On My Mind

-thoughts of a wife, mom, author, illustrator, juggler, toy designer, teacher, camp director, ...



Friday, April 27, 2012

Daily Doodle: Waterway!


This only appears to be a tremendous waste of water. The cement tilts toward the grass so the water is helping the grass and bushes along the other edge of the driveway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preparing for NaPiBoWriWee

Brainstorming Session



NaPiBoWriWee begins May 1st and runs through May 7th. This odd group of letters stands for National Picture Book Writing Week. The challenge is to write seven picture books in seven days. Maybe you’re thinking that this is crazy or simply can’t be done. It can. I participated in this challenge led by Paula Yoo, last year and had a great time. I met a group of caring, supportive, and motivating writers dedicated to writing for children and I am still in touch with many of them today. I am also participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 challenge of writing twelve picture books in twelve months so combined; I should have 18 or 19 new drafts this year.

A key to being successful with both of these writing challenges is preparation.

First, if you haven’t done it yet, go sign up for NaPiBoWriWee. Signing up means go to Paula’s website and leave a comment at the bottom of the post that gives details about the event. You have to log in to Wordpress to leave a comment but don’t have to start a Wordpress site or blog – just create an account which means giving your name and email address and coming up with a password. During the week, Paula Yoo will post interviews with professionals in the children’s writing industry and she'll give prizes at the end. There is also a Facebook Group page and a CafĂ© Press store with notebooks, shirts, and mugs with the NaPiBoWriWee logo. Okay, enough about the event – let’s start brainstorming!


Start with making a list of at least 10 events in a child’s life. Be specific to the age of your target audience so think about zero to eight year olds.

Here is my list – make your own– the more ideas, the better. Think about unique experiences you or your own children had.

  1. playdates
  2. running in a sprinkler
  3. losing a tooth
  4. birthday parties
  5. being line leader at school
  6. participating in sports
  7. taking the bus
  8. joining girl scouts or cub scouts
  9. making new friends
  10. taking care of a pet

Now come up with a list of 10 locations. Be adventurous.

Here is my list – make your own and add to this one. Again, the more the better.

  1. beach
  2. doctor/dentist
  3. playground
  4. zoo
  5. hair salon
  6. pet store
  7. grocery store
  8. bus stop
  9. museum
  10. on the bus, or plane, or train

Now mix it up. Take an experience from the first list and use the location from the second list.

Here are some examples:

What if a child lost a tooth at the beach?

What if a child got to be the Line Leader on the class trip to the zoo?

What if a child went to a birthday party at a hair salon?

After you come up with a list of events at locations, think of what can go wrong. Does your mc forget something, lose something, break something. Is he or she afraid to do something?, etc...?

Try this. You need seven ideas. Come up with ten so that when you get to day seven, you still have choices. The pre-challenge is not to let yourself start writing them yet. Before NaPiBoWriWee begins, you can brainstorm and outline your thoughts but DON’T start writing yet.


Last year, each morning (after I got my little ones off to school) I would sit down at my computer, select an idea off my list, and write it. Try to develop your idea with a beginning, middle, and ending. Don’t worry about how great you think this draft has to be – we are not trying to write seven final drafts. Get your idea on the page. You have the rest of the year to tweak, edit, revise, rewrite, illustrate (if you are also an illustrator). We do not post and share our stories with other participants and nobody is checking your computer to make sure you do it. You are challenging yourself. Remember, a picture book is 0-1000 pages with the sweet spot being between 200-700. It is not a lot of words to get onto a page in one day so if you find yourself laboring over an idea, choose a different one for that day. You can always go back to the tough one or scrap it.


You can do this. You have a week to brainstorm your list of ideas. Have fun with it.


Leave a comment and let me know if this brainstorming session helped you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April Fool Phyllis's World Tour



April Fool Phyllis, a fabulous new picture book by author Susanna Leonard Hill, came out last month. In February, Susanna lined up a fantastic group of children's books authors and illustrators and sent Phyllis on a worldwide blog tour. This little groundhog gets to travel to various countries and to many states within the United States. While visiting each location, she learns about the local weather, meets children, sees local sites and shares her story. I feel very lucky to have been included in this event. Here is our story of her visit...

A package arrived on my doorstep on Tuesday evening. I anxiously opened the envelope and when I saw that it was April Fool Phyllis, I quickly took her out to get some fresh air. I welcomed her to Georgia and showed her the forest behind my home. She like it a lot. She wanted to meet the gopher who lives in the hole in my yard but I took her into the house to meet the family instead. My daughter read Phyllis’s story about April Fool’s Day before bed and I tucked Phyllis in for the night.



Wednesday morning, my four year old told me that Phyllis looked tired from her travels and asked if we could take her with us for a Spa Day. Phyllis rode with us to the salon. See photo. Erin got a haircut and Phyllis had a shampoo and blow dry to fluff up her fur.





















Then Phyllis, Erin, and I went to Panera for a girl’s lunch. She was curious about Chik-fil-a but I told her that it probably wasn’t a good idea for a groundhog to eat chicken. Phyllis opted for a salad at Panera.



After lunch, we took Phyllis up to the top of a very, very high street in Marietta, Georgia so she could see the Atlanta skyline. Phyllis told us that she had never been soo high up. Erin held her really high to see the skyline (on the horizon in the distance).



The weather in Georgia was a sunny 82 degrees. Phyllis predicted that it would stay sunny for another whole week and then it would get a little drizzle of rain. She was right. Erin read Phyllis’s story again before bed and read another story to Phyllis about princesses. I tucked Phyllis and Erin in together for the night.


Thursday morning, Erin carefully put Phyllis in an envelope and we mailed her off to picture book author, Corey Rosen Schwartz for her next visit. She left Georgia pampered, rested, and refreshed. Phyllis was ready to visit more families in other states and countries.

If you would like to learn more about April Fool Phyllis, check out author Susanna Leonard Hill's website or blog. This book, full of adventure, suspense, and puzzles, would be a great addition to any child's bookshelf. I highly recommend this book as a read aloud. Click HERE to watch the book trailer.