With Author/Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton

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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. Which is why I came up with my ABC game. 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!

Our ABC game contestant today is Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of dont let auntie mabel and let freedom sing and also illustrator of numerous picture books and chapter books  the youngest marcherone lovethanksgiving for emily annthink bigthe hula-hoopin queenmagic trash  ruby 1

mary had a little glam

ready to read    to show a few.

Below is Vanessa’s list of categories from A – Z along with her answers.

ANTONYM FOR AWFUL:  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

BEST SONG EVER:  Feeling Good


DAY OF WEEK:  Friday


FRUIT:  Grapes


HAPPINESS IS:  being loved


JEWEL:  Ethiopian Opal

KINDNESS…:  Is a must

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  Stories told by my favorite Comedian Arnez J

MUSICAL:  Daddy Long Legs



PIRATE NAME:   Black Jack Shellac

QUIET PLACE:   Old country house

ROCK:   River


TREE:  Cedar

UNUSUAL COLOR:   Magenta  



X NAME:  Xena



ME: Welcome Vanessa! Wow! As I read your Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious category sheet, I answered them off the top of my head too and we had three in common: Friday (I love Fridays!), Venus, and cedar. I am envious I did not think of Bugs Bunny though. Is he one of your favorites and if so, why?

VBN:  Oh my gosh is one of the very first cartoon characters that I would fall in love with! I love the antics and the comedy of him. 

ME:  Bugs is the coolest! Speaking of cool, I’ve heard you sing; you have a beautiful voice. It’s uplifting and soulful. Makes sense you chose FEELING GOOD as the best song ever. But there are a few songs with that same title. Which one is the song for your answer? When did it become the best song ever for you?

VBN: Feeling Good by Nina Simone! I first heard this song many years ago. It was something about the way Nina sang it. It was a song of course, but poetry at the same time and even after that is was a story for me. It created word pictures for me. It speaks to my soul as an artist.

ME:   I understand why! That song resonates loving life. Makes sense why that’s the best song ever for you since your love for life shines through you and your illustrations as well as your love for uplifting music too. I’ve heard you sing…you are wonderful! You fill your audience with joy. 

I cannot place the musical DADDY LONG LEGS, but the title suggests it could be about a dancer, a basketball player, a musician, or an arachnid…will you tell us about it?

VBN: I am a big fan of musicals and this one has two of my favorite actor/ dancers in it. Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.

Daddy Long Legs is a stage musical based on the novel of the same name by Jean Webster. It was written by John Caird, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon. Set in turn-of-the-century New England, the musical tells the story of orphan Jerusha Abbott of the John Grier Home and her mysterious benefactor who agrees to send her to college, who she dubs “Daddy Long Legs” after seeing his elongated shadow. Under the conditions of her benefactor, Jerusha sends him a letter once a month, describing her new-found experiences with life outside the orphanage.

ME:  I cannot believe I did not recognize that musical classic! Leslie and Fred were incredible! Like your ‘G’ and ‘H’ answers, that story is filled with love. I’ve read numerous picture books you have illustrated and in each one, love shines through your illustrations and you also infuse humor. I’m not sure you can share any of Arnez J’s stories, but maybe you can share one of your favorite stories with us that makes you laugh.

VBN: I come from a very religious background and so much stuff went down at church. First of all it was like going back into the 50’s when you walked in. It was filled with characters that I still remember! My mom use to make the most delicious Pineapple Upside-down cake this side of heaven! Oh my goodness, it was truly to fight and die for!! Okay, so the Pastors wife was a very spiritual woman and pious. I never saw her ever come out of her face at anyone, but this Sunday my mom had made her cake and brought it to the church social. Well, other members had brought their cakes too, but there was something magical, spiritual, almost life altering about this cake. Now, my moms’ cake was famous at our church and everyone always wanted seconds and third of this cake. The Pastor’s wife didn’t treat my mom the best and was a little smug when it came to my mom, but something would come over this poor woman when it came to my mother’s Pineapple Upside-down Cake!! The Pastor’s wife would sneak downstairs to the kitchen and tell the other women to hide my mother’s cake. It was my mom’s joy to see people eating that delicious cake! So mom comes down stairs to the church kitchen and see’s everyone else’s cake except hers and of course she went to investigating where the cake might have gone. These where church women mind you, so they didn’t want to lie, so no one answered. She asked again because there were people asking about it? “Where is Sister Shirley’s Pineapple Upside-Down? We’ve been waiting the whole service for it.” So my very bold mom rushes into the church kitchen to find her cake hide in the back of the fridge in somebody ‘s cake carrier with the Pastor’s wife’s name on it! I guess we all have weaknesses! LOL!

ME:  Wow! The poor Pastor’s wife was sick with jealousy over your mom’s delicious  cake. She must not have known the secret behind your mom’s cake was that it was made with love just like Mother Nature makes things. Such as the Ethiopian Opal. Is there a tidbit or story behind this answer? Could this tidbit or story have anything to do with Captain Jack Shellac? 😉

VBN: LOL!!! I just love Ethiopian Opal. The pinks and blues and greens are just beautiful. All the colors that I love all mixed into one beautiful opal. That is all I know. Nothing deep! Tee hee~! 

ME:   They have an ethereal quality. Somehow I think maybe someday, one will appear in one of your beautiful books. 😊 I am adding to my mustread list of books, and need to know if the SOLO book you named is the one written by Kwame Alexender?

VBN: YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Magnificent Book!! Get it and read it. 

ME:   Yay, I was correct! I just added it to my list.

When I read ‘Walruses:… rock’, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious images floated through my mind. Like your newest books this year that I have not read yet… jada jones 1  a night out with mamaearly sunday morningsasha savvy loves to code I am leaping into the future here…what can you tell us about your current or upcoming projects? (am hoping a walrus appears in one of them soon.) Feel free to use art here to show us or text to tell us.

VBN: So, I really love relationship stories. Grandma and granddaughter situations because I spent a lot of summers with all of my grandparents and they were totally interesting to me!!! So I wrote a story about a little girl who is interested in what is in her Grandma’s Purse and so goes the name LOL!! I love all things retro, but as a child I didn’t see myself in children’s books in the 60’s, Not until Ezra Jack Keats came out with The Snowy Day. I also loved Madeline, but she never had a black friend and this saddened me deeply because I always thought that she and I could have been great friends. So, with the help of Nancy Paulsen and Random House Books I will be doing a book about the black Madeline so to speak. LOL! Her name is Jewels. I am very excited about this book! It will be done in pen and ink and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I haven’t worked on it yet, but I can share some images from Grandma’s Purse due out in Jan 2018! grandma's purse


Clone of Grand...B2B_tmp002

ME:   So glad you gave us a sneak peek into GRANDMA’S PURSE and your new black Madeline book! 

Thank you Vanessa for playing ABC’s OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD! This was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fun! We can’t wait to enjoy your new books. 😊

To learn more about Vanessa and her or her books, you can find her at:


Thank you Readers for stopping today. If you enjoyed this edition of ABC’’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD, please share it and leave a comment for Vanessa or me.

#justkeepcreating #justkeepcreating















With Young Adult author, Charlotte Bennardo 

Friday, November 10, 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.  Char-0026

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!

Welcome young adult/middle grade author, Charlotte Bennardo, to today’s edition!  

