Congratulations, New in 19 February Releases!!!

Congratulations, Vivian, Lindsey, and Mia!

#Newin19 is a community of debut trade picture book authors and illustrators whose books are launching in 2019.

Below you’ll find the covers of the New in 19 books being release in February. Click on the image to access ordering information.

congratulations, all! From Guides by deb

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Guides by Deb – Keeping your books in the hearts of young readers and in the hands of those who care for them.

This blog post was created by Debbie Gonzales, MFA. Deb is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for a New Zealand publisher and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to access a website - Guides By Deb - which is jam-packed full of premier educators guides for all genres, all ages, and all kinds of fun.

Are you interested in discussing a reader’s guide project? If so, click here. Deb’s eager to hear from you!

Deb also hosts The Debcast - a podcast dedicated to the courageous female athletes of the past and present who demonstrate that playing like a girl means to approach sports – and life – with confidence, commitment, and drive in order to achieve any worthy goal. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls – everywhere. The Debcast explores what it means to be an athletic girl with guts by talking with female athletes of all ages and walks of life, as well as authors who have written about them.

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Congratulations, Caldecott Winners!

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The Randolph Caldecott Medal annually recognizes the preceding year's "most distinguished American picture book for children", beginning with 1937 publications. It is awarded to the illustrator by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

Posted below are the book covers for the 2019 Caldecott Medal and Honor winners.

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congratulations, all! From Guides by deb

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Guides by Deb – Keeping your books in the hearts of young readers and in the hands of those who care for them.

This blog post was created by Debbie Gonzales, MFA. Deb is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for a New Zealand publisher and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to access a website - Guides By Deb - which is jam-packed full of premier educators guides for all genres, all ages, and all kinds of fun.

Are you interested in discussing a reader’s guide project? If so, click here. Deb’s eager to hear from you!

Deb also hosts The Debcast - a podcast dedicated to the courageous female athletes of the past and present who demonstrate that playing like a girl means to approach sports – and life – with confidence, commitment, and drive in order to achieve any worthy goal. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls – everywhere. The Debcast explores what it means to be an athletic girl with guts by talking with female athletes of all ages and walks of life, as well as authors who have written about them.

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Congratulations, Newbery Award Winners!

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The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

The book covers for the 2019 Newbery Medal and Honor winners are posted below.

congratulations, all! From Guides by deb

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Guides by Deb – Keeping your books in the hearts of young readers and in the hands of those who care for them.

This blog post was created by Debbie Gonzales, MFA. Deb is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for a New Zealand publisher and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to access a website - Guides By Deb - which is jam-packed full of premier educators guides for all genres, all ages, and all kinds of fun.

Are you interested in discussing a reader’s guide project? If so, click here. Deb’s eager to hear from you!

Deb also hosts The Debcast - a podcast dedicated to the courageous female athletes of the past and present who demonstrate that playing like a girl means to approach sports – and life – with confidence, commitment, and drive in order to achieve any worthy goal. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls – everywhere. The Debcast explores what it means to be an athletic girl with guts by talking with female athletes of all ages and walks of life, as well as authors who have written about them.

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Congratulations, Coretta Scott King Award Winners!

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The Coretta Scott King Book Award is awarded by the American Library Association is presented by the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table. Named for Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., this award recognizes outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience.

Below you’ll find the covers of the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award medalist and honor winners.

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congratulations, all! From Guides by deb.

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Guides by Deb – Keeping your books in the hearts of young readers and in the hands of those who care for them.

This blog post was created by Debbie Gonzales, MFA. Deb is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for a New Zealand publisher and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to access a website - Guides By Deb - which is jam-packed full of premier educators guides for all genres, all ages, and all kinds of fun.

Are you interested in discussing a reader’s guide project? If so, click here. Deb’s eager to hear from you!

Deb also hosts The Debcast - a podcast dedicated to the courageous female athletes of the past and present who demonstrate that playing like a girl means to approach sports – and life – with confidence, commitment, and drive in order to achieve any worthy goal. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls – everywhere. The Debcast explores what it means to be an athletic girl with guts by talking with female athletes of all ages and walks of life, as well as authors who have written about them.

