Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SCBWI's Conference Blog

I stumbled across this blog - the SCBWI conference blog. Though I will not be attending the Summer Conference in LA due to the fact I'm on the East Coast, I have benefited from the conference in New York and local confrences in my home state. If you're an SCBWI member, give this site a visit.

Many of you know I've been adding writing tips to my blog. The biggest tip I can offer you is to attend a conference now and then. Of course, you won't be getting anywhere if you don't write, but the fellowship, networking and learning from other writers at the conferences are definitely a plus.

Check out the blog at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Keep On Writing

I hit another writer's block. I knew I had something great stuck in my head - but how would I ever get it on paper? The advice that instantly pops into mind is "just write". But that is easily pushed aside by thoughts that say, "Why bother. It won't be any good. This is nothing like the other stories or books out there."

That's why I'm grateful for exercises given by our fellow writers. For example, on Laurie Halse Anderson's Facebook page she is giving writing prompts and a challenge to write continuously for 15 minutes straight all throughout August.

Just one of these prompts are pulling together a story I had in my head for ages. It is amazing what story elements develop as you write. You may not have it all planned out. Maybe you just have a thought or a situation in your head. But if you just write, you'll see elements pull together.

So, if you're stuck on a thought or worried you won't be able to write another word, try checking out exercises like those on Laurie Halse Anderson's page.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jen's Writing Tip # 10: Join the Conference!

That's right. There's no better way to make contacts, sharpen your skills and learn about the craft than to attend a writer's conference. I know, I know. The cash flow isn't there to attend as many as you'd wish. That's why I've been attending the Muse Online Writer's Conference the past few years. It's perfect for my situation. I can attend it from home and the best part is: it's free!

This year the conference runs from October 12, 2009-October 18, 2009, however the deadline to register is August 1, 2009. The director of the conference made it clear: NO EXCEPTIONS. So, if you'd like to attend the conference, head on over to the Muse Group and sign up - before August 1.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jen's Writing Tip# 9 How Exciting!

We all know great things happen in our stories and articles. We want our readers to pick up on it. Chances are, if they're following the story, they will pick up on the excitement.

As authors, we are tempted to put in expressive punctuation to emphasize our point. The most over used punctuation mark? The exclamation point. We use exclamation point to show excitement. Something out of the ordinary is happening. Or something wonderful, or scary. It is fine to use these powerful helpers sparingly. In fact, when used in moderation, it can make that line perfect.

However, we should be careful not to over use them. If you have a simple statement like, "Go find the dog," you should end that with a period. Could you imagine your sister or brother saying to you, "Go find the dog!" I have this vision of someone standing in front of me yelling loudly. Do we do that when we talk to each other ?

So how often should you use them? My advice would be one or two per manuscript, depending on the length. For anywhere between 500- 1000 words use one - maybe. Remember, you want that punctuation mark to do its job - show excitement. How exciting can something be if every other sentence ends with an exclamation point?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Cure for Summer Boredom

My friend Zebee at Laughing Zebra Children's Books has something wonderful in store for you this summer. Pretty soon those of us who have school-age children will find that the novelty of summer vacation is wearing off and boredom sets in. If that's true in your household, consider signing them up for this educational activity. There's something new each week. My friends over at Zebee's was kind enough to send me all the info.

Here's what they told me:

Just In Time to Beat Summer Time Boredom: Zebee’s Summer Zoo Camp is Almost Here!

Sign up today. Keep your child happily busy all summer long.

V Zoo, Cyber Space – July 1, 2009 -- Calling all parents, teachers and caregivers with children between the ages of 5 and 8. Do you need some fun educational activities for your children this summer? Can’t afford to send them off to a zoo camp? We have the answer. Starting July 6, 2009 we are holding a Virtual Summer Zoo Camp. It’s online and it’s totally FREE. All you have to do is sign up.

Eight weeks of Zoo animal fun!

July 6-12 Meerkat Mania

July 13-17 Leaping Lizards

July 20-24 Virtuous Vultures

July 27-31 Fascinating Frogs

August 3-7 Observant Okapis

August 10-14 Playful Penguins

August 17-21 Slithery Snakes

August 24-28 Amazing Antelope

We will be giving away some prizes too, all FREE.