Blonde ops        sirenz        Sirenz Back in Fashion FINAL

Below is Charlotte’s category sheet and her answers off the top of her head.

ANIMAL:  squirrel

BODY OF WATER:  Caribbean Sea

CANDY:  Snickers!

DECADE:  90s

EVERY CHILD…:  should have books!

FISH:  Dory!

GAME:  Scrabble

HAPPINESS IS…:  a cup of chai, a good book, a purring cat and fuzzy blankie on a cold day.

INVENTION:  pool heater! Can swim spring & fall!

JUNK FOOD:  ice creammmmmmmmm

KNOW HOW TO:  house paint like a pro.

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  Slapstick humor like ‘Home Alone’

METAL:  18k gold…

NUMBER (FAVORITE & WHY):  11-my birthday is 11/11, I was born in the 11th hour.

OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:  swimming in my pool! (or the Caribbean…)

PASTIME:  crafts- used to do them, now, no time, I’m writing!

QUIET WORD:  Library!

RANDOM THOUGHT:  Is it too late for tea and cookies?

SYNONYM FOR GREAT:  fantabulous!

TOY:  yarn – and a cat.

UNUSUAL COLOR:  peacock green  

VILLAIN:  Darth Vader

WISH:  can’t tell you. yet.

XANADU FOR YOU:  beachside, Caribbean, book in hand, cold drink, tropical breeze.

YELLOW THINGS:  sun! daffodils! Little girls’ dresses! Easter eggs!

ZOO:  Berlin Zoo

ME:  There is a common word in your answers…Caribbeanbeach And since you have a series out…

Evolution Revolution 1  Evolution revolution 2  Evolution revolution 3

 I am guessing you like series. Have you ever wanted to be in the ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN’ movies?

CB:  Sailing the seas! Adventure! Treasure! And I get to swing a sword? Who wouldn’t?

ME:  Good point! If Darth Vader snuck into the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies, what do you think he would want to accomplish?

CB: He’d have a big black ship and be the baddest pirate and control all the seas…

ME:  Darth definitely has his work cut out for him then. But what a fun book series it would make! I believe there would be a slapstick element to it. Like you, I love slapstick humor, especially the HOME ALONE movies. They are fantabulous! Every time I paint in our house, visions from those movies make their appearance and I pray I don’t dump the paint. You say you can paint your house like a pro. What is your current color palette and have you ever painted a room in an unusual color?

CB: My living room is sage green, family room beige, dining room is pale golden yellow, kitchen is peach, my office is a mauvish-rose, my bedroom in Tuscan gold, and my master bath is a Tuscan-orange. But the most unusual was when I painted the bedroom in metallic, burnished gold. (I was going for an Egyptian theme, but the hubs hated it… Not a man of vision.)

ME:  Not the colors Darth would pick but definitely ones I love! Your house sounds serene.

Why did you pick the 90’s as your decades answer?

CB: So many good things were going on! Had my 3 boys, was able to write full time, I was feeling great- and I hadn’t lost anyone I loved…

ME:  I agree, it was a good decade. 😊 And cool new toys were being developed. But one of the best toys ever came long ago…a ball of yarn. kitten So many uses and so fun to watch a cat play with. Is it too late for tea and cookies?

CB: Never! I was trying to be sensible by not eating after dinner (but that never works out).

ME:  Sensible is never much fun. What happens if you combine Snickers and ice cream?

snickersyum scooping ice cream

CB: Children magically appear.  

ME:  HAHAHA!!!! Best answer ever! I hope your boys read this post. 😉

I know you are not supposed to tell what you wish for but can you give us a tiny clue? And if not, will you tell us about any upcoming projects you have or give us a juicy tidbit of fun news?

CB: Have to sew my lips together on the secret (for now), but I can tell you I have a new middle grade series I’m working on, fractured ‘classics.’ The only thing juicy was the dead mouse my cat gifted me with. The bug might have been juicy; she ate it. 

ME:  Cats know how to present, don’t they? At least your cat was thoughtful enough to take care of both pests for you. Not sure if she was intending on you eating the mouse and was sharing it, or instead being selfish in eating the bug, but it’s the thought that counts.

As for the new middle grade fractured classics series…YAY!!!!!

We will look for an announcement about your secret on your webpage!

Thank you so much Charlotte for playing the ABC Game with us and letting us into your world. By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY one day early!!!!! We Scorpios rock. 😊 (Mine is the 14th) 

Readers, thank you for being a part of this blog and catching up with Charlotte today! If you would like to know more about her including her social media and how to buy her books, her bio is below.

Until Hollywood calls, Charlotte lives in NJ with her husband, three children, two needy cats and sometimes a deranged squirrel. The Evolution Revolution trilogy: Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons are her first solo novels. She is co-author of Blonde Ops (St. Martin’s/Dunne) and the Sirenz series: Sirenz, Sirenz Back In Fashion, (Flux), and one of 13 authors in the anthology, Beware the Little White Rabbit (Leap). To put books in the hands of kids, she contributed to the fundraising ebook anthology of horror, Scare Me To Sleep. She’s written for magazines and newspapers, and has given presentations and workshops at NJ SCBWI conferences, schools, libraries, and other venues. Currently she’s working on sci fi, historical, fantasy, and time travel novels for middle grade, young and new adult readers. Connect with her on Twitter (charbennardo), Author Charlotte Bennardo on FB, on Pinterest and Instagram as Charlotte Bennardo, and through her blog, 

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!!!


With Freelance Editor & Humor Author, Chuck Sambuchino 

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.

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

Our contestant this week is Chuck Sambuchino, Chuck-webformer longtime editor for Writer’s Digest, now freelance, author, and authority on how to get published and build your author platform. 

Get-a-Literary-Agent-LARGE-195x300 2017-CWIM-228x300 2017-GLA-230x300 create your writer platform

Below are his list of categories from A – Z and his answers off the top of his head.





EVERY CHILD:  deserves safety and love.

FAVORITE FOOD:  Chicken Fingers




JAMMING SONG:  “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction


LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  Sassy humor, a little on the dark side

MONSTER:  Clowns



PICKLES (YES OR NO):  Hell no.

‘Q’ WORD:  Quick

ROCK BAND:  Van Halen


TOY:  Story

UNIQUE COLOR:  Burnt Sienna 

VIRTUE:  Compassion

WORDS OF WISDOM:  Enjoy your youth.

X (word that begins with):  Xerxes. “Pharoah coulda saved your ass.”


ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  Get obsessed with pickleball.


ME:  Immediately after I read your answers, I thought of your three hilariously tubular books:        how to survive a garden gnome attackred dog, blue dog when when clowns attack a survival

I have read them all. In theaters now is the cinema remake of Stephen King’s IT which correlates with WHEN CLOWNS ATTACK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE. Did Stephen’s book have any part in you creating your clown book?

CS: Ohhh yes. I saw “It” (the TV miniseries) when I was about ten, and it scared for me at least a decade. My parents had no business letting me see that film when I was so young. It traumatized me. I never forgot about it. Several years ago, I pitched a book on how to survive a clown attack. The publishers passed on it. So I paid a local book designer to design a creepy mock cover for the book. Then we passed that mock cover on to same publisher, and they said, “My God, these people are HORRIFYING! We must publish this!” It was good to know my anti-clown movement touched a nerve. 

