Friday, February 3, 2023

But Ya Gotta Have Friends! (Sorry, Bette Midler!)

January 1st means a fresh start, new resolutions for many people. The Gregorian calendar insists the New Year comes in the middle of grey, grisly, winter, with short days and long dreary nights. I think that's a mean joke. The last thing I want to do this time of year is make resolutions or "move ahead" on a project.

So what do I do to jolt myself out of the midwinter blahs? I talk to my friends As I've mentioned before, some of my best friends are books. I consult my "writers on writing" shelf.

The first book I read about writing was Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit.  Ueland is the friend you talk to when you fall in love with writing, because she's in love with it too.  She gets it. If You Want to Write was published in 1938, but so timeless in style and advice, it could've been written last week. She believes that everyone is talented, original and has something important to say...just what a new writer wants to hear! "Try to discover your true, honest untheoretical self," says Brenda. Wow! Somebody wants to hear from the "real me"? All right!

How can you not love a book with chapters titled "The imagination works slow and quietly," and"Be careless, be reckless! Be a lion, be a pirate when you write." Then there is my favorite "Why Women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing." (Not a problem, Brenda!) I've written journals off and on since third grade, but when I read So You Want to Write in my 20's, I was encouraged to "Keep a slovenly, headlong, impulsive, honest diary." Ueland set me free to write and write and write without fretting over what I was writing, or what it might be some day. She turned me into an enthusiastic observer and journal keeper. I re-read So You Want to Write when I need to fall in love with writing again. (Sidebar--Greywolf Press brought the book back into print in 1983...and it has not been out of print since. That should speak to the quality of Ueland's advice.)

Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird came into my life when I was trying to turn all that journal writing into actual stories...and having serious doubts that I could do it. Anne Lamott is the big sister friend, who has been there, done that and is going to tell you Get over yourself! Don't listen to your inner voice screaming, Who told you you are a writer.?You stink! Don't freak out. Take deep breaths. You can only write one sentence at a time, word by word. (Or bird by bird, as per the title.) Whatever writer's block you have, or how horribly you judge your own work...Anne Lamott has already done it, much, much  worse! (If you need a visual, think of Cher in Moonstruck, slapping Nick Cage and yelling "Snap out of it!") When I'm overthinking or hypercritical to the point of inertia, I pour a glass of wine and spend a little time with Anne.

After decades of plugging away, I began to publish. However, the myth that "once you get your first book published, the next one is easier" is just that. A myth. I sold my first book. The next one took four years. (Although in the wild and wacky world of publishing schedules, the second book came out before the first one!) I didn't have an agent. In fact, I was discovering that getting an agent was harder than getting an editor's attention.I was sure that J.K Rowling and Stephen King were not having my problems with a-hiccuping career. That's when I happened on Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. 

Personally, I'm not a fan of King's stories or style. However, I am in awe of how he has made readers out of people who don't like to read. I read On Writing, hoping he had some sort of magic formula. Of course he doesn't. However I discovered has a lovely conversational style when writing about his own life...and not homicidal Plymouth Furys or evil, sewer-dwelling clowns.

 King takes the "toolbox" approach to writing. If you don't possess and use these tools, you will never become a competent writer. His first tool: read a lot and write a lot. I'd been telling my own writing students that for years. I didn't know whether to be disappointed that his advice wasn't more exotic, or pleased that Stephen and I were on the same page, philosophically speaking. I didn't tell my students that by "writing a lot," King means that he writes every single day. That's a discouraging notion to a ten-year-old whose life is already scheduled to the gills.(He once told an interviewer that he wrote everyday except Fourth of July, Christmas and his birthday--but that wasn't true. He writes every day.) I also write every day, although not necessarily of the journaling-and-writing-project variety. I'm a moderator of a Facebook (OK Meta!) page that involves a lot of research and concise explanatory writing. This keeps my toolbox working between projects, and through the spells when my imagination seems to have dried up and blown away. (I tell my students to write on weekends and school holidays...and whenever they are happy or sad or mad. That winds up being pretty much every day...without them knowing it.)

