mastermind – noun, verb

[mas-ter-mahynd, mah-ster-]

  1.   noun: A person who plans and organizes something
  2.   verb: to plan and direct (a usually complex project or activity), especially skillfully


Ollie held a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich. Those were Kirby’s favorite. A mastermind of thievery, Kirby put her plan in action.

A tree stood tall between Ollie and Kirby. Kirby hid and watched. Ollie spread mustard on his sandwich, making sure it reached all edges. He carefully replaced the top slice of bread.

Kirby snuck up behind a bird in the yard.

Ollie opened his mouth.


Tweet, tweet! Whizzzz rustle.

Ollie jumped at the sudden movement. He looked up. A leaf directly above his head fluttered toward him.

“Stay off my sandwich, leaf. It’s mine.” Ollie shooed the leaf away and settled back down.

Kirby slunk closer. She had to stop Ollie from eating that ham and Swiss sandwich. Her mouth watered. Drool dripped from her muzzle.

Ollie opened wide and took a dainty bite.

Kirby cocked her head. Such a small bite for such a wide mouth.

“Mmmm. This is the best sandwich ever.” Ollie licked his lips.

A rock lay near. Kirby turned around three times, then kicked the rock right past Ollie, toward the field.

Just as Ollie opened for another bite, the rock tumbled past.

Kirby hid behind the tree.

“Who rolled the rock?” Ollie asked.

The wind whistled in response.

Ollie grunted as he took another bite.

His mouth full, he looked around.

“I wonder where Kirby is?” Ollie said, chewing.

Kirby yipped at the sound of her name. Oops.

Ollie swallowed. “Too bad Kirby isn’t here. I would gladly share my sandwich with her.”

Kirby crawled on all fours toward Ollie. Sneak attack.

Ollie swigged back water from his cup.

Kirby crawled closer. Rustle. Snap.

Ollie set his sandwich down on the wrapper. He stood up and stretched.

This is my chance. Kirby crept.  And crept. Almost there.

Grumble, burp!

Kirby stopped in her tracks.

Ollie sat down. He stretched his legs out in front of him and put his arms behind hid head and lay down. The sandwich lay on the wrapper next to him.

“I just need a couple minutes rest before I finish my sandwich.”

Kirby stood up. She tread softly to Ollie’s other side. She watched him breathe softly, his eyes closed. The sandwich was just ahead, near Ollie’s side.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

Get outta here fly!

Bzzz. Bzzz.

Ollie swatted the air above his face.

Kirby placed her front paws down in front of her, raising her butt in the air.


Ollie swung his arm out, swiping his sandwich high into the sky just as Kirby flew through the air, her mouth open wide.

Success! The sandwich made contact and with one tug, it ripped in half.

“Great effort Kirby!” Ollie laughed. “You know, I always share with you. No need to sneak attack.”

Kirby gulped her half down.

“I suppose you need a drink  now?” Ollie asked.


“Here you go,” Ollie offered Kirby his cup of water. He finished his sandwich while she drank. “I hope you left me a drop.”

Kirby looked up, water dripped from her muzzle.

Ollie looked in his cup. One drop left. He hugged his dog. Kirby nuzzled him back.

“I suppose you want to nap now, huh?” Ollie lay down.

Great idea Ollie! Just like I planned. Kirby nestled into Ollie.

Dreams of their next adventure filled both of their heads.







With Luana Horry, Assistant Editor to Margaret Anastas & Jill Davis of Harper Collins Publishing

 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.

ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. luanaEvery 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!

Woot! Woot! Luana Horry, Assistant Editor to Margaret Anastas and Jill Davis of Harper Collins Publishing is our contestant today!

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


BREAKFAST FOOD:  Coffee (coffee should be a food group all on its own!)

CHORE:  Rearranging books by spine color


EMOTION:  Boredom

FLOWER:  girl?

GAME:  Monopoly

HAPPINESS IS:  Drinking ice cold water

INSECT:  Spiders. Yes, spiders.

JAMMING SONG:  Anything AfroBeat or Motown

KNOW HOW TO:  Eat three Snickers bars and forget it happened

LANGUAGE:  Ebonics

MONSTER:  A feeling of guilt or remorse

NON-FICTION:  W.E.B. DuBois…you da man!

OCCUPATION:  Reading only 20% of the time…

PRINCE:  …was an amazing entertainer, but whenever I think about Prince, I think about really awesome parties. He threw the best ones. 

