Category Archives: Children’s Author

Picture Book Summit 2019 – Author Study #1

Picture Book Summit 2019 – Author Study #1

Coming this October: Picture Book Summit – all the content of a conference, in the comfort of your home! I took a look at the books by this year’s presenters. First up is author Samantha Berger.

Register here for Picture Book Summit 2019. See you there!

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Books by the Banks 2016 Highlights

Books by the Banks 2016 Highlights

Books by the Banks 2016 had a stellar line-up of authors and presentations.

Bookseller Alia Jones, authors Zetta Elliott, Greg Leitich Smith and Children’s Librarian Sam Bloom discuss the state of diversity in publishing and ideas to close the gap.

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These guys! Laughed out loud the entire presentation with author-illustrators Greg Pizolli, Bob Shea, and Loren Long. Fun session where they shared personal experiences as well as a bit about their creative process.

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Authors Kerrie Hollihan, Brandon Marie Miller, Michelle Houts, Nancy Poe Pimm, Mary Kay Carson, Carmella Van Vleet, and Jen Swanson talk about science and history – and women in science and history!

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Ohio creatives Tim Bowers, Lana Wayne Koehler, Gloria Adams, Will Hillenbrand and Christina Wald.

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What a fun and creative day! Until next year…

Read and write on!

 

 

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SCBWI Book Launch Party – You’re Invited!

SCBWI Book Launch Party – You’re Invited!

It’s the SCBWI Book Launch Party! Click here to visit, like, comment, and share my party page for a chance to win a copy of The King Cake Baby.

 

Follow the baby on his Facebook page here.

While on the SCBWI site, check out other great kidlit titles.

 

Let’s get this party started!

SCBWI book launch

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5th Annual Halloweensie Contest – BOO-YAH!

5th Annual Halloweensie Contest – BOO-YAH!

It’s the end of October and writers know what that means.  Halloween-sie time! At this time of the year author Susanna Hill hosts a writing contest. Participates submit a short story using 100 words or less in poetry or prose that must use specific vocabulary, for a chance to win prizes. This year the words are haunt, dark, and costume. Read my entry below, then click here to check out Susanna’s page for some delightful stories created by some amazing kidlit writers and writer-illustrators.

anigh02                                 BOO-YAH!

“What are you working on Boo?” asked Spooky.

“Tweaking this Fright-O-Meter I created after the haunt contest last year.” she said. “It measures scare responses.”

“Such a dark day losing to those deadbeat zombies.” said Spooky. “Let’s go to the mall to test it.”

Boo set the instrument to super scary. They used chain clangs, shrill shrieks, and windy woos to frighten shoppers. The machine flashed.  Her invention worked.

“We’ll lose again over my dead body!” said Spooky.

Boo could see his spirit lift.

On Halloween night, they scared the pants off every human in costume winning 1st place. BOO-YAH!

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PiBoIdMo – Picture Book Idea Month 2015

PiBoIdMo – Picture Book Idea Month 2015
The most wonderful time of the year for picture book writers is almost here.

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PiBoIdMo or Picture Book Idea Month created by author Tara Lazar, is an annual writing challenge scheduled during the full month of November. Beginning on the first day of the month, participants will receive daily inspirational blog posts and writing exercises by picture book authors, illustrators, and editors. The only thing that would make this event more awesome would be the chance to win prizes. Wait. What? Yes, there will be prizes!

 

The goal is to generate 30 ideas to deposit into a writer’s picture book idea bank. We all know the first step in the process of writing a picture book is coming up with a story idea. And we often hear what Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” If that is true, how are we supposed to come up with something original that an editor or agent will consider book worthy? One way is to spin and twist old ideas to create new intriguing combinations.