ME:  Many people belong to your anti-clown movement.

Onto clowning around: I didn’t know chickens had fingers. (Sorry, had to write it). Anyways, your favorite food is chicken fingers and you named Heavenly Hash as an ice cream flavor. I’ve seen numerous people dunk their chicken strips into their Frosty at Wendy’s and wondered if you do the same with chicken fingers and Heavenly Hash ice cream?

CS: Never tried it. Frankly, I love them both so much that I don’t want to mix the two. Sounds dangerous. Too risky. 

ME:   I agree: great as stand-alones, period. Like pickles. I don’t like them on anything. As a relish, yes, but as a pickle, no. You don’t care for pickles, yet you are obsessed with pickleball. Would you please elaborate on this?

CS: Totally different things. Pickles are icky. Pickleball, which is a sport similar to tennis, is addictive and awesome. If you’re looking for a sport to get involved in, look online for local pickleball leagues.

 ME:  Thank you for the explanation. Honestly, I had never heard of pickleball until I read your answer. I had to look it up to make sure you weren’t pulling my leg.

I noticed on your category sheet you didn’t answer HISTORICAL FIGURE. But when I read your list further, you had named one: Xerxes. Xerxes 1, also called Xerxes the great, was born in 519 BC as part of the Achaemenid Empire which he became fourth king of. What can you tell us about the Xerxes you quoted? My guess is he is not the same Xerxes but I could be wrong.

CS: My answer is basically a joke, which goes back to the fact that I crack jokes at any opportunity in life. My exact answer given was “Xerxes. Pharoah coulda saved your ass.” I love movies, and thus I love quoting movies. In the film Go (1999), characters are playing a game that involves naming famous figures. Someone is challenged with naming a figure that begins with the letter X but cannot name anyone. A little later, another character, chiming in, suggests Xerxes the Pharaoh, adding that this “Pharaoh coulda saved your ass.” I just always liked the line, and the movie. By the way, if you recognized that line before I explained where it was from, then you are awesome.

ME:  Laughing. I do remember you having a great sense of humor when I attended your Midwest Writer’s Workshop. And, I’ll take the ‘awesome’ compliment as I did recognize the line but could not remember where from. 😊 My daughters are phenomenal remembering lines & quotes from songs and shows/movies but I do not share that talent. I am guessing you also have a talent for playing trombone?

CS: I played trombone for six years in marching band and concert band. I am Lower Brass til I die. If you were also a bando, then you are awesome. 

ME:  Lost my awesomeness. ☹ My spry 93 year-old neighbor says “Youth is wasted on the youth” which is similar to your words of wisdom answer. Do you agree?

CS: The exact quote is “Youth is wasted on the young,” attributed to either Shaw or Wilde, depending on who you ask. And yes, I agree. I’m at this weird age where I can see my five-year-old daughter growing up so fast and I can also see my parents growing old. I now realize that time is now more valuable than ever. I want to enjoy these years. I am getting back into sports more (pickleball!) because I don’t know how long I will be able to play with all the gusto I want. So yes, enjoy your youth. 

ME:  Good advice! 

Using as many answers from your category sheet as you can, please write us a synopsis of a book you would like to write. And, what projects are you currently working on?

CS: Right now, I am working with my agent to prepare some kidlit nonfiction book proposals. Since I left Writer’s Digest in early 2017 (after twelve years there), I have become a full-time freelance editor. So nowadays, I help people with their books and queries instead of writing my own. (This could change, but right now this is the course and I love it.) 

Very quick synopsis: “Jenny gets Van Halen to play at her Toy-Story-themed Sweet Sixteen birthday party and perform their unreleased new hit, ‘Burnt Sienna Pickleball Clowns.’ ” That’s about all I got right now.

 ME:  Good to know. Writing queries is not the most fun for many a writer so your services are greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much Chuck for being a contestant! Best of luck to you on your new endeavor. One last thing, where can writers find you online for your editing services and/or social media outlets?

CS: Just visit That website has details on how to contact me if you need help with your query, synopsis, proposal, or manuscript. Also, I still teach at about 12 writing conferences a year, so you can visit my website to see where I’ll be in the future and good writing conferences all around the country. 

ME:  As an attendee to one of Chuck’s conferences, I can affirm they are worth going to. Check out his website and see how he can be of help to you if you are a writer. And if you are looking for a great humorous read, check out one of his humor books shown above.

Readers, thank you stopping by today. Have a tubular weekend!

#justkeepwriting #justkeepcreating







Below is my story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 7th HALLOWEENSIE contest. I tried my hand at rhyme using what I learned from a webinar by Renée LaTulippe. Here are the rules:

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words candy cornmonster, and shadow. (Candy corn will be counted as 1 word.)  Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people .

TRICK NO TREAT (99 words)

by Traci Bold

Today was Halloween.

Shadow planned the perfect greeting.

She was mostly into tricking,

Not so much the treating.


This year would be different,

her friends gathered by her house.

She snuck out back to scare them

quiet as a mouse.


None of her friends saw her

when she hollered out, “A KID!”

She laughed and howled and hooted

as she watched what each friend did.


Bones barked,

Demon dove,

Frankenstein fainted.


Ghoul gasped,

Monster moaned,

Pixie repainted.


Troll tripped,

Vampire vanished,

Witch wailed…

“Wait a minute!”


The moon appeared.

Shadow was seen.

She shared candy corn,

No longer being mean.


Readers, please visit Susanna’s site to read more of the HALLOWEENSIE contest stories. Great stories for Halloween night with your kiddos!

The 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!

Stay safe everyone!

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting





With Picture Book Author, Josh Funk

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 _Josh Funk Headshot - Credit Carter Hasegawaand 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.

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

Today’s lucky winner is the creator of LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST, picture book author, Josh Funk. 

_Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast_The Case of the Stinky Stench

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


BEVERAGE:  Shirley Temple

COLOR:  green

DOG BREED:  allergic


FRUIT:  kiwi


HOLIDAY:  Winter Solstice

INVENTION:  toilet paper

JEWEL:  “You Were Meant for Me” from the album Pieces of You

KNOW HOW TO:  swing dance

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  lying about being able to swing dance

MUSICAL:  High School Musical … 2



PARK:  Linkin

‘Q’ WORD:  quirky

ROUND THINGS:  eyeballs


TREAT:  candy corn

UNIQUE ANIMAL:  palm civet cat  

VILLAIN:  Professor Snape

WORDS OF WISDOM:  “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”


YODELING…: twinkie-ing?

ZANIEST THING I EVER DID:  ate an entire chocolate cake when punished by the principal (or maybe that was Bruce Bogtrotter?)

ME:  Your answers are terrific! Though I have to admit, some of your answers surprised me. You threw me for a loop with High School Musical … 2. Not HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, but HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL …2. And a few made me smile but I wasn’t surprised by them. Like, eyeballs. They are indeed round. But then you thought outside of the box with the JEWEL category. Can you name a TV show that she is connected to and how she is connected? (Bonus points if you get this answer correct!)

JF:  Well, Zack Efron didn’t do all of his own singing in the first one (not his fault, they wrote the songs before they cast him and his range was slightly lower, so they blended his voice with someone else’s. In the second (and third) it’s all him. And it had a higher production value than the first, but was still made for tv; whereas the third was made for the big screen but I didn’t love the plot quite as much. (Is that enough HSM talk for one blog post?)

