Thursday, November 8, 2018

CHESH Reviews on Facebook/Twitter

This year in order to really hold myself accountable for reading lots of Picture Books (a joy I try to partake of every day) I decided to start reviewing.

The first challenge to make it all doable- keeping it simple.  In order to keep things simple I made a template a 5 category 1-5 rating system called CHESH which stands for:


A top score is 25.  Each category is unique to the book.  Crave, will I want to read this again? And again? And again?

Heart: Does this story touch the reader (me/my daughter)?

Eyes: Do the illustrations shine? Do they work with the text?  

Soul: Does this story affect the reader, inspire the reader?

And Head: Is this book informative either by creating imagination within the reader with the story and or full of information about a topic?

I am currently up to 25 reviews.  I try to do a couple a month.  Mostly I like to highlight the great books I have found/read, occasionally I post reviews of books that fall short.

To check out these reviews you can visit my Facebook page- 

Or Twitter

Monday, November 5, 2018

Disappointment and Moving forward

The publishing industry is a HARD place.  First, you work for years to improve your craft.  You join groups like the SCBWI and 12x12, you take classes from places like Storytellers Academy and of course there are conferences and webinars. You work and work, submitting, tinkering receiving rejection… after rejection… after, well you get the idea.  But you keep going.  Somedays the art the creative process is what drives you on, somedays it’s your tribe pushing you forward.  But the uphill battle never changes.

Last month, after almost 2 years of waiting, struggling with lack of art or even an artist for my second book Q, I had to pull the plug and walk away.  It was not an easy decision from the perspective of- This story many never see the light of an illustrated page. But, it was the right decision.  No matter how hard you work, you always want the end product to be the best it can be.  And sometimes, even with a signed contract, you know it will not be. 

Thus, is the case with my story Q.  So, I am back on the mountain, climbing the hill I really never left, this time with more weight on my back, another manuscript in my bag.

I am still submitting to agents.  I have found some great ones, received some very positive rejections, but am still “homeless” in the literary world, but I am not giving up.

Just like my climb of Crough Patrick in Ireland back in 2001, shale layers slipping under my carefully placed feet, sliding me backward each and every step, I will succeed. I do not know what the final view might be, but, I will make it to the top because creating stories, falling in love with characters and giving voice to the voiceless is what makes me feel alive.

When you are signing contracts, especially before having an agent or when signing with an agent, do your research.  Trust your gut.  Then do more research.  It is exciting to have the prospect of publication.  But that publication has to be right, for you, for your book.

So, what now?

More submissions.  More writing. I am attempting do to again.  I am almost on track, but life keeps throwing me curveballs.

I am about to do a refresher with Storytellers Academy with again.  Best class I have taken in a while.

 And that’s about it.  Keep going people.  When your knocked down, turn to your tribe, turn to your craft.  Turn to the unwritten voices waiting for you and keep writing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My apologizes readers, it has been way too long since my last post. The good news- I have lots to talk about.
Items for post:
Q new illustrator
SCBWI Oregon 2018 Conference
A new review system for PB’s
The coming of the Summer drag

So, let’s get right to it…
My second picture book Q has been stalled for a year.  But now, with a new path forward it seems that Q will be shared with the world Spring 2019.
Meet the illustrator for this important new voice for kids who struggle with theirs-
The amazing and lovely Anni Becker.  You can find out more about her here.  I am excited to be working with her.  She exudes heart and light and I am very much looking forward to what her bright spirit will bring to the words of the story.

Now, the Oregon SCBWI Conference.
First of all- a massive shout out to my critique partners- Carol Zink (your heart and support is so cherished), Jamie Lynn Schultz, Maria Marshall, roommate extraordinaire Sandy Bohman, Cindy Droker and the lovely Elaine Asaidali.  You all really made my going to this event possible, enjoyable and magical.
Second- Vanessa Bradley-Newton, I still get goosebumps thinking about her presentation, presence and heart. How she shared all of that with all of us and still beamed with love and energy at the end of the weekend I’ll never know.  But she did, and I will have lots more to say about her in future posts.
Third- Illo notes.  So, one of the agents, Natascha Morris ofBookEnds Literary stirred the pot by mentioning-several times-that she LOVES illo notes.  Readers/writers, she is NOT the norm on this.  When submitting, do your research. Be sure that what you send includes and leaves out illo notes.  Personally, as a writer, I love putting them in (when they are necessary and succinct), but many do not.

