Reading Rocks in Rockford is an annual festival of reading, complete with a drum line, a parade of local students dressed up as their favourite book characters, and a bunch of authors. Look at all of us!
The skies were gray, but the rain held off until noon. We authors from SCBWI-Michigan were having such a good time, we didn’t want to leave. But then the thunder rolled, and the radar suggested severe storms coming, so we ended up packing up in a rush and leaving a little early. Thank you, Rockford Rotary, Rockford Community Schools, and Krause Memorial Library for a well-organized and fun event!
Today I have a short story up, just over 1000 words, so some might call it flash fiction, some might not. Either way, “8:46 on a Wednesday” is in vol. 48 of The Emerson Review. You can read it online here:
Since I also write for children, I thought it might be helpful to mention this story is geared to the adult reader.
Wow, the Southern Kentucky Book Fest this past weekend was a whirlwind of books and fun. I took a slew of photos of the event, and attendees who stopped by my table made a huge SOKY Salad Pie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such interesting ingredients added (crispitos? magic? kissing"?!). Here’s my setup at the beginning of the festival:
Four of us in SOKY had our first picture books published in 2016, and were part of the debut group “On The Scene in 2016.”
And finally, below the SOKY Salad Pie recipe:
This weekend, on Saturday, April 27, as part of the Southern Kentucky Book Fest programming, I’ll be on a picture book panel with the authors of these books:
Thank you, Anica Mrose Rissi, for creating the graphic!
The rest of the festival, which is Friday and Saturday, I’ll be signing books in the exhibit area. There will be so many authors there! Below are just a few of the children’s books listed on the website, but there will be books for all ages (and their authors).
A while back, Jeff Chen and I were in an online critique group together. He read one of my middle grade novels-in-progress and I read one of his. I remember he had a really clean writing style, and also, he offered thoughtful comments on my work. Now, he’s got a middle grade book out titled Ultraball: Lunar Blitz, with Katherine Tegen Books! It’s a different novel than the one I read, but still, he included me in the acknowledgements:
See, I told you he was nice!
Anyways, here’s a bit of what Booklist had to say about it: “Chen's debut also delivers a smart and subtle exploration of socioeconomic inequality. Sf and sports readers alike will enjoy the futuristic dystopia Chen has created and the relatable cast of kids trying to save it.”
Let me know in the comments if you read it!
Last month, I had a lovely school visit with Kalamazoo Christian Elementary School. What a creative audience: the younger students made KCES Salad Pie (recipe posted below) and the older students came up with a story that featured me, eating ice cream in the Arctic. I hope some of them write that story down, and explain exactly why I’m eating something so cold in a place that’s so cold! There was a collective gasp when I revealed that I don’t like ice cream all that much (though I’ll eat it for the sake of the story :)).
Happy March! I just finished reading via video call with a first grade class in Lorena, Texas who were celebrating Dr. Seuss and reading. This past week, they read 205 books! Wow! They read books under tables, with hats on, to a pet, and more. When we talked about the snow in Michigan, they challenged me to read in the snow, and I took them up on that challenge. The proof:
I’ve always lived in a snowy climate, but reading in the snow was a first-time experience. Brrr. I don’t recommend it! But I do recommend reading almost anywhere else.
Friendship is important. There are health benefits to friendship such as living longer, coping better with the tough things, and keeping our minds sharp. Friends help us experience the world differently, and usually friendship is fun. But it can be hard to find friends. Luckily, picture books about friendship abound. Here are a few of my favourites. Click on the covers to read more.
Imaginative play is incredibly important, yet it always surprises me when I come across its many benefits. Children naturally engage in imaginative play. Who hasn’t played ice cream shop with imaginary cones and outrageous flavours? Who hasn’t laid on the couch and let a young child doctor them up?
When I go to preschools for my other job (the one that isn’t writing), one of the observation criteria I look for are materials that encourage imaginative play: dress-up clothes, a child-sized kitchen, blocks and materials that are open-ended and don’t require a predetermined way of playing. These types of toys encourage children to use their imaginations while playing.