QUIET PLACE:  The park


SUPERPOWER:  Public speaking

TREE:  Tea tree oil cures everything


VIBRANT COLOR:  Shades of brown

WISH:  Every graphic novel or comic series ever published by IMAGE comics

X (NAME THAT BEGINS WITH):  Xavier (Microsoft Word disagrees that this is a legitimate name, but it also leaves read squiggly marks under my own name, so…I will pretend that this is a name). 

YOGA POSE:  What is the name of the pose where you are completely laying down? “Sleep pose” is probably my favorite and least-practiced pose. 

ZODIAC SIGN:  Sagittarius’s don’t get enough shine.


ME:  Regarding the Snickers, are we talking bite-size, regular or King size bars? Can you apply this know how-to to any other food? I have that same know how-to-ability with almost any chocolate candy. Happy to know I am in good company. 😊


LH:  We’re talking regular size on a normal day, and King size for those days where the minutes feels like hours, and the hours like days. I also eat a lot of chips. It’s not exactly a food (more junk food!) but I can devour a party bag of Lays in about two days.

ME:  Junk food has its place. Another of your out of the box answers is your answer for the MONSTER category… A feeling of guilt or remorse. You are so right. It can eat a person up. Can you give us any book or movie recommendations where this monster is part of the plot?

netflixLH: I am currently binge watching 13 Reasons Why, and I read the book about a week ago. What’s worse than knowing a girl who commits suicide and records all 13 reasons why on a collection of tapes? A kid riding around his neighborhood anxiously listening to those tapes and anticipating feeling guilty and in some way responsible for her death. I felt really sad for Clay. Of course, I felt bad for Hannah, too. But poor Clay…what a load to carry around!

ME:  I bought read 13 REASONS WHY (Kudos to author @jayasherguy) when it first came out 13 reasons whywhich was during my tenure as a high school lunch lady at same high school my daughters attended. They read it then shared it with their friends. It’s a powerful, yet sobering book.  I have not seen the Netflix series yet but I need to binge watch it too!

No need to pretend Xavier is a name, it is! Xavier Cugat is a famous Spanish Band leader and composer. Microsoft Word lacks in name knowledge. Like you, my name is underscored in red often because my name is spelled different. So annoying! Speaking of pretend, what do you think of IF’s, as in Imaginary Friends?

LH: I never had one. But it’s probably because my house was always full of friends (siblings). 

ME:  Lucky!

Prince was an amazing entertainer! Love his music. His hometown in Minnesota still throws parties in his honor like he used to throw for their community. I’ve only seen glimpses of those amazing parties online or television. Have you ever been to one?

LH:  Ha! Of course not. His parties were reserved for Hollywood and music industry royalty. He was a master at getting a bunch of different people of high caliber and great talent into a single room. Gabrielle Union brags about being invited to one in her tell-all We’re Going to Need More Wine. Maybe if I was more creative I would’ve been on the waiting list.

ME:  I believe you just gave me another book to add to my reading list. 😊 Do you have the super power of public speaking?

LH: I do not. But I better get it quick! Editors speak publicly more than you’d think… 

ME:  Ooooo! I believe in you! You have to tap into it. In fact, you were pretty cool and collected at RUCCL 2017.

I have to ask, what cures do you use tea tree oil for?

LH: My hair. It (tea tree oil) smells really strong, but my curls love a good hot tea tree oil treatment every now and then. I have products that smell really yummy in my hair (Cantu) that mask the tea tree smell. 

ME:  Great tip! Thank you for sharing it.

Here’s a chance to amp up your superhuman power of public speaking…If you were in a classroom of children, what would you share with them about W.E.B. DuBois? And is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

LH:  W.E.B. DuBois spoke for some of us, not all of us. I loathe that he’s considered the spokesperson for an entire demographic of people. Also, he and Booker T. Washington were more alike than different. Ideologically, they wanted African Americans to be self-sufficient. How they achieved self-sufficiency is where the two great minds diverged. 

ME:  Well done Luana! I believe you can handle public speaking quite well. And you have sparked my curiosity to learn more. Thank you for spending time with us in playing the ABC Game! 

Readers, thank you for stopping by today! Have a fantastic weekend. 😊








With Children’s Author, Miranda Paul 

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

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with Mirandathe 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 contestant is children’s author, Miranda Paul, known for her variety of picture books from non-fiction to fiction. Here are a few:

Below is a list of categories from A – Z. Off the top of your head, fill in the blank for each category.



