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On writing, reading, and waiting
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26. On Writing


This was a liberation. It opened me up to the absolute truth of writing for me, that craft and art matter above all else. That in their service, I love the actual hair-pulling, nail-biting process of creating prose. This has been the gift over and over. It brings me back from the continuing rejection, makes me want to cry in gratitude for the dark time of the too-small table and feeble chair.
On Writing, Rejection, and Persistence by Ruth Galm

The post On Writing appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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27. Returning to Creative Spaces


For three years now I’ve had the privilege of returning to an old adobe house in Corrales for a writing retreat. The home is lovely and spacious with creaking wooden floors in some rooms and uneven brick in others and the gorgeous curving lines adobe lends to everything. It’s so very New Mexican, just being there inspires me.

There’s something grounding about going back to the same creative space year after year. This chaise is where I finished first-round edits on Blue Birds two years ago. It’s the same spot where this year I put in a twenty-five hour mad dash to the end of a new set of first-round edits, punctuated with breaks for meals and sleeping, a bit of conversation and this movie.

monday deadline

I was able to immerse myself in my work in a way that doesn’t happen often at home, surrounded by like-minded women who understand the joy, the discomfort, and the privilege of the writing life. And once, after our time together had passed, I was able to enter the real world again refreshed and with a renewed sense of why what I do matters and the purpose behind it all.

I hope you, too, find spaces that speak beauty and inspiration into your own creative endeavors.


The post Returning to Creative Spaces appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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28. Overwhelmed with Gratitude


I’m not sure thank you adequately expresses my appreciation for those of you who read here, but those are the only words I have. I hope you sense the weightiness and heart behind them:

Many thanks to those of you who read this post and wrote Amazon reviews for May B., Blue Birds, and Over in the Wetlands. It took time and reflection as well as true interest and love on your part, and I am so grateful.

Thank you for the bolstering words many of you left (including the lovely gift from my neighbor pictured above) when I let you know I needed some encouragement to finish my first-round edits. I’ve returned to your comments many times these past weeks. They kept me working to the very end.

When I started blogging six years ago this month, I had no sense of the rich and enduring connections I’d make as a result. For those of you who have been here from the beginning or have joined in sometime afterward,

thank you,

thank you,

thank you.

The post Overwhelmed with Gratitude appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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29. Classroom Connections: THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED by Sandy Carlson

age range: 8-12
genre: historical fiction
setting: 1871, Michigan
teacher’s guide
Sandy Carlson’s website

Please tell us about your book.

Just how many homes and friends does a kid have to lose in twelve years?

Driven from his neighborhood during the Chicago fire of 1871, Adrian and his parents move to the Michigan wilderness where his father lands a job at the sawmill. The town is called Singapore – as if a name could make a tiny spit of a town into a great seaport.

Back in Chicago, it was easy to keep his hobby a secret, even from his father. But in this small town, will people discover who the true knitter of the family is? Only his best friend, big R.T., keeps him level.

Adrian’s attempts to protect his new – and first – girlfriend, Elizabeth, from the school bully seem to backfire, especially when he hears Jake’s big brother, Otto the Monster, is heading to town.

Then, just as Adrian starts to feel that Singapore is his home, he discovers the moving sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore are slowly burying his town. He tries to stop it, but how can he fight both man and nature?

What inspired you to write this story?

An elderly friend from church grew up in Saugatuck, Michigan. She remembers running down the sand dunes as a child and diving into the Kalamazoo River. Some days there would be a roof exposed from Singapore, an 1800’s buried town. Other days there might be a different roof. And still other days there was nothing but sand and the river. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would have been like to have lived through that time – when my town was threatened to be buried by active sand dunes.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

First of all, I need to walk the land where the story takes place, even if it’s 150 years after the time of the story. Each time I return and wander the streets or dune hills or beaches, I feel rather ghostly – imagining what it was like back then. The unceasing waves coming in would be the same. The wind blowing dry sand around the dune grass would be the same. The crying sea gulls would be the same, as well as the quiet stillness in the woods or just a little farther up river from the Lake.

