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






ABC Game With Picture Book Author Jamie A. Swenson

Jamie Swenson

September 22, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. Which is how 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 Jamie A. Swenson, author of big hit picture books,

Big Rig               Boom Boom Boom  If you were a dog

Below is Jamie’s ABC Game sheet.

Author:  Ann Bausum

Bird:  Roller Pigeon

Color:  Purple

Day of the Week:  Monday

Exercise:  Hiking

Flower:  Daisy

Game:  hopscotch

Holiday:  Halloween

Ice Cream:  Chocolate

Jellybeans are:  hideous (except for licorice/black jellybeans and some brands of red)

Know how to:  accept personal faults and work to change them

Liquid:  water

Month:  October

Non-fiction Book:  The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum

Onomatopoeia Word:  Arrrrroooooooo!

Prince:  Purple Rain

Quote:  “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Reptile:  Leonardo DiGeckeo (our Leopard Gecko)

Synonym for great:  Fantabulous

Television Show:  Northern Exposure

Unusual Animal:  Axolotl

Vacation Spot:  Sanibel Island, FL

Weather Term:  Turbulence

X Word:  Xylophone

Year and Why it’s important:  1986 – I met my husband

Zodiac sign:  Scorpio


ME: Welcome Jamie! As I read your answers, I smiled, I laughed, and I paused as I pondered them. In times of turbulence, author A. A. Milne, knew how to lighten our hearts. “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

I agree with Pooh. We all know how much he loves lunch, breakfast, dinner, snack time, any time he can eat honey. What is your favorite food indulgence?

JS: Easy answer – peanut butter toast. I often take a pb toast break midmorning, or midafternoon, or midnight…

ME: Great choice!

Besides being a fantabulous picture book author, you are also a fantabulous children’s librarian. You know your children’s books! You named Ann Bausum in both the author and Non-fiction category of the game. Can you give us a brief description of her book, THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR and how that title came to mind?

JS: Ann Bausum is one of my author heroes. She is the type of writer who, when faced with a challenge, not only doesn’t back down – she may help change the world so other people do not need to face that same challenge. In today’s world, I can’t help to have Ann’s amazing civil rights books on my mind. THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR covers events surrounding James Meredith’s peaceful march protest in 1966 through Mississippi that resulted not only in Meredith being shot (he lived), but planted and watered the seeds of many of today’s movements. While the book highlights our history, read without context, one might believe it was about current events. I firmly believe that we must understand our past if we are to learn from it and make the world better for everyone.

ME: I just added THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR to my mustread list. Thank you for the recommendation.

You gave me a research opportunity (YAY!). I was not familiar with the breed of roller pigeons so I looked them up. They are a domesticated breed of pigeons that are raised and sold for their ability to tumble and roll in the air. roller pigeon

[Photo credit: ‘Birmingham Roller Pigeon’.]

I am intrigued with this new knowledge. What else can you tell us about them?

JS: I can tell you they are messy eaters – seeds everywhere – as they pick through for just their favorites, my word. They are also funny, affectionate, mischievous and bold. Our birds were rescues – they never did any racing – and will one day go back to live with my college-aged daughter (I’m just the babysitter!).

ME; Wow! Lucky birds. Speaking of unique/unusual animals, you named axolotl.  Not only are they adorable and the cheeriest small aquatic animal, they are on the critically endangered list. Is there a specific reason axolotl came to mind so fast?

axolotl                                        [photo credit:]

JS: Both of my girls have dedicated their lives to animal/environmental education, welfare, and rehabilitation. Axolotls are endangered – as are many, many other amazing animals that we simply don’t think about very often. As an animal educator, my older daughter has, on occasion, cared for unusual creatures in our home. When this happens, I learn A LOT about their well-being, what it truly takes to care for them, and what we can do to help them out so they can remain in their own habitats. Namely – we need to help preserve their environments so they can continue to live in the world – instead of only in zoos or wildlife care centers – or history books. That’s why I picked axolotl. Someday I’ll tell you about the turkey vulture that spent the afternoon in my front hall while waiting to be transported to a rehabilitation facility …

ME:  Name the day for story time about the turkey vulture. 😊

You and your family inspire us. We need more people like you and your daughters in the world who care about the animals and keeping them around for the benefit of the earth, not the benefit of humans so much. Zoos and wildlife care centers are fine for short term but I believe like you do that animals belong in their natural environment. Humans need to cease taking over every piece of land.

We are fast approaching October, which coincides with three of your answers:




Are you a Scorpio and are Halloween and October favorites for you in their categories? If so, what about them makes them your favorite? (p.s. My zodiac sign is Scorpio).

JS: I am an October baby. My birthday is close to Halloween – and often my parties included costumes, haunted houses, and lovely fall cakes. As a children’s author and librarian, I spend an awful lot of time talking with parents about the importance of play – not only for children, but for adults as well. Young children thrive when they see their adults having fun – reading, singing, playing – especially around books! October, with its costumes and focus on kids having fun, is a natural tie-in for make-believe and playfulness. While I picked October – I believe in playing year-round. Grin.

ME:  Agreed! Year round playtime is necessary for the mind and spirit. 😊

Two of your answers surprised me and made me grin. You wrote PURPLE RAIN for the PRINCE category and NORTHERN EXPOSURE for the TELEVISION category. You thought outside of the box with your Prince answer. LOVE PURPLE RAIN AND PRINCE!  I think you get two points for that answer. 😊 And not many people would think of NORTHERN EXPOSURE off the top of their heads. Elaine Miles played Marilyn Whirlwind who was my favorite character for her wit and Native American ways. What do you remember about this show?

JS: First off, when you say Prince – I think Purple Rain and the 80s immediately! Those were my middle school years and my friends and I loved Prince so much that we even did an air guitar, lip syncing tribute to him in front of the whole school. This was a huge mistake because none of us had any actual talent. Even our air guitar was terrible. From what I was told immediately following the performance, it was painful to watch (middle schoolers are honest to a fault). In fact, people still ask me if I remember that time I did air guitar to Purple Rain … um… yes… and I sort of wish I didn’t … but hey. We loved Prince!

NORTHERN EXPOSURE was quirky. The music was amazing (I wore my cassette tape soundtrack out) – and the characters were so real (even as they were exaggerated and sometimes mystical things happened to them). That show was packed with these amazing, strong women – Marilyn knew who she was period. Maggie and Ruth Ann made their own ways in the world. Even Shelly – one of the youngest – followed her heart. IN fact, the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska was even founded by some bad-ass women. I was in college watching this crazy show with all these great women characters, and it meant something to me. I still think to myself, “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself” that matters!

ME:  You have more guts than I did in middle school. Regarding NORTHERN EXPOSURE, it ended too soon. But I am happy it had an impact on you… clearly coolness stuck with you.

Geckos are some of the coolest animals around. We would love to hear more about Leonardo DiGeckeo (fantabulous name by the way).

JS:  Leonardo was named during my younger daughter’s Leonardo DiCaprio phase (most of us have had a Leo phase, haven’t we???) Leopard Geckos are the essence of cool, in my opinion, and Leonardo is no exception. Leonardo came to live with us around the time my younger daughter counted the creatures in our house and discovered she was two or three behind her older sister and needed to catch up. I do not mind creatures with two to four legs. Too few legs – it had better be a fish – too many – and it had better stay in its home!

ME:  Yup, anything with more than four legs is not allowed in my home either.