COLOR: Blue (specifically, a turquoise/aquamarine shade the color of the sea where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean)


EVERY CHILD: is awesome

FRUIT: mango

GREEN (SOMETHING): scarab beetles

HABITAT: forest with absurdly tall and fragrant pine trees towering over a soft blanket of burnt orange needles 

ILLUSTRATOR: hopefully my future self, but for now – seeing Jason Chin’s amazing illustrations of our upcoming book NINE MONTHS has taken my breath away


KNOW HOW TO: scuba dive

LANDSCAPE FEATURE: rocky crag overlooking water


NONSENSE WORD: Borgles, a name my kids made up for our cat, whose real name is Dog 


PLANET: Risa or Vulcan


RIVER: “River of Dreams” (Billy Joel) blobfish_throws_a_party_cover-624x624


TALL TALE CHARACTER: Slue Foot Sue, but only because that was t


VERB: Chortle

WHISTLE (CAN YOU)…: Amazingly well


YOUNG ADULT BOOK: The Giver by Lois Lowry

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: Recite poetry from inside a crocodile pit (find it on YouTube!)

ME:   Hello Miranda! You are an experienced traveler and have just given me thought to One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul-624x527the contrast in color of water between the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean; their blending of hues creates yours and my oldest daughter’s favorite color. In your travels what other contrasts can you think of that when married, create something wonderful?

MP:   Orange and chocolate. Well, almost anything and chocolate.

 ME:   Ah, a human after my own heart! I love chocolate and you got the almost anything part right. 😉 You named Billy Joels’ RIVER OF DREAMS as your RIVER answer. Stupendous answer and a terrific whistling tune (probably one you have whistled long after you heard the song playing)! The song is uplifting, sharing with us how life really is for everyone, no matter their path. Does this song have a special meaning for you and if so, why?

MP:   Middle school was especially rough for me. But once a week, in my school’s sad excuse for a music room—the attic, with carpet and a dry-erase board—Ms. Thomas would play a pop song of the week. Remember, this is pre-cell phones and iPods, and while some of us owned cassette-tape Walkmans, they weren’t allowed during school. Songs like Billy Joel’s River of Dreams offered me a 4-minute escape from the harsh realities of seventh grade. I’ve loved Billy Joel since! 

ME:   The cassette tape Walkmans were the best! Much easier than carrying a boombox on your shoulder. Billy Joel has been a favorite of mine since junior high years too. Like Billy Joel, Greek Mythology offers many life lessons. Please tell us more about the mythical creatures, THE FATES.

MP:   Specifically, when I mentioned them, I was referring to the Fates as depicted in the Disney movie, Hercules. They speak in verse and it’s hilarious. They’re like the three stooges.

ME:   Wow! I had forgotten about that movie. The Fates were hilarious in that! Now I have to rewatch HERCULES😊.  I have to admit, your zaniest thing you have ever done, tops every zany thing I have ever done. How safe were you in the crocodile pit while you read? Was this a place you visited often while you lived in Gambia? And, were you crocodilerelieved to get out of the crocodile pit or a little sad you had to go?

MP:   There was a biologist waiting right off screen. And, to ease your anxiety, it wasn’t the first time I had visited this crocodile pool nor touched one of these giants. I was a little relieved not to have to sit with my back to them once filming was over, but I’m an animal person so I don’t mind staying all day at places like Kachikaly.

ME:   Me too, I can watch and be around animals for hours. Both of the names for your cat make me smile. How did both names come about? Borgles is a unique name!

paul_family_redbrickMP:   My cat was named Dog (Doggy) by my son when he was 2. As for their nickname for him, who knows? Kids will be kids—especially mine. If you care to know, we have three more cats and their names are: Nico, Bat, and Stormee Patience. 

ME:   Kids are the best! Those are cool names for cats. They are lucky to have a loving family to care for them. 😊 Great family photo btw!

Blobfish are mysterious, and rightfully so since they live in the deep waters of the oceans. Therefore, one would not expect to see a blobfish while scuba diving. What are your favorite finds while scuba diving and where?

MP:   A couple weeks ago I was snorkeling in Saint Lucia, and my daughter and I saw a massive crab. I of course, pictured buttered crab legs. Just kidding. Sort of.  

Dolphins are my favorite, but you don’t have to dive to see those. When underwater now I think it’s fun to find both Nemo and Dory. 

ME:   Someone likes seafood, not just seeing food underwater. Who can find Nemo or
Dory first, you or your daughter?