What else will this summer camp have? There will be Games, Animal Trivia, Arts and Crafts and all kinds of Puzzles.

So what are you waiting for? Hop over to Zebee’s Summer Zoo Camp and sign up today.

Permission to Reprint:

Journalists, newsletter publishers, bloggers and others: You may reprint this to help spread the word. We here at Laughing Zebra – Books for Children thank you

So there you have it. Something to do when your child says to you, "I'm boooored." Feel free to post a comment here about your experience once the camp starts.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Light Magazine Names Non Fiction Editor


Media Contact: Jennifer Gladen





Pennsylvania (June 15, 2009)– My Light Magazine, a Catholic centered online magazine for children, announces a new member of the My Light Team. Author Tracy Becker accepted the position of Non-Fiction Editor. She will assist in reviewing and editing non-fiction submissions including Bible stories, articles, profiles on saints and activities. Be sure to catch her monthly column titled “Year of the Priest”.

“If you’re thinking of submitting, please be sure to include a bibliography,” says Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Gladen. “One important duty Tracy Becker will have is to verify the bibliographies.”

Tracy Becker received her education from the Institute of Children's Literature and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators. She has been writing for all ages for almost 15 years. Her work has appeared in Religion Teacher's Journal, Maryfaithful, and the Una Voce Columbus newsletter. She is currently working on 2 adult books and a children's Christmas activity book.

When asked how she felt about joining My Light, Tracy responded, “I am happy to be on the My Light Team!”

Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Gladen is also excited about My Light’s new addition. “Tracy has some great ideas for the magazine. We can’t wait to share them with everyone.”

The My Light Team looks forward to working with Tracy Becker. Non-fiction submissions can be sent to with a bibliography.

Jennifer Gladen, Editor-in-Chief:

Jaclyn Morales, Assistant Editor:

Carol Brook, Illustrator Coordinator:

Diane Smit, Poetry Editor:



Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The Bounding for Books Blog Tour is over. Thanks to all the authors and illustrators who stopped by the blog. And thanks to all who left comments. This has been a fun tour and I hope you all learned something about these talented guests I've had here. Some have added nice writing tips which will get you far in the writing world. The most important thing to remember is be persistent. Read, revise....revise again (and again) and then find that MS a home.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kim Chatel: A Talent for Quiet June 12, 2009

Today we have talented author Kim Chatel join us! Her latest book, A Talent for Quiet, is more than a story about photography. It includes adjusting to new family relationships, trust, and learning. Kim Chatel incorporated many elements in this story to bring about a full sense of satisfaction by the time you are finished reading. I also enjoyed all the photography tips and information at the back of the book.

Kim Chatel is a Canadian born author, photographer and fiber artist. She is the author of three books for children, The Stone Beach (Eternal Press) Rainbow Sheep and A Talent for Quiet (Guardian Angel Publishing). Her interactive chapter book, Burgher and the Woebegone will be out soon from Guardian Angel Publishing. Kim now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and assortment of animals.

Visit Kim’s Blog

And check out Chatel Village for loads of fun!

Click here for purchase information.

Be sure to visit Kim Chatel's blog and leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook of A Talent for Quiet.

Thanks for stopping by Kim!

Meet Donna Shepherd

Multi-talented author and singer Donna Shepherd joins us today and shares some info on her new picture book Dotty's Topsy Tale.

What's Ms. Shepherd all about? She's a woman of many talents. Check out her bio and you'll see what I mean:

Children’s and Inspirational Writer and Speaker, Donna J. Shepherd looks at everyday life and finds God’s fingerprints everywhere. A columnist for The Dabbling Mum, National Association of Baby Boomer Women, and Christian Work at Home Moms, she has hundreds of articles and devotionals to her credit. Her devotionals and stories appear in Daily Grace for Women, Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms, and The Best Grandma in the World.


Dotty's Topsy Tale, the newest in the Topsy Tales series written by Donna J. Shepherd and illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier, features Dotty, a pink hippo that doesn't quite fit in. With help from her best friend, Chizzy, she finds she can be happy with herself no matter what her color. The book introduces a purple baby hippo, Violet, to gently explore the topic of discrimination. Suggested age for readers: 2-5.

What are others saying about this great book?

