Thank You From me and BrittieParty-clip-art-free-free-clipart-images-3-clipartcow-clipartix-3

Readers, are you up for a contest challenge to win one of the ABC Game contestant books? If so, please read on!

September 1, 2017 was a pivotal date in my IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WORDS, webpage. On that special date, I kicked off a new blog series for my site, titled, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD, an ABC Game played with contestants who answer a category sheet from A-Z off the top of their head. They are then asked ‘off the top of my head’ questions based on their category answers. In fact, there always 7 questions. 

Kicking off my new series, as my first contestant is the stupendous, picture book authorwhen your llama needs a haircut and kidlit mentor, Susanna Leonard Hill!  Needless to say, she rocked it and gave the thumbs up to my new series. Thank you Susanna!!! I will recap after I explain how the contest works. 

How to enter the contest: Name the two elements that I use to define each contestant’s game post_It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk in the comment section of this post on or before March 1, 2018. [Bonus: if you can also name my favorite color, I will put your name into the drawing twice.] You may comment your answer anytime (on this post to helpmeet woof & quack me keep track) until March 1, 2018.

Here is a hint: none of the category sheets for each contestant is the exact same but…every contestant does give me 2 specific element answers that helps me define their game play post and makes their game play unique other than just their answers.

night creepersTo help you figure this out, below is a list of the contestants according to their Game play date. Click on their name and reread their game play.  If you need more help before you answer,  when future contestants game play posts, pay attention to their answers, my questions and answers, and the look of the post.  

read between the lines

when clowns attack a survivalOn March 2, 2018, I will post the two elements/themes answers and randomly draw, from those of you who gave me correct answers, a winner. The prize will be a newest release book I buy, from one of the authors and/or illustrators who Evolution revolution 3has played my ABC Game between September 1, 2017 and February 23, 2018.  I will randomly draw the prize itself from the ABC Game contestants names February 23, 2018. The prize itself, (not the winner of the prize), will then be named on my website February 26, 2018. The winner of this contest will be announced on my website, March 5, 2018. 



To learn more about each contestant, click on their website link below.

Shennen Bersani

Jamie A. Swenson

Pat Zietlow Miller

Teresa Robeson

Jo Knowles

Laura Backes

Josh Funk

Chuck Sambuchino

Charlotte Bennardo

Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Deborah Underwood

Mary Amato

Janet Halfmann

Sandy Brehl

Harold Underdown

Jennifer Swanson

Renée LaTulippe

Thank you to all of you who have read or are currently reading this blog. AND thank you to all of my contestants on my new ABC Game for making this series so fun to do!!

That’s it folks! Good luck with the contest! I look forward to reading your answers in the comments below.



spatula – noun    spatula


  1.   a kitchen tool that has a handle which is bent upward and a wide, thin blade used for lifting and turning foods on a hot surface
  2.   a kitchen tool that has a long handle and short, soft blade and that is used especially for mixing, spreading, etc.
  3.   a kitchen tool similar to a knife that has a flexible blade and that is used for mixing, spreading, etc


Today was special for one reason: Nana and Paps were bringing my family a surprise! They brought us surprises a lot. One time, it was a tire swing and a seesaw they made from scraps. Another time it was an exotic food cookbook from a flea market (my father doesn’t like any of the meals Mom made from that cookbook so far) and the last time, they gave us a recycled picture frame with them in it. The surprise could be small or it could be big, you never knew. We took turns guessing what the surprise could be.

“A puppy!” Leesa, my baby sister squealed, as she threw handfuls of dog food out for Lila and Jack, our hounds.

“A T-Rex!” said my little brother, Drew.

“We already have two dogs and dinosaurs are extinct,” I told them.

“I hope it’s a new cookbook so I can try new recipes,” Mom said.

“I hope it’s not,” Dad joked. Mom shook her melted spatula at him. It was a family joke how her favorite spatula came to be that way.

Dad had accidentally dropped a pan-flipped pancake onto the hot gas burner and grabbed Mom’s favorite plastic spatula to scoop the pancake up but melted the spatula in the process.

“Should have used the metal spatula to begin with.”

“I didn’t use a spatula at all to begin with,” Dad said.


Mom was angry for a millisecond before she laughed. She then schooled him on the different kinds of spatulas and their use.spatulas


My guess was the most practical, “I think the surprise is Ol’ Blue, Paps old truck. He said he wanted to buy a new one soon.”

