With Children’s Author, Tara Lazar 

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. 

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 newblogphototaraABC 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! 

Today we welcome the fabulous and fun picture book author, 2018 Crystal Kite Winner (Atlantic division), RUCCL Co-Chair, and creator of Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo), Tara Lazar! Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) 


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

ANTONYM FOR AWFUL:   Splendiferous

BOARD GAME:   Candyland


DISNEY MOVIE:   Finding Nemo

EMOTION:   Laughter through tears

FLOWER:  Orchid


HAPPINESS ISA cozy fire, a cup of tea and a good book

INSECT:   Ladybug

JEWEL:   Aquamarine


LANGUAGE:   English

MONSTER:   Manfred

NON-FICTION:   Storyteller: Roald Dahl

OPPOSITES:   Attract

PIRATE NAME:   Lazarrrrrr




TRAIT:   Being funny

UNUSUAL ANIMAL:   Chinchilla        

VILLAIN:   Lex Luthor

WISH:   Happiness


YOUNG ADULT TITLE:   The Murderer’s Ape


ME:  I love your Pirate Name. Lazarrrrr! If you ever decide to change careers and be a pirate, you only have to add a few r’s to your last name. What would be your favorite part of being a pirate?

TL: Having a peg leg !


ME:  Hahaha! You have such a good sense of humor; same as Mother Nature. Cold weather held on well into late spring this year for the Northeast and upper Midwest. And on the occasional cold summer day, your Happiness Is answer is splendiferous. What is the last good book you have read?

TL: THE TRAIN OF LOST THINGS by Ammi-Joan Paquette.


ME:  Oooooo, that’s on my Want to Read list!

Soooo, napping or reading, hmm. Hard to nap when you have a good book to read. But, few people know that napping is a true superpower. Children who fight taking a nap are missing out. What advice do you have for children and adults who do not take advantage of engaging this superpower?

TL: Don’t walk through life like a ZOMBIE ! 


ME:  Fantastic advice.  (Besides, your muscles get stiff when walking like a zombie. 😊 ) Please tell us more about Manfred the Monster!

TL:   He’s enormous and orange, with three eyes and a row of razor-15945853sharp teeth. But he’s a shaggy, loveable lump of a monster. (Just read THE MONSTORE to find out.)


ME:   I did read it! Your books are like candy for me. Speaking of candy… Candyland is often the first board game children play. It’s simply magical. Who doesn’t want to take a sweet journey through Candyland? Medusa is who!

If Medusa were to have her own board game, what would her game objective be?

TL: She already has a board game—Snakes and Ladders.


ME:  You are on a roll Tara! I never made the connection before between Medusa and Chutes & Ladders; but I see it now.

A strange turn of events for your unusual (also endangered) animal, is that by owning a chinchilla as a pet (not as a fur coat-YUK!), owners are helping to keep them from becoming extinct. In fact, chinchillas in the wild are expected to become extinct early in the 21st century. (You can find out why here: Why are chinchillas endangered?) Though these rodents are adorable and can be taught to play with humans, they are also hyperactive and high strung. What activities should a chinchilla owner provide for their adorable pet to counteract their hyperactivity?

TL: Bouncing on a yoga ball.


ME:  Sounds like a calming activity for both owner and pet.

Gemini is the astrological sign of the twins. And in my experience, Geminis also have a remarkable trait of being funny. (Not sure if you are a Gemini or not, but you do have the wonderful trait of being funny!) Using as many of your category answers as possible, and off the top of your head, can you give us a funny synopsis of a story with twins as the main characters? And will you share with us any upcoming projects you have coming out and are working on?

TL:  As you wish. Twins named Lex & Luthor pair up with the dread pirate Lazarrr and have fun storming the castle. 

I just finished a hilarious story that takes place in a candy shop! As a huge fan of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, this manuscript is a dream come true. 


ME:  You had me at …in a candy shop! But alas, I too am a huge Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fan. I can’t wait to read your story when it hits the shelves.

Thank you Tara for playing the ABC Game with us. 20759614 24989936 24612756

Readers, want more Tara Lazar books? Check out your local indie bookstore for them. For signed, personalized copies of her books, call THE BOOKWORM in Bernardsville, NJ 908-766-4599. 

You can also find Tara on these social medias:

twitter: @taralazar

instagram: @taralaser

Thank you for stopping by today to read ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. May you have a fantastic weekend!





With Children’s Author, Baptiste Paul

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 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, Baptiste-Soccer350hx286wliterary 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.

Today we have debut picture book author, Baptiste Paul! His first book, THE FIELD, debuted in March of this year.


Below are Baptiste’s answers off the top of his head.

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


BALL GAME:  Futbol

COLORFUL BIRD:  Amazona Versicolor  


EXERCISE:  Running

FLOWER:  Hibiscus


HOBBY:  Tinkering





M&M COLOR:   Yellow

NOCTURNAL ANIMAL:   Manicou (St. Lucian Opossum)


PASTIME:   Hiking

QUEEN NAME:   Elizabeth



TYPE OF TRUCK:  Big Truck (a shoutout to a friend)


VILLAIN:  Dr. Claw

WINDOW VIEW:  Loneliness



ZOO:  Penguins

Saint-Lucia-parrot-adultME:   Growing up in St. Lucia offers a large variety of different animals, birds and landscape than where you live now with your family. Your children are fortunate to be able to see these animals in the wild with you. Such as the Amazona Versicolor, a vibrant bird indeed; the Pitons, and the unique coral reefs. Please tell us more about them.

