Kid Lit Author and Advocate

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So, I’m driving in my car, listening to an old Harry Chapin song (thank you Pandora Radio-yes there is actually a Harry Chapin Station).  If you’ve never listened to Harry Chapin, he’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle” dude.  So, I’m driving along and Chapin’s Story of a Life comes on. His words strike a chord…

“And the wind will whip your tousled hair,
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,
Great tales of love and strife.
And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life.”

“So you settle down and the children come
And you find a place that you come from.
Your wandering is done.
And all your dreams of open spaces
You find in your children’s faces
One by one. And all the trips you know you missed
And all the lips you never kissed
Cut through you like a knife.
And now you see stretched out before thee
Just another story of a life.”

It hits me, we do, all of us, write a story of a life.  Some of us literally, but all of us write one.

“Now sometimes words can serve me well
Sometimes words can go to hell
For all that they do.
And for every dream that took me high
There’s been a dream that’s passed me by.
I know it’s so true
And I can see it clear out to the end
And I’ll whisper to her now again
Because she shared my life.
For more than all the ghosts of glory
She makes up the story,
She’s the only story
Of my life.”

I think about my story…

“And all the towns that you walk through
And all the people that you talk to
Sing you their songs.
And there are times you change your stride,
There are times you can’t decide                                                                                                                                            Still you go on.”

Right now, it’s unfolding one sticky-note at a time.  Sometimes a sticky-note on top of a sticky-note, just for good measure.  What I see “stretched out before me” are reminders and to-do’s, don’t forget’s and be sure to’s.  But, each note tells the story… of a wife, a mom, a want-to-be-writer, chasing her dreams while making grocery lists and Dr. appointments; squeezing in an occasional date night and dye-job.  Which reminds me…I need to buy more sticky notes!


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Picture books are my all-time favorite genre.  Each week, I fill my book bag and amble out of our local library; looking like Quasimodo, but feeling like Santa Claus. My son is almost 9, and we still cuddle up each night and lose ourselves in the pages of a new or favorite picture book.  Our nightly ritual is what inspired me to write my own picture book, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale.  As Picture Book Month approaches (November), I’ll dedicate more of my posts to reading strategies and shared reading activities.  I tailored the following activity to suit my book, but it can be modified to fit almost any children’s picture book.

PICTURE WALK

What is a picture walk?

A picture walk is a shared activity between an adult reader and child or group of children before reading an unfamiliar story.  During a picture walk, the reader shows the book’s cover and browses through the pages in order. The reader encourages the children to talk about what they see and what may be happening in an illustration.   Children draw upon background experiences as they interpret the illustrations.

Why take a picture walk?

Walking through the storybook pictures with an adult prepares a child for reading the story and teaches the use of visual cues as a reading strategy.  It allows the child to get a sense of where and when the story happens, the characters in the story, and what might happen in the story.  Picture walks spark interest in the story and set the purpose for the child to read and learn more about the story. Picture walks can help a child connect the visual images in the story to their own experiences and activate prior knowledge.  They can give children a tool to organize the information in the story, increasing the child’s comprehension of the story. The child is able to make predictions about what might happen in the story and how the story might end.

How to take a picture walk?

Explain that before you read the story, you and the child will look at the pictures together to see if you can guess what the book is about. Then you will read the book together to see if your guesses match the story.

Start by looking at the cover of the book. Ask the child what he/she sees on the cover. Ask what he/she thinks the story might be about. Travel through the pages of the book. Look carefully at the details in each picture, without reading the words.

Ask the child who, what, where, when, why and how questions about the pictures: Who is the main character? What are the fairies doing? Where do you think the fairies are going? When does the story take place? Why do you think the boy is sitting by himself? How are the lightning bugs helping the fairies? What do you think will happen next?  The reader can also focus on how the artist’s use of light, color, and perspective impacts the story: Why do you think the artist used a close-up image of the fairy’s face? Did you notice the different patterns on the wings of the fairies? Encourage the child to make personal connections: Does he remind you of any storybook character you’ve seen? Have you ever been left out of the group?

Acknowledge the child’s input: That’s possible. I can’t wait to see if you are right! Once you have previewed all of the pictures, read the story with the child. Stop when appropriate to discuss whether the child’s predictions matched the story.  Discuss why/not the prediction was accurate using information from both the pictures and the text.  After the child is familiar with the picture walk concept, invite him/her to take the lead and guide you through a picture walk.

Find more literacy activities at https://www.nationalserviceresources.gov/literacy-training-picture-walk#.VDQLshZHgbg

Find more literacy activities at https://www.nationalserviceresources.gov/literacy-training-picture-walk#.VDQLshZHgbg


Indie and mainstream authors are always looking for fresh ways to reach their audiences.  Creating an ebook is great, but an interactive book app is even better.  Read this article by indie kids’ author, Karen Inglis, to learn more about creating your own book app and the new Moms With Apps site.

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http://kareninglis.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/why-i-love-the-new-moms-with-apps-site/


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I like to look back at old posts from time to time. I find it gives me perspective on just how far I have come on my journey to become a published author. This is a post from the way, way back…

In his poem, Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”  Most of us have dreams we’ve put on hold, or have given up completely.  No dream, however, completely leaves us.  The edges curl, and the colors fade.  But, they linger in that secret holding place…hoping to become real.  My dream was boxed, taped, and shut away.  It sat in a dark, forgotten place.  Every great once-in-a-while, I’d peel back the weathered strips of tape and try to breathe life back into its dilapidated remains.  With each botched attempt, I added a few extra strips of tape, and pushed the box back into the darkness.  My dream sat in that box for more than 20 years, enduring the cycle of my crude attempts to revive it and the negligence that followed.

My dream was to become a children’s author. I wanted to write books that find warmth in the laps of children, and inspire them to dream. I was moved to write my first children’s book for my 8 year-old son, who sees the beauty in even the smallest wonders. His penchant for spotting and collecting random objects, and hording them away as if they were museum-quality treasures, inspired the main character in The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale. Artie, the Dust Fairy, has a habit of collecting tidbits from people’s houses. His fellow Dust Fairies have a knack for dirtying people’s houses. They fire soot from their slingshots and enter crumb-spitting contests. While we sleep, they spread dust everywhere. The other Dust Fairies don’t appreciate Artie’s collection of tidbits, so he spends his nights alone. One cold night, Artie’s loneliness leads to inspiration, and he creates something legendary. His story will have families looking at Dust Bunnies in a new light and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms. It is my hope that Artie’s story helps kids realize that we all have unique gifts and not everyone fits in with the crowd.

Update:  I officially launched The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale on November 13, 2014.  The good news is that I’ve sold over 300 copies.  The bad news is that only 11 copies have sold on Amazon!  I am happy to have my book on the shelves of our local libraries as well as our indie bookstore, Beaverdale Books.  I am also excited that our local Barnes and Noble book store has agreed to stock a few copies of the book.  I am glad I finally dusted off my dream to write a children’s picture book.  An unexpected benefit of my “dilapidated dream” is meeting so many awesome people via social media.  A year ago, my only online presence was an occasional Facebook post.  I now enjoy lively connections with fellow writers from countries throughout the world.  I am grateful for their support and inspiration.  May your dreams never get dusty…

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