As far as Jewel, I wish I knew this without googling, but I don’t. I’m just gonna guess Ally McBeal – although I don’t know why. A second choice would be Dawson’s Creek. My long shot answer is Ghost Hunters. 

ME:  I did not know Zac’s voice was blended for the first one. Learn something new every day! Bonus points to you for that. 😊 You get one bonus point for answering the question about JEWEL for oringinality even though it was incorrect.  She sings along with her father for the theme song to Discover Channel’s ALASKA: THE LAST FRONTIER which is reality television about her family who lives in Alaska. Her father is Atz Kilcher and her uncle is Otto Kilcher. 

Now about your zaniest thing answer… one of you had a terrible tummy ache after eating an entire chocolate cake. Was worth it?

JF: It would have been better if it were a candy corn cake. But yes, totally worth it. candy corn cake 



ME:  Palm civet cats are an interesting mammal.  

What can you tell us about them?

JF: Well, I like coffee, you see. And palm civet cats are known for the fact that they eat the fruit that coffee beans come from – including the bean – and then poop out the bean. And supposedly, this is like the best coffee in the world. Indonesians Farm Civet Cats To Produce World's Most Valuable Coffee


I’ve never tried it. I probably never will, either, as I’m vegan and this type of coffee would be considered an ‘animal product.’ That’s okay, though. There are more than enough varieties of coffee available to me. 

ME:  Ahhhh, Kopi Luwak! More like an animal by-product. wink emoji Happy to know you are looking out for animals and drinking other coffees; a proper animal advocate. I am so sad you are allergic to mans’ best friend. sad emoji Have you ever had a pet? Maybe a turtle, a snake, Bengal Tiger, imaginary…

JF: Actually, yes, we owned a Bengal cat (domesticated). Her name was Dobby (she died three years ago). We currently have two cats – Hiro and Lincoln. Hiro is a very sweet cat. Lincoln likes to poop all over the house.

ME:  Cats are cool too. Sorry Dobby is gone. It’s hard to lose pets. Hiro and Lincoln will make new memories for you and your family though. Maybe Lincoln believes he is a palm civet cat and that good things come from his poop. Just a thought.

You didn’t say you know how to SWING DANCE,   swing dancebut I think since you mentioned it, you should take lessons so you can write your next book about it. 

JF: During my senior year of college, I actually took a 1-credit ‘ballroom dancing’ class. We learned a bunch of different styles of dancing, swing being one of them. I remember the hand-behind-the-head move (I think). What I most remember was that when we learned the rumba, the only two songs the teacher had were ‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper and ‘Perhaps’ by Doris Day. One day I brought in the Cake version of ‘Perhaps’ just to blow the teacher’s mind. But we listened it on repeat that whole class. 

ME:   You now have a base for your new Swing Dance book! Can you name at least one Linkin Park song that is not in one of your books?

_Dear Dragon   _It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk   _Pirasaurs!

JF:  It’s easy to go with something of Hybrid Theory or Meteora. I think I’ll go with In Between off of Minutes to Midnight.

Minutes to Midnight

Shadow of the Day would be a close second, although I’m also fond of their Jay-Z mashups. 

ME:  We readers have some music to catch up on.

Using as many of your category answers that you can, write a synopsis for a quirky picture book. And….wait for it.

Please tell us about your latest projects!

JF:  One Winter Solstice, Xanthipe, a quirky green kiwi, and Hermes, a terrific palm civet cat, were toilet papering Niles the Bengal tiger’s house when he began throwing candy corn at their eyeballs. Fortunately, Hermes had watched High School Musical 2 and knew how to swing dance and avoid getting hit. Unfortunately, Xanthipe had been lying about knowing how to swing dance and was allergic Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” which was the only song Hermes knew how to sing. Will Hermes be able to teach Xanthipe to swing dance before their eyeballs explode from being hit by too many of Niles’ candy corn? Find out in POOP! and Linkin Twinkie-ing: A Winter Solstice Adventure written by Professor Snape and illustrated by Shirley Temple.

So 2018 is looking like a very busy year for me as I’ll have four books out between 5.1 and 9.4.

albie newton ALBIE NEWTON (Sterling, 5.1.18), illustrated by Ester Garay is about smart and creative boy who starts school, but doesn’t really have all the social skills down yet.

HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (Viking/Penguin, 6.5.18), illustrated by Sara Palacios is being published in partnership _How to Code a Sandcastlewith Girls Who Code – and I couldn’t be more excited about this one! Pearl and her robot, Pascal, use fundamental coding concepts to construct a perfect beach day.


LOST IN THE LIBRARY: A STORY OF PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE (Macmillan, 8.28.18), illustrated by Stevie Lewis is about Patience and Fortitude, the two  lion statues that faithfully guard the New York Public Library (in fact, this book is published in partnership with the NYPL).

_Mission Defrostable Coming Soon   MISSION DEFROSTABLE (Sterling, 9.4.18) will be the 3rd book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series. In this action-packed adventure, the fridge is freezing over – and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have to travel to parts of the fridge they’ve never ventured … and need to enlist the help of one of their fiercest rivals.

Thank you so much for inviting me to play your ABC’s game. This was truly one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever participated in (no offense to every other interview I’ve done).

ME:   Wow! Thank you Josh. This has been a terrific interview and game edition. And thank you too for being a contestant. 2018 is going to be a great year!

I feel you may have to be Professor Snape’s ghost writer because now I believe we all NEED to read that book after that hilarious synopsis!   😊

Readers, thank you for stopping by today! To learn more about Josh, please check out his bio below.


Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books – such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stench and the upcoming Mission: Defrostable), It’s Not Jack and the BeanstalkDear DragonPirasaurs!, and the forthcoming Albie NewtonHow to Code a Sandcastle (in conjunction with Girls Who Code), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in conjunction with the New York Public Library), It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and more coming soon!

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more about Josh at and on twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

#justkeepreading #justkeepreading






With Editor and Kidlit Mentor, Laura Backes

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today our ABC Game contestant is the founder and publisher of CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER: THE CHILDREN’S WRITING MONTHLY, Laura Backes! Laura Backes

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.

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

Below is Laura’s list of categories with her answers from off the top of her head.


BODY OF WATER:  Moosehead Lake, Maine

CANDY:  Tootsie Rolls

DECADE:  1960’s

EVERY CHILD…:  Deserves unconditional love

FISH:  Salmon

GAME:  Balderdash

HAPPINESS IS…:  Good beer, good friends, a sunny day 🙂

INVENTION:  Post-It Notes

JUNK FOOD:   Potato chips

KNOW HOW TO:  Swim and drive


METAL:  copper

NUMBER (FAVORITE & WHY):  16. It’s my birthday, and Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President


PASTIME:  hiking


RANDOM THOUGHT:  I watched a pig race yesterday!


TREE:   blue spruce

UNUSUAL COLOR: glaucous (look it up!)     

VILLAIN:  Snidely Whiplash (best villain name ever!)

WISH:  That people would stop seeing the differences between us and start seeing how we’re all in this together.

XANADU FOR YOU:  The patio at the Lucky 13 bar in San Francisco (do you see a beer theme here?)