Mom smiled. She liked that idea. Her and I helped Paps wash, wax and work on Ol’ Blue since I was big enough to hold a sponge.  It was a classic that he drove only on special occasions or for hauling. Ever since I’ve known Mom, she’s wanted Ol’ Blue.  I hoped she got it too, because I wanted Ol’ Blue after her.

Honk. Honk.

We all knew that sound. Nana and Paps were here!

And they were pulling a covered trailer behind them.

“Is the puppy in there?” Leesa asked, pointing to the trailer.

“It’s too big for a puppy. But not for a T-Rex!” said Drew.

Since they brought a rented trailer, I was now sure my guess was wrong. Maybe it was a baby T-Rex.

Nana scooped Leesa up as soon as she got out of the truck.

“Where’s my puppy?” Leesa asked.

“You already have two dogs,” Nana said. Leesa stuck her tongue out at me. It’s not my fault, Nana and I think alike.

“Is the T-rex in there?” Drew grabbed Paps hand.

“It could be a T-Rex,” Paps said. “But what if that toothy dinosaur tries to eat my grandkids?” He chased Drew and Leesa around the yard.

“How about we eat lunch first and then we can see what’s in that trailer,” Mom said.


After lunch, we gathered outside by the Ol’ Blue. Nana pulled a skinny, long package out from under the seat. She handed it to Dad.

A shiny wide metal spatula with a long handle greeted him as he opened it.

“Perfect for flipping pancakes,” Nana said.

“The handle is a little long to be used on the stove.” Mom said.

“Follow me,” Paps said.

We followed him to the trailer. Once opened we could all see a short space with a blanket covering.

“Pull off the blanket,” Paps said to my Dad.

“Presto!” Dad said, uncovering the loot.

“Yippee!!! Can we play on them?” Drew begged.

“Do they bite?” Leesa asked.

“Now I know why I need that long spatula!” A spiffy gas grill caught Dad’s eye.

“Help us get these out Amy,” Paps said to me.

I helped him, Nana, Dad and Mom unload the rest into the backyard by the see-saw.

Mom had to stop Leesa and Drew from climbing on their new Doggy and T-rex spring riders.

“Not until Paps and your father bolt them down,” she said, laughing.

I helped Mom and Nana place the grill.

“Open it,” Nana said.

Mom opened it and shrieked. “It’s my favorite spatula and one of your favorite cookbooks!”

Nana had given Mom one of her old spatulas that she said were tried and true.

“Since Darin melted the original one I gave you, knew you could use another. And I have the recipes in that book, memorized. Thought you could use it now that Amy is learning to cook,” Nana said as she winked at me.

I smiled at her. I liked cooking but I wasn’t as fanatical about as Mom and Dad were. Seemed like everyone got something they really longed for. Except me. I was too big to ride on the spring riders and as I stated, I really wasn’t much into cooking. But the spring riders would keep Drew and Leesa out of my hair for longer times.

I looked at the trailer. It seemed like too big a trailer to hold just a grill and two spring bouncers.

“Why didn’t you just put the grill and the bouncers in the back of Ol’Blue?”

Mom nodded in agreement.

Nana said, “Ask your Paps?”

So I did.

Paps told us all to follow him back tot he trailer. What we didn’t see at first, he showed us; the wall had a handle at the top and he pulled it down.

Inside was a shiny black, new car.

“She’s a beauty!” Dad said.

“Is this another surprise for us?” I asked, confused.

“Nope, this is,” Paps said as he threw Mom a set of keys. “Drive the car out please.”

Mom carefully drove the car out of the trailer and parked it next to Ol’ Blue.

As she opened the door to get out, Paps said, “Leave the keys in but pull out what’s under the driver seat.”

Mom felt under the driver seat and held up another set of keys. “These are the other set of keys to Ol’ Blue.”

“Yup. I figure you’re going to need them in about three years.”

My eyes grew big as saucers. I was only three years away from getting my driver’s license.

“Dad?” Mom questioned Paps.

“I’m giving you Ol’ Blue. We’ve been wanting a sports car for years to travel in and I know how much you and Amy love Ol’ Blue. It’s time Ol’ Blue earned her keep and was used.” He threw the other set of keys to Mom. “All you have to do is sign the papers for it and she’s all yours and Amys’.”

Mom and I gave Paps and Nana a huge hug and thanked them.

“There’s only one catch,” Paps said. “You have to take the trailer back for me. That little hotrod can’t pull it.”

“Deal,” Mom said.

“SURPRISE!” Nana shouted.

Best surprise ever!








