Thursday, November 27, 2014


Today is my day to post!  And it's a holiday!  So I want to wish those that celebrate a happy Thanksgiving, and those that don't much happiness, too.  May the food be delicious, the relatives well-behaved, and the company excellent (even if the company is just your own thoughts or a good book).

But if it's not...if the day is unpleasant, un-fun, or even a train wreck of a disaster of a calamity, remember that conflict is a writer's friend.  Smile.  Take notes.  Observe the emotion involved with the impartiality of a scientist.  Then put it all in your next book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvesting Justice: Cross-Post by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

For me, all children's literature is inextricably linked to issues of justice. The very acts of reading and writing are transformative and powerful. Extraordinary things can happen when we meet each other between the lines. I'd like to share a post that I wrote for teachers, librarians, parents--all of us--on The Brown Bookshelf back in September.

"Do we have one conversation and then “move on”? Schedule a town meeting and then get on with the business of learning? As a parent and children’s author who regularly visits with children in a variety of school communities, I firmly believe that schools should take on the responsibility of engaging students around this story, and do so on an ongoing basis; it’s necessary, it’s relevant, it’s learning."

Please visit The Brown Bookshelf for more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I've got quite a bit on my Thanksgiving plate this year...and it's not just gravy and mashed potatoes, either.  I'm up to my eyebrows in global revisions for my very first indie release.  And I'm having a blast with it.  This year, I'm thankful for new life chapters and exciting projects...

Wishing all of you a bountiful Thanksgiving!

I recently spotted these guys in a field near my house.  They took one look at me and skedaddled.

Friday, November 21, 2014


This is what you wake to: the world new blue, the streetlight nearly moon.  Your book is done, or nearly done for now.  The world that waited patiently went silent.  The dream you’ve tended through four seasons moved on to someone else.  It’s the reader’s dream right now; you’ve let it go.  Mr. Marsworth. Reenie.  They’re probably on a desk now in New York.  Of all the writing seasons—first glimpse, the wild beginning, writing and rewriting, seeing new and starting over--this one, this perfectly done day, this moment of new winter when you wake to new blue silence, this ending as beginning, it’s this season you love most.  If you never wrote another word, you will have this.  And isn’t that enough?   How beautiful it is.  How faithful.  How patiently it waited.  How much it wants you back where you belong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November Harvest by Kristin Levine

This past month has definitely been a time of harvest for me.  My third book, THE PAPER COWBOY, came out in September, and October was full of launch events.
I had a lovely party for my family and friends at Hooray for Books in my hometown of Alexandria, VA...

... and got to travel to Downers Grove, Illinois, which is where THE PAPER COWBOY takes place.  Highlights there included traveling around my father's hometown and doing a number of exciting school visits. 

But as the launch events wind down, I get to go back to my favorite part of the writing process... doing the actual writing.    

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Is Gardening "Very Hard Work"? by Claudia Mills (November theme)

We've been sharing wonderful thoughts about gardening/harvesting as a fruitful metaphor for writing children's books. My jumping off point for this point today is a famous children's story about a garden from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Together.

 Toad is envious of Frog's fine garden. Frog accepts Toad's compliments: "It is very nice, but it was hard work." Toad decides to try his own hand at gardening with flower seeds given to him by Frog. But Toad's repeated command, "Now seeds, start growing!" doesn't work. Instead, Frog convinces Toad that he has actually made his poor seeds too frightened to grow. Toad now embarks on a program of seed-reassurance: on successive nights he reads stories to his seeds, sings songs for his seeds, reads poems to his seeds, and plays music for them. Finally, he falls asleep exhausted only to wake up and find that his seeds have sprouted at last. "You were right, Frog," Toad tells his friend. "It was very hard work."

Now, as readers, even as young readers, we know that most of Toad's work here was completely unnecessary. The stories, songs, poems, and music didn't make his seeds grow. What did? Sun, rain, soil, and patient waiting.

