Lifelong Dream Realized – Book Give-Away

Writing and Illustrating

traceybaptisteHeadshot 1-smallLifelong Dream Realized

I loved fairy tales as a kid. And I listened to a lot of jumbie stories. Jumbies are very tricky, very bad creatures in Trinidadian lore that will just as soon eat you as look at you. These were the stories parents told kids at bedtime. If you woke up in the morning with mosquito bites, you were told it might have been a soucouyant, a vampire-like creature who sheds her skin at night and flies around as a ball of flame to suck the blood of children. If you heard your name called at night, it might be a douen, a child-sized creature with backward feet and no face that would grab you and take you into the forest most likely to eat you. The lady that your uncle was dating might be a La Diablesse. You just had to get a good look at her…

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Spring Crafts: Sites for Kids

Looking for some fun-filed crafts to keep kids of all ages busy throughout the spring?  Here are some great sites with a lot of kid-friendly crafts using items most of us have around the house.

Hands on as We Grow:

From Disney Family:

First Palette:

Busy Bee:

Red Ted also has some short videos on how to make ORIGAMI BUTTERFLIES.  There’s a second one for a Pokemon Bunny as well.

Why not spruce up the house with some new spring crafts!  Happy crafting!

Internet Radio Interview With Stefani Milan

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure and privilege to do a radio interview with Stefani Milan on her show called READ ALL ABOUT IT.  We talked about my book, writing for children, historical research and more in the 30 minute spot.  Stephani does a wonderful job of making a person feel at ease and the time just flew by.  For any other authors out there who might like to do an audio spot, give it a try.  Stefani is always looking for authors that she can promote on the show.

Here’s the link to the program.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday Tips: 3 Ways Positivity Can Help Kids Learn To Love Food

I loved this post so much, I wanted to share it with my blog viewers. Let me know what you think and if you have other “tips” you’ve tried to get your kids to eat better.


positivity food faceWe are all uplifted or brought down by the emotions around us. We can thank our mirror neurons and vagus nerve for this kind of empathy and mirroring of each others moods and emotions.

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More Acts of Green.

Last Friday’s post had suggestions for ways to be kinder and gentler to the Earth.  Today I have a few more suggestions in honor of Earth Day.

1. Commit to perform an act of Green at:

2.Sign up for Community Recycling’s CR Home program where you follow their 3 simple steps to send gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories to those in need.   YOU put them in a box. YOU print a shipping label and place it on the box.  YOU leave the parcel for your mail carrier who will pick it up FREE OF CHARGE.  For more info:

3. Read…and Seed: At, purchase Bloomin Seed Paper that is 100% biodegradeable and embedded with seeds.  Use the paper as stationary, for invitations, grocery lists, then plant it and watch your garden come to life.

2013-10-01 03.10.29HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Go Green…er With These Tips and Ideas.

In honor of Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 24) I’ve brought together several great sites that help you and your child do something to help and honor our Mother Earth. There are numerous organizations and manufacturers who dedicate themselves to reducing waste, recycling, and leaving a smaller footprint.  Some cost a donation; other only require time. Here are a few of them:              monarch

1. GO WILD:  Protect the World’s Ocean’s through Oceana’s ADOPT AN ANIMAL Program.   If you spend $50.00 on a stuffed sea creature, the money will be used to protect endangered ocean creatures and the habitats they live in.    The WORLD WILDLIFE FUND  offers species adoptions for $55.00, which entitles you to a phot, stuffed animal, adoption certificate and gift bag.

2. PLANT A TREE: The Nature Conservancy’s program of Plant a Billion Trees, aims to restore forests around the world from Brazil to China.  You can see a map of progress so far and how to donate.    You can also protect forests in the American West at

3. RECYCLE FOR A CAUSE: Fight poverty by donating new and gently used shoes to:    

Assist victims of domestic violence by passing on old cellphones:

At  you can find out what to do with your old cell phones, and electronics so they don’t end up in a landfill.   The site also teaches you how to buy green, live green and recycle responsibly.

You can also spare the landfill by donating electronics to local charities at:

Send used baby clothes to outfit needy infants at:

4. RAISE A PUPPY: If your child is begging for a puppy but you’re not sure, you can get a feel for what is involved by volunteering to be a puppy raiser for the blind.

5. HELP ELEPHANTS: A gift of $30.00 provides the 150-200 pounds of food an elephant requires each day at the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary, the largest natural habitat for old, sick or needy elephants in the US                  

6. At  your child will find dozens of eco-friendly websites with activities, ideas and information on how to help protect the earth, and how to live sustainably.

You can also do things in your own backyard and neighborhood.  Plant a tree, start an herb or vegetable garden, go organic when you can to reduce dependence on pesticides.  Use less water.  Have a day without electricity, where you play games and tell stories by candlelight.

Check out the other Earth Day posts on this blog for more ideas.

Be kinder and gentler to Mother Earth…she’s the only planet we’ve got!