YELLOW THINGS:  Sunflowers and Blackeyed Susans at dawn

ZOO:  The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg, CO (no cages!)


ME:   Welcome Laura! You have a titanic presence in the world of children’s book writing and I am so happy you took time out of your crazy-busy schedule to play this ABC game. Knowing how to swim and drive are titanic achievements. Doing them at the same time would require tremendous skill and ingenuity. Writing children’s books requires the children's book insidersame skill level. You have made it your mission to help us children’s authors hone these skills. Not only are you the editor and publisher of both CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER, THE CHILDREN’S WRITING MONTHLY, but along with your husband, Jon Bard, you have created the WRITING BLUEPRINTS series for us children’s writers.

And you are one of the founders of PICTURE BOOK SUMMIT.  picture book summit 

I not only subscribe to Children’s Book Insider, was a 2017 Summiteer, but I also have the Picture Book Blueprint and the Middle Grade/Young Adult Blueprint as well. Both are a tremendous help to me with my organizing while writing since I use them as a game to help me win the prize: finish a story I am proud to tell. How did you and Jon come up with Blueprints?

LB: Traci, thanks so much for being such a loyal customer! We came up with the Writing Blueprints concept about two years ago when we started seeing a lot of comments from our subscribers along the lines of, “I know you have a lot of great information about writing in your newsletter and on the CBI Clubhouse [the membership site that comes with the newsletter subscription], but I don’t know where to start.” We realized that, in collecting and presenting over 25 years’ worth of content on writing for children, we’d been guilty of the same thing as a lot of other writing sites: simply dumping information on our readers and expecting them to sort out what they needed to know at each point in their journey. With the Blueprints, we break down the writing process into small, manageable steps. We start with gathering your ideas, and walk you through developing one idea into a finished, polished manuscript. With each step, we give you just the information you need at that point, and guide you through working on that step before moving to the next one. Each step features a video with an instructor, and a fillable worksheet; you’re learning how to write as you’re writing your manuscript. We’ve simplified the process and gotten rid of the clutter. And to top it off, our instruction comes from dissecting the best published books from each age group, and showing you how to incorporate the DNA of those books into your own story. 

The Blueprint concept has been so well-received that we’ve used it in Self-Publishing Blueprint (taking authors step-by-step through the self-publishing process), and our upcoming Magazine Writing Blueprint and Submissions Blueprint (both out in 2018). In December 2017 we’ll be launching Manuscript Magic, which uses a similar step-by-step approach to edit your work-in-progress on the story level, scene level and sentence level. 

ME:   As I said earlier, I love the blueprints! I will be watching for the Manuscript Magic in December then. 😊

Two of your answers are on the opposite sides of the United States: Moosehead Lake, Maine & Lucky 13 Bar in San Francisco. Is it safe to assume that both places have good beer, good friends and a sunny day in common? And what can you tell us about each place?

LB: Yes, each place holds great memories. Moosehead Lake, Maine is where Jon and I used to go camping each summer when we lived in New York. This is before we got married and moved to Colorado (which is where I’m from), and it was Jon’s first experience with camping, hiking and the mountains. It’s a beautiful spot that I’d love to get back to one day. But I don’t miss the mosquitoes! We’re lucky to have far fewer of them in the dryer Rocky Mountains.

Lucky 13 is our favorite hangout in San Francisco, which is our favorite US city. We get there as often as possible. We spent a month in San Francisco two years ago with our son, who also loves it there. We’d live there in a second if we could figure out how to afford it. The patio at Lucky 13 is always full of friendly, eccentric locals who are happy to share a drink and tell you their story. And everyone brings their dog, which is always a plus in my book.     

ME:  Lucky 13 sounds like my kind of place; especially since they allow dogs. I snorted, (caused from laughing and drinking water at the same time) when I read your random thought answer. So….were you at home when you watched the pig race?

LB: No, sadly, I don’t have pigs running around my backyard. 🙂 I took my mom to a Harvest Festival at a big farm just north of us, and one of the festivities was pig racing. It’s just as cute and silly as it sounds.  

ME:  My family and I have watched the pig races at our State Fair. They are fun to watch. Snidely Whiplash may not think so, but I do. Wow! I had forgotten all about him and Dudley Do-Right. Snidely did have the best villain name ever. Do you think he lived up to it? 😀

LB: When I was a kid, my brothers and I spent Saturday mornings with bowls of Fruit Loops in front of the TV, watching The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Pink Panther, Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussycats. But Rocky and Bullwinkle was my favorite; it was like getting several shows in one, with segments with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and Dudley Do-Right and Snidely Whiplash. The Dudley/Snidely snidely whiplash train trackscharacters were such stereotypical good/bad archetypes, but I think in a way they taught me about the roles of protagonist/antagonist in stories. And yes, Snidely lived up to his name. How could he not, when he tied poor Nell Fenwick to the railroad tracks in each opening segment?

[photo credit:]

ME:   Those cartoons were the best. You can’t go wrong with the original Scooby-Doo toons. Knowing your dogs make you laugh, is endearing to me. I love dogs and animals in general. They have such insight to the world around them. You wrote The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg, CO (no cages!) as your zoo answer. I just added it to my bucket list to visit! Please tell us more about this wonderful place.

LB: The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a labor of love from one generous family, who donated over 300 acres of land to create a safe place for rescued wild animals to live out their lives as happily as possible. They take in animals from all over the world from circuses, private owners, and even zoos that have closed down. Lions, tigers, bears, cheetahs, wolves, and other animals live there in large open habitats that are built to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. bears WAS The Sanctuary WAS walkway   has a big educational visitor center and miles of elevated walkways so visitors can observe the animals without disturbing them. And it’s all been built by volunteers and privately funded! The bears are my favorite. I love watching them hang out in their cistern “hot tubs” and play on the tire swings. Last Christmas I adopted a bear named Trouble.  [photo credits:]

ME:   Adopting a bear named Trouble is a brilliant story idea. I hope you are writing it! Using as many of your answers as possible, write a fun synopsis of a children’s book. (any genre in kidlit).

LB: Snidely Whiplash plans to defend his title of Moosehead Lake’s fastest pig in the yearly Tootsie Roll festival, until Lucky 13 shows up. Creating a titanic diversion of potato chips and Post-It notes full of balderdash, Lucky 13 steers Snidely Whiplash off course and wins the grand prize: a smooch from Sunflower (the Tootsie Roll dog), and a glaucous plum.

Yep, this has Newbery written all over it! 

ME:   OMGoodness, your synopsis has me rolling. I truly believe it would be a winner with kids. Do you think balderdash has a place in children’s writing? If so, to what degree? And if so, what are some of your favorite kidlit books that include balderdash?

LB: In case your readers aren’t familiar with the game Balderdash, it’s a board balderdash gamegame where one person picks a card with real but unbelievable content on it in several categories: People, Words, Initials and Movies. The person then reads one of these facts (such as a weird word) and everyone else has to write up a definition. Then the leader mixes the real definition in with all the made-up ones, and everyone has to guess which is the true definition. You get points on whether you guess right.

