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<<November 2014>>
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: encouragement, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 126
1. A Podcast with Brilliant Business Moms


It was so, so lovely to talk a few weeks ago with Sarah and Beth Anne of Brilliant Business Moms. They sought me out after reading this guest post at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Here are a few of the things you can expect in the podcast:

01:15 – Roald Dahl, the Oregon Trail, and My Journey
04:24 – The Most Honest Thing I’ve Ever Written
07:48 – What about Mr. Chapman?
09:59 – The Apprentice Stage
13:34 – Maniacal Optimism
16:54 – Why a Traditional Publisher?
19:29 – How to Get Published
22:50 – Finding an Agent
24:59 – Advice for Apprentice Authors
29:31 – Does a Web Presence Matter?
31:02 – A Day in the Life
34:34 – How Much Does an Author Make?
38:56 – Resources for Aspiring Authors
44:30 – What My Boys Think About Having an Author for a Mom

The podcast is live! Click through to have a listen.


The post A Podcast with Brilliant Business Moms appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. 4 perks of sitting at the kid’s table

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

It’s nearing Thanksgiving and my brain is shifting into stuffing-mashed-potatoes-and-pumpkin-pie (a la mode) mode. I’m recalling those big family gatherings where the grown-ups sat one table and the kids at another. The kid’s table was typically of the folding variety on hiatus from the front closet. It was set with the B-list china and plastic cups instead of stemware. But that was okay. You were with your cousins or sibs—away from the cheek-pinching, bum-patting relatives—and there was pie. Life was good.

When I ventured into children’s writing half an ice age ago, I didn’t know I was sitting at the “kid’s table.” I plunked myself down with such enthusiasm, I’m sure I toppled a glass or two. But everybody was new to me and nice to me. I couldn’t tell the adults from the kids.

Since then, in meltdownable moments, I’ve pushed my chair away from the table a few times, surmising I’d be wise to walk away, but something—typically someone—pushed me back to the table, shoved a fresh crayon in my hand and insisted I keep on writing. And I did.

But as the years stack up like so many pie plates, I’ve begun to feel like that cousin you see only once a year. Everybody is so shocked by how big she is. She’s actually in junior high now, for turkey’s sake, but still she’s sat at the kid’s table. That’s how I feel. I have OCS (over-grown cousin syndrome (don’t bother looking it up—it hasn’t made it into the DSM yet)).

And as I’ve grown as a writer and more than outgrown my little chair, I’ve watched as some of my dearest tablemates pick up their plates, glasses and silverware and one-by-one excuse themselves to go sit at the grown-up table. I’ve felt happy for them. Absolutely. Their dream of getting an agent and a publishing contract came true. Their name would be next to the word “by” on the cover of an actual book.  And, no point in denying it, I’ve swallowed hard and pushed back tears too (sometimes unsuccessfully).

Being at the kid’s table isn’t as fun as it once was. But you know what? As long as I’m here, for as long as I’m here, I figure I may as well make the best of it.

Here are 4 perks of sitting at the kid’s table:

  1. No kitchen timer—expectations are a lot lower when you’re pre-published. No deadlines. No reviews. No line edits. It’s just you and your muse.
  2. Always new guests at the table—and if you’ve been at the table awhile, you’ll have something to share with the new kids about which “menu items” to avoid, which funny looking “veggies” are actually good for you and which “pie crust” is just a little too flaky.
  3. Loads of time to load your plate—this tour of duty at the kid’s table offers opportunities to grow, listen, network, take classes on craft, join a critique group, establish an online platform, eat pie, eat pie (did I say that already?)
  4. Room to master your manners—like any business, publishing has its own etiquette. Sitting at the kid’s table gives you time to learn which fork to use and where to put your elbows before you move up the grown up’s table.

You bet your drumstick I want to move to the grown-up’s table, but until I do, there’s pie here and friends, and at least four perks. I can wait my turn. (But I would appreciate a bigger chair.)

And just because I like you, here’s a pre-Thanksgiving treat from The Onion.

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3. jump to the moon with hazel mitchell (and enter her book giveaway!)

Written by  JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell/Charlesbridge Publishing/ISBN 978-1-934133-57-6, Ages 6-9

Written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell/Charlesbridge Publishing/ISBN 978-1-934133-57-6, Ages 6-9

Who isn’t mesmerized by the moon? Little Imani’s lunar fascinations go beyond enchantment to obsession as she wills herself to touch the moon. In doing so, she would prove her worth to all of the naysayers in her Maasai village who literally look down on her. Inspired by her mother’s tales of Maasai mythology, not only does Imani accomplish the feat, she proves to herself that “a challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it.” Imani is quite a someone.

Frog on a Dime is pleased to host the illustrator of IMANI’S MOON–the adorable Hazel Mitchell.

Hazel Mitchell is originally from England and now lives and works in Maine. When she wasn’t riding horses as a youngster she was drawing them. After attending art college in the UK, she spent several years in the Royal Navy and then worked as a graphic designer. Now she’s doing what she always dreamed of – creating books for children. Don’t you love it when dreams come true?