While cleaning up my home office, I came across some notes from Anne K. Soderman’s Scaffolding Emergent Literacy listing the benefits of imaginative play:
· uses abstract thought
· strengthens memory
· develops sophisticated language
· develops social skills
These are not the only benefits of imaginative play. Imaginative play decreases frustration and increases flexible thinking. It’s an important component in developing executive function, which is a host of important skills including impulse control and focusing attention. There’s more, but why not go off and exercise that imagination instead?
One of the themes that keeps showing up in my writing is nature. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a fruit farm, or maybe it’s because going outside always refreshes me. Lately, I’ve been enamoured with forests, particularly old growth forests. We have a few in Michigan, and my family and I recently visited one in Indiana: Bendix Nature Preserve. A few photos I took are posted below.
This is one of the many huge trees there. And the one below had an interesting trunk.
I’ve also been reading Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s beautiful book Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing in which he presents compelling research on the benefits of being among trees and nature. For example, “Children who spend regular time in nature on average experience an increase in self-confidence, problem-solving skills, motor skills and the capacity to learn.” Wow!
Miyazaki is a professor and forest therapy researcher in Japan, but this book is very easy to read, and is filled with beautiful photos. Also, he makes me want to go outside more.
Save the date! On April 26 and 27, 2019, I’ll be signing books at SOKY Book Fest. Click the logo below to see some of the headlining authors, including Angie Thomas, Silas House and Rita Mae Brown. More updates to come.
Here’s a humor piece I wrote, published by Emrys Journal Online via Medium, about over-the-top writer guidelines. If you write and submit to literary journals, this one is for you. Or if you like to laugh about the plight of writers, this one is for you. Or if you just really want to know all about the much-coveted writing life, click below.
After days of 90 degree weather, Sunday’s 60 surprised us all with how cold and windy it felt. We Michiganders are known for our toughness regarding the weather, but the weather always changes, and quickly. Here’s a group of us at the SCBWI-Michigan table, talking books.
Standing by all the picture books—SALAD PIE is in good company.
And, signing amid all those Michigan-authored board books, picture books and novels. Thank you, Bookbound, for selling our books at Kerrytown Bookfest 2018.
Sunday, September 9 is the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I'll be there from 10:30 to 12:30 (event goes until 5), along with twenty-three other Michigan authors and illustrators. Bookbound will be selling our books, and we'll be on hand in shifts to sign.
It's coming! Every year, I book free classroom Skype (or Google Hangout) visits for World Read Aloud Day. This year, I'm opening up time slots for February 1, 2019 now so you can schedule early. Just contact me via my contact form, and let me know what grade your class is, and a few times that would work, as well as what time zone you live in.
Each Skype visit is about 15-20 minutes long. I introduce myself, read aloud SALAD PIE (with a bit of audience participation), and then answer a few of the students' questions (please have them prepared in advance). I also show and talk about a few books that I love that I didn't write, so students can get all revved up about reading!
Did you know that there's a whole host of research out there about why reading aloud to children is so good for them? Reading aloud allows kids to develop phonological awareness and other literacy skills, increases attention, increases vocabulary and enhances social-emotional development. So in addition to having fun, all kinds of growth is happening at the same time.
This Saturday, I'll be at Sterlingfest's Local Author Book Sale, a first for me. A whole host of authors and illustrators will be there, including:
Also, there will be many activities for kids. Check out this photo and website via Sterlingfest's Twitter account.
Looks like too much fun to pass up! See you there?
On July 28, 2018, I'll be at the Sterlingfest Art & Music Fair in Sterling Heights, Michigan at the SCBWI booth along with several other Michigan-based authors and illustrators. Check out the whole list of local authors here. We'll have our signed books for sale, local restaurants will have food, there's a midway with rides and a soundstage with live music. I can't wait! Festivities begin at 10 AM.