Dotty's Topsy Tale is a book that has all of the features our family looks for when shop for books. and is published by a great Christian publishing company that caters to families with younger children. It is highly recommended as a self-esteem booster and affirmer for kids and is part 2 of a sequel. It delves into the topic of discrimination and supports community-building values and living by a higher standard.

It espouses the value of change -- we don't always have to live the way we were raised to live, especially when that was based in untruth or ignorance. These are much needed topics of discussion for children to understand while they are young and developing a foundation for their character that will carry them through the rest of their living years in this world. In the face of all of the infamous leadership failures we've all witnessed in recent years, high-quality character development really needs to be at the top of the list of priorities for all educators in public, private, and home schools. Bravo, Donna! The illustrations are stunning due to Kevin's use of contrasting and complimentary colors. Our oldest is an aspiring artist and really enjoyed the pictures. This is our official review as we have added this book into our homeschool curriculum for 2009.

- Donna Johnson,, JKidsCrew Butterfly Homeschool Journal (

Where can you find out more?

Other books:

Topsy Turvy Land
Chizzy's Topsy Tale
OUCH! Sunburn
No More Gunk!
The Lonely Lightning Bug

Coming soon!
Poodle and Doodle
Sully's Topsy Tale

While Donna stopped by, I asked her a few questions:

Tell us more about Dotty's Topsy Tale

In Dotty’s Topsy Tale, the main character, a hot pink hippo, deals with the issue of discrimination and the angst of feeling ‘different.’ This story encourages children to look beyond the color of a person's (or a hippo's!) skin. Kevin Scott Collier brings pure genius to the book with his vibrant illustrations, especially with the final one which sums up the message in a unique and wonderful way.

Where did you get your idea for the story? Did something inspire you?

One day while brainstorming with my daughter for ideas, she asked, "Isn't Dotty pink? What if she wanted to play with purple hippos? Would that be a problem?" I decided, yes, it would, but not for Dotty - only those around her, and more specifically, the grownups. Sweet Dotty cannot for the life of her figure out why skin color matters. After all, her best friend is green

What is the best trait about your main character? What is the worst?

Dotty? She's so sweet. She gets Chizzy in trouble in Chizzy's Topsy Tale, but not because she's mean – she's just a hippo in search of a snack. I can't think of a bad trait, except that she tries to sing in the upcoming Sully's Topsy Tale, and it's downright awful.

Describe the world through your character’s eyes. What do you see, hear, feel and think?

Dotty is very one-track minded. Hungry? Let's eat! Feeling playful? Doesn't everyone want to play with her? She lives in a jungle, so there's lots of activity, and in Topsy Turvy Land, everything is bright and colorful thanks to Kevin Scott Collier's illustrations.

Do you have any upcoming books or projects you are working on?

My next book is called Poodle and Doodle and is written from the point of view of a snooty poodle and the 'new dog' - a labradoodle she has to learn to get along with. Jack Foster is illustrating and it's under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing (G.A.P.) I'm posting pics and sneak peeks of the book at 'Oodles of Fun.

I’ve started offering tips on my blog to other authors. What is one can’t-live-without-tip you have for beginning authors?

As writers, we are blessed to be able to create. And as a children's writer, sometimes I'm really blessed, and the words I write are illustrated with pictures. It's so much fun to see my words come to life. I thank God every day for the joy of writing, and for allowing me the pleasure of seeing my words in print.

If you are an aspiring children’s writer, visit your local library or bookstore and read a variety of books for your target age group. Ask the children's librarian for recommendations. They know children’s interests and current trends in children's books.

And no matter which genre you’re interested in, write. Set your mind on a target audience, and then write for ezines or magazines. Write articles, poetry, or a novel. Just write. Then submit. It won’t get published as a file on your computer or a notepad tucked away in a drawer. Writing is fun, but hard work. But did I mention how I feel about it? It’s fun!

Thanks for visiting, Donna - and great tip!

Margot Finke and Rattlesnake Jam June 8th

I have a treat for you today. Creative author Margot Finke joins us and shares all about her book Rattlesnake Jam. Margot's boy-appeal in Rattlesnake Jam is genius. Even if the thought of jam made out of rattlesnakes makes you squeamish, aren't you a bit curious about it?