Welcome, welcome, Hazel. I’m excited to talk about your new book, written by JaNay Brown-Wood. What first attracted you to IMANI’S MOON? I loved the story and the fantastical elements. I also liked the idea of the setting in Africa and drawing a Maasai child! It was quite a challenge.

And now that it’s finished, what do you love most about Imani’s story? That it’s a book! (That’s always surprising.) I do love the way the colours and textures came out. Great job by Charlesbridge Publishing!

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the need for greater diversity in children’s books. How do you think IMANI’S MOON helps to fill that gap? I think IMANI’S MOON is a great book to add to the diversity bookshelf. Imani is in her own environment. This is not a case of forcing a child of color into a story for the sake of diversity. She’s just Imani–in her culture with her trials and tribulations–just like any other child.

Hazel and her beloved friend Toby

Hazel and her beloved friend Toby

People outside children’s publishing or those new to the industry are often surprised (even alarmed) to learn that authors and illustrators do not often collaborate on a book. Can you talk about that? When I was a newbie I didn’t realize authors and illustrators worked separately either. At first, I thought the writer might feel cheated. And some do, I think. But the more you work in the industry, the more wisdom you acquire. We have editors and art directors for a reason. Having a little distance between the author and the illustrator is good. And the input from an art director and editor can be crucial. If there’s an issue with artwork, I’ve found that they’ll refer to the author when needed. It’s a team situation. Without the freedom to create, the illustrator can feel frustrated and then the art might not be as good as it could be. You can feel boxed in. The writer has his or her vision, and the illustrator needs to be able to have their vision as well.  A picture book is a collaboration; it cannot work without each part of the whole. That’s when the magic happens!

And we can see that magic in IMANI’S MOON, Hazel. It’s so lovely. Now, since Frog on a Dime exists to offer encouragement, could you tell us about what or who encourages you? Right. Oh, so many. First, all the books that I have read along the way and learned from. You can’t read enough. My peers – those I have met so far on the journey. It can be a lonesome profession and like minds are crucial to help you along. And those I have met who are further along the path and have been kind enough to mentor me. Going to conferences and workshops has been a great source of knowledge and inspiration.

Here’s your chance to be encouraging, Hazel. What’s one thing a writer or illustrator could do today to improve their craft? Create SOMETHING!!!

Love that! And what do you do when you’re “stuck” as you’re trying to create something? Make a cup of tea. Do something mindless (chores!). Work on something else. Read a book. Have a bubble bath. Talk to another creative.

I love those ideas, Hazel. I’m a big believer in the inspirational power of tea myself. Before you go, I’m curious to know what’s on the horizon for you. I have a busy year upcoming with three books I’ve illustrated – ANIMALLY from Kane Miller, WHERE DO FAIRIES GO IN WINTER? from Down East, KENYA’S ART from Charlesbridge and in 2016 by debut as author-illustrator TOBY from Candlewick Press.

How exciting! Thank you so much for visiting Frog on a Dime, Hazel. It’s been a delight getting to know you.

You can learn more about Hazel when you visit HazelMitchell.com. You’re welcome to purchase IMANI’S MOON directly from Charlesbridge.


Enter a drawing to win your very own copy of IMANI’S MOON.

All you have to do is leave a comment about why you love picture books! It’s that simple.

The drawing will take place at Noon on Friday, November 7, so don’t dilly dally!


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

And now, we’ll close with one of Hazel’s favorite quotes . . .

We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. ~  Oscar Wilde



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4. super interview & super book giveaway

It’s my treat to welcome children’s book author and illustrator Deb Pilutti. Deb and I recently traveled to and from the SCBWI fall conference on Mackinac Island. The many miles spent on Michigan highways gave me a chance to get to know Deb better. She’s a peach. (Well, not literally. But that would make her literary abilities all the more extraordinary, now wouldn’t it?) I know you’re going to enjoy getting to know her as much as I did. And so, my Frog on a Dime friends, meet my friend Deb Pilutti . . .

Deb Pilutti

Deb Pilutti

So, Deb, when did you know you wanted to become a children’s writer?

Let’s just say I was a little dense, so it took me awhile. The signs were there. When I was younger, I loved reading more than anything. A blank book was my most prized possession. I once had Leo Lionni as a design instructor in a college workshop and I was giddy to meet him because Little Blue and Little Yellow was one of my favorite books as a child. But still, I never saw writing and illustrating for children as an option. It wasn’t until I realized I was hoarding my own children’s books, and not sharing that it was something I wanted to do.

What is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?

Being silly.

What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you related to your work?

Early on, I submitted a manuscript to an editor. She said it wasn’t right for her, but that she liked the illustrations and thought that I was a good writer and invited me to submit to her again. I was not very confident about my writing at that point, so it was exactly what needed to hear.

What advise would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?