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Congratulations, Robert F. Sibert Winners!

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The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award is awarded by the American Library Association for most distinguished informational book for children.

Below you’ll find the covers of the 2019 The Robert F. Sibert medalist and honor winners.

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Congratulations, all! from Guides by Deb!

Mail Chimp Banner.jpg

Guides by Deb – Keeping your books in the hearts of young readers and in the hands of those who care for them.

This blog post was created by Debbie Gonzales, MFA. Deb is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for a New Zealand publisher and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to access a website - Guides By Deb - which is jam-packed full of premier educators guides for all genres, all ages, and all kinds of fun.

Are you interested in discussing a reader’s guide project? If so, click here. Deb’s eager to hear from you!

Deb also hosts The Debcast - a podcast dedicated to the courageous female athletes of the past and present who demonstrate that playing like a girl means to approach sports – and life – with confidence, commitment, and drive in order to achieve any worthy goal. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls – everywhere. The Debcast explores what it means to be an athletic girl with guts by talking with female athletes of all ages and walks of life, as well as authors who have written about them.

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Path to Promotion: A Six-Week Online Book Publicity Course

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You may know that I’m, at long last, going to be a debut author! My book comes out in the spring of 2019. Hip, hip hooray! Like a good little soldier, I’ve been working on a publicity platform, discovering lots of neat ways to let folks know about the book and myself. However, I discovered that, though I’ve been very active in the Kid Lit industry for a long time, I feel somewhat ill-prepared to promote my book. And then, it occurred to me that, if I feel this way, then others might, too. So, I contacted a few author and publicist friends and have put together an on-line publicity course suitable for published and pre-published authors and illustrators.  Together, we will navigate our way down the Path to Promotion.

I have a vision of what I’d like my publicity campaign to look like. I know I’ll need to utilize social media in creative and authentic ways to make that happen. I’m very interested in developing a sense of community with readers, as well as the folks I’ve been honored to create teacher guides for. I want to know how to make a solid connection with the school/library market. And, while I’m blessed to have tremendous support from my publisher, I’m fully aware that they have other authors that deserve their attention, too. I desire all these things, and yet I have limited funds and time to devote to developing this campaign. Where should I start? I need a plan. Set some practical, affordable, and achievable goals. Devise a strategy by asking guidance from professionals who know what to do. Take some action! That’s what Path to Promotion: A Six-Week Online Book Publicity Course is all about.

Path to Promotion is an online collaborative program designed to share promotional information and techniques, to guide in the publicity preparation process, and to clarify steps required to create an affordable marketing platform that is personal, authentic, and professionally sound. In this session, we’ll explore topics such as podcasting, the school/library market, creating a digital footprint, and others.  At the end of the course, participants will receive a Path to Promotion Publicity Planner packed with graphics and guides to assist in the quest to make a splash in the world.

Here’s how the Path to Promotion 6-week course works:

  • On Monday of each week participants will access an audio interview featuring one of the Path to Promotion faculty members focusing on their area of expertise. In addition, they’ll access a handout and (look out, now) a homework assignment due on Wednesday of that week.
  • On Wednesday, participants will access a live webinar (affectionaltley known as The Debinar) during which they can connect with the featured faculty member by asking questions via live chat. The Debinar will be recorded for later viewing. Questions may be submitted in advance.
  • At the end of the course participants receive a Path to Promotion Publicity Planner packed with graphics and guides to assist in the development of a practical, affordable, and effective promotional plan!

Some important registration and fee information:

  • Session run from Monday, May 14 until Wednesday, June 18
  • Early Bird Registration - $175 (opens March 1 – closes April 8)
  • Full Registration Rate - $200 (opens April 9 – closes May 7)
  • Spaces are limited

The Faculty list and their topics include:

  • Deb Gonzales  on IDENTIFYING INFLUENCERS
  • Carmen Oliver on MAKING A SPLASH IN THE SCHOOL/LIBRARY MARKET
  • Carrie Pearson on PREPAREDNESS: THE KEY TI MAKING CONNECTIONS
  • Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy of Blue Slip Media present EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLICITY, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK
  • Jo Whittemore  on the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, AND WHY OF PODCASTING

I’m over-the-top excited about producing this course. The faculty is incredible. The topics are timely. I love the fact that the Path to Promotion coursework is interactional, flexible, and versatile – perfect for authors and illustrators, at what ever stage they may be in the quest for publication.