My limit for doing library research (done in various Michigan towns) is about three hours. After that I find myself rereading a line several times. When I start rereading, I scoop up all my notes, pile the books and magazines and news clippings, put everything away, and wait for another day to do more research with a cleared mind.

I especially love staring at old photos of the area in which my book is set…imagining what it would be like to be there, and then I compartmentalize and focus on the photo, ignoring people around me; for I’m sure they think I’m crazy, on drugs, or have fallen asleep.

Sometimes research falls right into my lap. I went to a jeweler to re-clasp a necklace. I noticed a box of watch “guts” on the counter and asked about them. He was a watch man. I told him of my grandfather’s pocket watch. He informed me that real pocket watches weren’t very common because they cost as much as a buggy (or today’s SUV). (A nice historical fact which shoots down all the westerns I’ve ever seen.)

What are some special challenges associated with writing MG historical fiction?

How to get my book into the hands of kids. Actually, I know a lot of my readers are adults, because they are interested in local history.

If a kid is a reader, they’re likely to read anything, especially if they can relate to the characters or are interested in an area or a specific time. Libraries and booksellers often prefer the hottest and latest and most popular books. As long as I continue developing the craft of writing to make my characters, plot, and language golden, well, then, I’m golden, too.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

The book begins with a new kid moving to town. Nearly every kid today has either moved, or been in a classroom which received a new student. (Relevant.)

There are several true local stories in the book, as well as description of jobs kids would do, like chopping wood, working in the family store, or knitting. (History.)

There’s a bully in town, but there may or may not be a resolution. You’ll have to read it to find out. (Resolutions.)

Adrian is ahead of his time, trying to find a way to stop the dunes from burying his town. (Environmental Studies.)

The post Classroom Connections: THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED by Sandy Carlson appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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30. Step by Step, Word by Word


Twenty-three years ago this summer I backpacked down the Grand Canyon’s Kaibab Trail with seven kids from my youth group and came up Bright Angel a week later. Each day we packed our gear at three in the morning so we could begin our hike before the heat kicked in full blast. By the last morning of the trip, I was utterly spent. The steep climb out of the canyon left me feeling like maybe I wouldn’t make it. Maybe I’d be stuck on that trail forever.

I stopped moving about a half mile from the canyon’s rim, unsure how to muster up the strength to keep going. It didn’t matter I could see the end. Getting there felt near impossible.


That’s when I experienced a simple act of kindness that has lived with me ever since. My youth sponsor, Jim, told me I wouldn’t finish alone. We’d make it to the top together, one hundred steps at a time. Step by step we counted, resting after every set. While before the half mile had felt unsurmountable, broken down in tiny bits with someone else to walk beside me, it was doable. It was accomplishment and gratitude and so much celebration.

As I near the end of a complete manuscript overhaul in the midst of first-round edits (the second time I’ve re-written this book, by the way), I’ve thought a lot about that moment. I’m a few weeks out from my deadline, and honestly, I’m not sure of the words needed to make it to the end. Right now my focus must be each tiny writing moment, where the story moves forward, step by step.

Friends, I need an extra dose of courage and a second wind, if you have any to offer. Things will be quiet around here until I’ve turned my work in.



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31. Why We Read


A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.
— George R.R. Martin

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32. Links to Stretch Your Summer Reading and Writing


Summer’s almost over, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Here are some great links to keep you reading and writing far into the fall.

Summer Notebooking :: Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Summer Road Trip! Five More Books Set in Connecticut, Louisiana, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Kansas :: Barnes and Noble (lovely to find Miss May here!)

Fifty Great Books for Kids to Read This Summer :: The Washington Post

31 Great Summer Books :: Real Simple

The post Links to Stretch Your Summer Reading and Writing appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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33. Cease Striving


Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.
– Goethe

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34. Free Bookmarks for Readers…and a Review Request


The talented Sierra Fong designed these gorgeous Over in the Wetlands and Blue Birds bookmarks for me, and I’d love to send you a set! I also have stickers of both covers. If you’d like one of each, simply drop me an email with your mailing address (caroline starr AT yahoo) and I’ll send them along. I’m happy to give you any combination you’d like: four Wetlands stickers, two Blue Birds stickers and two Wetlands bookmarks — whatever you choose.