The other "tools" King uses are so basic, I'm a little insulted he calls them tools; vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary doesn't need to be voluminous (The last time I was required to know and use the word "salubrious" was in taking the ACT.),  varied and useful. If you get stuck, he suggests a thesaurus, preferably not the one that came with your word processing program. For grammar, nothing can beat our mutual old friend, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.  While King never does tells how he can turn out bestseller after bestseller, he does remind me that if you don't read, write, mind your vocabulary and grammar, you're never going to write anything. On Writing is that professor you regard with awe, but when you actually talk to them, find they aren't magical or mystical...just hardworking and focused. 

My last friend is my teacher friend, Ralph Fletcher. (I don't personally know Mr. Fletcher, but after reading everyone of his many books, I feel as if I do.) I rely on Fletcher to inspire me as a teacher.  He is a master teacher of writing as well as a writer for children. He knows how kids think, and how to jazz their imaginations, free them of their writing hang-ups. His books contain writing exercises and topics (he doesn't use the word "prompts") for every age group--including adults. I've never taught a class without Ralph Fletcher at my side, in spirit. 

No one gets through this writing life alone. As the great Bette Midler sings "'cause yah got to have friends." Please feel free to introduce me to some of your writing friends. 

Posted by Mary Ann. Rodman 

Friday, January 27, 2023

Congratulations To Our Latest Giveaway Winner!

This is just a quick post to congratulate the winner of our latest book giveaway: The Stories Behind the Stories: The Remarkable True Tales Behind Your Favorite Kid's Books, by Danielle Higley (Bushel & Peck Books).

 And the winner is:  

                                        Margaret S.

Thank you to all who took time to enter our giveaway. And special thanks to Bushel & Peck Books for providing the book for our winner.


Friday, January 20, 2023

1 WORD FOR 2023

Howdy from California, Campers ~

Soggy California! Sorry about the drips on this page (I'm in Southern CA and we're fine, thank you).

And Happy New Year and Happy Poetry Friday to all! (The links to Poetry Friday, my poem, and my upcoming class are all below.)

Our theme for this round is Moving Forward in the New Year. We began with Esther's enticing review of the book, THE stories BEHIND THE stories (read her review here and enter to win it in our first BOOK GIVEAWAY in this fresh new year)

I'm up next.

In the 13 years I've been privileged to be part of TeachingAuthors, I've learned rain barrels-full about writing, teaching, poetry, and friendship from my fellow TeachingAuthors, from many of you, and from the Kidlitosphere and Poetry Friday communities.

One thing I've learned is that many of you move forward by choosing a word for the year.

So I tried it. Sometimes I'd choose a word and then discard it because it didn't seem to move me forward. But one year the magic happened. That was the year I chose the word CAPABLE.

I chose it because the nasty noises in my brain continually convinced me that I was never going to be capable of doing whatever it was I was doing. 

That word set me on the road to discovering I was, indeed, capable.

                                drawing (c)2023 by April Halprin Wayland

Good old CAPABLE. We're still very close. 

Usually, instead of choosing a word for the year,  I choose a word for the day. The book I read each night has one page for each day of the year. The page begins with a quotation, followed by a paragraph expanding on the quote, and then a gentle resolution for the day.

For example, one recent quotation was: "Competitions are for horses, not artists." ~ Bela Bartok

The words from that reading that resonated in me were: "People who have developed the art of living...are as respectful of their own values and opinions as those of others." (underlining is mine)

Every night I read a page and every morning I forget what that page was about.

So I decided to condense the whole page into one or two words. In this case, my word for the next day may have been "self-respect." And guess what happened when I woke up the next day? 

Nada. Nothing. 