Fourth- I learned about the Jump Start Book Program during agent Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel’s session.  I am excited to explore 2018’s choice, Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. I am also excited to pair up with my daughter’s school Librarian and bring this “community of art” to life in their halls next year.
Fifth- People to follow on Instagram/Twitter

Sixth-  I am still digesting everything. I am sure I will have more to post about the weekends events. Now on to an idea I had while at the conference.  A new review/rating system for Picture Books. There is always a lot to say about books. Especially when reviewing them.  But, a review for me boils down to 5 points.  So, my plan is to review at least three books a week using my new system.  I will post these reviews on the page on FB as well as on Twitter.  You can find links to those pages FB-HERE and T-HERE.

Now on to those important FIVE things that make up what I am calling The CHESH Review:

The CHESH Score a 1-5, 1 low-5 high scale for:
Crave- Do I want to read it over and over again?
Heart- Does this book have good story?
Eyes- Is the art magic?
Soul- Did this book inspire, stir emotions?
Head- Is it written well?

The first book reviewed using this system was After the Fall by Dan Santat.
The second was
Lines by Suzy Lee, 2017
C- 5
H- 5
E- 5
S- 5
Though “wordless” this picture book transports you into Suzy Lee’s created world.  I can’t just give a number for “Eyes” here.  Simply stunning this book embodies magic of the highest wizardly level.

Now onto the SUMMER DRAG-

I have an amazing daughter, she is 8 now. And she just happens to be a child with some special needs.  Summers are hard for me as a writer, lovely for me as a mom. Sitting down after an entire day teaching and being with your kid is not a luxury I often indulge in during the summer months, I am usually too tired, BUT, I do try.
This summer my plan is to continue writing (I know I am not alone in this).  My goal- 3 new PB manuscripts written and in a phase of editing.
Do I think I will be able to write another novel this summer, no.  But, it could happen.  Instead of writing a new one I will continue to focus on editing the one I currently have.  I am always looking for readers, so if you are up for a YA historical fiction read, please contact me.

I think that will have to be all for now.  More soon.  More on the SCBWI Oregon Conference, Vanessa Bradley Newton and more reviews.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Honored to be Featured Author for the month of March for 12x12

I have been part of 12x12 now for 4 or 5 years.  12x12 is Julie Hedlund's brainchild-A place for a monthly Picture Book draft challenges filled full of support, critique opportunities, webinars with industry insiders etc. etc.  Anyone wanting to get started on the path to bettering their writing and learning about the Picture Book world should check it out.

Every month 12x12 offers up a Featured Author and this month, it was me!  Stop by and check it out!

12x12 March 2018 Featured Author

So many good things offered in the world of Kid Lit

Today I enjoyed working on something for Vivian Kirkfield's #50PreciousWords

Check it out if you get a chance-
#50preciouswords Writing Contest

After a harrowing family drama filled weekend that included a Celebration of Life event for my Grandma.  She lived long and prospered until 93- I sat down and decided to give the 50 word challenge a shot.

Here is my submission.  I of course had to write about Food and my daughter, who LOVES food.  Since there is such joy in watching her zest for life and in the anticipation of food, this just seemed to fit nicely. Writing it filled me with energy and hope, love and remembrances.  And... It's only 48 words!

I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday morning Dim Sum

She wakes without the light of morning.



Joyfully greeting the day of promised possibilities…

Hand in hand, leaving the car to rest,

She springs up the street,

To wait.

Hopping on one foot in anticipation, too big now for mother’s arms,

Until their table is set.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


One of Santat’s strongest qualities as a storyteller
is his ability to leave a story in the perfect place,
with hope and possibility.

In BEEKLE as with AFTER THE FALL he does this, perfectly.

            I am excited to finally get to reviewing a couple books. Both by the amazingly talented Dan Santat.   Let’s set aside the fact that the first book reviewed, BEEKLE won a Caldecott in 2015 and that in my opinion his second, AFTER THE FALL should win as well. With that out of the way let’s focus on why I LOVE these books.

