Pay it Froward With a Day of Service.

Since today is a federal holiday – in honor and remembrance of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King – many of us have the day off.  As we go about our errands and enjoy a bit of extra time, get the whole family involved in small acts of service.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life: pay the toll of the person behind you, buy a cup of coffee and a sandwich for a person out on the street, let the person behind you have that coveted parking space, let someone in line ahead of you.  You and the kids can visit a hospital and read stories to children, spend time with seniors who don’t often get visitors,  shovel snow or do yard work for a neighbor unable to do it, bake cookies or muffins for a shelter.  Leave an anonymous bag of treat on the doorstep of someone who lives alone or might need such a thing to brighten up the day.

Possibilities are endless.  The warmth and good feeling you and your children will get is guaranteed to last beyond the day.   Spread kindness.

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Got Squirrels? Read On.

Now that winter is here, we are in full bird feeding mode.  And, along with the birds come their friends the squirrels.  Instead of trying to chase these critters away, why not help scientists better understand them.  Whether you live in a city, the suburbs or a small town, squirrels are part of our landscape.

You and your kids can help researchers understand squirrel ecology by submitting your observations of the animals to the PROJECT SQUIRREL site.   http://www.projectsquirrel.org

Be a Good Cookie Baker.

Baking cookies is part of our holiday tradition.  I know it is for many families this time of year. So, while you make these bite-sized treats, how about making a second batch for a good cause.  COOKIE FOR KIDS’ CANCER is a non-profit organization that has raised nearly 15 million dollars for pediatric cancer research and funded 100 research grants as well. To learn more about this nation-wide organization, and how you can become part of it, visit:  http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org

Happy Baking!

Katey Howes Launches Her PB GRANDMOTHER THORN.

PLANNING A LAUNCH PARTY FOR GRANDMOTHER THORN

It’s such a treat to be a return guest here on the blog! The first time I contributed a post here, I was a fresh new blogger sharing ideas about raising kids who love to read  – and just starting out on my path to publication. After connecting with Darlene on the internet, we got to know each other better at the 2014 NJ SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Fast forward 3 ½ years, and here I am again, this time privileged to be chatting about my first picture book. It’s been a joy sharing the journey from aspiring author to published author with such an energetic, encouraging and talented friend. Thanks for having me, Darlene!

My debut book is GRANDMOTHER THORN, illustrated by the incredibly talented Rebecca Hahn and published by independent publisher Ripple Grove Press. When it released in August, I knew I wanted to host a launch party that not only celebrated the book, but also thanked the many people who helped me achieve this milestone.  Here, I share a bit about my party, and hope that it helps others plan their own wonderful events!

LOCATION. Many authors have their launch party in a local book store, in their home, or in a venue that reflects something about their book. I chose the Crosswicks Community Library, located in a beautiful renovated firehouse dating from the 1800’s. (This library has such a cool history – you can read more about it here.) This library had been my reading home since 2007 – and the place where my children grew to love books. We spent many hours there together, in all seasons, reading out loud to one another, doing puzzles, and discovering stacks of new favorites. I wanted to celebrate this magical place along with my book. The library was also a great choice because it was conveniently located to the neighborhood where my kids went to school and where my Girl Scout troop met. I knew my Brownies wouldn’t miss this party for the world – but their parents would thank me for making it convenient.  The library did not charge me for the event, and they made it easy for me to sell copies of the book. They also helped promote the event through their Facebook page. All great things to consider in planning a launch party! (It’s also walking distance to a good playground and an excellent pizza place. How could you go wrong with that?) 

INVITATIONS

I went digital in getting the word out about my launch party. I used Canva.com to create images with the event information sized right to share on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I created a Facebook event in less than 10 minutes and added the Library as a co-host so we could both easily invite our Facebook followers. All of this was absolutely free.

ACTIVITIES    Of course, the main event at any launch party is the author reading his or her book – but what happens next? With a picture book launch, you definitely need something fun for kids to do while the grown ups hug and laugh and say “congratulations.”

My friend Ariel Bernstein recently hosted the launch party for her debut, I HAVE A BALLOON, at words Bookstore in Maplewood. She had a balloon artist there twisting cool creations for the kids. It fit right in to the theme and kept even big kids happy.

Since I’m a crafty person, I wanted a fun art activity for kids to make and take. My daughters (ages 12, 10 and 8) manned the craft table and helped kids make these Shiori Ningyo, or Japanese bookmark dolls. I discovered this craft when the KidArtLit subscription box company included it in their August book box, and I have been using it at events ever since! 

You can check out their video tutorial here. Including this craft in the party was a great way for me to symbolically thank KidArtLit’s founders for sharing GRANDMOTHER THORN with their subscribers – and for all the love they’ve shown the book and me!

