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This is Why

When people learn that I am a children’s author but, by education I am a speech therapist, they often ask why I write. There’s isn’t a simple answer to that question.  My love of story began as a child. My desire to write something a child would ask to hear over and over again came after reading countless books to my children. But mixed into that is the fact that idea seeds show up and I decide to plant them and see if a story grows.  I like coaxing a story out of an idea.

snoopy-the-writer2Sometimes it is discouraging to be an author. Ideas you nurture get rejected by editors or agents. Published books get less than stellar reviews or don’t sell well.  But the money must make it worthwhile, right? After all look at the cost of books. The reality is, a majority of authors aren’t making a living from the books they’ve sold, so they need another source of income. Just as the money you pay for a car doesn’t end up in the salesman’s bank account; an author doesn’t receive all the money from a book sale. (Read Why Does a Hard Cover Book Cost $18 to learn more.)

So sometimes we ask ourselves why. Why do we keep saying yes to those idea seeds, hoping, like Jack that they’ll lead to something magical.  For me it’s because of exchanges like this. I was at a table with my books for sale and a little girl walked up and pointed to No More Noisy Nights and said:

“I read that book.”

“Did you like it?”

“I did. We saw it at school.”

“I wrote that book. I’m the author.”

“You didn’t!?”

“I did.”



“Can I give you a hug!?

So that’s why.

The ideas come and are nurtured in the hopes that someday they connect with a child.


Reading “sucks”

0915180751_HDR (2)I spent Saturday at the Indiana State Literacy Association’s fall conference. I was there hoping, I’ll shamelessly admit, to sell some of my books and to make teacher contacts. I don’t know what the attendance count was but, on a perfect fall day in Indiana, there were MANY teachers and teachers-to-be giving up their Saturday in the hopes of learning new things to engage their students in reading and writing.

I was able to listen to Pernille Ripp’s keynote address and some of her presentation on using picture books in the classroom. I didn’t have pen and paper ( and I call myself a writer!) to write down all the wonderful points she made, but these stuck with me.

  • Sometimes reading “sucks” to quote one of her students
  • Read aloud to kids even when they can read on their own
  • Let kids choose their own books
  • reading for pleasure should not involve book reports, etc
  • We tell kids reading for pleasure is important, so we need to make time for it every day in the classroom

I’d add that parents help develop readers when they continue to read aloud at home, model reading for pleasure and provide access to books.

Here’s a excerpt from the Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic (5th edition)

There are several predictors that children ages 6–17 will be frequent readers. Three dynamics among the most powerful predictors are:
• being more likely to rate themselves as “really enjoying reading”
• a strong belief that reading for fun is important and
• having parents who are frequent readers. 

Additional factors that predict children ages 6–11 will be frequent readers include reading aloud early and often, specific characteristics kids want in books and spending less time online using a computer. 

Additional factors that predict children ages 12–17 will be frequent readers include reading a book of choice independently in school, ereading experiences, a large home library, having been told their reading level and having parents involved in their reading habits.

We are busy! The calendar fills up with activities and chores.  So instead of say “someday”, put a family trip to the library or bookstore, where everyone chooses a book (no shaming the book choice 😉), on the calendar! Then, as they did in my kids’ classroom, have D.E.A.R. time! (Drop Everything And Read)

On writing letters

0211181451_hdrFor any occasion that requires a card I carefully search for one that conveys my thoughts, and yet I can never just sign my name. On any card, I need to write something that is just from me.  And, I must confess, I am disappointed when others don’t do the same!

Long before I was a writer of stories, I was a letter writer. I grew up in the era when snail mail ruled. In college you’d check your mailbox on the way to dinner hoping for some news from home or maybe a love letter if your significant other was not at your college. The letters were read over and over, maybe saved, always answered. As a young mother far from family I wrote weekly to update the extended family on the doings of our family and eagerly waited to receive letters from them.

There are other ways letters or written words can be used. Since I was a child, I have used letters when I wanted to explain myself to someone or apologize.

When we speak our words come out unedited and the listener picks and chooses how they hear those words and their emotions react and they shoot words right back. But when we write words down, we take more care. We think about the words we’ve chosen and when we read them, maybe we “feel” them as the intended reader might. Maybe that helps us choose the best words to convey our thoughts.

And what about the reader? They have time to process the words, to reread before they respond. There is less chance of misinterpretation with those written words. The reader also realizes that, if someone took the time to write, it most be important.

So I think letters can be a tool to help resolve conflict. They can take some of the emotion out of situation. Sometimes a child or student (or adult!) may have difficulty discussing problems calmly. Their emotional reaction may prevent them from stating their points or hearing the other side. That’s a good time to try letter writing. Those involved in the conflict write to each other and respond in writing.

In the same way, written apologies sometimes carry more meaning than the quick “I’m sorry”. Written apologies might even be treasured. Like these from my daughter that is still displayed in our home!0314181432_HDR

In the era of texts and emails, letter writing is becoming a lost art, but it is a meaningful way to convey heartfelt messages. As adults, maybe we can model letter writing and teach our children the lasting power (I smile every time I read those “sorry notes”!) of written words.

And then…

evan bethWhen my children were small we would do add-a-line stories at a meal, in the car or if we were waiting somewhere. Someone would start a story. (You know, the once-upon-a-time kind of story).

Me:  Once upon a time there was a family of owls living in the forest.

Daughter:  They played hide and seek with the other birds.  And then…

Son:  they saw a fire breathing dragon. The owls were afraid because …

Daughter: they didn’t like fire, but the dragon’s fire was all used up. So…

Son:  The dragon went to the evil witch to see if she could help him.  And..

You get the point. My son was always adding the danger and my daughter trying to fix it!

0807181115_HDRRecently I read  Sam & Eva by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, (Simon & Schuster, 2017) and was reminded of this game.  In the book Sam is drawing when Eva joins him. He doesn’t want Eva to draw with him and so begins a drawing battle, as they keep changing the story with their drawings. When Eva’s Marmot is a superhero with a rocket, Sam’s velociraptor shoots lightning out of his eyes. Eventually even the text is being amended by Sam or Eva to change the story. A falling piano becomes confetti which becomes exploding confetti. Eva decides she doesn’t want to draw, but then things get out of hand for Sam as the drawings seem to take over, so Eva draws them a way out. And then it begins again!

While Sam & Eva are telling their story with drawings, I think add-a-line stories are a fun activity for home or the classroom. Maybe a big blank sheet of paper on the bulletin board each week with a story start and students can add to it. Collected over the school year they could be illustrated (maybe in art class), copied and students could go home with a book of stories they helped create! (Of course you might need some ground rules!)

Find lots of Debbie’s amazing “doodles” at Inkyelbows . They will inspire the artists in the room!

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