             First, BEEKLE- The most heartwarming, fresh voice and perspective of the Imaginary friends concept I have ever read.  With its warm color palate this book pulls the reader in, supplying the exact perfect amount of visual detail to inspire familiarity while gifting the reader many open spaces and curves of line to percolate the brain into imagining.  The main character Beekle, has a wonderful energy of hope and determination. His trust for the future and overall sweetness make the idea of imaginary friends so appealing that with each page turn the reader wishes they could reach out and offer friendship.  “Stop looking Beekle, I’m right here,” one wants to say as Beekle searches and searches for his perfect companion.

              I am in love with the way Dan Santat sees imaginary friends.  The texture he brings to each personality really inspires the reader to wonder and want to be part of Beekle’s world. Turning each page, the rich colors visually feed the soul of the reader taking him/her into each scene and challenge with great care.

              Santat captures the despair of loneliness so well especially, on the full-page spread “But no one came.”  This page so succinctly captures emotion and presents it to the reader (my daughter and I) so well that we always linger on that page to feel, together.  But that sadness doesn’t last.   A couple of spreads later the reader is warmed back up by color and joy in the soft half smile of a shy Alice. Her face so beautifully inspires an ember of possibility. 

              BEEKLE is a beautiful book and a wonderful story, one that should have a permanent place on any bookshelf for the whole of childhood.

              Now, AFTER THE FALL- My desire to love this book started early. Ready for more after BEEKLE, I couldn’t wait to hold this book once I heard about it.  The concept of retelling the Humpty Dumpty story, from a fresh psychologically in tune perspective-truly an inspired idea for Santat- was just too good to pass up.  The personal component, I learned later in an article only increased my anticipation.  Learning that Santat wrote this story for his wife, who suffers from anxiety-only makes the magic of this book stronger.
              Santat again creates a visually lush world for his main character, down to the details of some really poignant and interesting cereal boxes.  Each page spread has its own feel, expertly done to increase the feeling of anxiety in the reader and for Humpty.  Perspective is key and Santat works his magic like a three-medal wizard on each and every page. Case in point the page spread of Humpty’s plane disappearing on top of the wall.
              When Humpty is able to gather his courage, the reader is right there with him, one step, one reach on the ladder at time.  It is a joy cheering Humpty on and celebrating with him when he reaches his goal, conquering his fear/anxiety.  I won’t tell you the end, that is gift you must discover on your own. But, I will say it inspires greatness and once again ends on a note that brings hope and strength to its reader.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One of the best tools for any Picture Book writer?

KidLit411!  If you haven't yet, do so now.  Run, don't walk your fingers over to FB and ask to join this page.  The posts are awesome.  Case in point? Today's

So you've written a children's book now what?

Another really good one is Literary Rambles

And that's all I have for you today.  Had to take the kid to the Oral Surgeon to have a tooth removed.  That's about my day.

I'll check back in later.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Heading into 2018, wiser?

2018 Goals-
  • Post more useful information for writers on this blog. 
(PLEASE send me your questions- about writing, about publishing, about school visits... etc.)
  • Post more interviews on the blog.
  • Research and find the perfect agent.

  • Design a school visit presentation.
  • Visit more schools.
  • Write MORE- Picture Books, maybe even another novel.
  • Edit MORE- Get my novel through two more rounds of edits and readers.  Continue to fine tune my picture books.
  • Visit more Bookstore- Get EGG more shelve exposure.
  • Prep for and have a wonderful Book Launch for Q.
  • Reconnect with Storytellers Academy really utilize 12x12 and complete the Master's class I have signed up with.
  • Build my "What IF?" after school program for young creatives.
  • READ lots!
  • Review lots!

Each of these, together or separate is a good goal.  And a list, I believe, attainable. Time will tell.

Now that you have seen my list, let's talk about pacing.  Let's talk about staying focused.  Let's talk about balance creative time vs down in the trenches time.

Having made it through my first year with a published book, I have a much better idea what this next year will look like.  I know how much marketing, how much face time and leg work needs to be done.  And, I don't. 

I know what happened with EGG. 

Q could be a totally different experience. And, I am fine with that.  But, NOW I have a much better base of information to build from.

  • Pacing-  This week I am going to calendar up my year.  I will fold in, writing time, editing time, marketing time, and time with butt out of chair-living time.

Without the calendar I think I would feel overwhelmed. I guess my skills as a Professional Organizer will be utilized to their max.  So, writers- have a separate calendar or calendar color for all of your writing activities.