 

Here are a few great examples:

 

Fractured Fairy Tales
Little Red is a fairy tale figure skater who needs to win a paired skating competition. She needs a partner. The other characters are taken. But there’s one with big eyes, sharp teeth, and furry paws available.  Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar
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Bullying
Ginny Louise is a new addition to a class of troublemakers who is so cheerful she is unable to find fault in any of her cranky classmates. And that ultimately changes their bullying attitudes.  Ginny Louise and the School Showdown by Tammy Sauer
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Rivalry
Leftovers Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast engage in a race around other foods in the refrigerator to get to that last drop of maple syrup.  Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk
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Bedtime
Little pirate Ned will do anything to avoid bedtime. He convinces Papa Pirate there are things he must do before settling in for the night.  Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime by Marcie Wessels
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Determination
Percy the Pug finds the perfect puddle but the puddle pigs who inhabit it won’t share. Puddle Pug by Kim Norman
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Each one of these books started with an idea, perhaps a random thought, or a “what if” question. Reading and listening to interviews about authors often give us the story behind their story idea. And you will be surprised how, when, where, and under what circumstances those ideas came to them. That is what PiBoIdMo is about. Finding out what works for others may just work for you too.

 

There will be days during the month when ideas just won’t show up. Like they’re playing a game of ”keep away”.

 

And you’ll feel like this.

 

Hang in there.

 

Other days you’ll be thrilled when they come.
Here’s my PiBoIdMo Pledge.
  1. I will register on Sunday October 25, 2015 by entering my name in the registration blog post.
  2. I will assemble all necessary tools to be available 24/7 for 30 days of November.
  3. I will read every post, comment daily when possible, and complete the exercises.
  4. I will record all my ideas, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  5. I will not beat my head against the computer, but I will do a jig when I think of a story idea.
Hope to see you in November, on Tara’s blog or on the PiBoIdMo Facebook page!

 

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Books by the Banks Book Festival

Books by the Banks Book Festival

Books by the Banks Book Festival proved once again to be a blast! On a beautiful Saturday in the Queen City authors, illustrators, writers, and readers of all ages gathered at the largest annual literary festival in Cincinnati.

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My favorite part of this year’s event was watching picture book author-illustrators showcase their talent inspiring kids with their art. Crazy talent! Watch author-illustrator Jeff Mack below share how he draws the characters of Bear and Skunk from his picture books Who Wants A Hug and Who Needs A Bath? His advice – start small!

And Tad Hills, well known for his books about the dog Rocket (and has a real dog named Rocket) demonstrated how to create art using the letter “M” a young audience member drew. This was definitely ”art in action”!

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In addition to meeting some awesome creatives, there were sessions offered for those interested in learning more about the craft and or the business aspect of writing and publishing. A special moment for me was meeting Tim Bowers, the illustrator of the picture book Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny At Bedtime. Me matey, Marcie Wessels is the author.

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These Ohio SCBWI mighty girl authors Mary Kay Carson, Kathy Cannon WiechmanMichelle Houts, and illustrator Christina Wald showcased their publications and talent!

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The King Cake Baby and I walked the halls of the convention center again meeting many picture book characters who came to the event.

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Until next year! Keep reading, keep writing, or both!

 

 

 

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Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference 2015 Re-cap

Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference 2015 Re-cap

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The Northern Ohio SCBWI Annual Conference -THE MAGIC OF 13 – was truly magical. The sessions inspired. The speakers motivational. The inspiration to writers to continue telling stories abundant. And as always, meeting new people and making new friends – unforgettable. Here’s a recap:

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Kudos to Heather Price, the Regional Adviser for Northern Ohio SCBWI. With her guidance the conference was quite a hit. Juliana Lee and I traveled together to the conference and had lunch with Lindsay Bonilla, founder of World of Difference, a theatre-in-education company.

Heather Price Lisa Amstutz            me Lindsay Bonilla Juliana Lee             Heather Price, N.OH RA & Lisa Amstutz                                Me, Juliana Lee, and Lindsay Bonilla

Conferences are the perfect place to meet writers in person we befriend in our virtual worlds. Kathy Halsey shares the same digital space many of us kid-lit writers do. Also had a chance to catch up with a local Cincinnati SCBWI superstar award winning author Mary Kay Carson, a faculty member at the conference. I had to give her and the other members a shout out at the Publication Celebration for their mentorship which helped me get started in this crazy, creative business.

me Kathy liana                Me mary kay liana                        Me, Kathy Halsey & Juliana Lee                                       A toast! Me, Mary Kay Carson & Juliana Lee

The keynote, delivered by Viking Senior Editor Kendra Levin was quite inspirational. She motivated the audience by her comparison of our journey as writers to a hero’s  journey. Thanks for sharing, caring, and comparing Kendra! Agent & author Marie Lamba shared what it takes to make a manuscript picture book worthy. Can you tell she loves a good story?