Of course, I would say to keep trying. The fact that the person has come close means that they are on the right track. But I would also recommend doing something a little different to push yourself even more. It could be devoting more time to writing, or attend a conference or workshop or online class. A few years ago, this was the case for me. I decided to spend more time writing, which meant turning down some freelance opportunities. I also spent a couple of weekends at a writing retreat with some friends.

By Deb Pilutti Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

By Deb Pilutti
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

What would you like to share about your NEW book–details! details!

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero is published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt is a story  about the day in the life of a Lava Boy and his superhero toy, Captain Magma.

Lava Boy is making up the rules as he and Captain Magma go along – always in the spirit of superhero play. The rules are about being super from a child’s perspective, as in “Rule No. 2: Saving the Day is messy. But everyone understands,” or “Rule No. 5: Sometimes, Superheroes make a lot of noise.” At times, the action on the page is at odds with the rule.

I had so much fun making this book! And plenty of practice too, as I have spent an incredible amount of hours (A LOT) discussing the merits of various superhero powers with my children over the years. I particularly liked painting the spreads with Lava Boy’s toys in various states of distress. I am drawn to awkward, retro toys.

And for the super-super serious portion of our interview—let’s say your moral compass went missing. What make/model of car would you steal and why?

An old Ford pick up truck from the early 60s. And while my moral compass is missing, I’d nab a really great pair of vintage cowboy boots to go with it.

Good answer! Let’s try another one–on the assumption we could find a phone booth somewhere (a museum perhaps), who is the children’s author or illustrator you’d most like to be trapped inside with?

Maira Kalman. First of all, she seems like an incredibly interesting person and I would love to chat with her. She finds beauty and poignancy in the absurd, and I think she would find it in the phone booth. Plus, I would hope we would laugh a lot.

Feeling brave? How about naming three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.

I can only think of odd things – oh well. I talk to myself a lot. I have a collection of Star Trek figurines on my desk and I have an irrational aversion to using a salad fork.

Hey, I didn’t know you were a Trekkie. Thank you so much for stopping by, Deb. Best wishes to you on your super new book!


Want to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY of Ten Rules of Being of Superhero?

Between now and Noon on Friday, October 24, leave a comment and answer this question–Who is your superhero?


Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and
watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor,
Michigan with her husband,two kids and one nervous border collie. Deb has
worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products
for children and is the author and illustrator of TEN RULES OF BEING A
Schuster), which will be published in 2015. Additionally, she illustrated
SUBURB KID (both with Sterling).


And now, in honor of our special guest,  and in keeping with my quote-closing tradition, we’ll close with one of Deb’s favorite quotes . . .

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~ Pablo Picasso



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5. you just never know

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

At the close of the SCBWI – Michigan conference on Mackinac Island, book reviewer, blogger and first grade teacher extraordinaire Ed Spicer (I know cheers will erupt at the mention of his name!) shared about one of his students. Brycen struggled with reading. He simply could not decipher those black squiggles on the page. That is, until he found a book that unlocked the magic for him. The title of the book isn’t significant to Brycen’s story. It was well reviewed and nicely illustrated, but it was not a groundbreaker or a bestseller. That didn’t matter to Brycen. He simply loved that book, and it loved him back by patiently waiting for him to decode it word-by-word until he could read it with ease. By reading it over and over and over, that story gave him the confidence to select more titles.

He’s such a book lover now that, well, why don’t I let Brycen tell you . . .

Ed Spicer shared Brycen’s story to remind authors and would-be authors that our stories make a difference regardless of critical acclaim or popularity. We may never know how one of our stories set up camp in a child’s heart and made a forever home there. And that’s okay. We just need to make the best stories we know how and trust they’ll find the hearts that need them, hearts like Brycen’s.

Feeling small or discouraged today? Keep crafting your stories with love and care. Because you just never know.

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading. ~ Maurice Sendak

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6. Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson


Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, for tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The post Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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7. There is No Schedule


If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know my friend  J. Anderson Coats says a lot of things that resonate with me. She’s the one who gave me my favorite piece of writing advice and came up with that great cow-through-a-colander writing metaphor.

During a recent email exchange with my Class of 2k12 friends, Jillian shared this:

A writing career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You’re not on a schedule. There is no schedule.

That first part, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the second part? It felt like a revelation. It’s true that when you’re on deadline you most certainly have a schedule, but otherwise, the writing life is wide open.

So you know what?

  • If there’s no schedule, someone else isn’t going to beat you to the punch. What you’re working on now will not somehow be replaced by someone else’s (faster) efforts.
  • The market isn’t in charge of your story. You are.
  • For you published folks, you will not be forgotten if you somehow don’t get to keep some “regular” publishing schedule. Yes, your readers might age out, as they say, but there are always new readers to take their place and earlier books to introduce readers to the new ones, whenever they happen to be published.
  • Unless you’re contractually committed, you can write whatever you want whenever you want.
  • And there’s what author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw (my niece’s former Girl Scout leader!) posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Repeated themes I heard at the writer-illustrator conference in LA: Slow down. Take time to do your best work. When you think it’s done, set it aside to assess again later. Build on what you borrow. Be courageous — do work you find important, no matter what others say. LIVE so you’ll have a rich portfolio of experiences to draw and write from. What gets your next book published isn’t luck, desperation, a magic shortcut, or networking with stars; it’s your hard work, your being ready to jump at sudden opportunities, and your connections with friends. #SCBWI14

Here’s to approaching your writing with freedom in the days ahead!