Poetry Challenge: by Lori Degman

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I asked a fellow writer and poet, Lori Degman to share some different kinds of poetry forms.  Lori’s picture books, 1 Zany Zoo, (Simon &     1 Zany Zoo CoverSchuster 2010)     and Cockadoodle,Oops! (Creston Books 2014)          cokadoodle oops

were written in rhyming verse, and are an absolute delight to read aloud.  Here’s Lori:

Thank you, Darlene, for asking me to do a guest post on your wonderful blog!

As a writer of rhyme – most of the time (but not always), and because April is National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share four unusual forms of poetry I’ve discovered through the years. I challenge you to give them a try – I bet you’ll have fun if you do!

1. Cinquain – a five-line poem that follows this pattern:
Line 1: One word (subject or noun)
Line 2: Two words (adjectives that describe line 1)
Line 3: Three words (action verbs that relate to line 1)
Line 4: Four words (feelings or a complete sentence that relates to line 1)
Line 5: One word (synonym of line 1 or a word that sums it up)

Here’s my Cinquain:

Fresh, green
Raining, blossoming, growing
Goodbye to old winter

2. Clerihew – a light verse, usually consisting on two couplets of uneven length and irregular
meter, with the rhyme scheme AABB. The first line usually contains the name of a well known
person. The Clerihew was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bently (1875 – 1956), an English
writer, at the age of 16.

Here’s my Clerihew:

Dr. Seuss
Is out on the loose.
He’s hunting for words
that are silly and absurd.

3. Sausage Poem – a string of words which are “linked” with the same letters/sounds at the
endings and beginnings of words. An extra challenge is to go full circle and have the last
letter/sound of the sentence match the first letter/sound. It’s harder than I thought it would be!

Here’s my Sausage Poem: (Darlene highlighted the letter sounds in orange to show the technique)

Spring goes slowly yet time elapses.
Summer rain nurturing growing greens.
Fall leaves swirl like caustic kids.
Winter rains snow over rustic cabins.

4. Skeltonic Verse – The Skeltonic Verse was named after English poet, John Skelton
(1460-1529). The rules are simple:

Line 1: Keep the line lengths between three and six words
Line 2: Every end word rhymes with the previous, until you start a new set of rhymes
Line 3: Keep the same rhyme until it starts to lose its energy or impact
Line 4: The poem should be full of energy and fun

Here’s my Skeltonic Verse (I wrote this right before going out to do my “duty”):

The weekend’s here
I shout and cheer
Until I hear
A voice so clear
From in the yard
the words were hard
So I was jarred
My plans were marred
Outside on the stoop
With a bag and scoop
His words made me droop
“Let’s pick up poop”                                     mompic_small

Bio –
Lori Degman is a teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing students by day and a writer of picture books by night, weekends and school holidays. Her debut picture book, 1 Zany Zoo was the winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest and was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. Her second picture book, Cock-a-Doodle Oops! was released by Creston Books in May, 2014! She is represented by Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary.

Darlene here:  I don’t know about you, but I am going to have to try a Skeltonic poem of my own.  Which form speaks to you?

What’s a Lawyer Doing Writing for Kids? By Robin Newman

It gives me great pleasure to feature another one of my author friends who has a debut book releasing this month.  ROBIN NEWMAN’S  Chapter Book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery, is being released by CRESTON BOOKS to starred reviews.   Here’s Robin to tell us about her path to publication:

I’ve often been asked how I ended up writing children’s books, and for that matter, a mystery series. “After all, you’re a lawyer, right?”

It’s a good question. A very good question.

Yes, I am a lawyer. When I was practicing, I was what you would call a “disgruntled lawyer.” That’s disgruntled with a capital D. Not an unfamiliar term to many lawyers.

One day, my mom gave me some good advice.                    

Kids already LOVE the book...

Kids already LOVE the book…


“Quit,” she said.

“What did you say?” I said. At the time, I was on my lunch break at a pay phone on a congested street in lower Manhattan. My hearing has never been great, but I knew I must have been imagining our conversation.

“Can you please repeat what you just said? I think we have a bad connection.”

“Quit. We’ll figure it out.”

I did. Surprisingly, my mom had a plan. I had no other plan but to eat my way through the chocolate éclair section at my local bakery. (It wasn’t a pretty sight.)

“Call Barry,” she said. He was one of my mom’s neighbors with a family law practice. He also taught family law.

I made the call. He needed help with some research projects. So, I wrote a bunch of memos, and then he asked me to write the content for his mediation website. It was this project that got me my job as a legal editor. When I was pregnant, I decided to freelance, and around that time, I began writing short stories. My twin suggested I enter the Symphony Space Selected Shorts contest. I did. I lost. Year after year. Rinse and repeat. But I was writing.

My husband suggested I take a writing class. I signed up for a children’s fiction class and as soon as I walked in the classroom, I knew I had found my people.

Then, during one Christmas holiday, I noticed my niece yawning while she was opening her presents. It was an eye opening moment. She was bored. That’s when I decided to give my nieces and nephews more meaningful gifts.

I wrote them stories. One of those stories was about the Double Trouble Banana Split Detective Agency on the hunt for a missing birthday cake. The detectives were two monkeys working their beat from a tree house. All of the characters were named after, or inspired by, members of my family.