BP: There is so much to tell. You need to checkout it out for yourself. I will leave it at that.

ME:   Fair enough.  A field trip to the library is in order. 😊

What window are you looking out that you see loneliness?

BP: The window I looked through many years ago and vividly see keeps reminding me of how lonely it can be for an immigrant in this country. I was that lonely immigrant who had to spend Christmas all alone.   

ME:    I’m glad you have family now in the United States so you no longer have to spend Christmas alone. You gave us a good reminder about kindness to people; unless we’ve been an immigrant ourselves, we have no idea what they are going through or what they have been through.

Let’s carry out your shout-out to your Big Truck friend. What would you like to say?

BP:  Keep on Trucking! Thanks for being awesome. You deserve cake.

ME:   If National Public Radio asked you to write a whimsical segment for them, what would you write about?

BP:  I would write about cats. I’m not an expert in that field but having four cats right now somehow puts me a few notches below expert status. Each cat has its own unique set of qualities, behaviors and weird things they do like, bring you sock presents every day or pooping in the litter box while you are cleaning it out.

ME:   laughing out loud. Cats are definitely unique individuals. I believe we all would enjoy listening to your segment on cats on NPR. 

Algae glows? Is this good or bad?

BP: Yeah, didn’t you see this clip from Moana? I think six syllable words in kids movies are awesome.

ME:   My daughters love that movie. My hubby and I have not seen it yet, so I will put it on our #mustwatch list.

What is the most unusual experience you and your family have had while hiking?

BP: I would say my son freaking out about a squirrel who he thought carried rabies. We were on a narrow edge with a cliff on one side when he decided to run away from the squirrel. What a scare but he was fine. 

ME:   Your second book, ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, that you co-wrote with your beautiful wife, Miranda Paul, came out in May.  What new projects are in the works for you that you can share with us?

Adventures to School

BP: Currently, I’m working on a book called The Mountain and it’s about a father and daughter journey hiking a mountain such as the Pitons. Our next Co-authored book, I AM Farmer will be released on February 6th. It’s about an Environmentalist name Farmer Tantoh from Cameroon who has saved thousands of lives by providing safe clean drinking water. We will be on tour from March 15 through May 15 2019. For more information about the tour, email Judy Cooper at

ME:   Thank you for the heads up on the tour and upcoming books, which sound inspiring. We will have to put them on our reading lists for when they are released.

Thank you, Baptiste, for playing the ABC Game with us today! You’ve given us much to ponder.

Readers, you can learn more about Baptiste’s books and follow him on:

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!








(My word of the day stories are written and edited in 60 minutes. The goal, is to just get the words out and encourage readers of all ages, to do the same. First drafts are usually terrible. But, they are necessary. The editing is strictly for grammar and spelling at this point. )

July 05, 2018

Learner’s Word of the Day

chilly [chil-ee] adjective

chillier; chilliest

The woman is chilly.
The woman is chilly.

1:  noticeably cold

2:  feeling cold

3:  noticeably unfriendly



By Traci Bold

Chilly Willy arrived on the coolest evening in April. He shivered midair. He had been given this nickname by his winter friends who said they had named him this for his cool green feathers and his icy white neck.  But really they gave him that name because he shivered whenever a cold breeze blew in from the Atlantic. His mother reassured him that when the change happened sometime during his spring journey north, he would fit into his given name, which he liked much better.

That journey had so far taken him across the Gulf of Mexico, which had been long and tiring and he needed energy fast. 

South Padre Island was below him.

Bright red caught his eye and he flew in for a taste. 

Mmmm. The sugar water was just right; not too sweet, not too watery.

He hovered at the feeder until he was full.

His energy was renewed. Now he needed protein to give him strength to explore the island before his journey north.

A swarm of gnats beckoned him with their gray mist of frenzied fluttering. Gnat snacks were the perfect choice. One by one, Chilly Willy snatched gnats from the air.  

Ahh, just enough. He was ready to rest. He flew back to the feeder, sipped a bit, then settled in on the branch of the emerald green tree nearby. With his cool green coloring, the foliage kept him hidden.

The next day, Chilly Willy explored the island, sipping from feeder to feeder, snatching up flying insects when the opportunity arose, and resting wherever he fancied.  As he explored, he chanced upon a vibrant feeder colored with dazzling red and orange; his favorite colors, as they promised delicious nectar. Choosing not to simply test the drink, he dove right in. Hungrily, he sipped, and sipped. He switched to a different sipping port. There, he noticed a black spot on the port. He sipped again and retreated hastily. The sugar water tasted foul. He tried the first feeder port again and sipped. Still foul tasting. He felt dizzy.

Night time was closing in. He needed sleep. At day’s end he made his way back to his favorite nighttime rest area and settled in.

He awoke to the sound of faint buzzing. A mosquito was close enough to grab with his lightning fast tongue. He missed. He felt groggy. Breakfast for a champion, had just gotten away.

Close by was his favorite feeder. He supped but quickly retreated. The sugar water tasted foul there too. He perched on the nearest bush and closed his eyes.