The post There is No Schedule appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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8. constipation and you

dreamy frog

Recently a writing friend reminded me of something I wrote long ago: “Looking at it physiologically, perhaps writer’s block is more akin to constipation–things get all backed up in your semi colon.”

Yep, I know a few delusional mugwumps believe writer’s block is a myth, but let’s “pretend” it does exist. Why not apply constipation remedies to get your semi colon unstuck?

Strive for a balanced diet. Read and write in equal proportion.

Increase your fiber intake. Read outside your genre-of-choice to challenge yourself.

Drink plenty of water. By which I mean, drink plenty of water. Dehydrated writers produce dry writing.

Elevate physical activity. Maybe you’ve been practicing Anne Lamott’s dictum too much. It’s time to get arse out of chair and move. Walking is a time-honored way for writers to get the creative wheels whirling.

Get into a routine. For the love of prunes, if we can train your bowels, can’t we train our brains too? Establishing a writing pattern–whatever that looks like for you–helps your noggin’ to shift gears and be productive more quickly.

Heed the call. If your body says you need to, you know, “go,” then go. If your brain gifts you with a cool story idea or a solution to a knotty plot issue, jot it down, text it to yourself or tell a friend, don’t assume you’ll remember later.

Try applying these tips for two weeks, and you too could become a Smooth Operator. (Thanks, Sade.)

I wish that being famous helped prevent me from being constipated. ~ Marvin Gaye

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9. congratulations to the winner of the give-a-quote giveaway!

Congratulations to Patti Bumpus Richards, winner of the give-a-quote giveaway!
You’ll find a fun, inspirational surprise package in a mailbox near you soon!

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Thank you to everyone who added to my stash of inspirational quotes. I look forward to sharing them (and crediting you) in future blog posts.

Thanks to Patti for this pithy reminder from Mr. Edison . . .

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas A. Edison

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10. The Mystery of Grace


I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.
– Anne Lamott

The post The Mystery of Grace appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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11. give-a-quote & enter-a-giveaway!

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

If you’ve ever visited Frog on a Dime, you know I’m a sucker for a crackerjack quote. (I include one with every post to make sure my blog is inspiration-fortified.)

Now through Friday, August 15, visit Frog on a Dime and leave your favorite quote as a comment. You’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a keen package of fun, schlock-free writing supplies, hand-picked to inspire you. Trust me. You’ll like it–I’ll have a hard time parting with it.

Now, hop to it!

Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes

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12. five benefits of being uppity

Okay, so maybe it’s another of my odd habits, but when I walk into a library, hotel lobby or museum, I typically look up. Come to think of it, I look up on walks through the woods. Or when I’m outside on a cloudless night.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan

(Yes, I’ve had a few near head-on collisions, but it’s almost always worth it.) I like to see what’s up there, not just what’s straight in front of me. Looking up gives me a different perspective, both in the physical realm and that weird world that exists between my ears.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Navy Pier, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Navy Pier, Chicago

Here’s one of my favorite “uppity” quotes: “The gloom of this world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.” ~ Fra Giovanni

I love this quote because it reminds me I have a choice. I can look down and focus on what’s painful or scary or I can look up to focus on what’s possible.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Mackinaw Bridge, Michigan

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Mackinaw Bridge, Michigan

For me, looking up doesn’t involve donning rose-tinted shades and pretending everything’s perfect. I think it means, given the choice, why not be positive? Having an upbeat attitude does not have the power to influence reality. In other words, my looking up will not equate to a polished manuscript, a publishing contract or calls from agents. (It’s never that simple, but you know that already.) But looking up does reorient my point of view, my perceptions and how I choose to respond to my reality.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Grand Central Station, Manhattan

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Grand Central Station, Manhattan

So, while it may not be magic, shifting my perspective upward . . .

1. Infuses me with hope.
2. Energizes me when my reserves are on E.
3. Takes my eyes off the immediate and helps me see the bigger picture.
4. Gives me buoyancy.
5. Makes me slightly more tolerable to be around. (And that right there is the price of admission, I’d say.)

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Chandelier, Grand Hyatt, Manhattan

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Chandelier, Grand Hyatt, Manhattan

I’d be a pimple-faced liar if I told you I manage to keep my head up every single day. As I’ve shared in early posts, some days I full body hug the berber. It is not pretty. I get overwhelmed with pessimism, break out in envy pox and become enveloped in self-doubt (which by the way, I am convinced is the leading cause of cellulite). When I’m looking down I become paralyzed, unproductive, and kinda pitiful. And I’m stuck with my own company. Bleh.