Teachers, librarians, homeschool families, book club folks, I’m also offering a class set (for lack of a better term) to the first ten people who contact me. This would be up to thirty bookmarks and stickers of your choosing. Again, tell me what would best serve your group, and that’s what you’ll get, whether it’s a Blue Birds pack, a Wetlands pack, or some combo in between.

And now for the request I have of you. I’m not one who feels especially comfortable asking for this, but fair or not, I’ve learned how vital this thing can be to a book’s life and success. The thing I’m talking about is the Amazon review. I have to admit I’ve never liked being asked directly for a review. There’s pressure and expectation and a bit of ickiness all rolled into one. So if you feel as I have, you are utterly free to ignore this. But if you’ve read any of my books and enjoyed them, I’d be super grateful if you took a moment or two to write a quick note on Amazon.

Here are quick and easy links to find my books there:

May B.
Blue Birds
Over in the Wetlands

Thank you, friends, for your faithful support and enthusiasm. I look forward to sending out oodles of bookmarks and stickers.

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35. A Hurricane Katrina Reading List for Young People

hurricane books

I ran this post just last month to point readers toward books similar to my Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story. With the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina upon us, it felt like the right time to share it again.

This list includes picture books and novels about Katrina, “the single most catastrophic disaster in US History,” stories about other storms, and a collection of books about the wetlands.

Picture Books about Hurricanes and Storms

Hurricane! by Jonathan London
Blue on Blue by Dianne White
The Storm by Kathy Henderson
Big Wind Coming! by Karen English
Waiting Out the Storm by JoAnn Early Macken

Novels about Hurricanes

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
The Night of the Hurricane’s Fury by Candice Ransom
The Great Storm: The Hurricane Diary of J. T. King, Galveston, Texas, 1900  by Lisa Waller Rogers

Katrina Picture Books

A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Shadra Stickland
Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson

Katrina Novels

I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Hooper Finds a Family: A Hurricane Katrina Dog’s Survival Tale by Jane Paley

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie Lamana
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods
Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

Picture Books about Wetlands

Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman
Liza Lou And The Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer
Everglades by Jean Craighead George
Here Is the Wetland  by Madeleine Dunphy
Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs And Leaping Frogs by Anthony D. Fredericks
Babies in the Bayou by Jim Arnosky

Novels about Wetlands

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little
The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Here are a few more titles in listings from Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal .



The post A Hurricane Katrina Reading List for Young People appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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36. Protecting Creativity


I spent fourteen years as an author in training, and while I learned many things in that time, I’m finding there are a slew of different lessons on the other side of publication. One key facet of my writing life is figuring out how to protect my creativity — how to let it grow and expand with a new project, how to feed it, how to keep it from being damaged during the fragile moments a story is finding its way.

Please join me at Kirby Larson’s blog to read the rest. I’d love to hear how you go about protecting and nurturing your creativity.

The post Protecting Creativity appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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37. Classroom Connections: MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% True!)

age range: 8-12 years
setting: 1895; Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
teacher’s guide
Alison DeCamp’s website

Please tell us about your book. 

It’s the winter of 1895. Eleven-year-old Stanley Slater finds himself stuck in a lumber camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his meddlesome cousin, Geri (who insists on diagnosing him with all sorts of 19th century diseases), his evil granny, his sweet mama and a variety of unsavory characters like Stinky Pete (who may or may not be a Cold-Blooded Killer).

What inspired you to write this story?

I grew up with family stories, as we all do. I have always been particularly fascinated by my Great-Grandmother Cora who made her daughter (my grandmother) get married at 15. My grandmother ended up having a baby, naming him Stan, and then raising him as a single mother, working in a variety of places, including a lumber camp.