With Children’s Author & Poet Renée M. LaTulippe

Friday, January 5, 2018 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD, offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent, or editor will share their “top of the head” answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.Renee

Feel free to play along—maybe your answers off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

renees logo


Rhyming picture books are the hardest picture books to write well. Why? Today’s contestant, Renée M. LaTulippe, can explain (but not today). Find out how at the end of her game and also how to win one of her Rhyme and Meter self-study courses. Her poems and stories can be found in children’s books like these:


Below is Renée’s category list from A-Z and her answers off the top of her head.

ANIMAL: penguin 

BODY OF WATER: Mediterranean Sea

COLOR: chartreuse

DESERT: Antarctic polar desert (see letter A)

EVERY CHILD: deserves a childhood 

FUNNY WORD: pique (fit of)

GAME: Taboo

HOBBY: theater

INSECT: dung beetle

JAMMING SONG: Current: “Katchi” (Ofenbach); old fave: “Uptown Funk”; really old fave: 80s pop!

KNOW HOW TO: build a trestle table using only a jigsaw and a sander 


METAL: silver

NUMBER (FAVORITE & WHY): 28 – Best age to be because you’re still young enough to experience the excitement of your future opening up before you, but not so young that you’re a complete idiot.


PLACE: on a lounge chair under an umbrella on the beach with a book 

QUICK, A ‘Q’ WORD: quirky 



TRIANGULAR THINGS: piece of cake, bowling pins waiting for a strike, an effective theatrical stage picture 

UNUSUAL COMBINATION: white bread and Pepsi                                       

VEGETABLE: onions 

WISH: a happy life for my babies and years enough to see it

X WORD: Xanadu

YELLOW (SOMETHING): tassels on my baby girl’s best dress

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: skydive and/or have a baby at 50 (either way, it was a jump)


ME:  Welcome Renée! Skydiving and having a baby at age 50 are definitely adventurous. In my opinion, skydiving is zany. Having a baby at 50 is exhilarating. Now you have three marvelous children to infuse your love of arts in! They are lucky children to have a brilliant art-supporting mom. 😊 Is your hobby theater, and if so, what kind of involvement in it do you have?

RL: I pursued a life in theater for over 20 years as actress, director, and teacher inRenee letauliipe Acting NYC, and indeed my undergrad degree is in theater. I left my love of theater behind when I moved to Italy, and it was ten years before I found a new way to enjoy my old passion here. Luckily in 2012 I finally made contact with a local amateur theater company, and have been getting my theater fix through them as both actress and director (which I prefer). And for the last four years I’ve taught an adult improv/acting class for a small group of very tolerant students, and have directed them in some off-the-wall shows for kids. I’m currently rehearsing a stage adaptation of one of my own published stories to take to the schools as a “show in English” — though it’s really in Italian with short injections of English words and now that you made me think of this, I’m having palpitations about how I’m going to memorize 50 minutes worth of stage time in Italian! ACK!!! 

Here’s me recently hamming it up in a show with my students.

ME:   For your desert answer, you wrote Antarctic Polar Desert. That is a polar opposite of the place you named, on a lounge chair under an umbrella on the beach with a book. If you had to choose between a two day trip to the Antarctic Polar Desert in their summer month and a week long vacation lounging on a beach with a book, which would it be?

RL: The Antarctic Polar Desert, of course! I live on the sea, so it’s always a beach vacation for me. But even if I didn’t, how could I pass up an opportunity to commune with penguins in an alien landscape? It would be the adventure of a lifetime!

renee viewME:  I like how you think. Are the sailboats that you see when you look out a window in the Mediterranean Sea? (I think I may be envious of your answer to this.)

RL: Yes. This is my outside office. I work here morning to evening all summer and well into autumn. (I’m sorry, Traci!) 

ME:  Haha! No worries. Maybe someday my husband and I can cross visiting your neck of the world off our bucket list. 😊 Have you consumed white bread and Pepsi at the same time? Or do you have a recipe that combines them together?

RL: Indeed I have consumed them together. Slices of white bread dipped in Pepsi was a go-to snack in our house when I was growing up, usually saved for when we had already polished off the cake, cookies, or brownies my mom had baked. Apparently this combo was an invention of my mother’s, kind of like Laverne’s Pepsi and milk concoction. It’s pretty good! Basically, it’s soggy bread that fizzes in your mouth. 😀 

ME:   As a kid, I tried Laverne DeFazio’s milk and Pepsi once (Pepsi has always been my mother’s beverage of choice), I wasn’t a fan of it. Possibly your unique combination is an acquired taste.

You know how to build a trestle table with only a jigsaw and sander. This is a marvelous talent to have. How many have you built? Do you sell them?