Thankfully, a lot of my days, with the help of encouraging friends and some stern self-talk, I can rise above that compost heap of negative glop.

Let me encourage you to remember you have a choice. I hope you choose to look up. You might like what you see when you become “uppity” too.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Shedd Aquarium, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Shedd Aquarium, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen John Hancock Building, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
John Hancock Building, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen New York Public Library

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
New York Public Library

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Giordano's Pizza, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Hidden Lake Gardens  Tipton, Michigan

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Hidden Lake Gardens
Tipton, Michigan

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13. say hello to lisa rose

Meet Lisa Rose

Meet Lisa Rose

It’s my delight to introduce you to vivacious, rap-writing debut author Lisa Rose. I first met Lisa through our regional chapter of SCBWI and was immediately attracted to her bright smile, energy and enthusiasm. And wait until you hear her good news . . .

Tell us about your book–details! We want details!
SHUMLIK PAINTS THE TOWN will be published by Kar-Ben in 2016. It’s about a painter named Shumulik who needs to create a mural for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). He can’t think of anything to paint and soon all of Jerusalem will be there. What is he going to do? It has a funny surprise ending!

Can’t wait to read SHUMLIK PAINTS THE TOWN and find out what the surprise is. So, when did you know you wanted to write for children?
It sounds cliché, but I was in second grade. I wrote a poem and my teacher called me a writer. I always wanted to write. But my mother told me to do something that made money. So I became an elementary teacher and got really, really, really rich! Moral of the story: don’t listen to your mother.

Very funny, Lisa. Now, what is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?
Hope. All children’s book must end in hope or by definition they are not a children’s book.

What’s the best writing advise you’ve ever been given?
I was a playwright before I wrote for kids, but this still applies: “No amount of sequins can save a bad script.”

Love that. And it definitely applies to children’s writing too. As you know, Frog on a Dime is all about encouraging children’s writers, so what’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you (related to writing)?
It was from Michigan’s own Debbie Taylor. I was writing outside of my race and shared with her I wasn’t trying to be revolutionary, I just wanted to write about something that touched me. Debbie said, “That’s your answer!” Recently, I was working on a project and it just wasn’t working. I tried and tried. Until I realized I was writing it for all the wrong reasons. I think good writing must have passion and purpose. The idea must scrape your soul.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

What advise would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?
Keep going and learn how to flip-turn. I was swimmer before I was writer. It is excellent training. I was used to going as fast as could into cement walls. Instead of crashing after rejection, I just turned around and swam as fast I could into another cement wall. I sent the editor at Kar-Ben over twenty stories. We were on a first name rejection basis. But she kept encouraging me to send more stories. And so I did. I told myself I was going to keep writing until I got a contract or a restraining order from her. Luckily for me, the contract came first.

That’s great advise, Lisa. I’d never thought about flip-turns, but that’s a perfect analogy for the submission process. Time for one last question? Okay, name three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.
1. While I have this nice Jewish book coming out with Kar-Ben, most of my novels feature African-American characters and I am working on a digital media project with the former producers of rapper Eminem. Yes, I even write rap music.
2. I have partnered with a Detroit graffiti artist, Fel3000ft. to create a chapter book. I joke that I write everything from shalom to shazizzle!
3. I like eating ice cream with a fork.
4. BONUS! I have an e-book coming out with MeeGenius in the Spring: OH NO! THE TOOTH FAIRY BROKE HER WING! It is a sequel to OH NO! THE EASTER BUNNY IS ALLERGIC TO EGGS!

Hey, this was fun, Lisa. Thank you for stopping by Frog on a Dime. Wishing you many more publishing success stories. Keep doing those flip-turns!

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14. Writing and Running

Most of my life, I’ve thought runners were like Chemistry majors — skilled in a way I wasn’t and fans of pain and tedium. This all changed after my second son was born, when my walking partner of many months turned to me and said, “We’re running the next mile. Go!”

For weeks, we steadily built our distance. I insisted Rachel talk to me the entire time about books, teaching, raising boys, recipes — anything to distract me from the hard work. Somehow, while pushing that double jogging stroller and learning about couscous salads, I got hooked.

My husband wasn’t surprised. He’s always said I have the perfect personality for a runner: outdoorsy, disciplined, someone who craves time alone. I’ve never been fast, and as I’ve gotten older, worked through injuries, taken time off, and battled the adjustment moving from sea level to a mile above, I’ve gotten slower still.

Lots of runners talk about the grand thoughts they have while they’re covering the miles. While I’m not one of those (my mind is usually in rest mode while my legs do the tough stuff), I have, at times, thought through the similarities between running and writing.
Here are a few I’ve come up with:

  • be in it for the long haul
  • every step counts
  • hold onto success to motivate later
  • some days are great, some days aren’t
  • love what you do
  • find your rhythm
  • keep track of your goals
  • when things don’t work, try something new

Any other running writers out there? What similarities do you find between the two?