I also always thought my great-grandmother was incredibly mean. She was the inspiration for my characters’s crabby granny. Obviously. Click through to see her.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching? 

I researched everything from 19th century outhouses to 19th century slang terms. Google, of course, is great for this, but I also contacted people who are experts in the history of lumbering. I read all sorts of books (many no longer in print) and my 86 y.o. father and I took a field trip to Hartwick Pines, a fascinating state park about 1-1/2 hours from my house.

One of the things that I found interesting is that the Paul Bunyan tales may have been oral history in some camps but that they weren’t universally well known until around 1916. For that reason, I chose not to include references to Paul Bunyan in the book. I was also surprised with the hours lumberjacks put in on a daily basis, the fact that alcohol was not permitted in most camps, and that talking wasn’t allowed during meals—too readily this would lead to fights. Also, cooks were paid really well because a good cook would often be a lure to get the best men. And, finally, lumberjacks didn’t really like being called that in the early history of the job—being a “jack” was somewhat derogatory in the 1850s – 1870s—which is why they are also called Shanty Boys. They did embrace the term more toward the end of the 19th century, however.

What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?

I think it’s challenging to write historical fiction accurately with enough detail and authenticity without being too didactic (as in defining every term or historical event). I also found the little things difficult—how far would it take to get somewhere via wagon, for example. Or how much did 25 cents buy in the 1890s? Some homes had telephones, others didn’t; some streets had electric lights, some didn’t. How were homes heated? Where did water come from? Even if I never specifically used these details in the book, it’s important to at least know the answers since it’s the world where our characters are living.

What makes your book a perfect fit for the classroom? 

One of the things I’m excited about (and what I would have loved as a teacher) is the inclusion of all of the images. Many of them are accessible from the Library of Congress website (loc.gov) and would be a great start-off point for additional research and/or a non-fiction tie-in.

I’ve also included some actual songs and recipes from the time period, which could lend themselves to Common Core standards. And the historical fiction is based on true stories so the connection to CCSS in history/social studies in the middle grades is definitely an option.

The post Classroom Connections: MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% True!) appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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38. New Use for Old Manuscripts

My boys and I just re-discovered this particular book. Thought it would be fun to share with all of you again!

Cut in half.

Rustle up some silly kids.
Spread out on the kitchen table.
Set up a chart.

Number your pages.

Create a Choose Your Own Adventure Story.

(Ours is called THE BLACK DOOM and includes a haunted castle with a parking lot, an eyeless lifeguard [who later gets olives as eyes], lots of gorillas, a pool full of raspberry Jello, and an annual haunted castle pizza party).



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39. On Writing


I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.
― Anne Frank

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40. Fast Five: Middle-Grade Girl Detectives

I’ve noticed a variety of new books aimed at young readers with girl detectives as the lead. Yes, please! Here are a few that came out this year. All descriptions come from Amazon.

Nooks and Crannies — Jessica Lawson *, **

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Clue when six children navigate a mansion full of secrets—and maybe money—in this humorous mystery with heart.

Sweet, shy Tabitha Crum, the neglected only child of two parents straight out of a Roald Dahl book, doesn’t have a friend in the world—except for her pet mouse, Pemberley, whom she loves dearly. But on the day she receives one of six invitations to the country estate of wealthy Countess Camilla DeMoss, her life changes forever.

Upon the children’s arrival at the sprawling, possibly haunted mansion, it turns out the countess has a very big secret—one that will change their lives forever.

Then the children beginning disappearing, one by one. So Tabitha takes a cue from her favorite detective novels and, with Pemberley by her side, attempts to solve the case and rescue the other children…who just might be her first real friends.

The Detective’s Assistant — Kate Hannigan ***

Based on the extraordinary true story of America’s first-ever female detective, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and danger…including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!

Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt’s doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it’s the miserable Home for the Friendless.
Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate…and not just by helping out with household chores. For Kate Warne is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow — Katherine Woodfine ****

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store! Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and Mysteries around every corner. Wonder at the daring theft of the priceless Clockwork Sparrow! Tremble as the most Dastardly criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, Crack Codes, Devour Iced Buns and vow to bring the villians to justice…The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is the first book in a sumptuous mystery-adventure series for 9+ readers, full of vivid Edwardian period detail. Perfect for fans of Chris Riddell, Enid Blyton, Robin Stevens Murder Most Unladylike and Nancy Drew.

Book Scavenger — Jennifer Chambliss Bertman **

For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.

Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game–before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

Murder is Bad Manners — Robin Stevens *, ***

Two friends form a detective agency—and must solve their first murder case—in this “sharp-witted debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) that is the first adventure in a brand-new middle grade mystery series set at a 1930s boarding school.Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are best friends at Deepdean School for Girls, and they both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? They have nothing to investigate.

*    Have wanted to read this book since it first sold
**   Read and enjoyed
***  On my library request list
**** Boo, my library doesn’t have it yet

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41. Musing in the Midst of First-Round Edits

jasper edits

What I’m beginning to learn about writing books is that if I show up enough times, I start to run out of mistakes to make. But of course not all at once. That would be too easy.

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trapp familyMany a one has lost his faith in God because he first lost his faith in man; and again, many a one has found his faith in God again because he met a good man who took the bitterness out of his heart.

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43. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle

Please tell us about your latest book, Enchanted Air.

Thank you for your interest!  Enchanted Air, Two Cultures, Two Wings, is a verse memoir.  In one sense it’s a travel book about the unusual experience of visiting relatives in Cuba during the Cold War.  On another level, it’s simply about being bicultural, an experience shared by so many U.S. Latino children.  I wrote this memoir as a plea for peace and family reconciliation, a process which quite amazingly began on December 17, 2014, during the same week when advanced review copies of Enchanted Air arrived on my doorstep!  Of course, I rushed to revise the historical note to include President Obama’s announcement about the renewal of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, changing my tone from a desperate plea to a song of gratitude.

There have been a number of verse memoirs published the last few years.  Could you explain how you decided to use verse for your memoir?  What does verse offer that prose doesn’t?

While I was writing Enchanted Air, I had no idea that Jacqueline Woodson and Marilyn Nelson were also working on their own verse memoirs!  I was familiar with wonderful older verse memoirs by Lee Bennett Hopkins and a few others, but basically I expected Enchanted Air to languish alone on a librarian’s cart, with no one quite sure where to shelve it.  Now, thanks to Brown Girl Dreaming’s National Book Award, I think verse memoirs will suddenly find their own place in the world.  I chose poetry because free verse allowed me to transform memories into present tense, bringing childhood emotions back to life. 

Already, Enchanted Air has garnered enormous praise.  It’s a Junior Library Guild title and has earned three starred reviews.  Your other books have won such prestigious awards as the Pura Belpré Medal, the Claudia Lewis Award, the Newbery Honor, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award, the Américas Award, the Jane Addams Award, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor, just to name a few. 

How have you learned to deal with such acclaim?  How do you set the possible pressure of such praise aside when working on something new?

Acclaim is wonderful when it happens, but life keeps me humble.  I still receive plenty of manuscript rejections, especially for my biographical picture books about great Latino scientists who have been forgotten by history.  As far as pressure, there’s nothing I can do to influence grownup reviewers and award committee members.  All I can do is write from the heart, picturing my readers as children.

This is your fourth book to release this year.  How do you handle the juggle while continuing to work on new projects?

Three picture books—Drum Dream Girl, Orangutanka, and The Sky Painter—were released within weeks of each other by sheer coincidence.  I wrote them all in different years, but publication coincided simply because the illustration and book design process is so much slower and less predictable than the writing.  Now I’m back to working on historical verse novels, with only an occasional burst of inspiration leading to another picture book idea.

Learn more about Margarita and her books at www.margaritaengle.com.

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44. Enchantment: Playing with Words and Pictures

SCBWI-New Mexico’s second annual Enchantment Show took place earlier this month. The show celebrates the work between the illustrator and the author by flip-flopping the traditional creation process. Instead of the illustrator responding to an author’s words, authors are assigned an illustration and produce a page of writing in response.