Using as many of your category answers as possible, please write a synopsis for a children’s story. (You have a plethora of stories within your answers right now, that I am even more excited to read your upcoming books.) And what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

MP:   Uh…I got nothing. A scarab beetle on a quest for the ripest mango? That’s adventures_to_school_WebRes-300x227terrible, but my upcoming projects are not! In May, I’ve got a co-authored book called ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL out with my husband, Baptiste Paul. And this fall I’ve got a really sweet book called MIA MOVES OUT coming from Knopf Children’s. I’m super excited for a book that comes out early next year called NINE MONTHS. It’s illustrated by Jason Chin and captures both the wonder and the science of a baby as it develops in the womb. I already know the art will be stunning.

Thanks for having me! 

ME:  Short and sweet works for me for a synopsis. I can visualize the journey the scarab beetle is on in its’ quest for the ripest mango. That said,  I am really excited about your upcoming projects that you describe!!! MIA MOVES OUT reminds of when a child threatens to run away when they feel the consequences of their actions are unjust and how that could play out. And… I love Jason Chin’s work.

Congratulations to you and your fellow picture book author, husband Baptiste Paul, on your new book coming out!!

Readers, you can learn more about Miranda, and order her books, including her new May release book at

Here are other books by Miranda:

You can connect with Miranda on these social media outlets:

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us Miranda!

And thank you Readers for stopping by!

Have a stupendous weekend!

Common Rejections and What They Mean

‘Embedded’ in this article from Tara Lazar, is reassurance and hope for all writers. A definite mustread. @taralazar

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

rejectedYou’re a lovely person. Simply charming. I mean that, I really do. You read my blog and leave nice comments and buy my books and write like you can’t go wrong. But I have to tell you:

“It’s not you. It’s me.”

In short, that’s what a literary rejection means. It’s not about YOU. Remember, YOU are lovely! It’s about the editor and whether the proposed project fits with her taste and imprint list.

Subjective, it’s all subjective! One editor’s rejection is another editor’s next book!

But editors and agents often provide writers with rejection statements that we want to understand. We feel the need to analyze, to determine what we can do better. But don’t over-analyze. Sometimes a rejection is just a way of saying “no, it’s not for me.”

Here is a list of common rejections heard by picture book writers (and other writers), plus an interpretation of what…

View original post 1,213 more words


Today’s word of the day selection is from Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

synchronicity – noun sing-kruh-NISS-uh-tee


1 : the quality or fact of being synchronous

2 : the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality — used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung


Synchronicity of two psychic events is a common theme in my young adult writing. Some day in the next few years, one of my thriller, synchronistic, YA books will be available for readers. 

As for now, research is calling.

If you have written a short short story using today’s word of the day, please feel free to comment it in the comment section below.

Happy writing everyone!




With Children’s Author and Illustrator, Co-Founder, Sylvia Liu 

Friday, January 19, 2018 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading sylvia liuand 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 MorningWithGrandpa_coverthe top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today’s guest is one of the co-founders of the award-winning, resource website for kidlit authors and illustrators…, and children’s author and illustrator, Sylvia Liu!!!  

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

ANIMAL:   cuttlefish

BAND:  Vampire Weekend  Calvin-Hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-23762777-1280-800

CARTOON CHARACTER:  Calvin & Hobbes [photo image by]

DOG BREED: beagle

EVERY CHILD:  should read a life-changing book

FRAGRANCE:  I don’t wear any, but I love the smell of jasmine

GENRE (MUSIC):  80s new wave

HEALTHY SNACK:  not what I’m eating now (prosciutto/cheddar/crackers), how about carrots & hummus


JAMMING SONG:  made me think of Bob Marley, so I’ll go with I Shot the Sheriff



MOST LIKELY TOleave a phone/wallet/something behind




Q NAME:  Q-bert



TOOL:  Allen wrench    

UNIQUE COLOR:  Alizarin crimson  kite flyers 2017


WORDS OF WISDOM:  Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. (Lyrics of an English Beat song)

X NAME:  Xavier

YOUNG ADULT BOOK:  The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

ZIP (THINGS YOU): …line in Costa Rica

ME:   You ziplined in Costa Rica? Wow! Tell us more about that experience.

SL: Pre-kids, my husband and I spent a week in Costa Rica in the 1998 or 99. We ziplined across these vast valleys through the treetops of the Monteverde rainforest. I remember the guides telling us the ziplines were the length of a New York City block. It was thrilling. I recently learned that recreational ziplining came out of technology developed by scientific researchers in Costa Rica studying the rainforest canopy, and the first commercial recreational zipline opened in 1997 there. If I had known that we were doing something that was barely a year or two old, I’m not sure I would have done it!

 ME:   Still in WOW mode here. I can only imagine the sights you saw. Maybe one day there will be a book about it…😊

If Calvin & Hobbes owned a beagle, what do you think the beagle’s life would be like?

SL: I’ve never had a beagle but I always thought they were adorable. When I researched them, they sounded exhausting, between their curiosity and their vocal tendencies. I think a beagle would fit right in with the mayhem and fun in Calvin and Hobbes’ lives.

ME:   I totally agree. Snoopy is a beagle and I think he would only add even more fun to Calvin & Hobbes shenanigans. Also, like Calvin & Hobbes and Snoopy, your illustrations are amazing and thoughtful. (I perused your portfolio on your website :

Have you ever illustrated cuttlefish for stories or just for fun?

SL:  I once did a month of cephalopods and did an engraving of a cuttlefish. 

Cuttlefish S.Liu

ME:   Your vibrancy in your creations are simply stunning!

Which is why I was  caught off guard for your Band answer, because I don’t know much about them and the only color I thought of when I read it is red. If they had been a band in the 80’s do you think they would have fit into the New Wave genre and why?

SL: That’s hard to answer. Generally, they’re considered alternative, but every decade’s music is so particular to the time. Vampire Weekend takes a lot of musical inspiration from all sorts of cultures and traditions, sort of like 80s acts like English Beat or Paul Simon, so in that way they are similar. I think if they were playing back then, they’d probably sound very differently but they’d fit in with the New Wave, if that makes sense. 

ME:   That does make sense. They thrive on diversity which is really cool.

Oh no! You have left behind your phone or wallet? That makes for anxiety like no OTHER when I have done that. I picture you as being calm and collected. How do you handle situations like that?

SL:  I am very absent-minded and have left my wallet/phone/other valuables so many times that I am very calm and collected when it happens. I’ve learned that people are for the most part honest and return things. For example, (1) once my supermarket called me at home because I left my purse in the shopping cart in the parking lot return rack and someone turned it in; the staff recognized me from my ID and somehow figured out my phone number (the funny thing is I didn’t even know I’d left my purse behind); (2) an airline called after I got home to report my wallet left on the airplane seat; all items except the cash were mailed back to me; (3) I will wait several weeks before reporting a lost credit card because it always turns up in my house or in a coat pocket; (4) Find Your Phone is my best friend; and the stories go on!

ME:  Hmmm, Find Your Phone. I will have try that! I can be absent-minded myself. I blame it on my kids though. 😉 Like you, I have been lucky in that people were good and turned in my lost purse, etc., though I still had heart palpitations until I had my personal property returned to me. 

What do your kids do to make you laugh?

SL: They’ve inherited my husband’s wisecracking sarcasm so that’s what usually gets me laughing these days. When they were younger, they would say or do the typical funny toddler/kid things. I am so grateful I wrote them down in my journal. For a long time, my younger daughter liked leaving notes around the house. Here is an example of one from a couple of years ago when she was eleven.

Sarah's note

ME:  That’s awesome you kept her notes. Those are precious keepsakes. ❤ 

Using as many of your answers above, and possibly including any sketch you want, please write a synopsis for a story off the top of your head.

SL: Xavier misses his life on Earth—the squirrels, the New York Times crossword puzzles, hummus and carrots, and ziplining in Costa Rica. But he’s on Mars now and has to make the best of it. He knows from his favorite life changing book, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, that a best friend can be found anywhere. After many setbacks and trials, he finds a perfect friend, a Martian cuttlefish, with whom he builds a kite.

martian cuttlefish

ME:   I hope you follow up on this synopsis….I want to read the full story now!

Thank you Sylvia for stopping by to play the #ABCGame with us! You’ve brightened up a cool January Friday!

Readers if you would like to learn more about Sylvia you can find her on these social media sites:

Sylvia’s blog:  pirate parrot banner March 2016


Twitter: @artsylliu


Thank you for stopping by to read this week’s #ABCGame play with Sylvia Liu!

Have an amazing weekend!