REFRESHMENTS

I originally planned to have berry tarts (to reflect the berries in the book) and dorayaki (which also plays a role in the story) at the launch party. I reconsidered after realizing refreshments would be served in the children’s room of the library. I did not want gooey, sticky, and stain-prone desserts on hand while kids were likely to pull library books off shelves. I decided to go with individually wrapped cookies, instead – and to avoid chocolate or sticky fillings. (Though if you’re curious about making dorayaki, check out this interview in Vivian Kirkfield’s Will Write for Cookies! Series.)

I was lucky to discover The Flour Pot bakery in Ambler, PA. They helped me select images from the book to be “screen printed” onto delicious frosted sugar cookies in edible colors. The cookies were striking, right down to the color-coordinated ribbons The Flour Pot staff tied around each cellophane bag.  

 

They also made a great thank you gift for the supportive family and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. This delicious gift box went out to my incredible agent, Essie White.

SWAG

Many authors and illustrators pass out fun items like pencils, stickers, and toys to help promote their books. For ideas, definitely check out promo pros Robin Newman and Lori Richmond.  I did design and order bookmarks for Grandmother Thorn from VistaPrint.com – and the publishing house later made more with a different design. I didn’t order additional “swag” for this book, as I couldn’t really find anything that thematically felt right to me.  Instead, I spent most of my “swag budget” on craft supplies and those gorgeous cookies!

The party itself was everything I had hoped – a time for joy and sharing and gratitude and friendship. And, of course, lots and lots of kids reading books.

 

Katey Howes

Children’s Author, Literacy Advocate

Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 2017)

 

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, January 2018)

KateyHowes.com

All the Wonders

Picture the Books

You can buy a copy of Grandmother Thorn on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Grandmother-Thorn-Katey-Howes/dp/0991386698/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512848025&sr=1-1&keywords=grandmother+thorn

Easy, Kid-Friendly Ornaments to Keep and Give.

My daughter came across these simple – yet festive – ornaments that are perfect for even young kids to make on their own.     

Shower Curtain Ring Wreaths:

  • shower curtain rings
  • chenille/pipe cleaner stems of assorted colors
  • tacky glue
  • buttons, beads, ribbons for embellishment          

Step One:  Using two pipe cleaner stems together, wrap around the ring to cover it as shown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue until the entire ring is covered.  Tuck ends of the pipe cleaner into the wreath to hold tight. Repeat as many times as you wish, making each ring different…or a matched set…your choice.

Step two:  Decorate with buttons, beads, etc. Tie with ribbon or string to hang.

Apple Cinnamon Ornaments

Here is an easy no-bake dough you can use to make holiday ornaments, beads for jewelry or magnets.  The fragrance is heavenly and lasts for years…even after being stored away with other Christmas ornaments. All you need is the following: 2 C. applesauce, 2 C ground cinnamon and 2 T white glue.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until you have a soft dough.  Roll it out onto waxed paper until about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut it into shapes using various cookie cutters.  Use a straw or nail to poke a hole at the top if you are making ornaments.  This will give you a hole for the string. Set the cut ornaments aside to dry.  They will take 24-48 hours and should be turned over half way through to ensure both sides are completely dry.  cinnamon stars

After they dry, you can decorate them with glitter, sequins, etc. by brushing a layer of glue onto the front and sprinkling the decoration of choice.

CAUTION: Even though this dough smells heavenly and is made of food products, don’t eat it.  It is strictly for craft use only.

Gifts That Keep on Giving: Part 1

As we shop away this holiday season, we are often reminded of those less fortunate and wonder how we can make a difference – even in some small way.  Wouldn’t it be great to buy something that not only provides pleasure to the recipient, but gives something to those in need as well?  Here are a few gift items that do just that:

  1. When you buy an American-made cotton FOREVER BLANKET, the company provides financial support to children in the foster care system by funding extra-curricular activities and therapy – to help offset the cost of adoption. http://www.swellforever.com
  2. Join those who have helped provide safe drinking water for children world-wide by buying a LIFESTRAW PLAY WATER BOTTLE. The 10 oz. bottle has a two-stage filtration feature that works well for school or outdoor activities.  For each bottle purchased, the company provides safe water for a child for an entire school year.  More than 630,000 kids have been helped so far.  http://www.lifestraw.com
  3. EVERLASTING LIQUID LIPSTICK donates 20% of its proceeds to rescue and protect farm animals from cruelty.  The vegan lipsticks are named for animals saved by the group.  http://www.sephora.com
  4. Uwezo’s eco-friendly shoes – crafted from cowhide – help generate funds for orphaned and vulnerable children in East Africa.  http://www.uwezobrands.com

For more gifts that give back, stay tuned to this blog’s post on 12-14.