Even if I created a visual for my word--for "self-respect" (which might be someone looking in a mirror and liking what she saw) even then, I still couldn't remember what I'd read. 

Finally, I decided to write that word on the top of my foot each night. In the morning, before I sat up, I'd challenge myself to remember the word, and sometimes I could. But if I couldn't, I'd lift my leg and read my foot. 

I write my word on the TOP of one foot. I do NOT draw faces on my toes. But, boy, it sure looks like fun...maybe I'll try it. (photo: Pixabay)

All day long my word walks with me. And if I feel scrambled, I'll stop and focus: what's my word? I rarely need to take off my shoe to remember it. 

Here's the draft of a poem I wrote about it:

by April Halprin Wayland

I write the word I'd like to think

on the top of my foot each day in ink.


Absurd, absurd, some friends may say,

to walk with that ink on her foot all day!


How odd, so odd, some will assert,

to write on one's foot—imagine the dirt!


You know what I mostly wish from this?

to tune out the voices and follow my bliss.

          poem © 2023 April Halprin Wayland. 

(That last stanza is super corny, but that's what I've got for you today ~ says this recovering perfectionist)

As this new year rolled around, I thought I'd try a word for the whole year again. I sifted through many. The word that felt exactly right is SIMPLIFY.

It's already working its magic: each time I'm overwhelmed by too many emails, too many TO DOs, too much noise, I think: SIMPLIFY. A calm washes over me. I focus.  And guess what? In simplifying the tasks I take on, I've begun writing a picture book I'm totally in love with!💗

I haven't felt this excited about writing in a long, long time. 

What's YOUR word for today or for the year? I'd love to read it in your comments.😊

And hey, Campers ~ my one day, three-hour Introduction to Writing Children's Poetry will be held again on January 28 from noon to 3pm PST. We read a variety of poems and have time to write our own. Come join the fun! It's offered through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program

Thank you for hosting Poetry Friday, Marcie!

posted by April Halprin Wayland, with help from Monkey and Eli, posing with one of their favorite, very old poetry books.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Heaps of Heart and Hope for 2023 + OUR BOOK GIVEAWAY!

 What better way to launch the New Year than with a Book 


And not of just any book.

 IMHO: Children’s books gift Readers with Heart and Hope.

Katherine Paterson described story as “one heart in hiding 

reaching out to another.”

"A good book,” venerable Atheneum editor Jean Karl shared, 

"…respects a child’s capacity to become.”

But when a children’s book offers us the true and remarkable 

stories behind the stories we’ve come to love – as does Danielle 

Higley’s THE stories BEHIND THE stories (Bushel & Peck 

Books, 2021), how could we not reap EXTRA heaps of Heart 

and Hope?

Think: twenty-nine writers’ hopeful hearts waiting to be



I guarantee our Giveaway Book will fortify you fully so you 

can keep keepin’ on in 2023.

And Good News! It will also inspire one lucky Young Reader 

because the publisher honors its Book-for-Book Promise: for 

every book sold, Bushel & Peck donates one book to a child in 


Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway! Instructions follow this post.

To nominate a school or organization to receive free books from 

Bushel & Peck, click here.

In her Author’s Note, Danielle Higley shared an important insight 

she gleaned while researching the how and why her chosen 

children’s book creators told their stories. Yes, creativity and 

imagination played a role.

 ·       J.R.R. Tolkien, while editing a student’s blank paper, penned, 

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – and then promptly 

built a bigger world.

·       A young librarian patron queried Beverly Munn Cleary, 

“Where are the books about kids like us?” and her answer, 

fortunately, was Henry Huggins.

·       Dr. Seuss believed, “Nonsense wakes up the brain cells… If you 

can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in 


But most treasured children’s books were born from extraordinary 

persistence and grit.

·       Beatrix Potter self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit when 

multiple publishers rejected the manuscript.

·       Librarians offered a storm of protest, though to no avail, 

because the children in Gertrude Chandler’s original Boxcar 

Children series “were having too good a time without any 

parental control.”