Margot Finke has done it again. She mixed creativity, fun, and interest all in one book. And to top it off Kevin Scott Collier illustrated the book and filled it with lively, colorful illustrations. Checking out Rattlesnake Jam is a no lose situation.

I'm honored to share more info about Rattlesnake Jam:

Rattlesnake Jam

(Illustrated by award winner Kevin Scott Collier.)

Reading level: Ages 5 -10

Paperback: 28 pages

Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (G.A.P) - May 2008

** eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-24-5 -
(BUY - Fictionwise, G.A.P, Author's Website., & more)

** Print ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-00-9 -

(BUY - Amazon, B&N, Target, G.A.P, Author's Website & more)

A FREE Link to an AUDIO of Margot reading this book comes with every
Autographed soft cover copy purchased from her website


"Rattlesnake Jam" is a rhyming romp for reluctant readers - especially boys!

Pa hunts rattlers, and Gran cooks them up into her gooey green rattlesnake jam. Good for whatever ails you, Gran sells her concoction to folks near and far. However, Pa yearns for rattler over rice, or maybe rattlesnake pie: but can he persuade Gran to cook them for him?



Rattlesnake Jam is a hilariously funny children's picture book about an old couple who share an irresistible affection for rattlesnakes. There's only one problem: While Pa would rather have the rattlesnakes turned into fritters or pie, old Gran prefers them turned into jam. disgustingly green, sweetened, gooey rattlesnake jam! ...

Collier's colorful, wacky illustrations complement Finke's humorous rhyme perfectly. The book has 28 pages in all, and each story page has an illustration with a short text at the bottom-a two or four line rhyme. Whimsical and amusing, Rattlesnake Jam is one of those books young children will beg their parents to read to them again and again.
--Mayra Calvani Midwest Book Review, June 2008


View fun musical Book Trailer + "Puzzle Slides" of other book covers on her Blog:

Margot's Website for Children's Books, Manuscript Critique Service, Writing Help + her "Musings" column :


"Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind," Guardian Angel Publishing - illustrator K.C Snider, is due out soon. Ruthie and her family move far from their old home. The move gives Ruthie a change of personality, as well as a new address. Ruthie's horrible moods drive her parents crazy - Parent/teacher guide is included.

*** At the end of each week Margot will give away 3 FREE AUDIO links. Each link has Margot reading one of her stories + illustrations. These will go to the 3 readers who add that week's most unique comments.

Nothing Stops Noah

Nothing Stops Noah
That is is the latest book by the talented team of author Shari Lyle-Soffe and illustrator Kevin Collier. Nothing Stops Noah is a charming book about never giving up. We join Noah in his adventure on a quest to earn money to buy his mom a gift. This book is tons of fun that will keep youngsters laughing till the end.

Where can you find this fabulous book?

It's on sale now at:
Blazing Trailers

Shari shared some more information with us in an interview I did with her. Check it out:

Tell us more about your book.

My book is Nothing Stops Noah. Noah goes to work in his grandfather’s pet store to earn money to buy a gift for his mother. When Grandpa leaves him in charge Noah accidentally lets all of the animals escape. He must find a way to get them back in their cages before Grandpa returns.

Where did you get your idea for the story? Did something inspire you?

My mother used to lecture me with “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It just seemed to fit a pet shop full of escaped animals.

What is the best trait about your main character? What is the worst?

His best trait is his determination, and his love for his mother. His worst trait is….not being totally honest about his ability to count.

Describe the world through your character’s eyes. What do you see, hear, feel and think?

Noah doesn’t see problems, he sees challenges. He believes in himself. He thinks he can do anything if he just keeps trying.

Do you have any upcoming books or projects you are working on?

I have two books coming out this year. A Horse Of Course is about a boy who gets a horse for his birthday and is certain he knows how to care for it. Shoo Cat! about a boy who wants a dog more than anything. Eventually he realizes he has some mistaken ideas about what would be a good pet.

I’ve started offering tips on my blog to other authors. What is one can’t-live-without-tip you have for beginning authors.

Read every book in your preferred genre that you can get your hands on.

Thank you Shari! Hey everyone - stop by Shari's Blog.

Leave a comment on during the tour to be entered in a drawing to receive an autographed copy of Nothing Stops Noah in softcover.

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