A gentle touch awoke him. He tried to fly away but was held tight by a human’s hand.  She placed him on a soft shrub that beheld aphids. Hungry, he ate until he was thirsty. The human held a tiny sugar water feeder in front of him. He hesitated but took a sip. Mmmm, it was perfect.

The human watched him until he was strong enough to flutter his wings and hover. She placed the tiny feeder on a metal hook above the shrub.

Chilly Willy hovered while he drank and perched while he ate aphids. He stayed until he felt strong enough to once again, begin his journey north which was when the sun was facing him.

Chilly Willy’s gorget blazed ruby red in the warm sun. He was Chilly Willy no more; he was now Ruby Red Throat.



Hummingbirds are amazing creatures. If you are lucky to have them in your yard and want to keep them coming back, create a backyard habitat for them to thrive in. See the links below for more information on how to do this.

If you choose to feed them via hummingbird feeders, please follow these rules to insure their safety and well-being. Chilly Willy could have succumb to botulism after drinking the rancid sugar water. Just like humans, they need untainted water sources.

Sugar water ferments or can get moldy in the sun if out for longer than a few days. If the temperatures are in the 40’s to high 60’s, sugar water is good for about 5-6 days. 70’s-80: 3-5 days. 80’s to 90: 3 days max and 91 and above, change daily.

Do not purchase store bought hummingbird nectar as it not made with purified water and granulated sugar. Also, purchased nectar also contains red food coloring which can cause botulism and death of a hummingbird. It is true hummingbirds are most attracted to the color red so buy a hummingbird feeder that has red on it. Hummers are inquisitive and will check out anything red to see if it is a nectar source for them.

Here is the recipe for sugar water:

4 parts purified water

1 part granulated sugar.

Example: 1 cup purified water, ¼ cup granulated sugar

Stir sugar into purified water until water is clear. May be stored in refrigerator up to 10 days. Pour into clean feeder.


  1. If you notice the feeder water get cloudy, change it immediately.

  1. If you see mold on any part of the feeder, dump the sugar water, and clean the feeder of mold, using a mild bleach solution if need be to get rid of all mold. Make sure you rinse the bleach solution off completely and dry the feeder before pouring sugar water in.

  1. When the temps are hot, do not fill the feeders full, only keep them ¼ full and empty as needed. Hopefully, the hummers will drink all the water before the water can turn foul.

  1. I keep three feeders filled outside at all times and keep two clean feeders in the house so when I have to change feeders, I can fill a clean feeder immediately and put out in place of a dirty feeder (feeder that needs to be changed). This keeps the hummers happy and not waiting for their feeders to get filled.










When was the time you picked up a picture book and read it? And I mean, really read it, including studying the illustrations on each page turn. If you haven’t read one lately, pick up a few at the library. (You don’t have to have children to check out picture books.) What about the book kept you reading, the story inside, the illustrations, both? 

Hopefully the answer is both!

Did you pay attention to if the author and or illustrator was female or male? 

If not, no worries, you are not alone. Before I started writing children’s books, I did not pay attention either. And I have to admit, I judged a book by it’s cover first, then by the title. It has always been the artwork that drew me in. But, did you know that women in children’s publishing (authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, etc.) receive significantly less recognition for their craft/work than their male counterparts? 

It’s true! Which is odd because just as many women as men work in children’s publishing. 

As I stated earlier, I have always loved illustrations in children’s literature. I am in awe of the various styles and techniques used, and to help readers be more aware of the brilliant female illustrators, I am showcasing different female illustrators for each NOT JUST A PRETTY PICTURE #KIDLITWOMEN post. The illustrators are listed alphabetically by first name, followed by why I love their artwork.

I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do. And maybe their work will inspire you to create some of your own.



Amy June Bates

In her book, THE BIG UMBRELLA, the illustrations on the title page give us an indicator of how special this umbrella really may be.  And the subsequent pages embrace us all, showing we all belong. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Amy June Bates

Amy June Bates 2

Anna Walker

In FLORETTE, by Anna Walker, before the adorable title page illustration, the reader is immersed in the lush green of the end pages, giving a major clue as to what is missing in the main character’s life.  Clarion Books is the publisher. 


Bonnie Christensen


Author/illustrator, Bonnie Christensen, knew how to capture the essence of the subject of her picture books. In ‘ELVIS, The Story of the Rock and Roll King’ she showed us how Elvis’s love of all music, not just “white music” inspired his new sound of music that infused R & B into mainstream music. Her illustrations put us in Elvis’s poor boy shoes, showing us his families’ monetary struggles from the beginning and his big heart throughout. Bonnie’s books continue to delight readers of new generations. 

Bonnie Christensen

Bonnie Christensen 2

Isabel Muñoz

Again, the title page entices the reader to see what these images all have in common. And throughout the story, Isabel lets us feel the emotions of each character in the story with her illustration style. ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, REAL LIFE JOURNEYS OF STUDENTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, is vibrant in both illustration and text. Published by Little Bee BooksIsabel Muñoz

Isabel Muñoz 2

Jane Ray

I love author/illustrator, Jane Ray’s hint of exaggeration in her illustrations of THE APPLE-PIP PRINCESS. Her illustration style is reminiscent of the old fairy tales which works superbly for this story. Published by Candlewick Press

Jane Ray 1

Jane Ray 2

Jorey Hurley 

Clean lines and simple text have a huge impact in Jorey Hurley’s picture books, such as RIBBIT. You have a simple beginning, middle and end which is perfect for the youngest readers to grasp. This is a prime example of how much power illustrations have in a story with limited text. A Paula Wiseman Book, imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing.