Join us, won’t you?

For more information, contact me at debbadee5@gmail.com.

Free Word Cube Download

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A couple of cubes

One of the most versatile and entertaining project-based manipulative is, what I call, the Word Cube. Here's why:

Please be my guest and DOWNLOAD a free Word Cube template. Let me know what cool ways you decide to use it. I'd love to see what you come up with!

Enjoy!

All the very best,

deb

Observations of a Master Marketeer

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I've made lots of guides for Don Tate and always enjoy doing so. But the one I made for Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth was my best experience with a Tate project ever. Not only is this picture book one of the most fascinating non-fiction stories of all time (Which makes my job tons of fun!), I got to watch a master marketer in action. Being that I’ve got a non-fiction picture book to promote soon enough, you can bet I'm watching this master in action – close! Here are few things I've learned, thus far:

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  • Be generous with information: Don has created a website dedicated to this story. Check out http://strongmansandow.com/. You’ll find lots and lots of information about his creative process, historical facts, great images, and links to fascinating videos! I’m planning on doing something very similar with Play Like a Girl, which reminds me, I’d better grab a domain for the PLAG website, a.s.a.p.
  • Connect with readers in a personal way: I love how Don's friendly voice rings true in his posts. Consider the post titled "What’s Up With The Medallion Hanging from Sandow’s Neck?" In it, Don explains the how some facts, and the omission of others, served to guide his decisions regarding what to include in the story.  Being that Sandow's religious affiliation is unclear, yet the star medallion suggests otherwise, Don chose to leave the medallion off of the "dude" in his illustrations. Best not mislead his readers with ambiguity.  
  • Be an expert in your topic: Don is a fitness fanatic, pure and simple. He’s a swimmer, a yogi, a “gym rat”, and was once a body-builder himself. We capitalized on his expertise in the Educator’s Guide by adding a weekly Fitness Plan using his illustrations as graphics. Hopefully kids will become inspired to become as strong as Sandown...and Don, too.

I want to wish Don all the very best with his book launch being held at Book People in Austin on Saturday, September 9. He’s been planning the launch for a year now (Take note, Deb.). It’s sure to be a colossal event, particularly because he is featuring modern-day strongman Andrew Perlot as a main attraction. He and Don are sure to wow the crowd. I wish I could be there with him.

Don, my friend, I’m with you in spirit! Have a grand time!

No Passive Learning Here - WORDPLAY!

WORDPLAY makes grammar studies seem like a day at the waterpark. It is such fun! Author Adam Lehrhaupt personified parts of speech then placed them on a playground to do what kids do. Play hard. Get a little jealous. Bicker a bit. Jockey for social ranking. Take up for each other. And, eventually become good friends. Adam nailed it.

Even though illustrator Jared Chapman’s brilliant use of bright primary and secondary colors suggest that the book is suited only for the very young, I think WORDPLAY is beneficial for any student – young or old – who struggles with the fundamentals of grammar. Teachers, WORDPLAY needs to be on your shelves. Trust me on this one. For real.

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The projects in the Discussion/Activity Guide compliment the active spirit of the story. No passive worksheet coloring in this one. That just wouldn’t be right. Instead, we’ve got kids up and at ‘em, rocking and rolling word cubes, embodying Adam’s personifications by dramatizing the grammatical structure of silly sentences in true Mad Libs fashion. Fun. Fun. Fun.

Character Cards serve to keep the crazy cast members somewhat orderly. These cards are simple to make and are super handy when lining up young actors to participate in an impromptu performance. The WORDPLAY character cards are labeled and color-coded to represent each role.  All a teacher needs to do is trim around the borders, punch a couple of holes in designated spots, and then secure a bit of yarn on the card to create a hanging tag.  Kids love these things. Teachers will, too.

If you’d rather have your students make their own Character Cards, click here to download blank copies. Use them to create a cast for Reader’s Theater productions, imaginative play activities, and anything else you might think of. Let the kids illustrate them; choosing colors and shapes that best represent their characters’ true nature.