Kendra Levin                      Marie Lamba                 Kendra Levin, Senior Editor, Viking, keynote                          Marie Lamba, Agent, Jennifer DeChiara Agency

Agent Viki Selvaggio treated us to some tips on how to add magic to our manuscripts. Each and every element has a purpose, know their roles and why they exist. Agent Jodell Sadler shared her knowledge of pacing in picture books. She gave us lots of picture books to use as mentor texts that are particularly good at using one or more of the pacing tools she shared.

Victoria Selvaggio, Agent DeChi                        Jodell Sadler               Vicki Selvaggio, Agent, Jennifer DeChiara                         Jodell Sadler, Agent, Sadler Children’s Literary

Author Miranda Paul shared some ideas on revision, something every manuscript needs. Whether tweaking an idea, a pitch, or a manuscript at the sentence or word level, we must be our own editors first. Little, Brown Books Editor Nikki Garcia gave her insight during the critique of “first pages”. Conference participants submitted the first page of a manuscript for editor input. Thanks for your insight Nikki.

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A highlight for a debut author like me was meeting author and poet Shutta Crum! Fortunately I was assigned the space right next to her at the book signing table. What a treat for me. And signing a copy of my book for someone thrilled to have it will never get old!

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And if you think those who write for children are not HOT, we were on FIRE! Well, actually someone pulled the fire alarm on the 5th floor of the hotel so technically not a real fire, but we still had to evacuate to the lobby. Bet the agents and editors visiting from NY had no idea O-HI-O could be as exciting as New York City!

Firetruck   Miranda taping   Miranda who me           Excitement in Cleveland             “Are you filming this Miranda?”                        “Who me?”

Finally, there were two conversations I recall that are too funny not to share. I spy a thread, do you?

Writer #1: Congratulations on your book. My son loves New Orleans. He still has the king cake baby he got in a cake.
Me: I still have my collection too! What grade is he in?
Writer #1: College, he’s twenty.
Me: Oh. (wondering if this was from a spring break trip)

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Me: Who should I autograph the book to?
Writer #2: My son Alex. He loves everything New Orleans.
Me: Cool! How old is Alex?
Writer #2: Twenty-four
Me: (kid lit works for adults too)

Not exactly my intended audience for The King Cake Baby, but proves picture books are enjoyed by all.

Happy reading and writing!

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International Dot Day 2015

International Dot Day 2015

International Dot Day is celebrated every September 15-ish.

The motivation for this annual event came from the story about a girl from The Dot, a picture book written by Peter H. Reynolds. Vashti is reluctant to participate in art class because she believes she can’t draw. But through her teacher’s encouragement, Vashti learns she can. The idea is to challenge what we may think about ourselves or what others may think about us and express our own creativity.

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To date, Dot Day creator T.J. Shay has taken this message of inspiration and the celebration of creativity to 3.6 million participants in 113 countries. Listen to T.J speak with librarians on this ISTE Librarians Network twitter chat .
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Register here and download a free educator’s guide. Collaborate and share using facebookSkype in the Classroom or twitter using hashtags #DotDay and #makeyourmark. Everybody can make a dot-ish – so…

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Check out the amazing Celibri dots made by illustrators. Authors made them too! I made one. But first, like Vashti I thought, “Look at those beautiful dots, I can’t draw!” Then I remembered what Vashti’s teacher said, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” I made a mark, learned new skills, and this where it took me. It’s my dot and there’s no other like it.

Who Dot FINAL signed

 Now everyone join in and sing the Dot Day Song. Then go out there and make your mark!

