Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: wrote 25 picture book drafts, revised steaming mounds of stories, and one publication! Plus signed with agent Cyle Young!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Arbordale is highlighting winter stories including Tuktuk: Tundra Tale!

Check it out at or at!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Bush Dance

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
There's 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

When it's Christmas down under
Look down under the tree:
4 Devils dervish,
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
 (5) Can you emu?
4 Taz's twirling,
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
7 wombats waddle,
6 quokka (ko-ka) cakewalk,
(5) Can you emu?
4 devils dervish,
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
9 gliding Goanna,
8 Bandicoot bopping,
7 wombats waddle,
6 quokka cakewalk,
(5) Can you emu?
4 Devils dervish,
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
11 walaroo whirling,
10 prancing platypus,
9 gliding Goanna,
8 Bandicoot bopping ,
7 wombats waddle,
6 quokka cakewalk,
(5) Can you emu?
4 Devils dervish,
3 bopping Billbie,
2 koala can-can,
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

It's a Down Under Christmas
Down underneath the tree:
12 dingo disco
11 walaroo whirling
10 prancing Platypus
9 gliding Goanna
8 Bandicoot bopping
7 wombats waddle
6 quokka cakewalk
(5) Can you emu?
4 Devils dervish
3 bopping Billbie
2 koala can-can
And 1 waltzing wallaby.

Happy Christmas, Mate!

Christmas Down Under:
(Not part of word count, but you know you want to know!)
Bandicoot - mid sized rat
Billbie - long nosed rat
Dingo - wild dog
Emu - second largest living bird, flightless
Goanna - monitor lizard.
Koala - tree dwelling marsupial
Platypus - egg laying duck billed mammal
Quokka - kangaroo member the size of a cat
Tasmanian Devil - largest carnivorous marsupial
Walaroo - mix of a wombat and kangaroo
Wallaby - small member of the kangaroo family
Wombat - short-legged marsupial

Friday, July 8, 2016

Travel Writing

I did not realize this was published! It is in an online travel journal.

Friday, July 1, 2016

I'm in!

This is one of the most exciting days in picture book writing! Tons of great speakers all on my computer! No need to get dressed or drink convention coffee!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Finally heard back from the potential agent. He is speaking at Write to Publish conference I am attending in Wheaton in June so we plan to meet up. He has read all my stuff. So at least he thinks it is worth the time to meet.....Even if he will just handle the Christian submissions because those doors are totally closed!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Here's to you Write 6! You all knew this little guy as a North Pole rat and formed him into Tuktuk - here he is!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Magazines and mental adjustment

Children's publishers are bringing out a lot of new nonfiction magazines - on science, history, anthropology, travel. I suspect some of my recent writings would be better magazine articles. Case in point is A Good Place for Ducks, based on a true story of environmental awareness in Japan. I need to adjust my sights to see publication as getting the story out rather than holding a book in my hands.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Day 5 - still alive!

Typed a Welsh tale today. Cedwyn: the Dragon who Cried, "Knight!" Pretty rough but at least I resisted rhyming!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Days 2 and 3 are rough as sandpaper! 50 state animals convene for an election. And a dog named Chew who hides shoes - in rhyme.

But #4 has some possibilities: Kidogo Tumbili - little monkey in Swahili - is entry #4, based on my true story in Tanzania. Including information on Vervet monkeys, Swahili words and Ngorongoro Crater wild life.

Monday, May 2, 2016

May 1-7

May 1-7 - Finished #1 even after a Day at church! Rest of the week should be easy - if I have enough ideas!

Day 1: Tooth a Saurus saves the new Tooth Fairy!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Dance for Write 6

Our own Urania Smith is moving up the path towards publication! Agent asked to see more and more. The result of really working the Internet groups and the conferences. We are sooooo happy for you! 

Friday, March 25, 2016


Annotated 155 books in March - an average of 5 per day. (I had to bunch up a little to finish before Holy Week!) Her is the best of the best.

On loss
Daly, Cathleen . Emily's blue period
Epsom, Jo. Rabbityness.
Honecker, Stephen. Sally goes to heaven.
 Jeffers, Oliver. The Heart and the Bottle.
Long, Loren. Little tree
Moundlic, Charlotte. The scar.
Paschka, Chris. The purple balloon.
Shepherd, Jessica. Grandma
 Skofield, James. Bear and Bird.
Vigna, Judith. Saying goodbye to daddy.
Walsh, Barbara. Sammy in the sky.
Other great finds
Bean, Jonathan. This is my home, this is my school .
Header, Thyra. The bear report.
LaRochelle, David. Moo!
Levy, Janice. Papa gave me a stick
Pollaco, Patricia. Junkyard wonders and Aunt Crisp and the great Creek Dam Affair.
Rash, Andy. Archie the daredevil penguin.
Shaw, Nancy. Sheep go to sleep
Stewart, Melissa. Feathers not just for flying.
Teague, Mark. Pigsty.
Torrey, Richard. The almost terrible play date.



