Archive for April 2013

Memories From A Long Weekend

April 25, 2013

It’s a mother’s dream to be actively involved with her daughter’s wedding plans. Mother and daughter shopping for wedding dresses, looking for flowers, choosing invitations … I was eagerly looking forward to all of that.

Our visit to the east coast was set. My husband and I got great airline fares. It was going to be a perfect long weekend of wedding planning with our daughter and her fiancé. It was a dream come true.



Not a dream.

A nightmare.

It began with our arrival at O’Hare Airport in the pouring rain. The day before our airline had experienced a system failure. Travelers were still trying to get out of Chicago. HA! No problem for us. Our 8:20 evening flight was on time. The rain continued, but we were safe and comfortable as we waited to board.

We watched buckets of rain splash on the tarmac. It looked like we needed an ark not an airplane. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and the deluge continued. On-time flights suddenly became canceled flights. Along with hundreds of other people, we found ourselves up a creek without a paddle.

There was a mad dash to get into the rescheduling line. To be safe, we also used our phone to reschedule. We did everything we possibly could to get a flight out of Chicago. Bad news.  According to the airlines, there were no flights available for us until Friday morning. FRIDAY? FRIDAY? That was two days away! Appointments we had scheduled for wedding plans would be missed!

It was 10:30 in the evening — time to rethink our situation. We decided to get a hotel room and keep on phoning the airlines. Alas, there were no rooms at the inns. Full, full, full was the word, and the roads around O’Hare were flooded. With no place to go, we chose the next best thing to pass the time. We headed to the airport hotel. Following suitcases being pulled by other weary travelers, we went straight to the bar. We remained there until it closed. It was then my wonderful husband took me to a cozy corner in the hotel lobby where we camped out on the floor for the night. We were not alone. There were many other flightless people littering the lobby floor. It was romance at its best!

As I watched the lightning and rain, my husband continued to call the airlines to reschedule our flight. At 2:45 am success was ours! He had managed to obtain a flight for us early the next morning. Being persistent does pay off.

I’d like to erase that night from my memory bank, but the memories from the visit with our daughter and her fiancé made up for the stressful events that had previously happened. AND after visiting numerous bridal stores, the dress choice is down to two. Now that’s success!

If you like flying and airplanes, check this book out.

 Moon Plane, written and illustrated by Peter McCarty, was a 2006 Charlotte Zolotow Award winner. A young boy sees an airplane in the sky and wonders what it would be like to be on it. Using muted colors, McCarty depicts the boy on the plane flying over a car, a train, a boat, and all the way to the moon and back home to his mother. The illustrations and simple text produce an overall good feeling. That’s the type of flying experience I would have liked to have had!


Tips from a Writing Conference

April 18, 2013

Once again, SCBWI-Iowa hosted another fantastic conference. The members of the Iowa chapter are not only extremely talented, but they are some of the nicest people I’ve met. This year’s theme was “The Sky’s the Limit,” and I’m still flying high from an overload of valuable information from a very knowledgeable group of speakers.

Take a look at this lineup!

Bonnie Bader- Editor-in-Chief, Warne & Early Readers Grosset & Dunlap, a Division of Penguin Young Reader

Patti Ann Harris- Senior Art Director, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Stephanie Pitts- Assistant Editor, Schwartz & Wade, Random House

Jennifer Mattson- Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Rebecca Janni- Author from Iowa

Alice McGinty- Author from Illinois

Pat Zietlow Miller- Author from Wisconsin

Here are a few tips from the speakers at the conference.

Picture books are back! Yes, after a few slow years, editors are looking to acquire picture book manuscripts once again. Here’s what editors want in the picture book genre:  Short books 250-500 words, clever concepts, humor, unique voice, and character-driven books. Think visually. Now get to work on a new manuscript or dust off a manuscript you filed away and write something amazing!

There is a need for leveled readers to go along with the Core Curriculum Standards. If you are thinking in terms of writing a series, there must be a hook and you must have at least three story ideas. Each book should have a catchy title and must stand alone. Nonfiction is also being considered for the leveled readers.

Oral pitches should be no longer than thirty seconds. Take a look at Jill Esbaum’s (Iowa author) post from for crafting a one sentence synopsis or “elevator pitch.”

In the YA category, contemporary realistic fiction is the trend. Zombies and paranormal are out for now.

When writing, word choice, language, style, voice, and pacing are key.

A note on cover letters:  They should be short and concise – no frills! If you’ve been published and are an SCBWI member, include that information.

Writing conferences are beneficial. If you have the opportunity to attend one – go! You come away with new friends and worthwhile information.

Happy writing!

What’s Important?

April 11, 2013

What’s important? The Important Book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard is. It’s been around since 1949, and it’s still popular today.  That says a lot for a book!


I’ve used this book year after year with my students. The book lends itself to discussions and provides a springboard for writing activities. Repetition plays a big part in making this a great book to share. Each page of the book follows a pattern.

Look at what some of my second graders wrote.

The important thing about a goldfish is that it swims. It is gold and small. It lives in a bowl full of water. And it has gills for breathing. But the important thing about a goldfish is that it swims.

-by Sydney

The important thing about school is that you have recess. You have lunch. You have math. You read. You write. But the important thing about school is that you have recess.

-by Henry

The important thing about gold is that it is shiny. It is the color of the Green Bay Packers! Leprechauns love gold. It’s worth money. But the important thing about gold is that it is shiny.

-by Andrew

I decided to share in the writing fun.

The important thing about families is that you are there for one another. Sometimes families make you laugh. Sometimes families make you cry. Families pull together during good times and bad times. But the important thing about families is that you are there for one another.

-by Me

Speaking of families, we went to visit our daughter over spring break. We stayed eleven days. That’s almost four times as many days as Ben Franklin said visitors should stay. In his words, “Fish and visitors stink after three days.” We took showers. We didn’t stink, but we stretched the limits of our stay. What can I say? We love our daughter! She’s family. And during our overextended visit, we picked up a new family member.

A wonderful man asked our daughter to marry him. We’re thrilled! We now have one more person in our family to be there for.

That’s the important thing!

One Stinkin’ Morning

April 4, 2013

In my little corner of the world, yesterday was National Manure Spreading Day. It all began on my usual ride to school – a ride on back roads and byways. In my eight years of traveling those roads, I’ve seen my fair share of farm equipment, but never have I seen so many malodorous manure spreaders in one twenty-minute ride to school. The farmers’ buzz words of the day must have been “It’s time to spread the muck!”

The contents of the first manure spreader attacked my nose before I spied it spewing cow poop over a frosty field. Gag me! My next encounter came when another giant machine of awful smells pulled in front of my car. I impatiently followed, going fifteen miles an hour. As I waited for it to make a left turn, a commercial came on the radio advertising – of all things – manure spreaders! NEVER, NEVER have I heard that commercial before on my favorite radio station. As I continued on my way, another manure spreader passed me going in the opposite direction. Before I reached school, I drove around yet another spreader on the side of the road. I was stuck in a cow poop time warp!

It was not a good start to my morning. Four sightings! It was a stinkin’ ride to school!

But out of cow poop came the droppings of a good idea. I chose the perfect book for the Book-of-the-Day in the library. It’s not about a manure spreader, but it has some of the same properties as the spreader.

I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan

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