RL: Do I sell them? HAHAHA! No. I am like a pre-amateur with only basic tools and basic knowledge at my disposal, and angles and I do not get along, so everything I make is slightly wonky, AND it takes me a gazillion hours to do the simplest thing. So I have made just two tables for the kitchen and terrace, plus storage banquettes and a bunch of trellises. Here are some WIP pics.

trestle table

ME:   Those are gorgeous Renée! You are talented in many ways and can pass those talents down to your children. Does your family share your taste in music genres with you?

RL: For the jamming songs, yes. But there’s a lot of pop in this house, and sometimes I’m a little bit rock and roll (Donny and Marie reference for all you young whippersnappers out there) 😊, and sometimes a LOT musical theater. I enjoy a good head-banger or torch song now and again, but I wait until I’m alone for both. 😀 

ME:   Excellent variety of music! Using at least one of your category answers, would you please write a quirky poem for us off the top of your head?

We Are the Penguins


Waddle, waddle, slip, slide.

Cross the iceberg, side by side.

Shuffle, shuffle, trip, glide.

That’s what penguins do!


Wear a suit of black and white.

Catch a fish and take a bite.

Huddle close on snowy nights.

Come be a penguin too!


© Renée M. LaTulippe


ME:  Your talent for poetry is impeccable. Do you have any new books coming out soon and/or projects that you would like to tell us about?

RL: Yes! I’m excited to be making my debut in a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology,School people.jpg SCHOOL PEOPLE, in which my poem “Theater Teacher” will appear in 2018-ish. I also have poems coming out in another LBH anthology and National Geographic’s STORY OF US (ed. J. Patrick Lewis). On the home front, I’m always plugging away at poetry collections and prose picture books. 

ME:  This is exciting news!!! Happy you shared it with us. 😊

Now about the teaser in the introduction:

Readers, if you write poetry and rhyme, Renée offers Rhyme and Meter Clinics, courses, and lessons through her website at


Renée is giving away one free Rhyme and Meter Self-study Course to one lucky reader who comments on this ABC Game edition. To be eligible to win, comment in the LEAVE A REPLY box before midnight, January 26, 2018. The winner will be randomly chosen from all persons who left a comment.

Check out her children’s poetry blog at No Water River.

And you can follow her on social media at:

Twitter: Renee LaTulippe 

Facebook: Renee LaTulippe

Thank you, Renée, for being a contestant today! You are kicking off the New Year for us with this first ABC Game edition of 2018.

Readers, thank you for stopping by today! Have a marvelous weekend!













Storystorm 2018


Storystorm time is here!  What is that you ask?  Why it’s Tara Lazar’s annual writing inspiration…30 ideas in 30 days.  Head over here to learn all about it and to register.  You only have until January 9th before registration is closed.  It’s a new year, and time for new story ideas.  Join in on the fun, and who knows, you may just have a book idea when your done.  Good luck to all the entrants.  Happy New Year, and Happy Writing!

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With Children’s Non-Fiction author, Jennifer Swanson

Friday, December 29, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will Jennifer swansonshare their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Science is awesome and learning it is fun with books from today’s ABC contestant, children’s non-fiction author, Jennifer Swanson!



Below is a list of Jennifer’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.


ANIMAL:  Koala

BERRY: blueberry                                         

COLOR:  green

DESSERT: apple turnover

EVERY CHILD:  should read


GAME: Battleship

HOBBY:  reading

INSECT:  spider

JAMMING SONG:  Anything by Bon Jovi

KNOW HOW TO:  detassel corn

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  smart humor on TV shows

METAL:  gold




QUICK, A ‘Q’ WORD: quark



TREE: red oak

UNUSUAL COMBINATION:  nanotechnology and sports

VEGETABLE:  don’t like them – ha, seriously, cucumbers

WISH: for peace

X WORD:  x-ray


ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  give a chow call


ME:   The first question that came to my mind after I read your answers is what is a chow call? Do you mean a Chow dog? Or chow as in food is ready?

JS:   Ha. No, a chow call is something we had to do when I was a plebe (freshman) at the Naval Academy. You go and stand on the corner in the hallway and yell out the menu of the meal for that day. You have to do them before lunch and dinner. From memory, of course, and as fast as you can. It was a sight to see. When I tell my kids about it they just look at me and think I’m nuts for actually doing it. Hey, USNA was a great school and it was free. 😊 

ME:   HAHA! That’s awesome! What if you forgot the menu though? My guess, is that you didn’t. But I can imagine the fun your peers had if you did. (It wasn’t your peers that you had to worry about. It was the upperclass!)