So here is my question for us as writers. How often are we like Toad, wearing ourselves out with work that didn't need to be done in the first place? Now, it's true that we can't just produce our stories by commanding our story ideas, "Now ideas, start growing!" And it's also true that Toad's garden is going to take a lot of weeding and watering, and more weeding and watering, before those sprouted seeds flower, the part of the story Lobel leaves out. But I think sometimes we make our writer lives harder than they need to be, when we could just write on faithfully, accumulating word after word with patient waiting, letting sun, rain, and soil - the creative process - do its thing.

I'm thinking about distractions like second-guessing ourselves, letting that nagging editorial voice intrude on the process too soon, polishing text that isn't even ready for major revision yet, procrastinating on a project that needs to get done by starting another one that doesn't, doing revisions with an ax when all we needed was a scalpel, sharing ideas with people we already know will be critical of them, comparing ourselves to others. All those things that make our seeds too frightened to grow, and so "necessitate" endless rounds of pointless seed-reassurance.

What if we just planted, watered, weeded, and waited? And then celebrated our "nice gardens" like Frog and Toad.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Harvest Jar (November Theme - Sarah Dooley)

When I come across a photo in a box in my closet, or on my sister's wall, or on a family member's Facebook page on Throwback Thursday, I jot it down on a scrap of paper.

“Summer we lived in the tents.”
“Six a.m. bathrobe trip to the barn.”
“Party hats and inappropriate music.”

Sometimes it isn't a photo that prompts the memory. Sometimes it's a keepsake, or a comment someone makes, or the weather.

"Little chip of rose quartz."
"Your head's a flat rock."
"Hot like when Dad brought home the pool on foot."

I stuff the scraps of paper in a jar and the jar gets lost again in the mess on my desk, with the extra bottles of ink for my "fancy pen" and the coffee-stained revision notes and, if I'm being completely honest, the pile of clean but mismatched socks, since my office doubles as the laundry room.

I don't use the jar much. But when there's a keyboard at my fingertips and I don't have anything to say, I pull out a scrap of paper.

"Angry Santa on the number seven bus."

Yeah, that was an interesting ride to work. But when I take that strange morning and write my way back into it, I've got a place to start. Once I'm in, I can play around a little. Change the bus route. Adjust the destination. I can hand the whole odd occurrence to a character I've got floating around in my head, and then it takes on a life of its own and suddenly I've got a first chapter.

It doesn't always turn into a novel. Sometimes it turns into nothing more than a productive writing session. But the interesting thing is that once I start writing a memory, I remember it much more vividly than I did when I sat down at my desk. Details start to surface that I wouldn't have otherwise recalled. By the end of the session, I might have found a starting point for good fiction, but if all I've got is a clearer recollection of something that happened when I was young, well, that's also valuable.

When I was a kid and something would happen – something odd, something funny, something frustrating – my mother would remind me that it would all go in a book someday. Though I write fiction, they say the truth is stranger and they aren't wrong. So when I happen across a memory, I put it in the jar and I use it as a place to start.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Harvesting the Invisible by Danette Vigilante

It’s only now that I realize I’ve been “harvesting” all of my life. When I step back to take a look, I see that, first, I’ve gathered, then tucked, all kinds of invisible things safely away into my basket for future use. I have always taken in and dissected my experiences, or the experiences of others (even strangers), extracting the thing which stood out the most to me—the thing that made me feel the most. It’s usually something I can’t quite name, but I take it in all the same.

As a child, I had no idea what it was like to live in a house with multiple floors and a backyard. I lived in a housing project with many other families. Yet, while traveling by bus or on foot, I watched as people came and went from those mysterious houses, taking what I could from their interactions with others, their demeanor or facial expressions. My own neighborhood provided something too: I watched as the elderly rolled their grocery carts to and from stores and took in the lives of the other kids as they played on the stoop or interacted with their parents and strangers. My first book, The Trouble with Half a Moon, relied heavily on my old neighborhood bringing all of that and more out and into the open.

I imagine all writers must do something similar, and that is why we’re able to “write what we know” without actually experiencing the “thing” ourselves. This is why writers can write with emotional truth.

We will forever gather those unnamed things and use them to the best of our ability, enabling others to then feel the most, and to know the things which they've never experienced themselves. If we are able to achieve this, then we've gathered well and wisely.