Jorey Hurley

Jorey Hurley 2

Kate Berube

I love Kate Berube’s beachy vibe in THE SANDCASTLE THAT LOLA BUILT. I felt like I was on that beach helping Lola build her sandcastle and feeling the emotion that Lola and friends feel throughout the story. Alfred A. Knopf is the publisher. 

Kate Berube

Kate Berube 2

Marthe Jocelyn

Ahhh, the end pages as I open the book, tickle my senses and invite me in to explore what these items may have in common. SAM SORTS by Marthe Jocelyn is vibrant and fulfilling for those of us who love to sort things. Tundra Books  is the publisher.

Marthe Jocelyn 2

Marthe Jocelyn

Marthe Jocelyn 3

Mélanie Watt

Chester, author/illustrator, Mélanie Watt’s cat, rivals Garfield any day. The humor starts immediately on the inside jacket and amps up on the title page. Once you’ve read either one (and I strongly encourage you to read all inside jackets before you read a book), the humor continues on every page after. The nuances are in the illustrations on each page. They give the text the extra punch to make the reader smile. Published by Kids Can Press

Rebecca Minhsuan Huang

Delightful all the way around. Rebecca connects us with Bobo and all of his emotions as a new addition comes to his family. We laugh with his excitement, cry with his heartbreak and joy, and smile when we get the ending we want. My thought is this could be an animated cartoon, it is so well done. I hope there are more Bobo stories to come. BOBO AND THE NEW BABY, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will capture your heart.

Rebecca Minhsuan Huang

Rebecca Minhsuan Huang 2

Look for the next installment of NOT JUST A PRETTY PICTURE #KIDLITWOMEN, in August. 


With Children’s Author, Lora Hyler

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 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 askIMG_6967 (1) 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!

Yay! New middle grade author, Lora Hyler is our contestant today. She just released her debut middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes. 


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

APPLE:   Honey Crisp

BOOK MADE INTO MOVIE:   A Wrinkle in Time

COMEDY:   Fargo



FURNITURE STYLE:  Contemporary


HOBBY:  Travel (most recently, fixated on France)

ICE CREAM FLAVOR:  chocolate

JUGGLE (THINGS YOU):   Writing children’s books, marketing, spending time with family and friends. 

KICK (THINGS YOU):  laundry

LUNCH FOOD:  A great chicken or shrimp salad. Great leftovers.

METAL:  Gold

NOISE:   I use noise as a buffer to facilitate writing at coffee shops, libraries and bookstores.

OCEAN:   Pacific

PICTURE BOOK:   Anything illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

‘Q’ WORD:   Quaint

RESTAURANT: A great Mexican restaurant with fresh foods and inventive twists on old favorites. 

SYNONYM FOR GREAT:  fierce, as in “Michelle Obama is fierce!”

THEATER:  A place of creation

UNUSUAL PLACE:  The Catacombs of Paris

VAMPIRES:   I’m not much into vampires. There’s not much I like about them other than their ability to live such long lives! 

WEATHER:   Ideally, 75 degrees with a nice breeze

X-CITING NEWS:   I launched my first middle grade novel on March 6th! I’m thrilled with the response from kids and parents, teachers, educators, reviewers, librarians, fellow authors and book lovers! 

YOUTH IS:  A time of many mistakes. The key is building resilience.

ZIPS (SOMETHING THAT):  The family Russian Tortoise, Speedy. He got his name from zipping toward his food. Aren’t tortoises supposed to be slow?


ME:   You had me at ‘The Catacombs of Paris’! Did you explore them and what fascinated you the most about them?

LH: I read about the Catacombs during one of the several French classes I took to prepare for my May 2017 month-long artist residency at Centre D’Art in Marnay-sur-seine. I had seven years of French lessons prior to college, and nothing since! Although I’m headed back to France next year, this time to a residency in the south of France, in Cassis, I doubt I will visit the Catacombs. Too spooky for my very vivid fiction writing imagination. 


ME:   The spookiness of them is what had me hooked. If you hear any stories about them, I hope you write about them. 😊 If the cultures of Fargo and France came together in a new place, what do you think life would be like there?

LH: Wow. That’s an interesting question! I envision bankrupt Frenchman paying euros to have his wife kidnapped, only to get outsmarted by a very pregnant National Police officer assigned to track down the culprits. She catches the bad guy red-handed, stuffing his fellow henchman in the Catacombs.


ME:   I love how your mind works! If you write it, I will read it.

Animals are individuals and fierce at fighting humans stereotypes of them. Like your Russian Tortoise, Speedy. Please tell us more about him. 😊

LH: Who knew a Russian Tortoise is such a commitment? Unlike your IMG_7512furry animals, you have to bond enough with a hard shelled-creature to remember to feed them and clean their habitat. My husband and I joked that our son would have to take his pet to college with him. Fast forward eleven years later, our son is now 22 and Speedy is still going strong. Speedy races toward his bowl and sits on it when hungry. Otherwise, we are ignored in favor of sunning under the heat lamp and hiding from the world in a natural wood tunnel in his large glass enclosure.