  • Staying focused- The calendar will help with this, but really in order to stay focused, you need to know how to answer a few questions-  
    • Why are you writing?  For whom?
    • Who are YOU as a writer?
    • And Where do you want to go with your writing?

If/when you can answer these questions, staying focused will be easier.

  • Now, the hardest part- Balance.

The two items above will HELP with Balance.  But the most important thing to remember, especially when our busy non writing lives interrupt us... be mindful of your spirit.  No matter what the calendar says, no matter what your goals are, LISTEN to yourself.

If you need to skip a BIC (Butt In Chair) day and go for a walk... GO FOR A WALK!  You might find new inspiration.  Go to a movie.  Go on a date with your sweetie.

If you need take a moment and connect with some JOY, do it.  Go find it.  Keep your spirit, your heart and your head as happy as you can. 

Right now the world feels like it is on fire, try your best to unplug from that enough to breathe.

Remember-Writing is not a sprint (that's marketing, lol).  Writing is the marathon.  Keep hydrated, keep your body as rested as you can and your mind clear so that you can fight through pain, self doubt and rejection, rejection, rejection (yes, I said that 3 times).

The most important aspect of balance for a writer, find your tribe. 

Get a critique group. 

You will have a much better time finding balance in your writing life if you have one.

Monday, November 27, 2017

NaNoWriMo, Scrivener Update and 2017 wrap up

NaNoWriMo 2017


It only took 2 weeks this summer to write it and about 15 days this November to complete a full first edit. I am feeling really good about my big WIN!

The story is out to readers (4), one of whom is already giving me great feedback. So, the next edit might actually start today.


I like it.  I am not that comfortable with it, but I can totally see continuing to use it IF, I continue to write novels.  I can see it's potential for Picture Books, but I have a system down now that I really love and no need to change it.

Having lost an entire novel, over 10 years ago to a computer crash, I love that everything is backed up, constantly. I love the chapter break outs, the sticky note/cork board feature.  Moving items around, took a little getting used to, but was doable.

If I were to continue to use Scrivener, I would takes some more tutorials.  I know that it has a lot more to offer.  So yes, it's a great tool and one I would recommend. 

Now, wrapping up for 2017-
A few items.  Please, support literacy.  Make sure to check out EGG at the SCBWI's Book Stop.


2017 Wrap Up

This year my first Picture Book EGG was published.  Here are my take aways from the process.

My first take away- There is huge validation when publisher believes in your work.  It is a major boost to the overall soul crushing day to day life of an author.  I don't think that changes, ever (the soul crushing or validation).

It does not matter if the press is a small press or a large press. Even though,  I am sure having a contract with a large press (with $$$ behind it) is in fact more fun.  But, any time someone out there says, "I love it!  I really get your voice! I want your story!" the world slows down and feels, right.

So, I had that this year.

Working with a small press and being in daily communication with my publisher and illustrator has been a dream.  I love the creative unfolding of styles that organically happens.  And, I love that I was given a voice in the final outcome/product.

And, I can't wait to get to the next phase with the second book.  Hopefully soon.

My second take away- Rejection hits you constantly, be able to roll with it.  Sure, some rejection hurts more than others. Have a good cry, then move on.  Ultimately it is about writing, loving what you are doing and creating joy/emotional connection for your readers.

My third take away- This is HARD work.  Since I have no idea what it's like to go with a bigger publisher only a small one I can tell you that YOU, are going to work your butt off.  It is up to YOU to get your name out there (this includes awards/contests).  So, be prepared to do a ton of marketing.  A TON.

My fourth take away- Don't let marketing your book take over your life.  Make sure you still have time to write.  After all, that is the LOVE part of the process, the creating.

My fifth take away- Even though public speaking is stressful, it can be fun.  School visits are the best.  Even if you have to double up your deodorant (Have I mentioned how hard public speaking is for me?)  It boils down to, Kids are wonderful. Kids are magic and seeing the lights come on in their eyes and faces when you are taking them to a new world-THAT IS THE BEST!

My sixth take away- I am still pining for an agent.  I am waiting, chewing my nails off, to hear from my dream agent.  I emailed her after 4 months of waiting (I sent the coolest "Egg Package" to her). She replied and said she felt so bad about not getting back to me and that she would review my offering quickly... but that was over a month ago.  I figure I have one more shot after the holiday's to connect for another check in. 