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Dot Day Partners

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World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day

I celebrated World Read Aloud Day reading The King Cake Baby at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in their Seacrest Studio. Cincinnati Children’s is one of eight locations that has a studio funded by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.

The mission of the foundation is to build broadcast media centers within pediatric hospitals with the belief that creativity found in media like radio and television can have a positive effect upon children and their parents during the time spent in the hospital. Access to stimulating multimedia can entertain patients  and give them respite from thinking about a procedure, or treatment, or length of stay away from home.

There is no better gift than receiving a smile from a child!

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The King Cake Baby says, “It’s story time!”

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The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

Sub It Club featured the query letter that lead to the acquisition of my manuscript for The King Cake Baby. To see that post at the SubitClub blog, click here.

Every writer knows the importance of a query letter. A what? That’s what I asked after writing an early draft of my story. Upon learning the purpose of a query and what it entailed, I then set out to learn how to write one. Essentially, it’s a letter that accompanies your manuscript when sending it to an agent or editor and includes the following components: the hook, the book, the cook. Huh?

No worries, at Sub It Club you can learn a lot about how to write a query and more. Writers work hard on perfecting the manuscript they hope to sell. But first you must sell your story idea to an agent or editor through your query. The intent is for the person reading it to want to read your picture book manuscript or pages to your novel that’s attached.

Almost done. There’s more? Yep. To complete the submission process, you must know what agents and or publishing houses are a good fit for your manuscript. Huh?

No worries, hang around the Sub It Club  to learn all about it!

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Sugar – Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Sugar – Multicultural Children’s Book Day

 

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January 27, 2015 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD). The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

MCCBD raises awareness about children’s books that embrace diversity. Mia and Valarie share such titles with others. Even though census data show 37% of the US population identify as a persons of color, only 10% of children’s books traditionally published are representative of people in those groups. MCCBD’s mission is to provide information about diverse books and share with parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians. And help get them into homes, schools and libraries. To keep current, follow them on social media. Links are provided at the end of this post. The MCCBD team, sponsors, and supporters understand that it’s important for all children to see their families, cultures, customs, traditions, languages, histories, and religions in books. And it’s equally important that others see them and stories about them in books too.

To support the mission of MCCBD, I reviewed the middle grade novel, Sugar, written by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2013).

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“Everyone likes sugar. But I hate it.” Says the ten-year-old girl, also named Sugar, an emancipated slave living on a sugar plantation and working as a sharecropper in post-Civil War Louisiana. Sugar knows first-hand that working with sugar cane is hard work and it kills. She also knows what her mother told her on her deathbed, “Do. See. Feel.” Despite the hard work, and poor living conditions Sugar finds ways, often frowned upon by the elders in her community and her ex-master, to follow her mother’s advice. She gets into trouble often. And she must navigate her world in order to honor her mother’s final word, “Survive.” The plantation owner’s son and Sugar become friends and that brings trouble. Chinese workers come to work on the plantation. Sugar wants to befriend the new workers against the wishes of her community. More trouble. But for every trouble, there is also change.

Rhodes writes a story about a very difficult period in Louisiana history. It is an American story. Mostly it is a story about a girl, once physically enslaved, then bound to a life of hard labor after emancipation. But the reader soon realizes Sugar’s mind is not enslaved or held in bondage. She just has to find a way to freedom.

How to celebrate and support Multicultural Children’s Books today & everyday: 

 

 

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Writing Process Blog Tour

Writing Process Blog Tour

Marcie Wessels, author of PIRATE’S LULLABY (Doubleday, Spring 2015) invited me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. Marcie and I met in an online facebook group for writers. Although we live in different regions of the country we had an immediate connection and for good reason. We have traveled some of the same familiar paths, just in different stages in our lives. This time, however, we are virtually in the same place at the same time as we both become debut authors.

What am I currently working on?

I have completed a companion story to my original book, THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican, Spring 2015). I have two other works in progress also set in Louisiana.