This post originally ran March 9, 2011

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15. Running as a Metaphor for Writing

On Wednesday I posted about the similarities between running and writing. Today I thought it would be fun to look at some of these more closely:

In it for the long haul:
Just like the hard work required to add miles or increase speed, writers need to be committed long term. You can’t “become” anything overnight.

Every step counts:
It’s not glamorous to think about those early mornings you force yourself out of bed just to put one foot in front of the other. Neither is it deeply exciting to recall every word you’ve ever put down on paper. But each small effort builds on the next.

Hold onto success to motivate later:
Early last December, my sister called to tell me my brother-in-law wasn’t going to be able to make the half marathon they’d planned to run together. The race was in ten days. Would I like to take his place?

My longest race before this was a 5k. I had no time to train. My sister flew me out to Kiawah, South Carolina, where we walk/ran the first six miles. Then something came over me: I wanted to finish out the race on my own. Though I hadn’t run that far in years, I finished the last seven miles without stopping. I’ve used this moment as motivation ever since.

Have you ever had a breakthrough writing moment? A time you knew what your story was missing, a writing session where every word worked? Save those moments to use as future motivation.

This post originally ran March 11, 2014


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16. And Finally…

…wrapping up the running theme

Some days are great, some days aren’t:
Some running days are fun, some start hard and get easier, some start easy and get hard. And there are some that you just have to get through. Writing is the same. Don’t let a hard writing day scare you from getting back into the groove.

Love what you do:
I’m slow, I’ve got funny form, but I love the way running makes me feel: strong and powerful and joyful, like a little kid.

While I set goals and due dates for certain projects, I never know how easily the words will come. This is where love for the writing process helps to sustain me. Last summer I got stuck on two stanzas for a picture book and couldn’t move forward for weeks. I spent hours and hours on what amounted to roughly twenty words. Twenty words! As frustrating as this was, I’m so thankful I kept returning to the story, sat with what I had, and trusted the words would come. The writing process has never worked the same way twice for me, but I love what eventually unfolds.

Find your rhythm:
There is something very familiar and comfortable about settling into your pace. The same can be said about your own writing process. Maybe you need music in the background. Maybe you have to re-read everything you wrote the last time you sat down. Whatever your system, if it works for you, use it. From that familiar place your work will grow.

Keep track of your goals:
Just like runners love to record their fastest times, make sure you’re paying attention to — and celebrating! — your progress: finishing a manuscript, positive feedback from critique partners, requests for partials from agents. Those milestones keep you moving forward.

When things don’t work, try something new:
I’ve had my share of injuries and have had to alter the way I’ve approached running. For months I practiced the walk/run system my sister swears by. Other times I kept all running to a mile — holding onto the fun and cutting back on the work.
Are you working on a manuscript you need to retire? Are you writing in a genre that just doesn’t fit? Give yourself permission to try something new or approach your work differently.

Metaphor for life:
Running is hard, but life is harder. When I push myself physically, I feel like I can take the world on.

Isn’t it just the same with writing?

This post originally ran March 16, 2011

Update:  A friend just told me about  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir by author Haruki Murakami. Can’t wait to dig in!

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17. how to “get lucky” in five easy steps

If all it takes to sell a book is talent, work hard and perseverance, more of us would be published. Like it or not, luck is a piece of the process. But can you make your own luck? I think so. You just have to be willing to ask for it, compete, put out, flaunt a little and sell yourself.

1. Ask for it. Whenever I receive a manuscript critique from an editor or agent, I always end the conversation by asking if I can send him or her my manuscript. Pride is too pricey. Go ahead and pop the question the editor or agent is expecting you to ask. (And then make sure you follow through. Send that manuscript and mention the invitation in your cover letter.)

2. Put out. Sweetie, shyness is simply out of your price range. You really must interact with other writers and members of the publishing community via social media. Send cards. Build and cultivate a blog or web site. Comment on other’s blog posts. Be generous and offer your help to others in the form of critiques or feedback. Aside from surrounding yourself with a supportive community of talented people, you never know where those connections may lead.

3. Flaunt a little. Humility is pricey too. You’re going to have to loosen up and show off a little. An author/illustrator friend of mine, Ruth McNally Barshaw, was contacted by an agent after a friend encouraged her to share her sketches online. Ruth wasn’t looking to lure an agent, but posting her work resulted in the start of a fabulous partnership and the launch of her graphic novel series–Ellie McDoodle.

4. Be willing to compete. When was the last time you entered a writing contest? In 2012, I entered a contest sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Did I win? Uh, noop. But my picture book manuscript placed in the top 5 out of more than 750 entries. Did that boost my confidence. Yes, indeedy. Children’s Writer and Highlights run themed contests regularly.

But don’t limit yourself to writing contests. If there’s a pricey conference you want to attend, chances are there’s a scholarship contest to go with it. I have had the privilege of receiving funds for both a regional and a national SCBWI conference, as well as for a Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop. And don’t assume you have to be penniless to apply. Check out the requirements to see if you qualify and go for it. Even if you don’t win, oftentimes filling out the application gives you great practice for a query letter or synopsis. So, it’s time well spent even if it doesn’t result in cash.

