Sunday, March 29, 2020

Stroke-versary : Lights in the Darkness

 Seven years ago I had a stroke.

I struggled to find myself as a writer again.
I couldn't string my words together the way I used to.
Couldn't focus.
Afraid of what might be coming next.
Worried it would happen again.

It's okay to acknowledge that darkness is scary.

To look fear in the face,
and then, look for light.

Because even in darkness, there is still light to be found,
maybe not blazing the way out, but still.
Look around!
We are surrounded by lights!

Health care workers and restaurant owners,
grocery clerks and custodians,
cleaning and feeding
and risking their lives to serve and heal and care for all of us.
Teachers and school staff setting up homework and food drop-offs,
authors sharing virtual story times,
museums, symphonies, theaters giving their art,
fashion designers sewing masks.

In a way, my book THE STARKEEPER was born out of my post-stroke darkness.
THE STARKEEPER is about a girl who wants to change the dark world around her,
and a lost star who needs the girl to help it shine.
And the way to shine it?
It's this.

Even in the darkest times, friends,
we still have one light to give.

And that light is whatever brave gifts that come out of each one of us.

Whatever your gifts are,
thank you for giving them,
thank you for lighting up the darkness.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Creative Learning, Part 2: Family Story Journal

Friends with kids at home, I thought I’d share our latest creative learning project. 

It’s a Found Story Journal for the whole family. 

The rules are: 

  • The journal gets left on the table along with pens and story aids. (More on those in a minute.) 
  • The writing has to be done in secret. 
  • We have to be sneaky! We can only write in it when no one else is watching. 
  • Only 1 celebrity /pop star cameo per story. 
  • Each entry continues from the previous one.     
  • Each entry keeps to one page or less.

Our story aids:

These help if anyone gets stuck and needs an idea boost. 

*STORY CARDS: They’re made by Eeboo, & illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, (author-illustrator of LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST and FERN AND OTTO (publishing later this year).

*STORY CUBES are a fun and tactile way to provoke ideas. They're called Rory's Story Cubes.  

If you don’t have something like the cards or the dice, not to worry! 

*STORY IDEA JARS are a longtime favorite.

The WORD JAR keeps scraps of paper with random words on them. 
The STORY SPARKS JAR holds phrases like “locked in a cage,” “a door to nowhere,” “the boat with a hole in the bottom,” “a mermaid with wings.” 
It took like five minutes to write a list, cut it up and stick in jars.

Times are rough, kids have homework, but creativity and writing can always bring some joy.

Wish us luck! 
My entire life is about sneaking in art and stories into all the rest of life. 
If I could illustrate my taxes, I SO would. 

Anyway, I hope this idea will be a fun one for my family - and for yours! 

If you try it, will you share how it went with me? 

Tag me in your photos so I can share, too.  

Peace, friends! 
Here’s to all the good stories that await! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fresh Page

If there’s one thing I know about creating, it’s that each fresh page has hope in it. 

I like to think that each day on this planet is a fresh page, 
and every day we get to make our own mark on it. 

The more bright, beautiful marks we make, 
the more we inspire others to do the same.

Yes, times are scary. 
Those of us with small incomes, small makers, small businesses, 
(anxiously awaiting the publication of our first books, etc), 
these times will affect us in big ways.
But here we are. 
And today is waiting. 
A fresh page. 
With hope in it.  
Waiting to see what we’re going to do with it. 
Let’s do it, friends. 
Let’s paint up every single page we get 
with our best, most unique, most generous work. 

I can’t promise it won’t be hard or scary. 
But we can hold on to Light and Love 
and everything that’s good. 
And send our own expressions of it into the world. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Creative Learning Ideas, Part 1: SNAIL MAIL AUTHOR LETTERS

Hello lovelies. 

Many of you are home with kids due to the current world health pandemic. {That is a sentence I never thought I'd write. }

But here we are, facing fear with courage and creativity. And in that light, I would like to offer some ideas. 

I got to homeschool my kids for four sweet years. 
During that time, we enjoyed heaps of knee-deep creative learning. 

In case it helps anyone who suddenly has a houseful, 
I thought I'd share some favorite creative learning projects with you over the next few days.


One of our favorites was when we tried to write 100 letters to children's book authors & illustrators. Life jumped in and we only managed about 35 or 40 letters, but many authors wrote back & won fans for life! 

Some authors sent bookmarks and "swag." 
Some drew the kids beautiful pictures. 

Thank you Nina Laden!Thank you, Dana Sullivan!

Our very dear Kim Baker sent my girl Winnie a PICKLE t-shirt. Swoon!
 Rayna received a package from author-illustrator Evan Turk that had two of his books in it!


  This project incorporates:

  • LITERACY (read an author's book)
  • CRITICAL THINKING (What questions do you have for the author or illustrator after reading it? What do you wonder about? What connections do you have with the author or book that you can share?)
  • RESEARCH (google author & hunt down a mailing address - or mail to the author c/o the publisher address)
  • WRITING (How to write a letter is a helpful thing to learn! We always did a rough draft, edits, final draft)
  • ART (I always had the kids add an illustration inspired by the author's book)

Stay tuned for more homebound learning ideas over the next few days!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Monsters vs. pepper

I got to talk with families about monsters last night. 