I am really excited about starting a new project which involves co-authoring a non-fiction children’s book with my husband who is a research scientist.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

THE KING CAKE BABY is a fractured fairy tale that follows the familiar rhythm and rhyme found in classic fairy tale of The Gingerbread Man. However the characters, setting, language and colloquial lingo used in THE KING CAKE BABY gives my story cultural significance specific to New Orleans.

Why do I write what I write?

I enjoy sharing my Louisiana culture with others. Our traditions and customs are very important to us. As a genealogy researcher and family historian I research and write frequently about our unique contributions to the multicultural landscape of the United States.

How does my individual writing process work?

The ideas I use in my writing are usually based on experiences or observations. While baking a king cake the idea for THE KING CAKE BABY popped into my head. For this story I started by using the framework of the traditional Gingerbread Man story adding my own characters and twist. Then I research. I read about the genre as well as many, many other comparable books.

THE KING CAKE BABY has a refrain mixed with English and French, so I spent a lot of time working on the rhythm and rhyme and making sure I used correct French grammar. Because this was my first children’s book I decided to seek out other writers in my area. I found a local SCBWI group, and just happened to go to my first meeting on the night scheduled for critiques. With their advice and direction I began to learn about the craft of picture book writing as well as the business end of the kidlit industry. I was very fortunate to find this wonderful group of ladies.

Revision is by far the most crucial part of my writing process. I can easily write 1,000 words but revision means getting rid of almost half of them when writing a picture book!  I have agonized for weeks over finding the perfect word or perfect rhyme. I believe every word counts.

KCB Memorial Day

To continue the writing process blog tour, it is my pleasure to introduce three authors whose work I admire. Each author will answer the same four questions I answered above. Click on the author’s name to learn more about them and their work. Look for their answers next week, Monday, June 2nd.

Diana Jenkins writes books, magazine stories, articles, and comic strips for kids and teens. Diana generosity shares her vast knowledge about writing with our local SCBWI group. Her newest release, TACKLING TOUGH TOPICS WITH FAITH AND FICTION (Pauline Books & Media 2014), is a resource book for parents and  teachers who want to help middle school and junior high students deal with moral challenges using faith.

JaNay Brown-Wood has published poetry in Highlights for Children and her debut picture book, IMANI’S MOON (Mackinac Island Press, October 14, 2014) is  about a young Maasi girl with a loving mother and a desire to do something great. When she decides she wants to touch the moon, she works hard to reach her goal, even in the face of teasing from the naysayers around her. IMANI’S MOON won the 2013 NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Picture Book award.

Kerrie Hollihan writes award-winning nonfiction history and science books for young people. Her latest book, REPORTING UNDER FIRE (Chicago Review Press, June 1, 2014), is about 16 trailblazing war correspondents who are also 16 trailblazing women. How appropriate to share Kerrie’s work on the day our country celebrates Memorial Day. In between researching and writing, Kerrie is the fearless leader of our local SCBWI group.

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“Dear Soon To Be Published Author” by Robin LaFevers

“Dear Soon To Be Published Author” by Robin LaFevers

I’ve read, tweeted, posted on FB, blogged, and re-read Robin’s post Dear Soon To Be Published Author with all my writer friends and groups. This is by far some of the most excellent advice given to writers. I am constantly in a battle with Patience. She is annoying, frustrating, and totally inflexible. I feel like an exercise in hurry up and wait. And Doubt is just demeaning.

As a debut author I am both excited and terrified. What resonated with me from Robin’s post is the importance of being our authentic selves. Writing is highly personal and publishing is a tough business. We cannot predict nor control the process or the actions by others. We must remember to be kind to ourselves.

Here’s the link to the post: Dear Soon To Be Published Author

Thanks Robin. Write on.

 

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KIDLIT411, A Writer’s Hub

KIDLIT411, A Writer’s Hub

KIDLIT411 is a writer’s hub that provides the connections you need to get to your dream destination, finding a place for your words. The founder, Elaine Kiely Kearns created a one stop information shop for all things related to writing for children. The site launched in January 2014. Elaine’s co-pilot is Sylvia Liu. Sylvia recently won the 2013 Lee and Low New Voices Award and her picture book, A MORNING WITH GONG, is scheduled for publication in Fall 2015.