But I’m guessing you’re asking about balderdash with a lower-case “b”, meaning nonsensical talk or writing. And yes, there’s certainly a place for that. Dr. Seuss used balderdash in many of his books, creating words to fit his stories and characters (here’s a great post that lists many of them: A.A. Milne created words for his Pooh books, and one of my favorite poems of Milne’s is “Sneezles” from Now We Are Sixnow we are six Both these authors used balderdash brilliantly because even though the words are made up, they make perfect sense within the context of the rest of the text. And they’re fun to say and fun to hear. We need more balderdash in children’s books!

ME:   I have played BALDERDASH, the game. It would be a terrific game to play at writing conferences. And I agree with you about more balderdash writers. Kids and adults need them. Sparks creativity and ingenuity, which helps with problem solving; a necessary skill to have.

Thank you again Laura for being a contestant this week and giving us insight into not only your world but the world around us!

Readers, thank you for stopping by today. I have one last treat for you before you go. If you are interested in writing for children Laura and Jon have a FREE course that may be just what you need to get started. It’s called Dream Launcher. This is the link for it here:

LB:  You can find me at WriteForKids (, where you can also get the free Dream Launcher course. That’s our central hub that links to everything we do, but if you want to go directly to Writing Blueprints you can use Check us out on Facebook at, and Twitter @Write4Kids.

write for kids

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting







ABC Game With MG/YA Author, Jo Knowles

Friday, October 13, 2017

Today is one of the luckiest days of the year. I am not alone in thinking this either.

jo headshot color Our lucky ABC Game contestant today is middle grade and young adult author,  Jo Knowles, who knows how to tap into our emotions with her books.

still a work in progress  read between the lines lessons from a dead girl

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.

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

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


BEATLES SONG:  Revolution


DAY OF WEEK:  Saturday

EVERY CHILD:  Is a gift

FLOWER:  Lilac

GAME:  Catch Phrase



JEWEL:  sea glass

KEEPSAKE:  A little note my son left for me when he was learning to write that says “I love you.” I keep it in my wallet and look at it every so often when I need a hug and it always makes me feel better.

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  Embarrassing confessions (usually my own)

MOVIE:  Princess Bride

NAME AN ‘N’ STATE:  New Hampshire


PARADISE:  Chebeague Island, Maine

QUOTE:  “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall


SPORT:  Ultimate Frisbee

TALENT:  Cat Whisperer

UNUSUAL ANIMAL:  Marcel the Shell with Shoes On      




YEAR AND WHY?:  1999, the year my son was born

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  I sparked a flashmob dance party right before my New England SCBWI speech and got several hundred people dancing to help break the ice and make my speech feel less terrifying, since dancing in front of people is WAY more scary.

jumping off swings #1 Living with Jackie Chan

ME:  Welcome Jo! I have to ask straight away, (asking for a friend 😉) do you belong to Hufflepuff House? 

JK: Yes! My husband (a Gryffindor) is somewhat embarrassed. I don’t really get it.  

ME:  I belong to Hufflepuff too! I think the Gryffindors forget how much value we Hufflepuffs have.

Jane Goodall is one of my idols. Her extensive work with apes, understanding them and connecting with them is a superhuman power. Being a cat whisperer is a not just a talent but a superhuman power as well. With dogs, you can pretty much figure out what they are thinking, but not cats. Are you a cat whisperer? And can you share some cat secrets with us?

JK: Jane Goodall is my idol too. Her life’s mission to do good work is deeply moving and inspiring. As for cat secrets, here’s one: If they want to lick your hand, let them. It means they love you.

 ME:  Good to know! My daughters are allergic to cats so we have never had one but my parents cat licks my hand every time I visit their house. She then proceeds to jump up onto their table and proceeds to show me how gravity works.

JK: Cats are the best even when they’re kind of awful. I’m so sad your daughters are allergic! 

ME:  You have another talent besides writing and being a cat whisperer… Creating a flash mob dance party as an ice breaker! That is an astonishing FEAT! Wish I had been there. May I steal that idea for future use? Was the song you danced to, REVOLUTION by the Beatles?

JK: Haha. Of course you can steal it. The world can always use more music and dancing. We danced to BRAVE, by Sara Bareilles. Being brave was the theme of my talk so it seemed appropriate. I have a lot of social anxiety and public speaking is a huge challenge for me. Luckily I had two extremely supportive SCBWI members, Pam Vaughan and Sera Rivers, who helped coordinate the surprise and set up the music. It was so much fun!

 ME:  BRAVE is an excellent song choice for such events and for anyone who suffers social anxiety. Shout out to you for creating that wonderful ice breaking experience and shout out to Pam Vaughan and Sera Rivers for being spectacular friends! 

About Marcel the Shell with Shoes on…please elaborate.

JK: You can find him here: 

ME:   I had never seen Marcel until you sent me the above link. Imagination at work! Hard not to smile and/or laugh while watching it. 

JK: Right? For years after we saw it my son and I would quote from that video. My faves:

“It would be my pleasure” (said in Marcel’s voice)
“Guess what I wear as a hat? A lentil!”

“Guess what my skis are? Toenails from a man.”
I’m laughing so hard right now. I don’t know why I find this so unbelievably amusing.

ME:   You and I have similar senses of humor. 😊

What about Chebeague Island, Maine, makes it paradise?

JK:  I’ve recently become determined to walk through life recognizing opportunities, no matter how small, and saying yes to them. When you explore Chebegue, you quickly discover that quiet opportunities are around every corner. An inviting lane might lead you to a beach full of sea glass, a pop-up farm stand happens to sell beautiful local art, a rickety porch chair provides, if you sit there long enough, a view of the most breathtaking sunset you’ll see in your lifetime. 

ME:  I am always adding new places on my bucket list of places to visit and now Chebeague Island, Maine is on it. Opportunities come in every size and some of the most memorable come from the smallest.

Do you by chance have a new young adult book in the works titled, EMBARASSING CONFESSIONS?

JK: I think all of my young adult books are embarrassing confessions, if we’re going to be super honest and probably way too personal. But my next book is actually a tween novel with Candlewick Press called “Where the Heart Is” and it comes out in 2019.

ME:  Yay!!! A new book! Please tell us about WHERE THE HEART IS!

JK:  Where The Heart Is is about a 13-year-old girl named Rachel whose family is in financial crisis. To help out, she gets a job taking care of her new neighbors’ farm animals, including a mean pig named Lucy. In real life, I also took care of a very mean pig when I was 13. Her name was Caroline. She has the same fate as Lucy and the same character traits. Rachel’s best friend is a boy who would like to be more than friends, but Rachel is struggling with crushes and her own sexual identity, which threatens to end their friendship. I think if readers liked See You At Harry’s, they will find a lot to like in Where the Heart is. At least, I sure hope so! 

ME: If you were to write a story using as many of your category answers as possible, what answers would you use?

JK: Gosh, I’m pretty sure I could use all of them! No problem! Who wouldn’t want to read about an astonishing cat whispering shell with shoes on who plays ultimate Frisbee with Xena and the Hufflepuff House? 

ME:  I would definitely read it!

Jo, thank you being a contestant on today’s edition of ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we readers did! I look forward to your next book coming out in 2019.

JK: Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun. I love your blog!