No passive worksheet coloring, right? Never! Instead, taking Adam and Jared's lead, let’s make word play lively and fun!

I Geeked Out on This Guide, Big Time - GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code is an inspirational story about a dynamic, tenacious, and accomplished woman whose entire life was guided by insatiable curiosity.  It was clear from the beginning that Grace Hopper was going to make a lasting impact on the world. As a child, she was driven to understand how and why things worked as they did. Her tolerant mother accepted her daughter’s continual dissections of alarm clocks and other household items as “Grace just being Grace”.  As an adult, Grace’s perpetual need to question the scientific status quo, coupled with her deep patriotic devotion, affected every project she was involved in, as well as the people she served along the way. Grace Hopper was one of kind, to say the very least.

As a teacher, I’ve worked with lots of kids like Grace Hopper. Brainiacs obsessed with math and science. Kids that won’t take an adult’s word for an answer. Instead, they are driven to comprehend why and how about everything and will not stop questioning until they do. (I once had a batch of students that found memorizing the numeric sequencing of pi to be entertaining! Good times, right?) Because of my experiences with Grace’s clones, I particularly enjoyed creating a guide for Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code. Ideas for projects kept on coming.

One of Grace Hopper’s most remarkable scientific contributions was developing computer code using the English language, rather than relying totally on the binary system.  In the guide, I created a lesson in which young readers could experience the tediousness and attention to detail computing with base-two, the binary numeric system. To think that Grace Hopper had to use that system to write code all the time! Yikes!  

There is also a manipulative historical timeline in this guide. Because Grace’s life was so extraordinary, readers deserved an elaborate one.  The dated timeline strip is documented with tabs describing key events in her life which coincide with others noting historic occurrences of the day, highlighted by labeled phrases derived from a lively list poem found in the introduction to the book.  I can just imagine Grace Hopper Mini-Me’s huddled around the timeline and the other projects in the guide, exploring the life and times of this astonishing woman.

I only wish I could be there with them.

Beautifying Bird Nests - A Simple Craft Idea

I'm excited to include some of my most favorite simple craft ideas in an upcoming guide for a book with an awesome nature theme. One project that I particularly like and will include in the guide is Beautifying Bird Nests (Not that birds need much help in creating their masterpieces, mind you.). This craft is most effective when created in the early spring, when birds are busily building their nests. This project is as simple and simple can be. Kids love it. Birds benefit, too.

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The supply list is short and cheap! All you need to gather is a mesh produce bag, scissors, and an assortment of thin ribbon, yarn, and string.

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Cut ribbon, yarn, and string into short strips about 3 or 4 inches long. 

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Loosely insert bits of ribbon, yarn, and string into the produce bag mesh. Once complete, hang mesh bag outdoors near a tree. Wait and watch. Soon birds will snitch some of the strips to use as construction material for their nests! Truly! I've seen this happen.  

Who would've thought enhancing nature could be such fun!

WAIT FOR ME by Caroline Leech

To be honest, I’m not a big WWII buff. Perhaps the reason why I lack enthusiasm is due to dull and dry history lessons of my youth. Although I enjoyed map-making, I’d blank out when instructed to memorize dates and battles, the names of planes and ships, and so on. I remember thinking that my teacher seemed just as bored with the rote Friday quiz prep as I was. Too bad WAIT FOR ME ( Harper Teen, 2017) hadn’t been published back then. World History would’ve taken on a whole new dimension if it had.

In WAIT FOR ME, debut author Caroline Leech did a masterful job of first telling an intriguing story of love and loss, and then sewing facts throughout using tiny, transparent, yet historically sound stitches. She gave me well-developed characters that I could believe in, agonize for, and fall in love with.  She gave me a rich setting – Scotland – home of my ancestors, the mighty Mackay clan. As a bonus, she gave me a dog whose devotion shifts from its master to a stranger, which is highly unsettling for those of us smitten with passion for pups.  Most importantly, Caroline boldly explored the definition and humanity of an enemy.  Are all enemies inherently evil? Can allies behave like enemies to their own? Do enemies have redemptive qualities? Do enemies feel heartache? Is it wrong to love an enemy?