·       Every day for thirteen years, Christopher Paul Curtis worked 

on a General Motors assembly line, taking turns with his partner 

to hang thirty doors in a row to earn a thirty-minute break to write 

his stories.


From Mother Goose rhymes and Clement Clarke Moore’s The 

Night Before Christmas to Rick  Riordan’s Percy Jackson and 

the Olympians and Jeff McKinney’s Wimpy Kid series, each of 

the true tales behind the featured books magnifies the treasure 

these beloved stories hold.

David Miles’ beautiful illustrations, many collage-like boasting 

photographs and original art, the many meaningful author and 

illustrator quotes throughout and the shared research resources 

on the last pages enrich the book’s enjoyment.

Thanks to Bushel & Peck Books for generously gifting one of 

our lucky TeachingAuthors readers with a copy of THE stories 

BEHIND THE stories.

Thanks, too, to Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core for hosting 

today’s Poetry Friday.

May Heart and Hope accompany you through the New Year!

Esther Hershenhorn


I need to shout HURRAH! for my writer Amy Neeren and her 

recently-released debut chapter book Nellie in Knots published by 

Bushel & Peck Books! The story behind her story offers bushels 

of Heart and Hope.

. . . . . .

To enter the giveaway drawing for The stories BEHIND THE storiesuse the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: if the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.)

You may enter via up to 4 options. The more options you choose, the better your odds! 

If you choose option 3, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST 
STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends January 20, 2023 and is open to U.S. Residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter 
a Rafflecopter giveaway.  And a second article explains the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Winter Poem Swap Treasures

Happy Poetry Friday! Today I'm thrilled to share the wonderful winter poem and gifts I received from my Poem Swap partner. First though, a HUGE thank you to Tabatha Yeatts for coordinating the Winter Poem Swap. You'll find Tabatha's blog here.  

I'm relatively new to the Winter Poem Swap--this is only the second time I've participated. This year, I was paired with Tricia Stohr-Hunt. Tricia is a professor at the University of Richmond, where she prepares future teachers. At her blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect, she writes about "children's literature, poetry, and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers."

For the swap, Tricia sent an envelope filled with marvelous treasures, including two notebooks and a bag of sweet-smelling scented soaps!

It wasn't until I read Tricia's note inside the lovely "Book Leaf" bearing a George Kingsley quote that I discovered she had made both of the notebooks! The small folded notebook with the beautiful butterfly design on the front contains pockets--they held the poem she'd sent plus a series of prompts to inspire my own poems. The second journal is meant to hold those new poems. 

Here's a peek inside the folded notebook:

What a terrific idea! I'm looking forward to trying the prompts in the new year--almost all of them are for forms I've never written before. 

And it was obvious from the poem Tricia sent that she'd done her homework. We've never met, but she knew of my math background. She labeled her poem accordingly:

Holiday Poem Swap 2022
To: Carmela (a fellow math lover)

A Mathematical Pi Poem.

In case you aren't familiar with this form, the number of syllables per line in a pi poem must equal the numbers in pi up to that point. For example, in a 3-line pi poem (often called a pi-ku or π-ku because it has the same number of lines as a haiku), the syllables per line equal 3, 1, 4, to represent the first three digits of π: 3.14. Since pi is infinite, there’s no limit to the number of lines in a pi poem. The longest  I've ever written contains eight lines. Tricia's Mathematical Pi Poem is 36 lines long and is quite splendid!  (If you have difficulty reading the poem in the photo below, you should be able to click on the image to enlarge.) 

I love everything about this poem, and I especially connected with these lines:

There is wonder in
how the world
arranges itself.
Mathematicians across time
find universal delight in
the perfect arrangement of
lines in a plane, or in quadratic

I also love the last stanza (which cleverly follows a blank line to represent the digit 0):

Where will
beauty find you? It sure finds
me in the mystery of math.