I brought a version of this story to my writing workshop. Everyone hated the monkeys. Got it! The monkeys had to go. So what kind of detectives would kids find engaging? It somehow crossed my mind, wouldn’t it be interesting if the detectives, the enforcers of justice, were the smallest animals on a farm? Little by little, the enforcers became mice, and at some point I started to play around with the idea of making them like the FBI. But what kind of enforcement would be needed on a farm? And that’s when it hit me. Food enforcement. They would be MFIs, Missing Food Investigators. Hence, the creation of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery.      carrotcake_cover03

At first, the story was a picture book. But my word counts were off the charts. They were around 1200-1600 words. I knew an editor would be hyperventilating if he/she saw the word counts. Playing with the line spacing, margins, fonts, etc. wouldn’t help. (Although I can’t say I didn’t think of it. )

But I had no idea how to cut that many words and still write a mystery that was laden with clues, flushed out suspects, red herrings, etc. Then I went to one of the NJ SCBWI ( conferences. I had a one-on-one critique with the great, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. She told me, I’m paraphrasing a tad, but this is the gist of the conversation.

“This is not a picture book.”

Once again, I thought I was hearing things.

“This is a chapter book. Eight short chapters and you’re done.”

It was as if a light bulb went off. I started rewriting it as an early chapter book. Back to my critique group for what must have been a gazillion rewrites before I sent it out. In 2012, I met my wonderful, stupendous agent, Liza Fleissig, from the Liza Royce Agency, who coincidentally is also Darlene’s agent. I did a number of rewrites for Liza, and then a number of rewrites for Creston Books. My amazing, awesome editor and publisher, Marissa Moss, suggested I add more food metaphors, hype up the humor, leave more red herrings, and tighten the story. Her comments were spot on.

So, in a nutshell, that’s pretty much how I ended up writing a mystery series. And I have to say, it is hands up and down the absolute best job in the universe!

Watch the trailer for THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE:  

Raised in New York and Paris, Robin is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She’s been a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks.

She is the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), about two hardboiled mouse detectives working their beat from a shoebox at the back of Farmer Ed’s barn. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and on their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note: The names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.)  Other books include Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald (Creston Books, Spring 2016) and The Case of the Poached Egg, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery (Creston Books, Fall 2016).  

You can visit Robin at

Now here’s the interesting part of the post. If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), please post a comment below. If you’d like to increase your chances of winning, please also tweet about this post on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and reblog it. For each additional “shout out,” an extra piece of paper will be added to the magic sorting hat with your name on it. Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity! And don’t forget to let Darlene know how many “shout out’s you did so she can add the correct number to the mix. Deadline is April 20, 2015.

May the best blog reader win!

Children and Reading by Charles French

Reading is one of the most important skills that any child can gain, not only for achievement in school but also for enjoyment in life. There is almost no job that anyone can have today that does not require some level of reading ability. It is the touchstone for advancement in any field.
What I would like to speak to, however, is not so much the practical importance of reading but its personal significance. Children have extraordinary imaginations, especially when they are young, and I believe that it is the responsibility of adults around them to nurture and support that creativity and wonder. Reading is the most important aspect of supporting and developing children’s imaginations. What they picture as they read a story will be more important than any image they see on a TV screen.

I speak from personal experience. I cannot remember a time when I did not read. Thanks to my mother’s encouragement, I was involved in books from a very young age. I did not, however, only read books; instead, I also was a huge fan of comic books. I would read about the various superheroes and their adventures and simply become absorbed into that world. I am still a card carrying member, if such a thing existed, of Nerds-Are-Us because I continue to love superhero movies!  captainamerica

I loved Spiderman, Captain America, and Thor in particular.      spidermanI found the Marvel comics characters to be filled with human weaknesses as well as their capacity to do amazing things and save the world from terrible villains.

journeytocenterofearthAs a child, I also loved science fiction and adventure tales, including Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth and H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
As an adolescent, I discovered Gothic and Horror, both in movies in books. I fell in love with books like Frankenstein and Dracula, and I continue to love this genre. I do not claim I understood these works with the level of sophistication that I do now, but they still engrossed me in their tales of supernatural danger. If there is one book that I think most teenagers should read, as well as adults, it would be Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

draculaI think that children should read picture books, comic books, children’s books, and anything they enjoy. Happiness, wonder, and pleasure should be a crucial part of their experience with reading. I recommend for almost any child who is reading at the 10 year old level or higher the Harry Potter series. I do not have the authority to say what the best children’s books are, only to suggest these as good, useful, and engaging for children.
I do want to emphasize one particular idea: at no time should reading ever be a punishment; that would be counterproductive to the goal of having children wanting to read. Children need to gain the love of reading and not resent having to do it.
Parents can take children to bookstores and let them explore and pick out books to read; they can take them to the local library—a wonderful resource! Reading not only to but with children is also an excellent way to foster the love of reading. Finally, having children seeing parents read is also extremely useful.
I hope that these somewhat scattered ideas are useful.
In the end, children should be encouraged to read what they choose to read.  

charles picCharles French, a writer and academic, has a Ph.D. in English, and is attempting to be a published novelist. He is married with one son.
Visit his blog at: