My Perfect Writing Fantasy!

peaceful nature scene

Recently I was taking a woodland walk, while indulging in an unbelievable fantasy. It’s the same fantasy I’ve had, with variations, since I was a little girl. I’m a children’s book author who works at home while her wonderful husband is away at work and her wonderful child is off at school. So, what’s my real life like? Well, I’m a children’s book author. I work at home while my family is away at work or off at school and they are wonderful-most of the time. And yet my fantasy couldn’t be further from reality. As I walked through the spring woods, I pondered why. To begin with, my children’s author fantasy is set sometime in the 1940s. I write quietly at home; I don’t have to market or promote my books. I’ve had the same editor for twenty years; she buys everything I write, and all my books stay in print forever. If I need a little extra money … Read on

Eliciting Emotion in Your Readers: 3 Tips on Writing Highly-Charged Scenes


“When you… want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder — that seems to give a kind of background to another’s grief, against which it stands out more clearly… The more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make.” – Anton Chekov Recently, I was reading a chapter of my memoir to my writing group. In one chapter, a character makes a startling confession, and my response in the book was something like, “I felt shattered.” Later, when I was reading the group’s comments on my story, I saw that Joyce, a highly perceptive critic, had written next to that passage, “I don’t feel the intensity here.” Others agreed. I thought about this for a while. Why didn’t my writing convey to readers the intensity of my emotional response? After all, I had felt shattered – or had I? I frowned, trying to remember. Did “shattered” truly describe what I had felt? Or … Read on

“I Can’t Talk Now; I’m Peeling Carrots!” A Reflection on Multitasking, Mindfulness and Healing

Recently I walked into the kitchen to ask my husband, John, a question. “I can’t talk now,” he said. “I’m peeling carrots.” Huh? Wouldn’t someone who was peeling carrots want to have a conversation to make the task a less tedious? But the truth is that John, a teacher and academic, can do only one thing at a time – ­ though he does that brilliantly. We women, on the other hand, are always bragging about how great we are at multitasking. And we truly are! But sometimes our amazing multitasking skills can get us into trouble. Two weeks ago, I was sitting at my computer entering heath insurance information for my daughter on her college website. At least I was doing this with one-eighth of my mind. The other seven-eighths was engaged in a fantasy about moving to the English countryside, debating about whether to inoculate our oak trees for bacterial leaf scorch, and wondering if we could afford … Read on

Am I Good at Anything Else?


Children’s book authors get asked all kinds of questions at school visits. “How much money do you make?” “How old are you?” “Does your hand get tired when you color?” (This last was asked by a kindergartner and I consider it one of the great existential questions of all time. Often, when I’m in a philosophical mood, I reflect on it.) The most unnerving question I’ve ever been asked was “Are you good at anything besides writing?” As I stood in front of the school auditorium with 500 curious faces peering up at me, my mind went blank. The embarrassing truth is, I don’t do anything but write. I don’t even have a hobby. I’d like to act in a daytime drama and play the piano and write lyrics for Broadway but I don’t have time. Then suddenly, as I stood staring out at the young, expectant faces, I remembered something. “I’m good at laundry!” I said. The kids weren’t … Read on

What Happens When You Get Stuck?

When I visit schools, kids (and often teachers and librarians, too) ask me what’s it’s like to be a published author.  Do I ever get stuck?  Do I ever feel frustrated with my writing?  I’ve thought about this a lot, and this post is an answer to that question!  I hope it will help all the kids out there who wonder if we authors ever get stuck and if so, what do we do about it?  I’ll begin with a story. Recently, I started writing Little Elfie One, a Christmas sequel to my Halloween picture book Little Goblins Ten (Harper 2011.) I was thrilled about the new book.  Jane Manning, who illustrated Goblins would be illustrating the sequel too, and I think we make a great writing and illustrating team. Although the manuscript (writing) for Elfie wasn’t due for several months, I sat right down to write a first draft.  This was going to be so much fun!  But after several hours of writing random rhymes, I started … Read on

Creating for our Readers

I have to admit that I’ve always had a little trouble with reality.  Maybe that’s why I love to write, to immerse myself in a world of fantasy.  Even when I’m writing a non-fiction piece (like the one you’re reading) I’m shaping the narrative into a story by choosing what to put in, and what to leave out.  We can’t do that in real life! But what really shaped me into a writer is a combination of things, including disappointments and loss.  I was fortunate to have parents who surrounded my brother and me with a rich library of children’s books when we were growing up.  But neither my mother or my father saw any special talent in me, or any possibility of what I might become.  No one was paying attention.  Oddly enough, this worked in my favor.   While my brother was busy collecting insects and butterflies for his growing collection, I was dreaming about escaping to the land of Oz.  (My brother is now a happy … Read on

More Funny Rejections

The recent rains in Rhode Island flooded the basement of a friend of mine who lives there.  Somehow she managed to escape the surging waters, overflowing streams, and flooded roads surrounding her farm, and drive down to visit me in Pennsylvania.  When I asked her if she wanted to go out to dinner, she said, “No, let’s just stay home and laugh about my basement.” My friend wasn’t being facetious.  She just has the ability to laugh at things that don’t go her way.  I guess that’s why I like to laugh at rejections.  It’s good therapy in a tough world, and some of them really are funny.  You can read about my funniest rejections, but last night I got to thinking up more. I once had twelve picture book manuscripts rejected in one hour, by telephone. That’s an average of one rejection every five minutes – an all-time record!  I’ve had manuscripts accepted in three days and others after … Read on