their questions. One of my favorites was this:

STUDENT: “Did you write the book with pencil and paper?”
ME: “I did use pencil and paper until I had a complete story. Then I went to the computer and typed it up.”
STUDENT: “Didn’t your hand get tired?”
ME: “I didn’t write it all in one day. It took many months.”

Ketcham Student

Ketcham Student

STUDENT: Nodding her head, “Oh.”

To find out more about this wonderful program, visit:

Easy and Delicious Warm Taco Salad

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, but still nutritious, get the kids involved in making their own TACO SALADS.  The ingredients below are for the salad pictured, but you can add just about anything that looks and tastes good.  Feel free to use ground turkey, chicken or beef, or use flaked salmon or tuna from a can.  Experiment until you find a combination that suits you.  Since everyone chooses his or her ingredients, everyone is happy and plates will be empty.

WARM TACO SALAD    warm taco salad

Cooked brown rice, ground turkey cooked in taco seasoning, black beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, shredded cheese, taco sauce (whatever level of heat you prefer).

1. Arrange these ingredients on a plate and microwave about 30 seconds until cheese melts.

2. Add shredded lettuce and serve.  You can also add crushed taco chips or Chinese noodles for crunch. Add sour cream if desired.  The possibilities are endless.  I cook up the ground meat ahead of time and freeze some to heat up for a last minute meal.

The Brotherhood and the Shield:The Three Thorns by Michael Gibney

I just finished reading a very entertaining middle grade fantasy that I want to share with you.


In 1900 England, three abandoned babies are found in three different locations. Born of royalty, they are bound to each other and destined to one day change the world. First they have to survive their childhood as orphans. The first two boys – Tommy and Benjamin – escape from the dreaded Gatesville orphanage with the help of a strange and mysterious boy named Peter. Peter escorts them to a safe house while they await the arrival of the third boy, Sabastian. Raised by a theatre couple who work him like a slave, Peter comes to Sabastian’s rescue and helps him escape as well. With the school headmaster and assassins following their trail, they join the others on the harrowing journey to the kingdom of Abasin.

Glad to be free of their former lives, but fearful of what lay ahead, the trio – under the protection of Peter and a group of fighters loyal to the true king – enter a Gateway to a world they never imagined. It is here that they discover powers and talents within themselves that assist them on their journey. In this Lord of the Rings meets X-Men fantasy world of sprites, trolls, elves, pixies, giants, orcs and other creatures, the royal trio – collectively called The Three Thorns – join forces to reclaim the kingdom of Abasin.

This first volume of the Brotherhood and the Shield series is action packed and will keep middle grade readers on the edge of their seats as they follow the heroes adventures. The author has created a clever and imaginative fantasy world with all the fantastical creatures and perils you’d expect. A welcome addition to the fantasy genre.

ISBN: 978-1-939765-40-6

Mining Your History for Stories.

It’s been said that everyone has a story to tell. I’ll go one step further and say our ancestors have great stories to tell. Just because our grandparents and great grandparents are no longer with us, or weren’t famous, doesn’t mean their lives weren’t interesting. I’d be willing to bet that everyone’s family has a person, event or incident that could be the catalyst for a novel or short story.

While researching my own family tree, I discovered two interesting facts. The first was that my paternal great grandfather worked as a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. He worked on carriages for prominent people in DC such as John Philip Sousa. The second fact was that his daughter – my grandmother – received an invitation to a reception at the White House and met Theodore Roosevelt. That invitation is in the family scrapbook.   invitation 1

Think about that. It’s not every day any of us gets to meet and socialize with a president. It wasn’t long after discovering these tidbits that I came up with this premise: What would happen if a girl – who adores her Papa’s carriage business and wants to become a blacksmith – sees the emergence of automobiles as threatening to that business. What lengths would she go to keep that business from closing down? Would she go all the way to the President?
With that premise, my middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE was born.

Think of the places your ancestors grew up in or originated from. What is unique about those settings? What kind of occupations did they have? It is safe to say there are few carriage makers left today, just as there would be few telegraph operators, stagecoach drivers or telephone switchboard operators. But you can bet kids would find those occupations interesting and maybe even exciting. What did grandma eat as a kid? What games did grandpa play? All these bits and pieces of our ancestors’ lives have the potential to be a good story for today’s kids.