ME:   Animals like what they like and do what they want (for the most part), much like children. What’s one mistake from your youth that you overcame and demonstrated resiliency?

LH:  I was an exceptional reader at a young age and was invited at age 7 or 8 to read at a statewide educator conference. Given my shyness at the time, it should have been no surprise to anyone when I stepped up to the microphone, took a look at the large audience, and bolted from Lora-Hyler-on-TMJ4-300x212the stage! Growing up, my parents did not speak of this. 

As an adult, I became a radio news journalist for NPR and ABC affiliates, served as a weekly two-year guest commentator on a live television newscast on Today’s TMJ4 in Milwaukee, and became a sought after public speaker, a public speaking instructor for my PR and marketing company clients. I also love to encourage kids and young people to reach their highest potential.


ME:  Encouragement is a wonderful gift to give; it has so many positive outcomes. Noise can go either way. Regarding using noise as a buffer to make writing in public places easier, are there any noises that aren’t conducive to your creative process while writing in public places? 

LH:   Screaming children! I could always crank up my headphones, but sometimes that defeats the purpose since I am there to write and plot.


ME:   I am so excited for you that your new book kicked off in March and that I will be reading it this summer! Are any of your category answers connected to any upcoming projects of yours? If so, and allowed, what can you tell us about it/them?

LH:  Vanessa Brantley Newton is an amazing illustrator, fantastic public speaker and a memorable individual. I had the opportunity to meet her at a SCBWI Fall Retreat in Green Lake, WI. I’ll always remember how movingly she spoke of Ezra Jack Keats, author of the Snowy Day, featuring a child of color on the cover. She saw herself for the first time in a book. This left a lasting impression on me. Here’s her Ted Talk. 

I’ve become a voice for children. Let’s face it: it’s a national tragedy that the publishing industry has failed to keep pace with our nation’s changing demographics. Each child, deserves, and needs to see herself or himself within the pages of a book for healthy self-esteem and self-realization. Absence equals denial. 

Each adult has a role to play. I’m speaking to teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, guardians, publishers, bookstore owners, and librarians. Seek out a book for a child in your life with an image that mirrors them, and seek out a book to provide a window into another child’s reality.


ME:   You make excellent points, Lora, about the children of our world not having their voices shown or heard, and not seeing themselves in books. Happily that is changing. Godspeed the full inclusion so the norm will be beautiful, culturally-diverse books where the children of the world see themselves in them. The time of ‘diverse book unicorns’ is over. Ezra Jack Keats gave a wonderful start to inclusion; it’s about time the publishing world catches up.

Readers, thank you for joining us today. You can connect with Lora on the link below:


Have a fantastic weekend!







With Children’s Author and
Founder of, Elaine Kiely Kearns


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 1689651_10203358320463552_2133165971_nhave 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.

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

Today our contestant is children’s author, and founder of one of the top-rated websites for children’s authors and illustrators,  KIDLIT 411 …Elaine Kiely Kearns!

KidLit _ Nancy Colle 100

June kidlit411 banner illustrated by Nancy Colle. 

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

ALL CHILDREN: need love and books


COUNTRY: Ireland                                                                       

DESSERT: coconut cake

EXERCISE: walking

FRUIT: ripe summer peaches


HOMOPHONES: write/right

ICE CREAM FLAVOR: Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road


KNOW HOW TO: read people through body language (usually accurate)

LANDMARK: Statue of Liberty

M&M COLOR: brown

NOCTURNAL ANIMAL: crickets (insects count, right?)

OLYMPIC SPORT: 3 day eventing in horseback riding

PASTIME : reading/writing

QUICK THINGS: a blink, a breath, a computer

REPTILE: crocodile



UNIQUE FONT: noteworthy

VITAMIN: Flintstones (yes, I am an adult)

WEATHER TERM: bombogenesis

X WORD: xylophone

YOUNG ADULT BOOK: Girl Man’s Up by M-E Girard

ZODIAC SIGN: aquarius

ME:   Do you watch both the summer and winter Olympics? Is it safe to say the 3 event in horseback riding is your fave?

EKK: I love to watch the Olympics! The 3 day event in horseback riding is my favorite.


ME:   Bombogenesis is a magnificent storm and fun to say. (I swear it could be an onomatopoeia word.) However, as fun as it is to say, it packs a wallop when it hits. What weather conditions work best for you while writing?

EKK: Oooh, good question! I guess if I am in the middle of solid revisions, I prefer that it’s raining or cold out, so I don’t feel too guilty about staying in.


ME:   Same here regarding writing and weather. I think living in Ireland, would be an ideal country to live in for writing weather. Have you ever been to Ireland? If yes, what was your favorite part about it? If no, and you were offered a dream vacation but had to choose between Ireland and Italy, which would you choose and why?

EKK:  Yes! I have been going to Ireland since I was a baby because both of my parents were born there. It was going “home” for us. My most recent visit was this past November, and for me, going home means going to the South-West of Ireland to County Kerry and County Limerick where my parents were born.
Fun Fact: I have dual citizenship (as well as my kids and husband) so we are also Irish citizens!



ME:   Awwww! I’m envious, as I’m part Irish and have wanted to visit Ireland since I was a child. I love the dialect and stories that come from there. Their culture is fascinating. Reading people’s body language can be compared to having a superpower. In what situations have you found this ability to be most superpower-like?