If you are thinking about writing a children’s book, learning about the industry, and looking to meet others that share your passion for children’s literature, stop by http://www.kidlit411.com/ .  You will be very happy you did.

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Oh My Goodness…Sub It Club One Year Anniversary

Oh My Goodness…Sub It Club One Year Anniversary

Although I am still very new at this writing gig, I have learned something that is obviously not new. And that’s the outpouring of support and opportunity out there for writers.

I recently participated in ReviMO hosted by author Meg Miller just this weekend and completed my last writing prompt for Start the Year Out Write 2014 hosted by author Shannon Abercrombie. I will begin 12X12 with author Julie Hedlund soon and today I found Sub It Club created by Heather Ayris Burnell, Dana Carey and Lisha Cauthen when pursuing the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) boards. WOWZA.

I think I’ve come full circle! Writing tips, revision tips, and submission tips covers a huge chunk of the creative process. I want to participate in Sub It Club because although I like to write, and really do not mind spending the time to revise, I need to learn when to stop and submit. After all the hard work of writing and revising, my goal is to learn to pitch and query to sub it.

For the club’s first anniversary they have a great one year anniversary giveaways. Writer’s can enter to win a submission opportunity to Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, or Mira Reisberg of Hummingbird Literary or a first 15 pages plus query letter critique from agent Sean McCarthy, a Query Package Critique from author Kristine Asselin, or a First Five Pages critique from author Veronica Bartles.

Let’s do this!

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Taking the Challenge: Start the Year off Write

Taking the Challenge: Start the Year off Write

Shannon Abercrombie is offering a writing challenge this month, ”Start the Year off Write 2014”. On January 5th, for 21 days, participants will receive a daily writing prompt/exercise to complete. An impressive list of authors and illustrators will share their talents with participants. And there are prizes! With every completed challenge participants earn an entry to win one of many amazing prizes. Grand prizes include agent critiques, editor critiques, and proofreading services.

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Challenges like these are not the same as writing contests or competitions, this is a challenge to beat your personal best. At the start of a new year some people join a gym and set goals to lose weight or increase muscle. Writer’s write. Writing exercises help develop mental muscle. For some, the challenge will be to lose that negative perception that may have resulted from rejections.

I’m taking this challenge because I want to flex my creative muscles throughout 2014. And before we’ve started I’ve already come up with my own personal challenge. My goal is to turn my first picture book projected for publication in 2015 into a series!

Write on.

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“The End.” Junie B. Jones

“The End.” Junie B. Jones

Barbara Park created the funny, opinionated, and sassy character, Junie B. Jones. Park viewed the world; everything and everyone in it through the lenses of a 6 -year- old Kindergarten student. Her character’s innocence and honestly rang through in every book. Each book tackled problems common to children her age and even when she passed on to first grade Junie B. continued to express her opinions and didn’t much mind what anyone else thought.

I have very fond memories of reading and rereading this series with my firstborn, then a few years later again with my second child. Honestly, I’m not certain who enjoyed them more, my kids or me. Park came up with just the right words to describe how Junie B felt. When stating her opinion, Junie B. Jones would finish by saying “The End”. And she didn’t hold back those opinions. What she said is what she thought! And it just so happened that Junie B was funny because she was so darn earnest about things that were confusing or frustrating or just didn’t make a lot of sense to her. That’s about how Barbara Park fans feel about her death at age 66 from ovarian cancer. In our adult brains we know bad things happen, but it still doesn’t make sense.

Too many women still die from ovarian cancer. According to the CDC, “Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. But when ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective.” What is most frightening is that it also says, “There is no simple and reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer in women who do not have any signs or symptoms.” And furthermore, “The Pap test does not check for ovarian cancer.” The only thing a woman can do is to know her own body and ask questions of her doctor if symptoms arise. Woah. Where in the world are the advances in this field? Educate yourself. Learn your family history. Listen to your body. Ask questions. Learn about the latest research in the field.

Do everything you can to make sure this disease doesn’t claim your life. When it comes to your health, be Junie B. Jones.

“The End”

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