Disclosure: The purpose of my Word of the Day story/writing is to promote getting the words down, which is a big feat for writers or anyone needing to write a paper. I give myself just 60 minutes to write and edit before posting. Therefore, the story/writing is barely past a first draft.  I use one of the three online dictionaries #WordoftheDay posts as my writing prompt. I encourage you to try it too. Feel free to comment below.

nevertheless – adverb

[nev-er-th uhles]

  • in spite of what has just been said





You can feel the excitement building with each number and BAM! Climax. What’s next? Does the world stop to watch? Sometimes, yes. Such as in the case of any rockets going into space. But what happens after the New Year hug, kiss, or high-five of celebration of witnessing another year ringing in?

For some, it’s writing out the new year goals or resolutions. For others, it’s going back to the humdrum of life that was before the new year started. And yet for the rest, it’s revving up the excitement of working on or planning what will partake this new year. What adventures to go on. What new things to try. What form of self discovery to indulge in. Then diving in head first to make it happen.

Where do you fit in? Are with the some, the others, or the rest?  You could fit into more than one category, most people do.

For me, I choose the rest category. No resolution years (2)_LI No humdrum. Instead, I choose to DO! I choose to show, not tell. What does that mean? Instead of telling people what I am going to do, I say nothing and just do it. No need to tell people, I just need to show to myself, that I can do whatever it is I want, by doing.

Pertaining to my writing, how about this to ponder: words are words, actions are actions. Show or tell.

Almost. As a picture book writer, my job is to show what cannot be shown by illustrations. As a middle grade, young adult writer, I need to show more, since I have no illustrator to help me, but I do still need to tell a few things depending on the story.

If you read a book that only told you everything that happened instead of showing you, would you keep reading?

If the story was shown to you as a movie, using words, would you keep reading? That’s the only way I will keep reading. I want to feel as though I am in the story.

What about applying this to life in general? Good question. If I’m telling people I’m going to write a book, I probably am not going to actually write a book. So, I don’t tell people. I write the books instead.

The fun is in the showing, not the telling.

(Nevertheless, telling has its’ place; such as reporting bad behavior, or reporting an accident, etc.)


I know what I’m doing next. Do you?

Cool!  Go do it!


#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

read between the lines

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




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

Shennen Bersani

Jamie A. Swenson

Pat Zietlow Miller

Teresa Robeson

Jo Knowles

Laura Backes

Josh Funk

Chuck Sambuchino

Charlotte Bennardo

Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Deborah Underwood

Mary Amato

Janet Halfmann

Sandy Brehl

Harold Underdown

Jennifer Swanson

Renée LaTulippe

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

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

To be eligible, you must be age 18 or over and live in the continental USA.



spatula – noun    spatula


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Honk. Honk.

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

And they were pulling a covered trailer behind them.

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

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

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

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

“Where’s my puppy?” Leesa asked.

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

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

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

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


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

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

“Perfect for flipping pancakes,” Nana said.

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

“Follow me,” Paps said.

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

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

“Presto!” Dad said, uncovering the loot.

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

“Do they bite?” Leesa asked.

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

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

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

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

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

I helped Mom and Nana place the grill.

“Open it,” Nana said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom nodded in agreement.

Nana said, “Ask your Paps?”

So I did.

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

Inside was a shiny black, new car.

“She’s a beauty!” Dad said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dad?” Mom questioned Paps.

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

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

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

“Deal,” Mom said.

“SURPRISE!” Nana shouted.

Best surprise ever!








With Children’s Author & Poet Renée M. LaTulippe

Friday, January 5, 2018 

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

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

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

renees logo


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


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

ANIMAL: penguin 

BODY OF WATER: Mediterranean Sea

COLOR: chartreuse

DESERT: Antarctic polar desert (see letter A)

EVERY CHILD: deserves a childhood 

FUNNY WORD: pique (fit of)

GAME: Taboo

HOBBY: theater

INSECT: dung beetle

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

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


METAL: silver

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


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

QUICK, A ‘Q’ WORD: quirky 



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

UNUSUAL COMBINATION: white bread and Pepsi                                       

VEGETABLE: onions 

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

X WORD: Xanadu

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

trestle table

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

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

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

We Are the Penguins


Waddle, waddle, slip, slide.

Cross the iceberg, side by side.

Shuffle, shuffle, trip, glide.

That’s what penguins do!


Wear a suit of black and white.

Catch a fish and take a bite.

Huddle close on snowy nights.

Come be a penguin too!


© Renée M. LaTulippe


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

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

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

Now about the teaser in the introduction:

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


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

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

And you can follow her on social media at:

Twitter: Renee LaTulippe 

Facebook: Renee LaTulippe

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

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













Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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