We built an exquisite community monster and talked about monsters in books. 

How monsters are stand-in for big and scary things in life. 

We asked kids & their grownups:

How do you defeat a monster? 

Their answers:
Do the floss & make everyone laugh.
Be brave.
Stand next to whoever the monster is targeting.
Speak up….

I read tons of monster books for this and noticed that often it’s creativity that beats monsters best.

Like small holes in armor, spears in the eye, or pepper.

So, here’s to the resistance: To courage. To standing with the oppressed. Paying attention. Speaking up. Yes! And...

Here's to creativity! 

To sharing our gifts. our light. our stories. art. music.

Let your creativity give life to others. 

Because …HOPE! 

Spreading hope and love and beauty.
Those things make us stronger and braver and ready to resist fight monsters.

And maybe some pepper and the floss might help, too.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Bookish Beauty

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

There are book celebrations all over the internet today, and I will tell you more about that in a bit, 
but first, I get to share a book review of this beauty:

MY GRANDMA AND ME - by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Lindsey Yankey, (Candlewick Press, 2019) 

MY GRANDMA AND ME is a gorgeous picture book about an Iranian girl and her grandmother. It’s about connection with loved ones, specifically a girl and her grandmother. 

“When  I was growing up in Iran, my grandma lived with us. I followed her everywhere. When she swept, I swept. When she cooked, I cooked. When she prayed, I prayed like her too. “

Mina Javaherbin’s text is rhythmic and lovely. 
The mixed media illustrations by Lindsey Yankey are luminous with intricate patterns and palette. 

I love this window into the life of a Muslim woman and her granddaughter, 
and am warmed by the compassion, generosity, and love-in-action that the grandmother lives. 

At a deeper level this is about humanity and interfaith friendships.
There are two grandmother friends in this story who are of different faiths. Together they make blankets for people who are in need. Together, they share food and community.
And every night, each grandmother prays to the God she worships for her friend to go to heaven. 

And that’s what struck me most about MY GRANDMA AND ME. 

That underneath all of our cultures and faiths,  
at the heart we are mostly the same.

Woven of skin and bones, 
full of dreams and strivings,  
circled by friends and family, 
and each adorned with unique passions and perspectives
that put all together, make up a pretty stunning tapestry.

Love has a way of weaving us together, and I think MY GRANDMA AND ME shows this beautifully.

MY GRANDMA AND ME is about a grandmother modeling her way of life to her granddaughter, 
and it’s about humanity. 
About us. All of us.
And it reminds me in a gentle and powerful way that if we look deeper at each other, 
there is so much to love.

If you haven't yet, I hope you get to discover this book and love it, too.

And here's an exciting thing: because today is MULTCULTURAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAY, you can find heaps of "Read Your World" book reviews, teacher resources, classroom empathy kits, and other activities on the Multicultural Children's Book Day website.

If you do Twitter, there is a #READYOURWORLD book party tonight at 9 p.m. ET in which you can win books and discover more multicultural books to love. Find that party by searching the #READYOURWORLD hashtag.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for giving me this book to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020.  

by Mina Javahherbin, illustrated by Lindsey Yankey
published by Candlewick Press. 2019. 
ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 0763694940 / 9780763694944

Friday, January 17, 2020


I have news! 
I am so excited to tell you about this. 
Can you tell!?!
I might be using more exclamation points than are allowed for a few weeks


 Ah. I am exuberant. 
I am ecstatic. 

Thank you, Molly O'Neill and Root Literary,
thank you, Nikki Garcia and Little, Brown 
for believing in this story and in me!  

So much of this joy is thanks to my agent Molly O'Neill, 
who talked me through the finishing of my first book 
(THE STARKEEPER which comes out with Random House in June!) 
and helped me face the beginnings of another one!  
Thanks to Molly, I found out that while making book number two is HARD!, 
hard is not necessarily a bad thing. 
See, if we didn't struggle, the end result wouldn't be so victorious. 
Which is sort of how PERFECTLY IMPERFECT MIRA has made her way here!

I can't wait for you to meet MIRA. 
This story is kind of about being a work in progress, 
and learning to love the journey of becoming. 
Which is something that feels very familiar to me. 
 Another fun thing is that during the time this story was in revision,  
 I took a writing course with Jolie Stekly "MINDSET MEETS CRAFT." 
MIRA's story is so much about mindset, and revision, too. 

When I had a stroke, then heart surgery, and other life surprises   - 
each time, I felt thrown for a loop. 
That was not the direction I planned. 
That was not the way my road was supposed to go.
 Or was it? 
Because if I hadn't had the stroke and kind of lost my way into writing, 
I wouldn't have taken a WRITING WITH PICTURES course, 
which opened up my heart to illustration and stories 
in a way I'd never dreamed of being able to do.
So, here's to the journey, my friends! 

Here's to the blooms that can come out of hard things. 
- and sometimes the blooms that come because of hard things! 

And here's to the work, day and night, 





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