Thank you Jamie for playing this week! In addition to the books mentioned above, you have a big autumn coming up. MEET WOOF & QUACK and WOOF & QUACK IN WINTER both published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) come out!! And in 2018, WINDFALL BALL, published by Carolrhoda, debuts. Please share more about these books here:

meet woof & quack            woof & quack in winter

JS: I’m so excited to be working on an easy reader series with HMH. Woof and Quack are level one readers perfect for those just beginning to read on their own. As a librarian, I have always enjoyed funny easy readers with their gentle humor and just right plots. It’s important to give kids books at their level that they’ll want to read. Humor is often the key to this, so I knew that if I were to write at this level – it would need to be humorous. Then, when I thought about the characters of Woof and Quack in MEET WOOF AND QUACK, I thought about unlikely friends – and how sometimes we make assumptions about new friends and are surprised when we learn more about them. I wanted to take this concept of stereotypes and make it accessible to little people – to help them see that just because we think someone is one way – that doesn’t mean that they ARE that way. Woof is a dog who does not like to fetch things. This surprises Quack. Quack is a duck who loves to fetch – and that surprises Woof. In WOOF AND QUACK IN WINTER I play a little bit with expectation, but also with what it means to have the type of friend who is willing to stay in the cold and snow to be with you instead of flying south to the nice warm weather!

WINDFALL BALL (that’s the current title, but it may change) is basically my ode to autumn (the season I love the most). I have seen some early sketches and can say that the illustrator, Chiara Fedele, brings such beautiful movement into the book with her art – I can’t wait to see the final version and share it with everyone next year!

Thank you for inviting me to play with you, Traci – it was a lot of fun! And, hey, that Purple Rain air guitar thing – you’re not going to tell anyone about that – right??? GRIN.

ME:  Nooooooo, I’m not going to tell anyone. 😉 

Thank you reader for stopping by for this weeks’ edition of ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. If you would like to know more about Jamie, you can find her on:


Facebook :


Have a fantabulous weekend!


#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting




9/11, HARVEY and IRMA

Out of respect for this weeks events including remembering that horrible day on
Sept. 11, 2001 in which over 6,000 people lost their lives to hatred and insanity,


[photo credit:]

and the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I will not be posting my ABC game on Friday.

The newest installment of ABC’s OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD will be instead posted on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Donations for the victims of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma will still be needed for the next several months so please consider donating to the relief funds that best help out these victims. Reliable information about such charity organizations can be found at these links:

Hurricane Harvey Victim Charities

Hurricane Irma Victim Relief

Also, please remember to check each charities credentials as there are hundreds of scam sites out there eager to take your money which benefits only the scammer. Each of the above links tells how to discern which charities are legit.

Bless you all!

Until next week,





With Author/Illustrator Shennen Bersani Shennen Bersani photo

September 8, 2017


Starting last Friday, September 1, 2017 I kicked off my ABC Game. Now every Friday, 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. Topping off their answers will be a peek into their world.

I invite you to play along. Maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today we have illustrator (and recently author too), Shennen Bersani, who has twenty-eight books in print. I am a huge fan of her work so I asked her to play the ABC game with us.

ME:  Shennen, thank you for playing the ABC game with us by filling in the blanks below to each category A-Z.

SB:  Oh Traci, thank you for asking me! The answers just popped out of my head!  Lots of fun, I hope others enjoy my responses.


ARTIST:  Andy Warhol

BERRY:  blueberry

COLOR:  Chartreuse

DESSERT:  Dulce de leche

EVERY CHILD:  should own a well-worn book

FUNNY WORD: shenanigans

GAME:  Twister

HOBBY:  gardening

INSECT:  dragonfly

JAMMING SONG:  BARRACUDA, performed by Heart. It makes me want to sing like I’m 16 again.

KITCHEN UTENSIL:  My essential kitchen appliance, espresso machine.


METAL:  platinum

NUMBER OF BOOKS PUBLISHED:  illustrating #29


PIRATE NAME:  Captain Hook

QUICK, A ‘Q’ WORD:  quick!

RHYMING WORDS: jump, bump, lump, dump, thump


TREE:  mimosa


VIRTUE:  curiosity

WISH:  World Peace

X WORD:  xylophone

YELLOW (SOMETHING):  butterfly

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  Kissed a two-headed snake. Or maybe hanging off a cliff by a branch while I photographed a waterfall in Hawaii. Actually, I’ve got a long list of zany things I’ve done in order to research my books. 