The last thing Caroline gave me is ample fodder to develop an Educator’s Guide. Capitalizing on her expert fusion of fact and fiction, I approached this project with the intention to inspire the forlorn World History student I once was. WAIT FOR ME showed me the error of my WWII resistant ways. I’ve been redeemed. I got totally lost in researching facts for the guide. My hope is that, unlike my experience with WWII studies, this guide will help encourage contemporary students to do the same.

MAUD by Melanie Fishbane

MAUD (Penguin Teen, 2017) is based on the life and times of the prolific author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Crafted by author Melanie Fishbane, a lifetime L. M. Montgomery devotee, this debut novel is as unforgettable as the countless novels, short stories, and poems Lucy Maud created. MAUD is an inspirational testimony to a life led by faith, determination, and a deep-seeded passion to write.

Fishbane examines aspects of Maud’s, at times, traumatic childhood with tender consideration, gradually revealing the truth about her parents’ relationship, a mysterious burden Montgomery unwittingly carried her entire life. She experienced a perpetual feeling of misunderstanding and lack of acceptance within the community in which she lived, as well as from her father, with whom she loved. Guided by opportunities Providence provided, Maud found solace in her love of writing.  She poured her soul onto pages and pages on her beloved journals, recording fodder that would later become the emotional core of publications winning the hearts of readers for ages to come.

The Educator’s Discussion & Project Guide created for MAUD deeply delving into the themes tying this beautiful novel together. The notions of faith, reputation, sacrifice, and perseverance are just a few of the concepts explored in the discussion questions and through written expression.  The guide serves as an insightful compliment to Melanie Fishbane’s stunning masterpiece!

BOB, NOT BOB! by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick

What child hasn’t suffered through the torture of a horrific cold?  The misery of achy sinuses? The hopeless yearning for relief? Who does a child turn to when plagued by such painful distress? You got it. Mom. That’s it. No one else will do.

Authors Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, with illustrator Matthew Cordell nailed this exasperating, snot-filled scenario to a tee! Their BOB, NOT BOB! (Disney Hyperion, 2017) is a delightful story about Little Louie, a boy who is afflicted by the worst cold ever. Because his nasal cavities are swollen with mucus, Little Louie’s plugged-up calls for Mom sound more like Bob, which happens to be the name of his devoted, slobbery dog. Frustration adds to agony as every time Little Louie pleads for his loving mother’s care his goofy, fun-loving Dalmatian arrives ready to play. And, when this happens, everyone is miserable!

I invite you to take a look at the Standards-aligned Educator’s Guide crafted for BOB, NOT BOB! It’s formatted more like a press-release, and yet it is comprised of contents that educators and at-wits-end parents will find useful. Functional and fun, this guide is the perfect complement for one of the most charming books I’ve read in a long time.

PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW by Jody Jensen Shaffer, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (Henry Holt & Company, 2017) is heart-warming, charming story about how a misunderstood cow uses thoughtfulness, consideration, and scientific reasoning to find a special place in the heart of the herd.

Prudence is simply not wired like the other cows. Instead of thinking and acting like a regular member of the herd, she’s preoccupied with engineering projects designed to improve the lives others. Ultimately, her inventions unintentionally create havoc on the farm, leaving her isolated and friendless. Motivated by the desire for acceptance, Prudence draws upon COW POWER inspiration to develop inventions benefiting everyone.  In the end, Prudence finds friendship by caring for others and being true to herself.

STEM enthusiasts will enjoy the lessons included in the Prudence the Part-Time Cow Discussion & Activity Guide. Using Prudence’s projects as inspiration, students analyze her inventions through the use of the Scientific Method. Students are asked to first observe how each project potentially benefits members of the herd. Next, they define the problem that is met by the project. From there, young students learn how to formulate a hypothesis, then describe and analyze the experimentation process. Finally, students are instructed to articulate a conclusion for the overall experimental process. Pretty advanced thinking for the PK-3 crowd, wouldn’t you say?

A de Coubertin Conundrum

Say what? Pierre, you can't be serious.