Science is your forte, which is awesome! I have read some of your published books  

     and learned so much from them because you make learning science, fun! What can you tell us about your unusual combination answer: nanotechnology and sports?

JS:   I love to find science topics that are unique. For me, science is awesome! I love supergear2017-225x300the technology/engineering aspect. There are so MANY cool things that we are discovering and creating these days that I just want to write about it all. But you have to find the HOOK. For me, a lot of that is finding a unique combination, interesting angle or answering that question ‘Did you know?’ 

ME:   Did you know… I love your awesome Pirate name answer! What kind of adventures has One-Eyed Jen had while jamming to Bon Jovi?

JS: Ha. I love to ride my bike to Bon Jovi. The music is active and gets me moving faster. A nice to change to my many hours at the computer. 

ME:   Definitely music to keep you motivated. Science is not my forté. I looked up ‘quark’ to find out what it was since it is indeed a funny word. And it has to do with physics. Ugh. What can you tell us about quarks?

JS: First of all, most people don’t learn about quarks until college, if then. They are subatomic particles (think really, really small) that are believed to make up protons and neutrons. They are really cool, but complicated type of science.

 ME:   Whew! Onto less complicated science. 😀 Red oaks are beautiful in autumn. And apple turnovers are a wonderful autumn dessert. Are you a champion Battleship player?

[photo credit:] 


JS: Yes! I played this game all the time with my brothers growing up. Of course, we didn’t have video games back then—or cable. (Yikes!)  Instead, we spent MANY hours playing board games. We had almost 40 of them.

 ME:   Battleship was one of my favorites too. Like you, board games were hours of fun for me and still are! What are your favorite TV shows that make you laugh? And if you were given the go ahead to create a new TV show, what would it be about?

JS: I love M.A.S.H. I can watch that show for hours and hours. I just love intelligent humor. What would my TV show be about? Science probably. 

ME:   M.A.S.H. was brilliantly funny. Your knack for showing the coolness of science would make your TV show a smashing hit. 😊

 2017 has been a really busy year for you. And you are kicking off 2018 with 2 new books coming out: ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST WANGARI MAATHAI, published by Lerner Books, and National Geographic Kids:  ASTRONAUT-AQUANAUT: HOW SPACE SCIENCE AND SEA SCIENCE INTERACT. I know you have been heavily involved with research for upcoming projects; do any of those projects have to do with the dreaded vegetables? And if not, would you consider any upcoming projects using any of your category answers?

JS:  Nope. No veggies in my books. I do have a book coming out with another unusual combination, but I can’t talk about it right now. As for the rest, who knows. I am FULL of ideas. I never know what will hit me next. 

Thanks for having me, Traci. This was FUN!

ME:  Anticipation is making me wait for your new project announcement…ugh!

However, readers are grateful that you have so many ideas and that many of them are now books. I know I am. Always looking forward to reading your books, since I discovered them. 

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us this week, Jen and giving us a glimpse into your cool world!

Readers, thank you for stopping by. I hope you played along. If you would like to know more about Jennifer Swanson and her books you can find her on the following social media:

@JenSwanBooks  on Twitter

And on the following websites:

Don’t forget to check out the new STEM Tuesday blog! STEM Tuesday Where Jennifer, along with other kidlit science authors bring attention to middle grade STEM books.

STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!



Wishing you all a safe and wonderful New Year! See you in 2018. 










cat_dog_hatMay kindness and love find you this day and every day.

May peace finally come to earth.

From me to you…Merry Christmas! candy cane

…Happy Hanukkah! Menorah_Hanukkah


…Happy Kwanzaa!  Kwanzaa




With Editor and Author, Harold Underdown 

Friday, December 22, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Anime-portrait_meFeel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Today’s contestant is editor and kidlit resource favorite for authors and illustrators alike who runs The Purple Crayon…Harold Underdown.  


Harold is also the author of  THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING complete idiots' guide to publishing children's booksCHILDREN’S BOOKS. Along with colleague, Eileen Robinson, he runs the Kids Book Revisions Workshops.



Below is Harold’s category list A – Z with his answers off the top of his head:

ARTIST:  Fine artist: Turner  / Children’s book artist: Virginia Lee Burton

BIRD:  Penguin 

COLOR:  Purple, of course!