5. Sell yourself. Have that elevator pitch memorized. Be ready to talk intelligently about whatever you’re working on right now. Know how to introduce yourself as a professional–including a beautiful business card. Work it, Baby.

Make yourself some good luck this week!

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ~ Seneca

You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help. ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

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18. Where were you?

Where were you when you first heard the sound? Good sounds – your husband’s voice, your baby’s giggle, the words “I love you?” Do you remember? Can you picture the scene and surroundings?

I experienced a condensed courtship with my wife because I was briefly called back to service during Desert Storm. I don’t recall the first expression of the four- letter L word in our relationship. I know it came, and stuck. I have said it to her every day for nearly twenty-two years. I say it every night to my girls and sometimes in front of other people, much to their chagrin.

I wish I remembered the first time I said it, though.

I will never forget the first time I heard the word Cancer as it related to my family. I was in the hospital just a week ago when it was introduced to me, while my little girl lay sleeping nearby. The doctor actually used the words “oncological event” before I made him dumb it down for me. Cancer.

I held my wife in my arms as she collapsed into a puddle. Doesn’t cancer affect other families? Why would he be saying this word? I felt an instant dislike for this man, but my mind clouded to nothing. My wife’s head heaved in my chest. I couldn’t think in more than three word bursts. I have no idea how long we stood that way. I was roused only by the sound of a man pushing a cart way down at the end of the hall. The wheel squeaked as he carried out his task and I remember thinking, “How can he be pushing that? Doesn’t he know? It doesn’t matter where that squeaky cart is! Why isn’t he stopping?”

It was then I realized this isn’t everyone’s diagnosis. It is Kylie’s and ours: our family’s, our friends and network of support. But the rest of the world will continue to march on around us.

I will add a link to Kylie’s Caring Bridge at the end of this post because I won’t allow cancer to dominate my writing. It will peak its evil head in from time to time, I have no doubt. But I won’t allow it to take over my life, steal my joy, soil my faith, or crush my little girl.

It took a while to determine the enemy. Until then, we’ve been punching at shadows. Now we start to take it out. We are at the beginning of a long road, but there is hope. Kylie knows what is going on, she is scared. We cried together and prayed. She has decided that this is happening because God must have a really big, great plan for her. I don’t know if I could have gotten to those words so quickly at twelve – she’s just chock-full of amazing.


The picture I added is one of Kylie as Annie in her school play a couple of years ago. She is an incredible actress and I can’t wait to see her on stage again.

Because our minds are reeling right now, the verse we’ve been holding onto is Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, friends. I have to go now, the bell just sounded for round one…




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19. feeling mythtified?

Writers, the real ones I mean, are magnets for neuroses, paranoia, depression, fits of rage, and yes, occasional bouts of constipation and anal seepage. (I tried, but there was no way to pretty that up.) It’s a wonder we have enough strength to smother our sorrows in Haagan Dazs.

And as if this crazy cocktail wasn’t enough, many of us succumb to Seasonal Myth Disorder. Not familiar with SMD? Perhaps you are. You just didn’t know it has a name. Let me explain. Assuming we agree life comes in seasons (and not just the April showers variety), it’s important to recognize that with these life seasons come some myth-perceptions, otherwise known as Seasonal Myth Disorder. (Don’t bother looking for it in the DSM V classifications. If you must know, I made it up.)

In any given season of life, especially the ones that ram us down a rabbit hole, it is easy to mistake these three myths for fact:

1. I am alone in this season.
2. No one understands what it’s like to be in this season.
3. This season will last forever.

Let’s myth bust these one at a time, ever so gently, shall we?

1. I am alone in this season. Are you struggling to find time to write, much less produce anything worth reading? Trolling around Facebook will lead you to believe you are the only one who isn’t there yet. Everyone is landing agents, agents are landing contracts, books are launching, movies based on the books are debuting, writers are churning out novellas before tea time . . . and then there’s you. Everyone is wildly successful and you’re nothing but a schlep with digestive issues. NO YOU’RE NOT! (And lay off the Facebook for a while.)

2. No one understands what it’s like to be in this season. HIGH SODIUM LUNCHEON MEAT! (aka BOLOGNA!)

3. This season will last forever. IMPOSSIBLE!

Okay, okay, so maybe that wasn’t so gentle. The point is, these are all myths. You’re a smart, literary person. You know what a myth is. It ain’t true.

You are not alone. In fact, you’re in good company.

Every single writer you can name or will ever know struggles with seasons of despair from time to time (even the super cute ones). Lots of people understand what you’re going through. If you don’t know any, join SCBWI, start a critique group or do something to connect with at least one other writer. You’re sure to find some sympathetic souls.