Friday, March 18, 2016

50 words

Homeless. Hungry. Help.
Homeless. Hungry. Help.
Mom, who is that man?
Why is he hungry?
I don't know.
Did he get food yesterday?
Where is his family?
I don't know.
Homeless. Hungry. Help.
Why is the man still there ?
He needs a little help.
I found a quarter!
 Bless you.

Prickly Subjects

I am tackling subjects that need words but kids often don't have them and parents are often to involved emotionally to help. This month I have studied (motivated by ReFoReMo!) a myriad of texts on divorce, death, grandparents and tried to find books on homelessness, hunger, hospice, miscarriage. Lots of lack of understanding of kids eye view and skating over the messier bits adults don't like. And I have completed writing:

on divorce - the process, not the "I have two happy homes" outcome
The day the animals arrived
When we were all human

death - loss does not end when the funeral is over
Grandma's Mincemeat Pie

Homelessness - questions with no answers
Homeless. Hungry. Help.

First Thursday is Pantry Day

In the works
divorce - How can this not be about me?
death - Grown ups say funny things at funerals
Alzheimer's - is he still grandpa
miscarriage - everyone is sad - what happened

Not a talking cow anywhere!


Friday, March 11, 2016

update on the month of research

90 books read so far!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mentor texts

There are a lot of books out there! The ReFoReMo collects useful texts from the mounds of sludge - that somehow got published! My list of the library reserves is lengthy again....

This week I looked at books on divorce - a much more common experience for young children than family death. Every single one I saw began after the family messiness was over! Two homes were established with cute rooms, favorite toys, fun fun fun with each parent every day. No remarriage or new siblings. No desire to be together on holidays. No weird parental behavior. Gaps to be filed with reality!

In Iowa I polled the grandblessings about favorite picture books. The 9 year old loves Patricia Polacco and the 6 year old gave me some great books just pulled off the shelf. They both loved Moo! by David LaRochelle. I'll read that to the Headstart kids next week and see if they are as excited!

5 books a day for 31 days! And some time for silliness, too.....

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Research month 1

Knowing that the last week this month is Holy Week (and I am a clergyperson) and I might be a tad busy, I am jumping in to the reading and analysis.

 I am currently working on my own manuscript on a child's view of the death of a grandparent and one on hospice
so my first week is devoted to picture books about loss. Yesterday I looked at 28 titles, all published since 2003.

Yes it was a multi-tissue session! Pictured is Munster, one in a line of beloved missed pets!

The best were Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh (pet) and The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic  (mother).

Predictably there is some baaaaaaad stuff - bizarre art, kids who experienced every single reaction that adults predict they will with great speed and easy resolution, books with no emotion and some with too much. The role of God and heaven are all over the place!

I found none on: hospice care, euthanasia for pets, the unusual behavior of adults to the loss, customs and traditions of any culture other than white Protestant Northern American.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Funny title - hectic but helpful month ahead. Job is to read and report on 5 books a day for the month of March. This year I am looking at more serious issues - death, homelessness, poverty, life in developing nations, hospice. Also going to spend time with bilingual concept books.

This all would be intense even if Holy Week was not in March!

 I ordered a bunch of books from the library and did subject searches on Amazon. There are probably 20 new picture books coming out on death this year! Obviously the next Big Subject. Interesting how many books are being self published on Amazon - the art is a big challenge!

Here we go!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Diverstiy - Personal!

I registered As usual I signed up to submit a manuscript for critique. Then read the fine print that it needed to be on a diverse topic or based on diverse characters! Gracious - what does a suburban geezer have to say about diversity?

In the ministry I do now at St. Mark's our 4th services each Sunday (yep - 4!) is in Spanish. Many of the attendees at this service are from Mexico also besides learning some Spanish, I have celebrated Cinco de Mayo and Our Lady or Guadeloupe with a lot of energy. I also teach the first communion class - about the age of child for whom I write. Once a week I read to Headstart children, too, many of whom are bilingual Spanish-English. This is the diverse group with which I am most familiar.

I had a story about a building implosion with Hispanic kids as the protagonists. The second generation of kids - born here - are amazingly fluent in both worlds, but I have noticed that when they are excited they revert to Spanish. Knowing this I rewrote it with Spanish words when the kids were surprised or afraid. The context of the words will still make it understandable to English native speakers.

Incredibly my manuscript was one of the first 10 submitted for critique so I got to choose the person to work with! I chose Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, who grew up in Texas, and I hope can help me improve the possible new direction.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Do we really know what it is like to be another race or age or gender? Can we write with credibility? Can we convey to the artists of picture books the reality unless they, too, are experienced or sensitive? This issue came to the fore this week in a series of lectures from New York called Listening for a Change and a controversy over a book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington.

Read more here.

More conversations will follow!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

increase output

Besides my marvelous critique groups, the best encouragement for writing picture books is The 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.

Cooperative critiques, encouraging articles, tons of agent and editors inside information. I am sure I did not get 1/2 of what was offered last year, but I did write 17 picture books - probably 10 more than I would have! I signed up again, at the Shel Silverstein level.

If you are interested open enrollment is NOW.


Friday, January 8, 2016

e-mail queries to agents

Since most of our queries are e mail now - here are some (I should have known that) tips!