So, let the skeletons out of the closets. Dust off grandpa’s war diary; go through that ancient box of trinkets. Examine the old black and white photos and letters from your family’s past. Somewhere under the dust of time, is a gem – a gold nugget – waiting to become your next story.

Thank you, Grandma for saving that White House invitation. I wonder what grandma said to President Roosevelt at that reception.     emily 1

Maybe that’s another story.   Happy digging!


2015 Paterson Prize for BFYP

Writing and Illustrating

Did you have a book for Young People published in 2014? You have until March 15, 2015 to submit your book for consideration for The Paterson Prize For Books For Young People. Scroll down to see last years winning books. The ones I viewed were not poetry books, just in case you thought that due to it being sponsored by the Poetry Center. 

paterson contestbfprulesHere are the winners from last year.
paterson2014 booksClick Here for Application.

Talk tomorrow,


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How to Make Maple Syrup in the Woods by Marilyn Ostermiller

Discover How to Make Maple Syrup in the Woods by Marilyn Ostermiller

Here’s my writer friend Marilyn with an interesting post on how maple syrup is made.

Something magical is happening deep in the woods from now through mid-March throughout the Northeast and Upper Midwest. One special tree, the Sugar Maple, gives us a sweet, clear liquid that can be boiled down into maple syrup to enjoy over pancakes, waffles and French toast. Sap runs from the roots up through the trunk when the temperature reaches at least 40 degrees during the day, but still slips below freezing at night.
Legend has it Native Americans discovered how to extract the sweet treat from these trees. They were making it long before the Pilgrims arrived.
Many parks and nature centers offer hands-on demonstrations that are ideal for families. Even young children enjoy it.

They learn how easy it is to:

• Identify and tap maple trees
• Insert the correct spouts for the sap to drip out

A staffer at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham attaches a spout to a sugar maple tree so the sap can drip out. The demonstrations, which continue through March 8 attract a lot of families.

A staffer at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham attaches a spout to a sugar maple tree so the sap can drip out. The demonstrations, which continue through March 8 attract a lot of families.

• Collect it in a pail
• Use a wood-fired stove to boil the water out of the sap to create buttery smooth maple syrup
Before you go:
• Confirm the demonstration will be held as scheduled
• Dress for the weather. Wear warm clothing and waterproof boots
• Be prepared to be outdoors for at least an hour
• Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before demonstration
• There is a charge for some demonstrations
• Check to find out whether advance registration required

Among the upcoming demonstrations scheduled in New Jersey:
• Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, 247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham, N.J. Program Saturdays and Sundays through March 8, 2 p.m. Fee: $3. Call (973) 635-6629.
• Somerset County Environmental Education Center, 190 Lord Stirling Rd., Basking Ridge, NJ. Saturdays 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.; Sundays at noon and 2 p.m. every weekend through March 15. Call (908) 766-2489.
• Howell Living History Farm, 70 Wooden’s Lane, Lambertville, NJ. Feb. 21, 28. tree tapping, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.; Sap gathering, noon, 2 p.m.; Sugar house open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (609) 737-3299,
• Tenafly Nature Center, 313 Hudson Ave., Tenafly, NJ. Sundays, through March 15, 12:30p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. Members $5/Non-members $10 per person. Pancake Brunch and Maple Sugaring, March 22, 10:30 a.m., $10/$15 per person. Call (201) 568-6093,
• Nature Center at Washington Crossing State Park, 355 Washington Crossing Pennington Rd., Titusville, NJ. Saturdays and Sundays, through March 14, 1 p.m. Call (609) 737-0609,
• Lusscroft Farm Maple Sugarin’ Open House, 50 Nielsen Road and 4-H Trail, Wantage, N.J. March 14-15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (973) 22-4732

A volunteer at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham cooks the water out of sap over an outdoor cook stove until is becomes buttery smooth maple syrup.

A volunteer at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham cooks the water out of sap over an outdoor cook stove until is becomes buttery smooth maple syrup.

Among the children’s books on maple sugaring, available online:

• “Sugaring” The story of how a young girl helps her grandfather collect sap from sugar maple trees from a Vermont farm to make maple syrup. It is 24-pages and likely to appeal to children from four to eight years old. Written by Jesse Haas, Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith, Published by Green Willow Books.

“A Day at the Sugar Camp”: This illustrated book for children four to eight years old tells of the tradition Woodland Native Americans had of returning each year, late in the winter, to their sugar camp to make maple syrup. Written by Jessica Deimer-Eaton, Published by the Woodland Indian Educational Programs.