EKK: I freak out my critique group and my family out with my spidey-like senses. It has been particular helpful when I have to ask someone for something and I know just when to do it to get the most favorable answer.


ME:  Coconut cake, ripe summer peaches, or Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road: name a sax player.

EKK: The one and only John Coltrane

ME:   Good choice. What do you think would be a popular response to seeing the Statue of Liberty, blink or take a breath?

EKK: Both!


ME:   Homophones cause problems only because they are misused.  However,  sometimes their misuse is entertaining. Do any homophones give you trouble in your writing and what new projects are you working on that you can share with us?

EKK: Hmm, I think if I am tired I will mess up it’s and its from time to time. I am working on lots of projects right now but they are all top secret!


ME:   So, no spoiler alerts here. But you have created suspense for us! 😊 When you can share your secrets, I can share them on this website.

Thank you Elaine for playing the ABC Game with us today.

Readers, you can learn more about Elaine here:

Elaine Kiely Kearns




Our next game play date is June 21! Have A fantastic weekend everyone.



UPDATE: Deborah has released three new books this spring that you can order or buy from your local bookstore.

PART-TIME MERMAID (released March 27, 2018, by disney-Hyperion)
SUPER SAURUS AND THE EGG (released May 22nd 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
MONSTER AND MOUSE GO CAMPING (released May 29, 2018, by HMH Books for Young Readers)


With PB, CB and NF Author, Deborah Underwood

Friday, November 24, 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. Deborah and cat

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.

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

Happy Friday  Everyone! Today’s  contestant, Deborah Underwood,  rocks the picture book world in both fiction…

View original post 1,316 more words


With Literary Agent, Sean McCarthy 

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 mccarthy small headshothave 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.

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

Today, Sean McCarthy, owner of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, joins us as our ABC Game contestant. His agency specializes in representing  both authors and illustrators for all ages of children’s books.

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


BLUE: Jackets (I love the NHL playoffs, even if my Rangers didn’t come close this year).

COLOR: Yellow

DESSERT: Ice cream (or pretty much any frozen dessert, be it sorbet, gelato, or even sherbet)

EXERCISE: Cycling (definitely not running)

FOUND IN RAIN FOREST: Howler monkeys (saw these in Costa Rica – cute at first, but the howler part of their name is accurate)

GAME:  Any type of card game – pitch and Hearts are my favorites.

HOLIDAY:  4th of July (as long as it’s not raining)

INDOOR SPORT:  Bowling (not sure if it’s a sport, but I enjoy it!)

JELLYBEANS:  All of them, even that weird Buttered Popcorn one from Jelly Belly.

KITE FLYING REQUIRES:  More patience than I have.

LIQUID:  Seltzer. So much seltzer.

MONOPOLY SPACE:  Marvin Gardens. (I just Googled this to make sure I was spelling it right, and it turns out that the “real” neighborhood name in New Jersey is Marven Gardens, but Monopoly spells it wrong in the game.)

NON-FICTION BOOK:  Anything by Bill Bryson


PIZZA TOPPING:  Pepperoni, even though it’s super boring.

QUOTE:  Everything Takes Forever (My father is a CPA and has his own tax practice, and he has a sign in his office that says Everything Takes Forever so that he can point to it when people ask how long their tax return will take. I think it’s equally applicable in publishing.)

ROAD SIGN:  Yield (mainly because of the Pearl Jam album with the same name)

SYNONYM FOR AWESOME:  Thrilling (I say this way too much on Twitter and am trying to cut back)

TRANSPORTATION:  Trains (though I’m thankful to be working from home with how bad the NYC subways have become of late)

UNUSUAL COMBINATION:  Dill Pickle Potato Chips. They shouldn’t work, and that first bite is always strange, but they’re so good.

VILLAIN:  Madvillain (one of my favorite albums of all time, featuring the rappers MF DOOM and Madlib)

WEATHER:  70s and partly cloudy. Anything else and I’ll get sunburn immediately.

X WORD:  X-Ray (this is why I’m an agent and not an author – my ideas are terrible!)

YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT1986 – the last time that the Mets won the World Series (maybe this year!)

ZOO ANIMAL:  Pandas (or pretty much any uncoordinated bear).


ME:  (Laughing out loud…[I’m tired of the acronym 😊]) Which animals were more fun to watch pandas or howler monkeys? And have you seen other animals, native to other countries in their own environment?

SM: It was incredible to see the howler monkeys in the wild, although it Sean Lion Photobecame less charming when it became clear why they’re called howler monkeys, I will never tire of Internet videos of pandas falling down and being clumsy, but I’ve never seen that in person, so I will go with the howler monkeys. 

I’ve also had the chance to travel to Zambia when my brother was living there, and got this amazing photo when we were visiting a lion sanctuary. I should point out that as soon as my brother took this picture, I was back on my feet and practically sprinting away.

 ME:  Understandable! Ghosts tend to have that effect on people also, but as soon as I read “GHOSTS” in your first answer, I was hooked. What made you decide to read that book? Is it a clients’; was it the title; you recently met a ghost and wanted a little insight?