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to get to know Tricia a bit. She definitely feels like a kindred spirit.  In addition to loving math's mysteries, I'm intrigued by the intersections between math and poetry. And Tricia's pi poem is a marvelous example of that!

December has been an exceptionally gray month here in the Chicago area. Receiving the envelope of treasures from Tricia really brightened my day, week, and month! And the gifts will also brighten the New Year as I put them to use. Thank you, Tricia!

If you'd like to read the poem I sent Tricia, you can find it in her post here. I hope you'll also check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup being hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

I wish all of you, our TeachingAuthors readers, a blessed and happy holiday season. Esther will be back on January 6 with a special book giveaway to kick off the New Year! 


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Oh! Oh! Oh!


Remember that old marching song:

99 bottles of beer on the wall

99 bottles of beer

Take one down, and pass it around,

98 bottles of beer on the wall.

Its repetitive melody helps you find your rhythm when hiking trails or jumping ropes. It’s an ear worm that keeps you steady when the task at hand seems monumentally tedious. It diverts your attention from the monotony to the goal. That’s what I feel when I revise. When I finish a first draft, breathing a sigh of relief and accomplishment, I move on to the first revision. Only to discover another plot hole. A character acts out of character. First person slips into third person. Or worse, the history is wrong.


You know what? I hate beer. And this particular morning, after a week of finals, I’m not liking revision. It’s hard, hard, hard work.

Indeed. Instead of spending all those hours writing, typing, outlining, researching, deleting, cutting, pasting, I could bake a pie. I could learn a new hobby, learn to sky dive and jump off a cliff, plant another garden, or two, or three…


 True enough, I have enough gardens. Besides, it’s cold outside. And I have enough hobbies, which mostly centers on books and more books. And I haven’t had a baking oven for over a decade.  And sky diving? What?

Besides, this character, for all her flaws, is getting really interesting. If I could just…

Fine. Back to work.

By the way, wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.

O yea, speaking of which, I should tell you:

I now have an agent! Sarah N. Fisk is an Associate Literary Agent in the Tobias Literary Agency! I am immensely honored to be working with Sarah!

 As the saying goes: watch this space!

-- Bobbi Miller

Friday, December 2, 2022

4- and 5-Year Olds Share Their Favorite Books

As I’ve stated before, one of the most magical things about teaching young children is the new perspective one gets from the authentic point of view of a child when that child allows you in for a peek.  As both a kidlit author and a teacher, I wondered what my 4- and 5-year-old students would say if I asked them, “What is your favorite book?” I was curious about how their insights were different than my own adult point of view.  So, in a true Reggio-Inspired teaching approach I documented verbatim what they said (as I do every day).  

I wanted to  hear from the age group I often write for. I wanted to understand how they truly connect with the literature that is read to them since most are not yet independent readers. I wanted to know what engaged them and stayed in their memories and why. 

It started very simply.  I asked them, “What is your favorite book?” I wasn’t even sure if they would be able to name any. I wasn’t sure if they had the context to name titles like adults do, having had a much broader experience reading. 

I started by modeling what I meant. I picked a book that has been my favorite for years.  It’s not a current title so I wondered if any of my students had ever had it read to them.  It’s a much longer book than the current 500 -700 word stories. It was written during a different time.

“My favorite book is The Velveteen Rabbit,” I stated, reminding them not to pick mine and to pick their own.  

Here are the delightful recommendations from the Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten students.

Lydia – I like the silver one with the golden.  It’s about…don’t touch the golden one.  The name of the story…You Have To Do The Page.  God is inside. Heaven and God is inside the book.

Hazel – I like the book that’s not for reading. (What’s the name of it?) I don’t know. (What’s it about?) Animals finding things.

Emma – I brought a chameleon book that I really like.

Archer – I like a book at my house that’s called, My Heart Is My Love Feelings.