I’ve talked here before about the importance of writing bits and pieces not meant for publication. Giving voice to a poem I would have never cooked up on my own was especially satisfying.


This year’s theme was Play. A jpeg of Alan F. Stacy’s “Moonlight Serenade” arrived in my inbox, a picture capturing southwestern animals making music under the light of the moon. I didn’t know who the illustrator was or what he’d called it. I wasn’t even sure about the animals he included. Was that a coyote or a wolf? A Skunk or a badger?

20150711_135755(See Alan reflected in the glass?)

An idea came to me. What if the animals played the stars into the sky each night, led by Badger on his violin? Here’s where things get fun. I called My poem “Starlight Serenade,” almost exactly what Alan named his picture.

When night is hush, the world below
takes upon moon’s silver glow,
awaits the magic that begins
as Badger lifts his violin.

A sparkling song trembles and swells
enchants the heavens with its spell,
invites the first star to join in
when Badger plays his violin.

The orchestra now
takes its place —
Wolf on his sax,
Bear thrumming bass.
The music builds,
calls stars to sing
as Rabbit grabs
his set of strings.
Clear notes pour
from one lone flute,
echo across the arid butte.

The night sky blooms, a burnished shine,
music and starlight intertwined.

Whispering to the sky’s deep hue,
a hint of light slips into view.
Note by note the music fades
as darkness shifts to azure day.

Across the firmament sun roams
and shadows stretch to evening gloam.
These foretell what’s always been
when Badger lifts his violin.

What a great collaborative experience the creative process can be!




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45. Why We Read


No matter how busy you think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

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46. Life and Art: Author Tamara Ellis Smith + Giveaway

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith 

In this stunning debut novel, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.  

A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.

The idea

The idea for Another Kind of Hurricane came when my son—who was four at the time—asked me who would get his pair of pants. We were driving a few bags of clothing and food to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort. Of course I didn’t know, but the question stayed with me. I began to imagine who would get his pants—and then I began to actually IMAGINE who would get his pants. And I was off and running…

This was August, 2005, of course, and I had just begun my first semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I had arrived at VCFA knowing I was a picture book writer (note the assuredness of that verb: knowing!), and so that semester I wrote a picture book about a boy in Vermont who gave a pair of pants with a lucky marble in the pocket to a boy in New Orleans.

It was terrible. The picture book, not the idea. My advisor thought the idea would make a great novel—but I wasn’t a novelist, so that was the end of that story.

Except it wasn’t the end of that story—because I couldn’t get it, or the two boys, out of my head.

It took me a long time, but I wrote a novel. This novel. Ten years, 3 major rewrites, and about 25 drafts later, Another Kind of Hurricane has finally been born.



Like any good writer—I did my homework for this story. I read many articles and blogs. I interviewed people. I watched countless documentaries about Katrina. I did everything that I thought I should do. And I tried to do it respectfully – aware that this was an experience that was totally foreign to me.

As a Vermonter, I felt as though I knew—as best I could—what it had been like during those harrowing days during the hurricane. I felt emotionally connected to the incredible people who had survived such a tragic disaster and my heart was bursting with empathy. It was from this place that I wrote Another Kind of Hurricane.


And then in the fall of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene swept through my home state of Vermont, my town, my street and my home—and all of a sudden I was inside the novel in a way I had never, ever, ever imagined.

Life imitated Art.

My block was one of the epicenters of the storm, at least in our general area of Vermont. Two of my neighbors had the foundations of their houses collapse.  One had water on the first floor of hers. Most of us had our basements flooded. The basement in my house was flooded. We lost our water heater and a pellet stove. We also lost our kids’ artwork, my manuscripts, bins of clothing, and many other belongings.

We were lucky—no one was hurt. And I know that what we experienced was only the smallest fraction of what folks went through in New Orleans. But the ordeal gave me new insight.