In the mean time.  I continue to send out inquiries.

My seventh take away- I still love writing.  I still find it frustrating and challenging and, I am still learning.  This year I was able to loosen of some of my insecurities.  Sure, they are still with me, but they aren't running the show, at least not every day.  I am proud of this growth.

My eight take away- (and no I am not doing a 12 days of Christmas count down here).  No matter what- Keep reading! 

This year some really REALLY fabulous books came out.  I have reviewed some of them here, but remember go to Goodreads and check other's out for yourself!

I will do one last review this year- It will be for Dan Santat's After the Fall

That's it.  That's my 2017 check in.  Now I work, wait and work some more with my fingers and toes crossed for 2018.  I am making my wishes to Santa now.  Stay tuned for more.

AND IF YOU have any questions about anything in this process, please email me. I would love to address questions or comments.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scivener Day 1- Tools for writing

I have resisted trying out Scrivener for years.  I regularly hear about how awesome it is and well as how hard it is to use.  Being mainly a picture book author, Scrivener isn't something that I NEED every day.

But, then I went wrote my novel this summer.  Finally.

The novel is complicated.  It jumps from 1800's to 2017, includes layers of people, and varied as well as intertwining stories.  Plus, it has lots of artwork in it, no, not mine.

Enter NaNoWrimo and my desire to cross the finish line with this novel.
Enter Scrivener.

Here are my thoughts so far-

Thank goodness I took that one hour tutorial about some fun short cuts and neat things Scrivener is capable of, or I would have given up.

I very much recommend that you use YouTube, take a short class and read about the program before you start using it.  There are so many wonderful things it CAN do, but you won't know about them unless you read and learn about them.  All of the bells and whistles are not obvious.

So today, I spent about 3 hours on Scrivener.  I have to say, it was fun.  I did not do any writing or editing. 
I did-
Get my entire novel put into folders, by books, chapters.
I did a synopsis for each chapter that shows up on the really cool note card screen.
I color coded each chapter (important for me to see distribution of character and times, historical component)
I added a mock cover.
Wrote the title page and dedication.
Included my reference books on note cards
And marked each chapter as either first draft, second draft or TO DO.

Tomorrow I am going to see about layering in photo's of one of my main characters art pieces.
Being able to use them as a reference will be very helpful as will maps and wiki information on certain things.

Here is peek at some of my hard work from today.

I'll try to keep you updated the more I use and learn about this program.
One more day until  !

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Review- Sleep Tight Charlie by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

Finding just the right book for your kids is like waving a magic wand and hoping that you said your spell just right. 

There are amazing books out there. 

There are Okay books out there and then, well there is everything else.

Put all of that to one side and let’s simple look at who your kid is.

Mine, is like yours unique. 

Mine like or unlike yours has particulars that align with Autism, Adoption, Learning disabilities, social issues and a very particular eye for aesthetic.

So, when I find a good book for her, I feel like I should share it with you all.

I found SLEEP TIGHT CHARLIE when doing a reading at Queen Anne Book Company for my little EGG.

I liked it immediately.

The illustrations are unique, almost film noir like, not overly colorful and bright, but alive and interesting.  The artist Kris Di Giacomo, is really good at leaving a lot of empty “negative space” so that the details, few as they are, really pop.  The details are very everyday but fascinating- a scissor mirror, bottles, clocks, and basic furniture.  Nothing feels crowded, the pages have room for imagination as well as the text.

What I love best about Michael Escoffier’s text is it’s simple (such a hard thing to do right) it’s got nice repetition and voice.

The story is clear.  The character is immediately likeable in his quirkiness.

What I love best about the story, are the patterns, simple, but detailed with a nice pacing.

And, I love the ending. In fact, I still enjoy the ending even now after having read it OVER and OVER and OVER again.  I get so caught up in reading the story that somehow the ending is still a surprise.

My daughter who needs repetition loves “Silly Charlie”.  Even acts out the book while I read it to her.  Sometimes she “reads” it to me from memory, always at random points during the day. 

The character, the story has successfully engrained itself in her life, seamlessly.
Good for Kids who make lists, need repetition.

Good for parents who like to do dramatic readings with sounds effects and tension.