ME: I’ve read many of your illustrated books, my favorites being the animal stories. Your illustrating style is candy for the eyes, I love it! Achoo! I also read your debut author/illustrator book, ACHOO! WHY POLLEN COUNTS. You have a knack with your illustrations in showing us something new. And you carried this knack into your writing with ACHOO! Using that special knack, what is one colossal thing about the pika that you can tell or show us?

SB: climate change is killing them off. the glaciers are melting Pikas have thick fur and require cooler climates for survival. The one I illustrated for ‘The Glaciers are Melting!’ lived high in the mountains of Montana. Sadly,fires in Glacier National Park are threatening their existence. Peter Pika

 ME:  Thank you for bringing attention to this. Climate change is real. Our earth is reacting, but not for the better of all life forms on it.

 Something lighter: BARRACUDA brings back good memories for you. What was your favorite thing about being 16 and do you still sing along with it when you hear it?

SB: Yes, I always sing along once I hear that first riff!  My 16-year-old memories are from summertime, sitting on my dad’s boat, painting watercolors of ocean scenes and sand dunes. shark baby  sharks, big bigger Taking my friends out on my sailboat.   

ME: I’m guessing this is when your love of sharks started. 

Espresso for you just in the morning, or at any time?

SB:  Americanos with a shot of espresso, morning, noon, and night. 🙂Shennen coffee addiction with elephant.JPG



ME:  GHOSTBUSTERS makes you laugh. Me too! But for me, it’s the original; I have yet to watch the remake of it. Do you mean the original, the remake or both?

SB: I haven’t seen the remake, I’m all original.  Many years ago my middle daughter and I met Bill Murray, he was hysterical in person!  I laugh like crazy when I watch the original movie. 

ME:  Lucky duck! Good to know his humor carries off-screen as well as on. 😊   Speaking of humor, when was the last time you played Twister?

SB:  Hahaha. I don’t recall.

ME:  The last time for me was when my daughters were in middle school.

In reading your category answers, three of them stood out for me, your ‘F’, ‘V’ & ‘Z’ category answers. Curiosity is a must have to be a writer and an artist and you are both. Shenanigans is indeed a funny word to say and coincides with your zany list of things you’ve done for your craft. Art in all forms takes guts, ingenuity and creativity. I would say from your answers, that curiosity has fueled some of your shenanigans/experiences. Have you thought of writing a children’s book about them?

SB: Yes, definitely, in a graphic novel format.

ME:  That format is hot right now and keeps growing. I think your graphic novel full of your zany experiences will be a huge hit whether the reader is a graphic novel fan or not. 

Finally, are you able to give one hint about book #29 that you are illustrating?

SB:       hint Shennen Bersani

ME:  Awwwww! This is adorable. I’m already hooked and excited to read this book!!!

But for those who want something new from you now…next week, NIGHT CREEPERS by Linda Stanek and you, published by Arbordale Kids will be released!!!!! night creepers

Thank you for the sneak peek into your world and upcoming projects, Shennen! And for playing the ABC game with us. I hope you had as much fun playing it as I did reading your answers. 

SB:  Thank you Traci. You are doing a great job with your ABC Game, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. You are putting fun into reading!  Sometimes creative people – young and old – face a block in their creative flow.  For budding authors I’d suggest taking the weekly answers and trying to write a story using as many of them as possible.  For budding illustrators I’d suggest creating visual alphabet flash cards using the weekly words as inspiration. It would be great to see how others interpret the weekly words. Maybe posted on FB or Twitter?

ME: Fantastic ideas Shennen! Maybe a future book will be sparked from your list of words. 🙂 Final thoughts?

SB: Looking forward to reading next week’s and future weeks’ game. 

To learn more about Shennen and her books, you can find her at her website and social media:

Twitter: @ShennenBersani



Here are a few more book cover teasers of books Shennen has illustrated.

snakes long longerhome in the cave  once upon an elephant  

To you readers, thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this edition of the ABC Game, ‘ABC’s Off the Top of YOUR HEAD’.

May it inspire you to play it with your friends or just spark your creativity. 

Have a colossal weekend!

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting




Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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