DAY OF THE WEEK:  Friday, because it means freedom

EXERCISE:  Walking

FLOWER:  Morning glory (on our backyard fence)

GEM:  Two picture book gems: The Snowy Day and A Chair for My Mother

HAPPINESS IS:   A good book to read



KNOW HOW TO:  play cricket

LANDMARK:  the High Line, where I walk whenever I can

MUSICAL:  Classic: Singing in the Rain  Recent: Candide

NON-FICTION BOOK:  Minn of the Mississippi

OMINOUS SOUND:  Does a Dementor make a sound?

POINT OF INTEREST:  The Cloisters, in upper Manhattan, for their unicorn tapestries and herb garden. 

QUOTE:  Readers are not passive sponges, but active collaborators with writers. 

REPTILE:  Tree frog


TRAIT:  stubbornness (or perhaps bloodymindedness would be a better term–see also Eloise)


VILLAIN:   Robert Mercer

WEATHER TERM:  Changeable

X WORD:  eXtraordinary

YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT:  Please don’t ask this question of a historian’s son. He could easily spend days determining the best answer.


ME:  One of my categories for you was actually a tad tortuous based on your answer. 😉 And that category is YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT. How about if I made it more specific? YEAR IN YOUR CAREER AND IT’S SIGNIFICANCE:

HU:   I could say 1987, which was when I started in my first job in publishing, as an editorial assistant at Macmillan Children’s Books, but everyone had a first job. Instead, I’ll say 2000, which was when I decided to leave a wonderful job at Charlesbridge in Boston, to which I commuted long-distance from New York, so that my wife and I could have a child. The job I took so that I could be in New York full-time was with a start-up, ipicturebooks, with a mission of bringing ebooks to children. 

ipicturebooks was about ten years ahead of its time and ran out of funds not long after our daughter was born. Since then, I’ve been working independently, combined with a day job with an educational publisher. So that decision led to my daughter (now a teenager!), and was entirely worth it just to that. But it’s also meant a sea change in the work I do. I am not involved in acquisitions, which is my one regret. I am working with authors on manuscripts, providing help at every stage. so I haven’t lost that. And I’ve been able to work with Eileen Robinson on Kid’s Book Revisions [, offering workshops, webinars, and retreats on revision, which I doubt I’d have been able to do if I had stayed in-house.

purple tree frogME:  2000 was indeed a remarkable year then for you and your family!axolotl

Another family, amphibians, are also brilliant, in more ways than one…tree frogs and axolotls. They are part of a larger species, reptiles. If you had to choose between the two for whatever reason, which one would you choose and why?

HU: I’ve been stuck on this for some time. If I figure out a basis for choosing between the two of them, I’ll come back to it. Otherwise, I’m refusing to choose. I want to have both of them in our world. 

ME:  Fair enough. I could not choose either without a basis of how to do the choosing. If the basis was cuteness though, I would choose the axolotl. 😊

Regarding days of the week though, my favorites are Fridays. You wrote ‘Friday, because it means freedom,’ as your day of week answer. Please elaborate on this.

HU: For a school-age child, Friday is the last day of the week. Even if they love school, Friday means two days of NOT having their lives determined by the school schedule. For their parents, if like many people they work 9-5 jobs, it can mean freedom in a similar way. And so for families, Friday means more time to be together…

ME:  Perfect answer in my book. That is exactly how Fridays came to be my favorite day of the week!

I am leaving your OMINOUS SOUND question to the readers to answer in the comments section.

I follow you on Facebook and see some of your walking the High Line posts.

Recently you posted a photo of the morning glories making their appearance. Do you walk the High Line in all seasons and what natural ambience can a person expect to see on the High Line in late autumn?

HU: I try to walk on the High Line whenever it’s not actually raining or snowing, so I do walk on it in the fall and winter. It’s carefully planted so that there is [photo credits: Harold Underdown] always something to see, and in the late autumn that is colorful leaves (still on some trees and shrubs as I write this the first weekend of Empire State building from the high lineDecember), berries, interesting seedpods and dried grasses. Someone walking the High Line this time of year will see a lot of brown, of course, but there are birds hunting food, and a quiet, restful feeling. 

ME:  Walking the high line should be on everyone’s bucket lists. It’s on mine!

What age did you start playing cricket and do you still play now?

HU: My dad was born in England, and my brother and I must have started playing it in the backyard, before I can remember. I went to a college that actually has a cricket team, and played it seriously while I was there, but I don’t anymore. I do follow cricket as a fan–like soccer, it is an international sport with fascinating inter-country politics and dramas. 

ME:  I had never heard of the non-fiction book, MINN OF THE MISSISSIPPI so I reserved minn of the mississippiit and read it and really enjoyed it! My family and I are captivated by this mighty river as it borders Wisconsin and we also like to fish on it. What made you think of this book as your answer?