Here is what I know now: Flood water smells old. It smells like something decaying, like something that has been left out for too long, like a mix of oil and compost and mold. Flood silt is heavy. It sticks to everything it touches. I know what it feels like to walk down a block lined with more appliances than trees and more garbage than grass.

I also know what it feels like to have strangers offer to help, to not know that to do in the face of such kindness, to be overwhelmed but grateful, to hem and haw, and to finally say yes to it all. By crossing into my intimate space, these amazing people took on some of my actual grief and suffering. They helped me begin to transform and heal. Accepting help became entwined with growing an incredible sense of empowerment, liberation and connection. I am still struggling to express the magnitude of what happened to me, but in the end, these strangers and I—we became friends.

This is what happens between my characters, Henry and Zavion, in Another Kind of Hurricane.

I think the reviewer at Kirkus really got what I was hoping readers would take away from the story:

Elegant prose and emotional authenticity will make this title sing not only for those who have experienced tragedies, but for everyone who knows the magic that only true friendship can foster.

True friendship fosters magic. Yes. And sometimes true friendship comes from the most unlikely person, a person seemingly so different from you—and yet, in the end—you couldn’t be more the same.


Schwartz and Wade has kindly offered to give away a copy of Another Kind of Hurricane to one reader here today. Simply leave a comment below. The winner will be selected Wednesday, July 29. US residents only, please.

About Tamara

Tamara Ellis Smith earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Richmond, Vermont, with her family. This is her first novel. Visit her on the Web at tamaraellissmith.com.

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47. Reading Links


Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers :: The Horn Book

Book a Trip Across America: Children’s Edition :: Marion Public Library

Creative Courage for Young Hearts: 15 Emboldening Picture Books Celebrating the Lives of Great Artists, Writers, and Scientists :: Brain Pickings

How to Become a Better Reader in Ten Steps :: Publisher’s Weekly

Why I Read Out Loud With My Teens :: The Washington Post

The Most Popular Books Set in Each State in One Surprising Map :: Arts.Mic

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48. Help Author Veronica Bartles: Bid on Blue Birds and Wetlands



Veronica Bartles and family are due to move back to Maryland this August. While on a trip back to Maryland to check on their home, Veronica discovered some pipes had burst. There was water damage to the entire house, and it was overtaken with mold. The insurance company won’t cover any of the damage because the damage wasn’t found soon enough, voiding the policy.

Veronica Bartles has been a vital part of our local chapter of SCBWI for the last few years. She and her family are facing not only a move but an enormous financial responsibility in repairing their home. On their own. Emily Moore has arranged an auction to raise money for the Bartles family, and I’ve donated an ARC of Blue Birds and a finished copy of Over in the Wetlands. Opening bids start at $10. If you are a writer, there are a variety of other items that will interest you, from critiques to phone consultations with writers and agents.

Blue Birds auction page
Wetlands auction page

I encourage you to consider participating and would be thrilled if you spread the word. The auction closes Friday, 7/31.

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49. Resilience and Restoration


I moved to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana in 2007, a few months short of Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary. To see the marks of devastation New Orleans still carried, to hear the daily conversations, it was clear Katrina, “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history,” had left a lasting impact on countless lives.

What was completely unknown to me was the plight of Louisiana’s wetlands. Louisiana, which contains approximately 40% of the nation’s wetlands, experiences 90% of the coastal wetland loss in the lower 48 states. The state loses 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands per year. If nothing is done to alter this, all of Terrebonne, along with other coastal parishes, will be underwater by 2050.

Follow me over to The Nerdy Book Club to read the rest.

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50. A Wetlands Story Time in Pictures

Instead of a launch party for Over in the Wetlands, I lead story time at the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library‘s Cherry Hills branch. Think stories, games, coloring pages, and gator cookies.


Reading Wetlands by Cathryn Sill.





Explaining the three things we needed to “make” a hurricane: wind, waves, and rain. Look at that handsome boy of mine on the right!



And the other handsome one! (Incidentally, this is what happens when the Rose boys take over the camera).


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