Lilly – My favorite book at my house is called, Bible. And I read it at night with my bear and my mom. And then, it’s called Two Bibles In Love.

Arianna – My favorite book is Water Protectors.  I like it so much that I want to look at it right now.

Abe – My favorite book is your book, Hello, Little One. But first, my baby brother got that book. But today, I’m going to get that book after school.

Vivian – I have four favorites.  One of them is Zeena’s book.  I like your book. The second one is Olive the Other Reindeer.  When I went to Wendy’s for Thanksgiving, she had it.  She’s not a kid.  She’s a grown up.  My third one is We Are Water Protectors. And the fourth one is No Voice Too Small.

Jacob – My favorite book is Find Spot cause one of them are a lion.

Rowan – I have a favorite book at my house called, Octopus Alone.  So, it’s two seahorses trying to think that the octopus is having fun and wants to play.  And the seahorses play along with the octopus, but the octopus wants alone time.  And then, it went into the dark, dark sea.  And then it changed, camouflage. And the seahorses tried to find it. And that’s it.

Isaac – The Red Book because it’s my dad’s favorite book and he wants me to read it to our class.

Patrick – It’s my Number Blocks book.  Lift the flaps book and the book that…it’s called Number Blocks Big Numbers.  And that’s not all. The last thing I need to tell you is that I have two new ones coming out. And also, I still have work on the second one.  The first one is done.  But the first one wasn’t done today.  I think that it was done a year or two ago. And that’s all.

Mari – The Room On The Broom because it has witches and I like witches.

Alexa – The Bunny.  It always hop around.

Olivia – I have two.  I like all dinosaur books.  I love all dinosaur books.  And, I also like Wing Of Fire.  I have two books of them.  One is about a Black Fire Dragon and the other one is about an Orange Fire Dragon.

Willie – My favorite is No Voice Too Small because the author that we met named Keila, wrote that book.  I like Water Protectors because they protect the water and they don’t want the water to get higher because the Black Snake will suck up the water and poison the land.

As I read over the documentation, I was struck by a theme that emerged. The books that held meaning for many of my students were those with relational connections.  Books that were read with parents. Books that were owned by friends. Books that came from home. Books that were read with their first teacher. Books that were written by authors that the students had personal connections with. The books had meaning because the context in which they were introduced had specific meaning for these young children.

After exploring this theme and engaging in discourse with my friend and longtime critique partner, Andrea J. Loney, I discovered that I too had a relationship with my favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Not only was I touched by the story.  I had directed the play years ago for the Burbank Civic Light Opera.  Of all the picture books that I have read in my lifetime (hundreds I’m sure), it is the one that has lodged in my memory and stands out as my favorite.  My relationship to the story goes well beyond the random reading of a book I read long ago. It is a story that is grounded for me in warm personal memories and relationships with members of the Burbank Civic Light Opera.

From our conversation, Andrea thoughtfully posed this question: “How is the story you’re writing, reinforcing and fostering those social emotional bonds between the adult reader and the child audience?”

As an author I will carry this question with me as I continue to write picture books as the evidence is strong that this is the secret sauce that makes picture books memorable for young children.  Maybe you will too!

By Zeena M. Pliska

Author of Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story  Illustrated by Fiona Halliday

and  Coming April 18, 2023  Egyptian Lullaby  Illustrated by Hatem Aly

you can find me here

@zeenamar Instagram

@zeenamar1013  Twitter

@Zeena M. Pliska on Facebook

Andrea J. Loney is an award-winning author of picture books including CURVE & FLOW: THE ELEGANT VISION OF LA ARCHITECT PAUL R WILLIAMS, DOUBLE BASS BLUES, and BUNNYBEAR, as well as the new futuristic chapter book series ABBY IN ORBIT.