HU: I discovered the books of Holling Clancy Holling, originally published in the 1950’s, when I was a child, and they are still, for me, a model for what nonfiction can be. MINN and his other books tell a factually possible but dramatic story, in this case about a snapping turtle and her adventures on the river, while Holling fits all kinds of information and drawings into the margins. 

I’ve always edited fiction and nonfiction, and when I edit nonfiction I have watched Belle's Journeyout for books that take this approach. I was able to acquire AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Bob Marstall, when I was at Orchard Books. It applies a Hollingesque approach to the life of a monarch butterfly and won the Orbis Pictus Award. And Charlesbridge will be publishing a book in 2018 about the life and migration of an osprey that I did some work on: BELLE’S JOURNEY by Rob Bierregaard, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky.

ME:  Like the weather, the world of children’s publishing (publishing in general) is changeable. If you had magic powers to stabilize just one thing in the world of children’s publishing, what would it be?

HU:  I would like to see funding for schools and libraries stabilized, which of course would require an understanding on the part of our political leaders of their importance. Schools and libraries are crucial to the health of the children’s book business, because their demand for quality enables publishers to find a market for books that are important and needed, but that might not be a best-seller in the bookstore market.

ME:  This is the exact insight that we can share on our social media to get the word out as well as contacting our representatives and get proactive in this endless battle which we can win if we all unite. Thank you for sharing this with us! 

This was a fun week Harold! Thank you for being a contestant. 😊 Any final thoughts you would like to share?

HU:  Yes, the advice that I am always giving writers: don’t stop reading. Read new HDU-portraitbooks, read the classics, think about how they work.

 ME:  Excellent advice Harold! 

Readers, you can find Harold on social media at: 

Twitter: @HUnderdown

And of course at the Purple Crayon:

And if you happen to be a writer as well, check out his and Eileen Robinson’s:

Quote for writers from Harold, ‘Readers are not passive sponges, but active collaborators with writers.’

Thank you stopping by today. May you all have a fantastic weekend!






outpouring – noun 

[out-pawr-ing, -pohr-]

1 : an act of expressing an emotion or feeling in a very powerful way — often + of

2 : a large amount of something that is given or received in a short period of time — often + of                                   


Holly was sad. Her letter to Santa was returned without a postmark on it.  It was wrinkled, and mangled, with paw prints all over it. The paw prints confused her but she was pretty sure her big brother Logan, had taken the letter out of the mailbox before the mailman came.

Christmas was less than a week away. Even if she mailed the letter today, Santa would never get it in time. Her only choice was to write her letter in the snow and hope Santa would see it early enough Christmas Eve.

Outside in an open space between their front yard and Findley Forest, Holly roped off a large rectangle  in the snow. She took her mother’s holly garland off the deck and the front porch for the border of the message. Inside the rectangle, she smoothed the snow with her sled, making a blank plot to write in. Her message was simple:

Dear Santa white


“Whatcha doing Holly?” Logan sauntered up to the carefully plotted message.

“Go away Logan!” Holly said. “You stole my letter to Santa out of the mailbox and gave it to the neighbors cat.” She refused to look at him, tears ready to spill over.

“What? I did not!” Logan’s face turned pink. “Why would I give it to the neighbor’s cat? That doesn’t make sense.”

“So you did take it!” Holly stood up, indignant.

“No. I didn’t. And if you’re going to accuse me of stealing, I won’t ask you to go sledding.” Logan turned toward home.

Holly sighed. Maybe Logan didn’t take my letter, she thought.

“You really didn’t take it?”


“I’m sorry. My letter came back today and it looked like this.” She showed him the still sealed letter.

“That’s weird. So what are you going to do now?” Logan asked.

Holly opened her arms wide revealing her finished message.

“I hope Santa gets here first on
Christmas Eve, so he sees it in time,” Logan said.

“Me too. Can I still go sledding?”


On December 21st, Holly awoke with a great idea! She gathered the cranberry Christmas garland off the Christmas tree, bundled up and ran out into the windy morning to add to her Santa message.

“OH NO!” Holly cried. Her message to Santa was gone. The wind had blown snow across it. She tried to write the message again but the wind kept filling in her letters. She ran into the house, and smacked into Logan, tears streaming down her face.

“What’s wrong Holly?” he asked.

Holly explained.

“I can help.” Logan bundled up, grabbed a bucket of water and said, “Follow me.”

“As I pour water into the snow, write your message, the snow will be stickier and the wind can’t blow it away as you write it.”