ME:  Makes me happy you are a part of it, Jo. 😊

Readers, if you would like to follow Jo or learn more about her and her books, you can find her on the following: 

Social stuff:

Web site:

Facebook: Jo Knowles

Twitter: JoKnowles

Instagram: JoKnowlesAuthor

Tumblr: Things We Put on Fred

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

If you love to write, here’s my motto:

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting













Teresa photo (2) 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. Which is why I thought up my ABC game.

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!

Our ABC game contestant today is author and illustrator, Teresa Robeson, known for her work in Babybug and Ladybug magazines and in anthologies. She is also newly repped by the wonderfuL, Natascha Morris of Book Ends Literary Agency!

  centauri station  In a land far away  out of timestill out of time


Below is Teresa’s game sheet:


BREAKFAST CHOICE: toasted homemade bread

COLOR: vermillion

DOG BREED: English Shepherd

EVERY CHILD: should be wanted and have a roof over their head and food in their belly

FLOWER: peonies

GENRE (MUSIC): classic and alternative rock

HOBBY: too many to list!




LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU): Galaxy Quest, The Great British Baking Show, Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (I’m a little obsessed with galaxies and British things, it would appear)

MOST LIKELY TO: stay home

NAME A BOYS & A GIRLS NAME STARTING W/ ‘N’: Narcissus, the Greek youth of myth who was so handsome, he fell in love with himself


PLANET: Uranus…it’s an enigma

Q WORD: quokka

ROUND THINGS: Van de Graaff generators


TOOL: tweezers

UNUSUAL COMBINATION: Vegemite in a cream cheese and lox bagel (a friend did that!)                                 

VISIBLE FROM YOUR WINDOW: lots of wildlife; we once saw coyotes take down a deer

WISH: for everyone to be nice to each other

X-RAYED (HAVE YOU EVER BEEN): yes; I once had a slipped tendon in my distal phalanges that the doctor x-rayed

YEAR (FAVORITE & WHY): 1986…road trip through Europe with girlfriends + met hubby the same year

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: besides the 1986 road trip? hmmm, maybe take up ballroom dancing? I’m really very boring

ME:   A friend from work told me repeatedly, ‘Boredom is a state of mind’ and from reading your answers and seeing your wonderful sense of humor,  you are definitively not boring. 😊 How can you be boring when you have too many hobbies to list! And you’ve piqued our interest. About that 1986 road trip….How much influence on your life today did that trip have? You said you met your hubby in 1986 as well. Did you meet him in Europe?

TR: Oh, I’m never bored, but overall I think I have a boring life because I don’t go out a lot and don’t do anything truly fascinating such as studying microscopic life forms in oceanic thermal vents. LOL! That road trip was wonderful in so many ways…I met nice people, sampled lots of foods from different countries, discovered that the Parthenon really is as incredible as in photos, and learned how to say “thank you” in several different languages. I don’t know that it had a huge influence on my life today but it does hold a lot of happy memories, which is worth something. Also, I learned that I can travel/get by with very little. I lived off of one tiny suitcase and a tote for about 6 weeks. 

I didn’t meet hubby in Europe but at my alma mater after the trip. I went back to university to study climatology and he was a grad student in the department at the time. 

ME:   Happy memories are priceless. And, you learned how to say thank you in many languages, that is a useful skill to have! It can be useful when you are advocating for animals. I am so happy you listed pika as your animal. They are adorable and now also a symbol of the global warming environment which is not a great honor to have. They are on the endangered species list because of global warming.  I feel like I have seen a drawing of one by you. If I am correct, will you share it with us? And how did pika come to your mind when you read the animal category?

PikaLarge  Pikainkdrawing

TR: I worked on a story about pikas for a while, doing a bunch of drawings and paintings of them. I was really immersed in it so even though I’ve not been back to it for about a year, I still think of them a lot. Besides, how cute are they? It really is sad that they’re endangered.

 ME:  I knew I had seen an illustration of a pika from you! Your illustrations of them are adorable! You have captured their essence. I think you have a great story in the making about them. 😊

If you wrote a wonderfully goofy story using answers from your category sheet, what would the synopsis be?

TR: An English Shepherd who left no (classic) rock unturned discovers a beautiful peonies patch tended by pikas, and helps the timid rodents defend the patch from the bossy quokkas who move into the neighborhood. 

ME:  You have to write that story! I will definitely read it. I love that you have the quokkas included.

I had to look up your electrifying ‘Round things’ answer which generated an immense guffaw from me. Demonstrations with the Van de Graaff generator are one of the popular exhibits at the science museum near us. Do you by chance own one? If not, what is your experience with a Van de Graaff generator?

TR: I wish I owned one! I’ve always been fascinated by those things, partly because my dad was an electrician/electrical engineer, and partly because I love science.  

ME:  They are the coolest! Maybe the quokkas (did you want the word “will” in here, Traci?) bring one with them when they invade the pikas peony patch. Quokkas are known to be crafty like that. As well being touted as ‘ The Happiest Animal in the World’. 

When playing the ABC game listing an animal for every letter, having a ‘q’ animal is an immense treasure to have in your animal queue. I have noticed in your drawings you share on FB that the animals are usually happy and always adorable. Do you have favorite animals you like to draw?

sleepy squirrel Girl and squirrel

TR: I don’t know that I have a favorite animal to draw, but I find that I come back to a handful of animals a lot: mice (usually for doodling), squirrels, cats, and penguins. I don’t know what it says about me. LOL!

Girl and mouse Chin Strap penguins

 ME:   I think it says, those animals have captured your heart which shows in your style. Yuko Shimizu’s illustration style is vivid and full of raw emotion. Your style is softer but filled with raw emotion as well. Both are fantastic! Since her name was the first that came to your mind when you read the ‘illustrator’ category, will you expand on your style and why you chose her for your answer?

TR: I don’t feel like I really have a style yet. I tend to drift toward realism, coming from a fine arts angle, so I’ve had to work hard to make my art more whimsical in learning how to be an illustrator. I thought immediately of Yuko Shimizu with the “illustrator” prompt because when I took a Midsouth SCBWI workshop with art director Giuseppe Castellano a few years ago, he said my ink drawings reminded him a little of her style. He said to look up her work. Since then, I’ve taken two Skillshare classes taught by Ms. Shimizu and continue to admire her work greatly. This is one of the pieces Giuseppe looked at that made him recommend Ms. Shimizu to me.  

ME:   He made a good choice! girl and Chinese checkers

Back to your hobbies…you have a blog, ONE GOOD THING, which is your 365-Day Project. Please show and tell us about that.

TR: My One Good Thing blog started out as “What’s For Dinner” where I tried to post a photo of my dinner every night for a year. I loved the idea of the discipline a 365-blog trains you to have but I find that I miss up to 100 days each year for various reasons. After a year of dinner pictures, I decided to switch to posting one good thing a day, anything good at all…sometimes it’ll be my handmade soaps or one of my knitted or crocheted projects or something I baked. Then, it morphed into mostly one piece of art a day. It’s at if anyone wants to check it out. Or, if you’re an Instagram person, I mostly post the same things there as @tmrobeson . If you don’t do either blogs or IG, I cross-post to my Twitter account at @teresarobeson and also my Facebook author page at

ME:  Teresa, your creativity and inspiration abound with your posts. You spark imaginations everyday with them so keep them coming! And you have discipline which is not always easy to maintain. It is really hard to offer something new 365-366 days a year so I commend you for having the discipline to keep at it on your blog and inspiring us.