@andreajloney on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

@author.andreajloney on Facebook

out now


ABBY IN ORBIT: BLAST OFF! (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company)

ABBY IN ORBIT: SPACE RACE (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company)

VIP: STACEY ABRAMS VOTING VISIONARY (illus. Shellene Rodney, HarperCollins)

DOUBLE BASS BLUES (illus. Rudy Gutierrez — Caldecott Honor Title, Penguin Random House Knopf)

BUNNYBEAR (illus. Carmen Saldana — ALA Rainbow List, Albert Whitman & Company)

TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VAN DER ZEE! (illus. Keith Mallett -- 2014 New Voices Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Nominee, Lee & Low)

NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY Picture Book Anthology (illus. Jeanette Bradley, ed. Keila V. Dawson & Lindsay H. Metcalf, Charlesbridge)

coming soon— PRE ORDER

ABBY IN ORBIT: ALL SYSTEMS WHOA! (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company April 1, 2023)

Friday, November 18, 2022

Wibble Wobble Boom!---Skating Away with a Picture Book Giveaway

I'm experiencing unusual, winter-like weather here in November. I am writing with a fire in the fireplace, George Winston's Winter playing in the background, coffee mug at hand. What better way to celebrate the publication of my new picture book, Wibble Wobble Boom! (Peachtree Publishing), available November 29th?

As you might guess from the adorable cover by Holly Sterling, Wibble Wobble Boom! is about learning to ice skate. Claire arrives for her first lesson with high-flying dreams of leaping and spinning, like the skaters she's seen on TV. How disappointing that the first skill she's taught, is how to fall safely! 

If you're a long time follower of this blog, you know my daughter Lily was a competitive figure skater from kindergarten through high school graduation. She spent every single weekday at the ice rink. And by default, so did I. Every. Single. Day. 

Lily chanced into figure skating. A kindergarten classmate invited her to a birthday party at the local ice rink. A birthday party is not a good time to introduce kindergartners to ice skating. The whole class stood wobbling on rental skates, afraid to step on the ice. While her friends whined about falling and being cold and couldn't we just go eat cake, my daredevil daughter and a couple of boys stepped on the ice. Clutching the side rails, they inched their way around. The next thing I knew, Lily had let go of the rails and was baby-gliding away from the boys. 

Lily continued her cautious way around the rink, arms straight out to her sides. The other kids had flopped on the spectator bench, whining that their feet hurt, they were cold, they wanted cake. The birthday girl's mom kept checking her watch, knowing that the party room wouldn't be open for another half hour. 

"This is fun!" Lily called to me. And took another lap around, a bit faster time. By the time she had finished a second trip, the birthday mom announced it was time for cake and presents. 

"Do I have to eat cake?" Lily asked me. "I want to stay here and skate." 

I told her she had to go eat cake but after that, she could come back and skate. 

And she did. 

For four hours. At the end of the session, her legs were so sore, I had to carry her out to the car. As I buckled her into her car seat she asked, "When can I come back?" 

Lily's first competition--1st grade

 Lily became a skater. I froze my behind off in rinks for the next 12 years. I learned to write with frozen fingers, surrounded by hoards of skaters and their families, chattering, screaming, or having hockey stick wars. I watched Lily master the Bunny Hop, spin and Mohawk. By high school, she was teaching her own Snowplow (beginner) classes. 

My mom put me on double runner skate blades when I was two. I thought that the whole point of skating was falling! I would fall on purpose...on my bottom...and yell "Boom!" extremely pleased with myself.

That memory came back to me as Lily taught her own students how to fall. I watched their little feet in those brown, battle-scarred rental skates, ankles wibbling and wobbling. I listened to them complain "Miss Lily, this isn't skating. I want to twirl. Teach me that." "My feet are tired. I wanna sit down." "I'm cold."

Lily would patiently explain that safety is the very first lesson in skating. Then they could learn everything else. Yes, your feet do hurt and you do feel cold. That's what happens if you want to skate. 