Holly agreed. Logan poured, Holly wrote. Every few letters, Logan ran back to the house for more water. Each time, Holly cleared the snow out of her letters that the wind had blown in.

When she was finished writing, she helped him mound up snow around each letter.

Dear Santa blue

Satisfied with their work, Holly ran into the house to get her forgotten cranberries.

“What are you doing with those young lady?” her mother asked.

Holly explained.

Her mother smiled, “Go ahead then.”

She gave Logan some cranberries and instructed him to place them in the letters to help the letters stand out more.

When they finished, they helped their mother bake cookies inside.

While Holly and Logan were cutting out cookies, their mother snuck away to tell their father about the snowy message.


Bright and early on Christmas Eve, Holly and Logan bundled up and ran outside to check on their message to Santa.

“Oh no!” they cried. The letters were trounced upon, no longer letters and the cranberries were all missing. Various animal tracks littered the snowy rectangle, leading back to the forest.

“What are we going to do now, Logan?” Holly asked. She couldn’t be angry with the animals because she knew they only wanted the cranberries to eat. The animals had no way of knowing that they were trying to save the animals’ home.

“Well we don’t have any more cranberries, but we can rewrite the message.”

But the snow had turned icy.

“I’m sorry Holly.” Logan led her into the house.

Hot chocolate chip waffles waited for them in the kitchen.

“Why the long faces?” their mother asked.

Holly explained and concluded, “It’s no use. Santa will never know what I truly want for Christmas and the forest will be cut down to make wood.”

“Finish eating and meet your father and me in the garage. But bundle up first,” their mother said.

They met their parents in the garage. Their father was holding his paint gun, their mother, a rake and a large bag of corn which she handed to Logan.

“Follow us,” their father said.

He led them to their special message spot.

“The holly garland looks good out here,” their mother said, smiling. “I’ll rake, Logan you smooth the snow, and Holly, you tell your Dad, slowly, what to write.”

Each family member did as instructed. When they were finished, the message said:

Dear Santa Red

“We have more to do,” said their father. “We’ll make corn mounds near the forest for the animals to eat so they stay away from this message.”


On Christmas morning, a thunk hit their front door. It was a special newspaper edition. The front headline read,


Below it was a photo with this caption: Dear Santa blue





Local children have a message for Santa                                                                                                 and it’s not about gifts for them.


The article went on to say that the editor received so many letters and phone calls about saving Findley Forest, the day after the photo originally printed December 22, that she had no choice but to take the letters to the Mayor and forward all calls to the Mayor. Not wanting to risk losing the next election, the Mayor rescinded the agreement with a logging company to cut down Findley Forest, bit by bit.

“Look at this!” Logan showed his family the last photo on the front page. Too excited to bundle up, they rushed outside to see for themselves.

Surrounding their message to Santa were animal prints and a large mound of corn.

Holly beamed, shivered, and shouted out to the animals, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

The End


This Christmas story is my Christmas gift to you. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Merry Christmas



2017 CWW Contests Entries Accepted For 6 More Weeks


We’re halfway there!
Wisconsin writers have six more weeks to submit their work in seven categories published in the 2017 calendar year. The entry period, which opened on Nov. 1, 2017, closes at midnight on Jan. 31, 2018. Awards will be presented in May in the categories of book-length fictionnonfiction and poetryshort fiction and nonfiction; a set of five poems two of which must have been published in the contest year, and children’s literature.
First-place winners receive $500 and a one-week writer’s residency at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. Honorable mention recipients receive $50 and a one-week writer’s residency at the Painted Forest Study Center in Valton, WI.
Entries for this year’s Wisconsin Writers Awards must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2018. Authors who enter must be current Wisconsin residents.
The entry fee is $25. Membership in CWW is not required, but members are entitled to one free entry. Out-of-state judges will make the selections. Awards will be presented at a banquet in May 2018 at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. The Christopher Latham Sholes Award for 2017 will also be presented at the banquet. That award, which includes a prize of $500, is named for Christopher Latham Sholes (1819–1890), a Wisconsinite who is credited with inventing the first practical typewriter, and honors an individual or organization for outstanding encouragement of Wisconsin writers.
CWW also sponsors an Essay Award for Young Writers (1,500 word maximum) for Wisconsin high school students; there is no entry fee. The award is $250 for the winning student. Members of the board will judge. Entries for the student essay contest must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2018.
Specific guidelines, entry forms, and important additional information for each award category are available in the 2017 Entry Forms section of the  CWW website,
[This is posted on behalf of Jerrianne Hayslett.]

Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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