And…congratulations on being the 2017 mentee to mentor Jane Yolen for We Need Diverse Books Mentorship program!

Thank you for being a contestant on ABC’s OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD!

You have given us so much to smile about as we head into the weekend. 😊

Thank you readers for stopping by. Have an immensely wonderful weekend! May this post inspire your creativity.

Again, You can find out more about Teresa at:

Twitter: @teresarobeson


Instagram: @tmrobeson


#justkeepwriting #justkeepcreating



Cucurbit Creative Activities for Fall

October 4, 2017 Word of the Day post cucurbit

cucurbit – noun


1.   a gourd.
2.   any plant of the gourd family.
3.   Chemistry. the gourd-                                                        shaped portion of an alembic, a vessel formerly used in distilling.
Autumn activities abound in the world of art. Creativity thrives. Especially in October.
Mother Nature has given us plenty to be creative with both in culinary and decoration. A favorite natural resource for fall is the cucurbit; and there are plenty varieties to choose from.
Consider these bulbous wonders as you plan fun things to do with your family or friends.
Here are some helpful websites to give you ideas or even offer instructions.
Happy cooking and crafting in and out of the kitchen!


pumpkin tomato basil meatballsacornsquashcookies1cmp1
 gourd faces
                                                             [photo credit:]


ABC Game With Picture Book Author, Pat Zietlow Miller

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. Which is why I thought up my ABC game. Pat Zietlow Miller

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 their head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I asked 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!

Our ABC game contestant today is picture book author and three-time Crystal Kite Award Winner, Pat Zietlow Miller.

the quicket kid    wherever you go    sophies squash

Below is her category game sheet:    


BERRY:      JAMBERRY by Bruce Degen


DAY OF THE WEEK:      MONDAY IS ONE DAY by Arthur Levine

EVERY CHILD:     BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon


GAME:                    THE SOCCER FENCE by Phil Bildner



JAMMING SONG: A YOU’RE ADORABLE by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise and Sidney Lippman

KITCHEN UTENSIL:      SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal






‘Q’ WORD:         THE QUIET BOOK by Deborah Underwood

RHYMING WORDS:       MOO, BAA, LA, LA, LA by Sandra Boynton


TREE:       A TREE FOR EMMY by Mary Ann Rodman


VIRTUE:           BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller

WISH:             TINY RABBIT’S BIG WISH by Margarita Engle


YELLOW:           MY COLD PLUM LEMON PIE BLUESY MOOD by Tameka Fryer Brown


 ME:  Welcome Pat! I have had the privilege and honor of meeting you in our SCBWI-Wisconsin Conferences. During those, you gave incredibly insightful presentations on tenacity in this business and what works while revising. You also gave us a list of mentor texts to read and study. You know your picture books! Which is why I was delighted that you wrote a picture book title to match every category on the list I gave you. 😊 How many picture books do you read in a given period?

PZM:   I read A LOT of picture books. I’ve loved the format for as long as I can remember. They are a work of art and a perfectly packaged present. Every year, I think I should keep some sort of a spreadsheet so I can track what I read, but I’ve never actually done it. I’ve always got picture books on reserve at my library, and I pick them up and read them in batches. When I’m in bookstores, I’m always in the children’s section browsing to see what’s new. I read middle grade and young adult books too, with the occasional adult nonfiction title thrown in. But, as a T-shirt I own says: “Picture books are my jam.” 

ME: is a magnificent resource to keep track of the books you have read. I am terrible with spreadsheets so I use it to help me remember mentor texts, like ‘Jamberry’ which you wrote as one of your answers. I think you should update your T-shirt to say, “Picture books are my JAMBERRY”.

Author/illustrator, Kelly Light, found a way to instill a love of art through her picture books. She encourages readers to try art out and love it for what it is. Do you ever draw out your stories while you are revising?

PZM:   Alas, I do not. The only artistic ability I have is how I put words together. I usually don’t even see pictures in my head when I write. To me it’s all about the words on the page. How do they look next to each other? How do they sound next to each other? Do they flow smoothly? Do they make me feel something? 

ME:   Your ‘only’ artistic ability, is an art form of extraordinary measure! Your stories roll off the tongue conveying whatever emotion the story emits. I have listened your books being read to children at our public library; the children were entranced. In fact, the last time I listened in on a book reading was a Monday! I thought it was the perfect way to kick off a work week. But Mondays are often touted as the most dreaded day of the week. What is your perspective on this?

PZM: I once read that you only dread Mondays if you are doing something you don’t love. And there are times in my life that’s been true for me. But now, I usually don’t dread Mondays unless I have a specific reason to – like scheduled dental work or car maintenance. 

ME:  Ugh…dental work! That’s something I’m not a fan of. However, I am a fan of all things positive which brings me to my next question.  

I am not familiar with the alphabet book, A, YOU’RE ADORABLE, so I have added it to my #mustread list. The title alone oozes positivity. Will you tell us about this book?

PZM: This is a book based on a very sweet song. I used to sing this song to my daughters when they were small. If you want to see the Sesame Street version of the song, check out this video. 

ME:   Thank you for sharing the video Pat! I don’t know how I missed this song when my children were little; the song is adorable (so are the Muppets 😊). It’s a great song to have stuck in my mind. 😊 THE QUIET BOOK is a magnificent picture book to calm oneself and have stuck in your head as well. Where do you read your quiet books?

PZM: In a big chair-and-a-half in my house with a cat on my lap. Or sitting on the floor in the library without a cat. 

ME:  Sounds perfectly cozy! 

Tiny Rabbit has a big wish. What’s yours?

PZM: My wish is that, as people, we would look on each other with love – whether we initially seem to have things in common or not. I know this is a big wish, but I think we’re up to the task.

 ME:  Your wish is not only beautiful but doable as well. It just takes one person to start a wave, which you just did. I believe we readers can help make your wish come kind

One of your virtues is kindness. Your picture book, BE KIND, comes out February 2018. This is exciting! Please tell us about this book and any other projects you are working on.

PZM: BE KIND relates to the wish I described in the previous question. It’s about all the ways we can be kind to each other and how each act of kindness – no matter how small – has the potential to make a difference. I love this book, because it depicts the kind of world I’d like to live in.

I have another book called WIDE-AWAKE BEAR coming out in January of 2018. It’s about a bear cub who wakes up in the middle of winter and just can’t fall back wide awake bear asleep. It’s a great bedtime book – for not-so-sleepy children and their tired parents.

ME:  I love that world you created in BE KIND. I want to live in that world too! When BE KIND comes out, may it kick off a movement with MAGNANIMOUS effort to make our world more kind. 

You gave me a sneak peek at WIDE-AWAKE BEAR and I fell in love with the dreamy text and illustrations. Parents will have to add it to their bedtime story collection! 

Thank you, Pat, for being a contestant and letting us into your world. You have given us a magnificent start to our Friday! Which social media outlets and websites can readers find you on or learn about/buy your books from?

PZM: Thanks for having me on your blog. You can find me on:

And thank you readers for playing along today. I hope you check out all of the books Pat listed as well as her own. Nothing beats reading a good book!

May you all have a magnificent weekend! 

p.s. Can you name other awards Pat has received for her books? You may find out on her blog or website. wink emoji





Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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