I like alliteration. As I observed those little Snowplows, I remembered a song from kindergarten... crickle crackle crickle crackle creak creak creak, the sound of walking on ice. Then my mind followed with wibble wobble boom. Skaters learning to fall. I remembered Lily's first skating lessons. While she never  complained about being cold or tired, she didn't like learning to fall...because she never fell. Her balance was that good. She disliked being made to fall, just to learn how to land on your butt. 

What if Lily had gone to that birthday party, expecting to sail across the ice like an Olympic medalist? What if...?

Once again, my daughter sparked a story, just as she had for First Grade Stinks and My Best Friend and A Tree for Emmy. 

Lily's last competition--senior year.

Children. The gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of gifts, we're giving away a copy of Wibble Wobble Boom! Keep reading for entry instructions.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


We are giving away ONE autographed copy of Mary Ann's soon-to-be-released picture book, Wibble Wobble Boom! (Peachtree Publishing), which received a Starred review from Booklist

To enter the giveaway drawing, use the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: if the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.)

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Friday, November 4, 2022

Celebrating a New Friendship-Themed Poetry Anthology

In honor of Poetry Friday, today I'm celebrating the recent release of What Is a Friend?, an anthology of ekphastic poems edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong and published by Pomelo Books.  I'm honored to have one of my poems, which I share below, in the collection. But first, a bit about this marvelous new book for ages 7 and up.

The fun sticker on the cover indicates the anthology is a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press" Selection for October 2022!

Here's the description of What Is a Friend? that appears on the Pomelo Books website:

To learn to be a good friend, kids need models of friendship. The 41 poems in this book guide us in reaching out, sharing ourselves, asking for help, giving support, and just having fun. These poems also show us that friends come in many forms; we can find them in our families, at school, on sports teams, through community service, on vacation, in pets, in nature - and even in ourselves.

The website also lists the contributors. I recognize many of their names, whether from Poetry Friday posts or other anthologies I've seen. But some of these poets are knew to me. I look forward to reading all their poems:

Many talented voices are represented in this book: Gail Aldous, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Robyn Hood Black, Willeena Booker, Sandy Brehl, Carol Bullman, Kelly Conroy, Mary E. Cronin, Linda A. Dryfhout, Janet Clare Fagal, Karen Elise Finch, Nancy Bo Flood, Patricia J. Franz, Marilyn Garcia, Van G. Garrett, Theresa Gaughan, Sara Holbrook, Irene Latham, Rebecca Gardyn Levington, Molly Lorenz, Jone Rush MacCulloch, Carmela A. Martino, Guadalupe García McCall, Rochelle Melander, Heidi Mordhorst, Elisabeth Norton, Joan Riordan, Laura Purdie Salas, René Saldaña, Jr., Michael Salinger, Donna JT Smith, Anastasia Suen, Pamela Taylor, Linda Kulp Trout, Fernanda Valentino, Charles Waters, Vicki Wilke, Matthew Winter, Janet Wong, Helen Kemp Zax, and Sarah Ziman
As with the Pomelo Books "Things We . . ." series (Things We Do; Things We Eat; Things We Feel), 100% of the profits from sales of What Is a Friend? will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund ( You may recall that my poem "Amazed" appears in Things We Feel, so I now have two poems in publications from Pomelo Books. I am officially a "Pomelo Poet," and I have the logo to prove it! 😀 

My poem in What Is a Friend? is called "Sidekicks." You can see it below alongside the photo that inspired it. Special thanks to Janet Wong for creating this great graphic!

The students in the above photo are practicing tae kwon do. I have to confess that I knew nothing about this martial art before attempting the poem. My early drafts were based on online research. After sharing some drafts with my critique group, I learned fellow member and poet Eileen Meyer had actually studied tae kwon do herself. Eileen's feedback was especially helpful to my revision process! (If you don't know Eileen, she is one of three poets making up the "Rhyme Doctors" team--read more on their website.)

I hope you'll check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe for links to more kidlit poetry. 

Happy Writing!