SM: It’s an adult sci-fi novel that I’m reading for fun. I don’t get as much time for pleasure reading as I would like, so I tend to read adult when I do (otherwise, it all starts to feel like work!). I found it via the incredible Book Concierge feature on NPR, and I’ve been on a big fantasy/sci-fi kick lately, so I was instantly hooked.  

ME:  Fantasy/SciFi readers, heads up, Sean just gave you an excellent recommendation.

Clarification…you say “thrilling” or “awesome” too much on Twitter? I ask because besides the word ‘great’, ‘awesome’ is another word used too often by most people. Which is why I often use this as a category. Do you have a favorite word (any word-not category specific) that you wish people used more often in conversation?

SM: I like to share all my good news about clients on Twitter (along with the occasional wry complaint about the Mets). I realized that I was starting every other Tweet with “Thrilled to see…” (or something similar), so I’m looking to expand my praise vocabulary. I’ve been trying to use “copacetic” more frequently in business emails, but it hasn’t caught on yet.

ME:  Last time I heard ‘copacetic’ was on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

And you are correct about bowling. It is an indoor sport! My mother was inducted into our City Sports Hall of Fame for her long term bowling career and dedication to promoting the sport. Do you bowl and if so, do you know how the term ‘turkey’ came to be in this sport? 😊

SM: That’s amazing about your mother! I confess that I had to Google the etymology of turkey (apparently, the origin is a little unclear, but it’s most likely that actual turkeys were given away as prizes during bowling competitions to anyone that bowled three strikes in a row). It’s amazing how much bowling lingo is out there – one of my favorites is Fast Eight, which is when it looks like you’ve thrown a great ball, but only wind up with eight pins down instead of a strike. I throw way more of those than I do turkeys!

ME:  Frozen turkeys should be given away for throwing strike balls and ending up with the 7-10 split, then bowlers may not get so frustrated. Just a thought.

I’ve always believed the Monopoly spaces were connected to New York City so I am really happy you clarified that Marvin Gardens is actually an area in Atlantic City, NJ where the Monopoly spaces were named after. Have you played Monopoly and if so, what is the longest time your game lasted?

SM: I used to love playing Monopoly as a kid, and I could play for hours (I was usually the one demanding that we keep going, as long as I wasn’t losing too badly). There’s a fascinating podcast about the history of the game (from 99% Invisible), and that the original purpose of the game was to teach people to work collaboratively and to show how toxic monopolies can be. 

ME:  You are absolutely correct about the original purpose. The originator of the game, Elizabeth “Lizzie’ Magie, created it as a medium to educate people about the then current state of economy (too many monopolies) and promote Henry George’s (her political hero) economist ideas about putting the burden of taxation on wealthy landowners. The game’s history goes back to 1903!

What is the worst flavored Jelly Belly jellybean you have ever eaten? Feel free to consider flavors of their Bertie Botts Every Flavour Jelly Bean.

SM: I’ve never been a fan of the Apple Cinnamon one (it was a bit too spicy for me, which should tell you about how well I handle legit spicy food).

ME:  Yup, it, along with your LIQUID answer, does explain your handling of spicy food. However, you visited a spicy region of the world…Costa Rica! What a thrilling or in your new word, copacetic, place to visit. Besides the howler monkeys, what other animals did you see in the wild while you were visiting? And anything else you’d like to add to this interview?

SM: My brother was living there (where there) was a white-water rafting guide, so we took a few days off to travel to Puerto Viejo and explore the area. While we were walking in a nature preserve, we thought we spotted a small creature in the forest, and we excitedly got our cameras ready. After waiting patiently for the animal to venture out from the brush, we got some great photos, and felt such a sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t until we were back in our hostel and looking through our camera that the animal we had breathlessly waited for was a raccoon, and identical to those that are found all over the US. 

ME:  (Laughing out loud). 😊 I bet you made that Costa Rican raccoon feel special.

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us Sean, and giving us a glimpse into your world outside of work.

Readers, you can find Sean on…

Twitter: @mccarthylit

Facebook: @mccarthylit





[header photo credit:]

With less than 30 in the entire world, the vaquita porpoise, is vanishing to the point of near extinction. 

These beautiful, shy cetaceans, were discovered back in 1958. They can only be found in the northern part (armpit) of the Gulf of California off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

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How and why did this happen you wonder? This is the how (taken from Save the Vaquita campaign at :

‘Gill-nets: The Invisible Killer

The single most significant threat to the vaquita’s survival is accidental entanglement. The small animal frequently gets caught in fixed fishing nets (gill-nets), as by-catch. Unable to surface for air, the entangled animals drown within minutes. This threat is accelerated by illegal fishing for another endangered species that lives in the vaquita habitat, the totoaba ─ a large species of fish sought after for its swim bladder, driven by demand from China where it is considered a delicacy with medicinal value.

Gill-nets are particularly dangerous because they are indiscriminate. While usually designed for a single species, large amounts of unwanted by-catch are inevitable. More than 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins get entangled in fishing nets annually. Most of them die, and the few that get away do so with severe injuries.’

This is the why: 


This is the hope to stop them from going extinct.

[‘A young juvenile vaquita was the first animal to be rescued by VaquitaCPR in October. Sadly, it had to be released shortly after when it showed signs of stress. Photo: VaquitaCPR’]

‘A last-ditch attempt to save the vaquita ends without achieving its mission’ means there are now only about 20 of these amazing sea mammals left but there is still a sliver of hope to save them and they need your help. 