I have news for you, my friend. Things have changed since 1894, during the time you established the modern Olympic Games. Big time, brother. While you may not have fully intended for females to take part in the Olympic games, this summer in Rio, females are doing so and are coming on strong!

The Father of the Modern Olympic Games

The Father of the Modern Olympic Games

We appreciate that you darn-near single-handedly pulled together the first Olympic Games in Athens. Despite all kinds of odds, you and a few others invited athletes from nine different countries to attend and compete in a sports conference modeled by the Grecian games of yon. Bravo! You might be happy to know that your five-ring Olympic symbol is alive and well, too.

You once said, “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. Just as in life, the aim is not to conquer but to struggle well.” I wish were here to witness the tenacity and prowess of the 2016 Olympic female athletes. Pierre, your legacy lives in these women as they compete in the games they love. You’d be astounded by their strength of mind and character, typifying the motto you established way back when – Faster. Higher. Stronger. They’re simply incredible.

All in all though, Pierre, we have to thank you for your Olympic vision. You accomplished a great deal for athletes – worldwide! For that, we’re extremely grateful.

But the notion of counting girls out?

The girls in Rio 2016 are proving you wrong on that one.

Promoting My Peeps With Panache

It’s been a busy time, I have to say. 2016 has started off with a bang! Along with a surge of new Educator Guide opportunities and other cool deals, I’ve been happily promoting for both of my beloved writing communities’ upcoming events.  I’ve had my nose buried in Photoshop, Wordpress, and Hootsuite for weeks!

SCBWI-MI has kept me hopping as the Social Media Maven touting the ever-so-awesome roaring twenties-themed Wild Wild Midwest Conference 2016 being held in Naperville, Illinois from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill-everyday conference, mind you. No way. You see, six Midwestern SCBWI chapters have joined forces to host a shindig to beat the band. Get this – 600 participants, 35 speakers, 40 sessions, 8 intensives, portfolio reviews, critiques, contests and a costume party! It’s going to be SUCH FUN! I cannot wait. Registration opens Monday, Feb. 1. 

And, then there’s the event that is super-close to my heart – The VCFA AMR being held on campus in Montpelier from June 16 to 19th. Oh, how I love coordinating this homecoming! I so enjoy touching base with alums all over the nation. Being that we have a new two track registration option this year, I have a feeling I’ll get to be in contact with even more of my MFA brethren. Want to know more about the AMR? Feel free to download an informational flyer here. It’s pretty darned swanky. I tell you.

Registration for the VCFA WCYA Alumni Mini Residency will opens on Friday, Feb. 12. Two weeks from now my inbox will be bursting and absolutely nothing will make me happier!

Adventures of a Debut Author - Counting Kisses

It’s been a worrisome week. I’ll not deny it. Two good friends, who happen to be debut authors, have fallen on hard times. Really, really hard times. My heart aches when I think about the impact these situations will have on all aspects of their lives. We’re not playing games with this stuff. It’s the real deal.

While I’m terribly concerned for their personal and families’ well-being, I am really bummed that these incidents add burden to what should be a joyful experience – being a debut author! They’ve worked so hard. They’re such deserving people. It just ain’t fair.

And, then, as I over-think their situations (a practice I often engage in), I have to wonder if the very nature of being a debut author, and all the trappings therein, contributed to their distress. Not that being a debut author is the primary reason trouble showed up at their doors, mind you. Instead, that perhaps, the stress and demands of preparing for their debuts may have played a role in their angst. I certainly hope not. But it’s possible. Right?

There’s got to be a way to strike a balance in this thing and I'm on the hunt to find it.

I truly admire the authors and illustrators I’m privileged to know who have lovely families and full-time jobs and are physically fit and publish on a regular basis! How, the heck, are they able to do it all? It’s amazing to me.

Author Nikki Loftin - isn't she lovely?            Inside and out, I tell you.

Author Nikki Loftin - isn't she lovely?            Inside and out, I tell you.

Some time ago I asked the very, very talented Nikki Loftin what advice she might have for an embryonic debut author. Nikki is an incredible mom, a loving wife, and a full-time author who is pulling this gig off in style (All that, plus she’s fun to be with and as cute as a kitten.). I want to know what someone as prolific as Nikki has to say, don’t you?