This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.       Marilyn Ostermiller

Interview With MG Author Kat Yeh.

Can You Write a Novel in a Month?  by Kat Yeh

When people find out that my upcoming middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, started as a NANOWRIMO book, they ask a lot of questions. First being: Can you write a novel in a month?

NANOWRIMO stands for National Novel Writing Month — the online phenomenon that has writers around the world attempting to write an entire novel during the month of November.
To be honest, I had always been afraid of Writing a Whole Novel. It just seemed impossible.
But the idea of reaching that goal in only one month was tempting.
And all you had to do was write 1,667 words a day for 30 days.
I had my idea and vague storyline and a voice. I decided to give it a try.

I announced to all my writer friends that I would be a NANOWRIMO participant, so that I would feel the pressure of being accountable.
I began posting my word count each day online — sure that if I missed one day someone I admired of importance and great influence would shout “A missed day? Novelist, indeed! Bah!” The Bah!, in particular, would especially hit me hard. So, I kept at it.
I wrote every single day in November and, in the end, I had over 55,000 words.
And then (this is the important part): I put it away.
I did not peek.
I did not re-read.
I let it sit there for months. I pretended it didn’t exist and immediately began writing another novel and a picture book or two.

When enough time had passed that I could no longer recall specific sentences and chapters, I printed the entire thing out and read it in one sitting. I wanted to get the feel of it. It was a rough read. But there was hope. I knew the voice was there. And there were passages and certain sentences that I wrote during NaNo that are in the final novel exactly as I wrote first them then — and they are some of my favorites. There were also pages and chapters that I quickly tore and burned to avoid future blackmail.

I spread the entire novel across my dining room floor where one day I hoped to have a real live dining table like the real grown ups have. I kept a quick red pen in hand and made little marks and moved on. I slashed entire sections out and cut and stapled others together.
Then I read it through again. And I put it away again. And I worked on something else – anything else! Until enough time had passed again.

So much easier once we had our BIG dining room table...

So much easier once we had our BIG dining room table…

And I then I picked up that cut and stapled and taped up bundle of chapters and I read it through with a bigger red pen. Then I went back and wrote myself an outline. And I cut and stapled some more. I wrote and rewrote and revised. AGAIN.
During this time, I went to every conference that I could afford to go to. I selected ones where specific editors or agents that had my interest were going to be. I did every first page and critique that was offered. Little by little, I got feedback and critiques and then — I started getting interest.

One of the first editors to see the first 50 pages of THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (then titled TWINKIE PIE AND OTHER THINGS OF A DELICATE NATURE) was Alvina Ling of Little Brown Books for Young Readers. I do not think I can begin to describe the head explosion that occurred when she smiled at me, paused, and then said, “I loved this.” And I cannot even begin to explain the control that kept me from express mailing the entire messy thing to her that very afternoon.                    YEH_TruthTwinkiePie_HC 2-1
Because I knew it wasn’t ready.

Agents and editors are busy. You want to bring them the very best possible version of your manuscript that you can imagine. You want to start from There. And I knew that I had a strong first 50 pages, but I wasn’t There yet. So I went back and revised some more. A few months later, I brought it to the SCBWI summer conference where it was nominated for the Sue Alexander Award. And I had a few more people asking when I could send it.
But it still wasn’t ready. Not quite yet.

I went back and revised for one more year. Yes, a whole year. I needed it. The time I spent away from my manuscript was just as important as all that time I was spending on it.
And then, finally, on September of 2012, almost two revision-filled years after completing NANOWRIMO, I sent out my agent queries.
It went well.
Many people have asked me about my actual timeline. And, honestly, it’s such a blur that I’ve often gotten the dates wrong – so I decided to go back through my emails and see what the actual breakdown from NANO to Pub date really was.
And here it is:

Kat’s NANOWRIMO Reality Breakdown:
NANOWRIMO – November 1- 30, 2010 = Doggy Draft done (Doggy because, you know, it was rough-rough)
(Put manuscript away for several months, then go back and revise. Repeat.)
June, 2011 = First 50 pages are critiqued by Alvina Ling at the NJSCBWI Summer conference. I am asked to submit the entire manuscript.
(I DO NOT submit! I keep revising.)
August, 2011 Bring manuscript to SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE is nominated for the Sue Alexander Award
(But, they are only reading the very first few chapters, I remind myself. I put the manuscript away and revise for another year.)
September, 2012 Submit to agents, sign with the awesome Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary
(Do one round of smaller revisions with my agent before submitting to editors)
November, 2012 THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE goes to auction and is won by the lovely Alvina Ling
(I put it away again until I receive my editorial letter. Then go through several rounds of revision with my editor and copy editors. The last several moths, it is mostly finessing and copy editing.)
October, 2014 FINAL 2nd pass queries are finally finished
(Weep. Pass out.)
January 27, 2015 Publication Date.
This is only my very own personal novel journey — wrought with my own personal revision and writerly needs. Perhaps yours will take less time. And perhaps, more. Whichever way it goes, I wish you happy writing and revising.
And do I recommend NANOWRIMO? Absolutely.
After all, I did write a novel in one month. One month, four years, and a few weeks…

KatKat grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water every day and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.  Her debut middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE comes out January 27, 2015     Visit Kat on Twitter @yehface

You can order a copy here:

Art Activity Sites to Boost Literacy.

My  blogger friend and expert on activities for boosting literacy – GAIL TERP – has put together a wonderful post about using interactive art to develop and increase literacy in children of all ages.

Boost Literacy Skills with Interactive Art Activities: By Gail Terp

Here are some sites with art information and interactive art activities. There are many opportunities to learn and create. These sites are very engaging and being engaged boosts learning LOT!

from the US government site:
Includes 16 areas to explore for information and activities.

Interactive Art Websites for Children from Springdale Elementary School: http://www.princeton.k12.oh/us/Springdale.cfm?subpage=1577
Includes 6 sites for interactive art activities.

Art Games from Albright-Knox Art Gallery:
Included are games, learning activities, and interactive art activities.

The Artist’s Toolkit from Arts Connected :
Sections: Explore the Toolkit, See Artists in Action, and Encyclopedia. Lots to see, do, and learn!

45 Websites for Students To Create Original Artwork Online from Making Teachers Nerdy
The title says it all! This amazing site brings so many facets of art together in one spot.  Don’t miss it!:        gail photo

Many studies have shown that using art – and other left brain type activities – enhances learning and brain development in children and adults. So, give your child’s brain some exercise and try a few of these art sites.  Visit Gail at:


I went to Chicago this past weekend and attended my first American Library Association (ALA) Convention.  IMG_5266

I got to share the excitement with fellow Creston Books author ROBIN NEWMAN.  Not only did we share a room, we also shared our first book event with other authors from Creston as well as our Publisher/Editor/Mentor MARISSA MOSS.  Below is a photo gallery of some of the highlights from this amazing trip.

Up the escalator to the world of...BOOKS!

Up the escalator to the world of…BOOKS!                                                 

FINALLY meeting my wonderful editor Marissa Moss!

FINALLY meeting my wonderful editor Marissa Moss!

Friday Afternoon...Meeting and hanging out with the world's best school librarian: John Schumacher AKA Mr. Schu

Friday Afternoon…Meeting and hanging out with the world’s best school librarian: John Schumacher AKA Mr. Schu

With Fellow CRESTON BOOKS authors: Marissa Moss, Robin Newman, Lori Degman at ALA Convention Center Friday Evening

With Fellow CRESTON BOOKS authors: Marissa Moss, Robin Newman, Lori Degman at ALA Convention Center Friday Evening

Creston Books author Marcia Goldman and Lola...a favorite attendee.

Creston Books author Marcia Goldman and Lola…a favorite attendee.





Also spotted at the event....

Also spotted at the event….

Bookstore signing event on Saturday at Anderson's in Naperville, IL.

Bookstore signing event on Saturday at Anderson’s in Naperville, IL.

Also at the Book Stall in Winnetka, IL

Also at the Book Stall in Winnetka, IL

Got snowed in an extra day...

Got snowed in an extra day…

And after several rounds of cancelled flights...

And after several rounds of cancelled flights…    Made it home safe and sound.

It was an amazing event and I was happy to share it with so many wonderful, book-loving people!



Robin Newman and me waiting at Chicago O'Hare airport for yet another delayed flight...tired but happy from the weekend's events.

Robin Newman and me waiting at Chicago O’Hare airport for yet another delayed flight…tired but happy from the weekend’s events.