Check out the links below to learn more about the vanishing vaquitas and ways you can help with this timely effort to save them.

The easiest free way to help is to bring awareness by sharing this post on your social media and telling children and teachers about the desperate need to save this near extinct species. 

Saving the Vaquita

Extinction is permanent

Scientists begin bold conservation effort to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction


The edge of extinction…




Please do what you can to help them survive and hopefully thrive in the future. There are many ways to help besides donating money. (read the articles in the links above for ways of donating and writing to Mexican and US government officials) 


Extinction is forever. Please help save the vaquita. 



With Associate Agent, Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

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. 

jennifer-march-soloway-bw_1My 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.

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

Today we welcome, Jennifer March Soloway, Associate Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

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

AWARD: Golden Gloves


CARTOON CHARACTER: Garnet from Steven Universe

DISNEY MOVIE: The Incredibles

EVERY CHILD: should be allowed to opt out when it comes to Brussels sprouts.

FLOWER: Cherry blossom




JELLY OR JAM: Strawberry Jam



MOOD: Happy



PARADISE:  Highway 1 along the Northern California coast

QUOTE: One morning in September, Mrs. Barrington rolled out a big poster with all of the president’s pictures on it.

Grace Campbell could not believe her eyes. ‘Where are all the girls?’” 

GRACE FOR PRESIDENT, by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 

I agree, Grace. Where are all the girls?

ROCK BAND: Valiant Dischord


TALENT: I can bend the tips of my fingers with straight knuckles



WONDER (THINGS YOU WONDER ABOUT): What motivates others

‘X’ NAME:  Xena

YOUNG ADULT BOOK:  My most recent favorite: GENUINE FRAUD, by E. Lockhart (but I love so many, it’s impossible to choose just one!)

ZEBRAS…: are striped.

ME;  In 2016, A.J. Andrews became the first female to receive a Rawlings Golden Glove award. A fantastic year in history! What were your thoughts when you read or heard this terrific news? Do you play softball or baseball?

JMS: Ha! I didn’t realize there was a Rawlings Golden Glove award; and I’ve never heard of A.J. Andrews, nor do I play softball or baseball. In fact, I’m hopeless with a ball—both throwing and catching. When I mentioned Golden Gloves, I meant boxing. I competed in Golden Gloves and was a finalist in my weight category. My last fight ended after a minute and thirty-six seconds. My opponent broke my nose, and I decided I’d had enough boxing. 

ME:  Wow! How cool is that, that you were a boxer! Any thoughts about ever getting back into it?

No. It was an incredible experience, but after I broke my nose, I retired from amateur boxing and took up running. Since then, I’ve run seven marathons, including Boston twice.

Again, WOW! You are ever inspiring, just like the cartoon character you named. Please tell us more about Garnet of the Crystal Gems in Steven Universe.

JMS: I love Steven Universe. It’s whimsical and silly with a catchy theme song that warms my heart every time I hear it. Garnet is the strong, reserved member of the Crystal Gems, and she has this lovely, rich voice. I love strong, female characters full of wisdom and grace. 

ME:  Me too because too often, strong females are portrayed as being pushy broads which is not only stereotypical, but often unjust.

Now, about those Brussels sprouts…blecch!  I totally agree that every child should be able to opt out of Brussels Sprouts. 😊 Kids know what they like. Therefore introducing them to a new food or book can be a great thing! You quote Grace Campbell from Kelly Di Pucchio’s GRACE FOR PRESIDENT.  Grace has a solid point. What other books would you recommend for readers to help change the mindset that a president can only be a man? 

JMS: Hm, good question. I can’t think of any others at the moment. However, there are many wonderful picture books with stories to encourage and inspire girls. Off the top of my head, two of my favorites include: 



ME:   Terrific recommendations!

Do you or have you ever played piano? If so, did your talent for bending just the tips of your fingers with straight knuckles help or hinder?  

JMS: I have taken piano lessons, and I studied classical guitar as a child, although sadly, I was never good. The fingertip trick was just something I practiced until I could do it on every finger, excluding my pinkies. Same with raising one eyebrow. I practiced and practiced until I could raise my left eyebrow, but I still can’t raise the right side.

ME:  Maybe someday… 😉

Hwy 1 along the Pacific Coast Highway is paradise for you. For us readers who have this on our bucket list, where are some of your favorite places to stop along this highway and why? 

JMS: I highly recommend Sea Ranch, which is on the Sonoma coast just below the Mendocino county line. There are beautiful trails on the bluffs above the beach, and in the spring, you can see baby seals with their mothers. 

ME:  Awww! I think you have us hooked with the baby seals.

Please tell us about a song that is a keepsake to you and fill us in on anything else you would like readers to know.

JMS: I am moved by music and associate certain songs with specific times in my life. One of my favorite songs is Blackbird, by the Beatles, which always gives me a sense of calm and hope. 

ME:  Thank you Jennifer for stopping by today to play the ABC Game with us and letting us into your world. 😊

Readers, You can follow Jennifer

on Twitter: @marchsoloway 

and, Manuscript Wishlist

Thank you for spending a little time with us today. Hopefully, spring has finally sprung in your neck of the woods.

Have a fantastic weekend!











Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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