And no, this season–even though it feels like a six-month-Michigan-winter–will not last forever. You’ll get your groove back. You’ll have some small successes. Heck, maybe even big ones. So, please stop mything all over yourself. You’re too fine a person for that. And you know what that does to your gut. Let this be the start of Be Kind to Me season, okay?

Now, put down the spoon and go write something.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet

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20. choosing sides for volleyball and other curious forms of torture

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Reason #10 I love going to writers’ conferences: never having to choose sides for volleyball (or softball or basketball . . . ). You see, I possess no eye/hand coordination. Zippo. My left hand is only there to make me look symmetrical. Strictly window dressing. It’s a wonder I can type. So, it’s a real load off not having to demonstrate my athletic ineptitude for the astonishment of my fellow writers. Oh, sure, authors can be strong athletes, but I’m confident a lot of us were picked last (or next to last on a good day) when choosing teams in gym class. We were out of our element and there was no competing with the real sports people.

Of course, that doesn’t mean authors don’t engage in our own kind of competition. I’m not talking about contests. It’s more about the weird competitive dynamic among writers seeking to be published. We have this crazy notion in our heads that there are a finite number of publishing contracts to be had and when one of our fellow writers snags one, that’s one less available for us. Well, hey, now. It’s not like that. There’s no song that goes like “A hundred publishing contracts on the wall, a hundred publishing contracts, take one down, pass it around, ninety-nine publishing contracts on the wall . . . .” (Thank goodness because that was be really tedious.)

The truth is, we compete with ourselves for what we want. We compete with our own schedules, inner critic and insecurities for dominance. We are not competing against each other. We are not rivals. We can all win. (And for the record, it’s been my experience that children’s writers are among the most generous, supportive and encouraging people toddling on ten toes. My husband was shocked by this. He couldn’t understand why writers would be so helpful to people who are their competitors. Maybe it is odd–but the good kind.)

And, by the way, if we were choosing sides for volleyball, I would totally pick you. (But please, please don’t bump the ball to me!)

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it. ~ Walt Disney

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21. Author A. C. Gaughen’s TEDx Talk

I love Annie, plain and simple.* She’s talented, poised, smart, and going far in this world. Just wanted to share her TEDx talk called Brighter Than a Spark.

Here’s a guest post Annie wrote several years ago about her year in Scotland and how it changed her perspective on writing.

*My neighbor girl loves her, too. When she found out A. C. Gaughen is a writing friend, she swooned.

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22. For the Long Years

Thank God for hard stones; thank God for hard facts; thank God for thorns and rocks and deserts and long years. At least I know now that I am not the best or strongest thing in the world. At least I know now that I have not dreamed everything.
– G. K. Chesterton

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23. What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada | Book Review

What Do You Do With An Idea? is about a boy who has an idea, illustrated as a golden crowned egg with legs. The boy wonders about the peculiar golden biped; its origins, its purpose, its place in the world.

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24. the importance of living dangerously

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

I am not a risk-taker, generally speaking. I wear my seat belt, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Brush twice a day. Eat my burgers fully cooked and avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.

Yes, I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle (once). I floated in the gondola of a hot air balloon, sat in the front seat of a whirling helicopter, cuddled with a Burmese python, sang an original song to hundreds while wearing a helmet with horns and even walked the streets of Chicago’s north side, but those were exceptions to my usual play-it-safe life. Oh, and once, I even used a public restroom without putting one of those paper doilies on the seat first. So, yep, I guess you could say I’ve sauntered on the wild side a time or two. (I saw you roll your eyes, by the way!)

But here’s what I know: you get what you risk for (or at the very least, you up your chances exponentially).

This spring, comedian Jim Carrey addressed the graduating class of Maharishi School of Management in Iowa. In a rare moment of transparency, Carrey shared how his father had the potential to be professional comedian, but opted to become an accountant because he thought it was the safer choice. It was not. He lost his job.

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” Carrey said. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Is there a polished manuscript that’s “circling the airport” because you’re afraid of rejection? Submit it.
Is there an agent you want to query? Do it.

Feel the fear, but do what you want to do anyway. You can do this. (And I will join you.)

A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for. ~ Albert Einstein

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25. Sometimes You Get an Email That Takes Your Breath Away

July’s the month I take a blogging sabbath. Throughout the course of the month, I’ll re-run some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

Thank you for writing May B., the email said, and sent me to this blog post.

At the end of May B., I am crying. I am crying at the ways she is so strong and capable. 

I remember that intimate dedication and I feel like Caroline Starr Rose wrote this book in part for me. 

It was as if she were writing to encourage me on behalf of all my teachers in and outside of the classroom who for years didn’t see that all the misspelled words and run-ons as a red flag. It was as if she were writing right into the places of my heart where those accusations of being careless and not good enough had settled. And she whispered that like May, I could overcome. I could hope for the good things even when they are hard. Thank you Caroline. Thank you May.

I am deeply moved and grateful Amy reached out to share this with me. I’m again reminded that what we create is always bigger than anything we could ever imagine. Please click through to Stories and Thyme to read the rest.

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