“So… my advice,” Nikki said, “would be to keep a journal/notebook/mental tally of all the GOOD things that happen in the first year (before and after pub date). The bad stuff will start to seem overwhelming at some point (bad reviews, missed opportunities, rejections of the next book or four), and it can be really hard to see the amazing things that have happened in the middle of all the mud.”

There you have it. Count blessings, even if they’re sloppy. Nikki’s not glossing over the issue that publishing your first (and preceding) books is and will be hard work. Instead, she’s reminding us that it is critical to acknowledge and remember the butterfly kisses along the way, too. Great advice!

In closing, my wish for you, my troubled friends, is that a monarch stops by and lays a big, wet smooch on the tip of your nose to remind you that you’re loved and cherished by all.

Be well.

Starting the Year with Gratitude

After spending a lovely holiday with my husband, this week I've been back in the guide-crafting saddle again and loving it. I've also been taking some time to plan for new projects such as a public speaking opportunity and working on a brand-spanking new creative piece. The VCFA 2016 AMR is well underway. The SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest Chicago or Bust Conference social media campaign is gearing up nicely. Plus, I've got a number of Playing Like a Girl ideas rolling around in my brain just waiting to be born. For all of these prospects and projects, color me grateful.

Grateful for so many things - my home, my friends, and my work. In this moment, I'm appreciating the authors, illustrators, and publishers who I've had the great privilege to create guides for. It's just awesome to think that a simple act of making a Reader's Guide for a friend years ago has morphed into an enterprise of sorts! It makes me very, very happy to be of service to others in this way.

So, thank you to those whom I've had the joy of crafting a guide for and to those who are lined up in the queue to do. Your fascinating topics, innovative illustrations, and rocking writing continue to enrich my life. I look forward to each and every day getting to work with your masterpieces. Thanks!

Let's have some serious fun in 2016. Want to?

A Simple Saturday Craft for You - Merry Christmas Bows

I thought it might be fun to resurface an old Simple Saturday craft project blog post - one that was originally posted FIVE YEARS AGO! Isn't that crazy? I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past. Gather up scissors, ribbon, and a piece of florist wire and I'll show you how how crafting a Christmas bow is done!

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Simple Saturday - Dec. 17, 2010

You know you want one of these gorgeous bows nestled in the branches of your Christmas tree. After I show you how super-simple it is to make these loopy lovelies, you'll want to make a million of them!

Lean in and let me tell you a secret. It took me less than 5 minutes to make that ribbony treasure. With a little bit of practice, you'll be in the Simple Saturday Super Merry Christmas Bow making business in no time. Come on! Let's get started!

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 With our 1 3/4 inch wide ribbon, light gauged florist wire and scissors in hand we're ready to bring on the bow-ness. The only real challenge to making a holiday bow is to be certain that you've got a firm pinch going on. Powerful pinching pressure is the key to beautiful bow creating.

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To begin, cut a piece of ribbon about 2 1/2 feet long. Make that first pinch about 4 inches from one end of the ribbon. Now fold the long end of the ribbon back forming a loop about the same size as the ribbon strip to the left. PINCH! Bring it back and around on the left. Make a loop and PINCH! Repeat this procedure three times making 6 lovely loops.

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Let's add a little depth to this pretty puppy by making a couple of loops on top of the three we've previously made. What's the magic word? You've got it. PINCH!

To make a streamer, make a long loop at the base of your bow. For the finishing touch, make loop the ribbon over your thumb to create a nice center focal point and PINCH like you've never pinched before.

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At the back of the bow, lay the florist wire on top of your thumb and carefully gather the hoops together. Don't quit pinching until all of the loops have been securely gathered by the wire. Twist the wire tightly.

Cut the long loop at the bow base to form a streamer. Wiggle waggle the loops around, fluffing them up to create the rich fullness every holiday bow deserves. Attach your Super Merry Christmas Bow to a tree or a wreath...anywhere for that matter...with the florist wire. You know what to do with that wire, don't you? PINCH!

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 I'd like to end this post in deep gratitude for the bounty beneath my Christmas tree, for the blessings of friendship, and a sincere wish that you have the happiest holiday EVER!

Merry Christmas!