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Wishing for Author Visits

We are all hoping that back-to-school this year means a return to something normal. School may never be the same as the pandemic will leave an indelible mark, both good and bad. As an author I hope that this year means a return to in-person author visits!

I had an opportunity to whet my appetite for this when I presented at the Appleseed Writing Camp. This a local camp for students interested in writing. They meet for 3 hours each morning for 2 weeks. I was lucky to spend a morning with 25 rising 4th, 5th and 6th graders. You think an author visit is all about the author inspiring the students. And certainly, that is the goal, but it’s no secret that authors benefit too.

An author spends a lot of time alone, well their characters are there, but … So visiting with students is a welcome change of pace. Authors get lots of rejections of their work, so when students look at your with those “you’re a rock star” eyes the affirmation is welcome. Students have wonderful ideas. If you share a work in progress, they might just provide the spark you are looking for to raise the story to a new level.

Slipped into my hand by a student

But the MOST important thing students give me is HOPE. To see them collaborating with each other, cheering each other on, pulling ideas out of nowhere, tells me this world will survive. There will be people to lead, people with imaginations big enough to find the answers, and people who will bring joy.

A student’s story start

Better Speech & Hearing Month


This week I’m putting on my other hat! It’s Better Speech & Hearing Month and I’m a speech therapist. Most people have some idea of what we do but most don’t know the full scope of our profession. We need a more encompassing name because speech is on a part of what we do. We work on speech and language disorders in adults and children. Fluency disorders, including stuttering. Voice and resonance disorders. Swallowing disorders in adults, children and infants. Cognitive-communication disorders including social communication skills, reasoning, problem solving, memory and executive functions. Accent modification for ESL speakers. Both speech therapist and audiologists work with people with hearing disorders.


Being able to communicate want and needs, to socialize and interact with others is an essential part of living. Most of us take this ability for granted. It is what makes us feel connected to our life, our families, our world. It is also how we feel in control of our life. Think about a child as they learn language. Very early they learn the power in words-particularly NO. They learn that if they call you, you come. Remember you couldn’t wait to hear mama or dada and later you wished you could change your name?

Speech therapist try to find the key that makes communication a reality for each person they work with. The client or patient, and often their families, are partners in this quest. Everyone has work to do. Communication is a two-way street. Sometimes when we see someone struggling to communicate our first instinct is to talk for them. Sometimes that’s ok, but most of the time what is most helpful is to show patience as they communicate in their own way.


Eating is another ability we take for granted. It is also essential to living not just because it fuels our body, but it also connects us with others as we break bread together. For some the ability to chew or safely swallow food is compromised. This can affect people of all ages and the causes vary, but speech therapists work to help clients consume a diet that will sustain them and give them pleasure. You may be asking, why a speech therapist? We are uniquely qualified because the muscles, structures, nerves we use to eat we also use to talk.

You can help

If you know someone who has difficulty communicating ask yourself,

  • How would I feel if that was me?
  • Would I want to be ignored or acknowledged?
  • How would I want to be treated?
  • Can I change how I’m communicating to help them?
  • Are there other ways I can communicate-a smile, a touch?

And of course, a book!

A Boy and A Jaguar
Alan Rabinowitz
Illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014


A real-life story with powerful illustrations about zoologist and conservationist Alan Rabinowitz. When Alan was a boy, he was a severe stutterer. His father often took him to the Bronx Zoo because he loved animals. And when he talked to animals he did not stutter. He decides he will be a voice for animals so they aren’t misunderstood like he is. While his family tries to get him help it is not until he is in college that he receives the help he needs and becomes a fluent stutter. Now he can speak, but he says, “I can speak but nothing has changed on the inside. I still feel broken.” So, he goes to nature, where he is at home and studies animals. He studies jaguars in the jungle. He works to get protected areas for the jaguars. He uses his voice to speak for them and the result is the world’s first and only jaguar preserve. He sits with a jaguar and thanks him because he is now whole and at home.

Dr. Rabinowitz has a Q&A about cats on the jacket. He is an advocate for stutters and feels his stuttering put him on the path toward his passion so he credits it.

So if you see a speech therapist or an audiologist this month ask them about what they do and thank them for helping others in their quest to communicate and break bread with you!

National Words Matter Week-March 7-13, 20201

Words do matter, so how many words does the average speaker use in a day?

A quick Google search did not give me a definitive answer with some studies saying around 7000 and others closer to 16,000. I think I probably fall on the higher end if there is a listening ear in my vicinity! Apparently, I’ve always liked to talk.  My mother tells stories about me standing (pre car seats and seatbelts) behind her in the car and talking nonstop!

I am also a reader of words. I always have a book (mostly fiction) in progress. I read the newspaper and I love the daily comics.

I work with words too. By education I am a speech therapist. Our business is communication. It’s all about words. You truly understand how much words matter when you have a client or patient that can’t speak, can’t communicate basic wants and needs, can’t use words to have meaningful relationships.

And I am a writer. The ideas that grow in my head want to be read by the picture book crowd.  And the words matter.  There are so few in a picture book, you need to make each one count. I love seeing the illustrations my words inspire and how they work with the words to tell the story.

With the written word we take the time to choose the right word. But when we talk words fly out of our mouths before our brain vets them.  Many words are loaded with emotions. However, the same word can be loaded with different emotions for each of us. Just like we all have a refrigerator, but if you opened the door different things would be inside. So, as writers and as people, we have to think about this as we choose our words in conversation, writing and on social media. We have to know our audience. Even a word that seems benign might not be. For me the word HOME brings warm feelings of family, love, acceptance, but someone who lives in a house without love and acceptance will react to the word HOME differently than I do.

Words don’t exist in a pure state, but in context. Not just the context of the words around them but in the context of the speaker and the listener. That’s why a book, a tweet, a news article can be liked by one person and rejected by another. Yet words are how we communicate, so we have to remember that  the words and what is behind them matter when we share them and when we listen to others.

Words matter; words are powerful. Use them wisely.

Every Word Counts

In all writing, but especially picture books, each word counts so you try to pick the best. Thanks you Vivian Kirkfield for presenting an opportunity for authors to hone their skills and write a story using 50 words. The #50PRECIOUSWORDS contest. Vivian know that every word counts as you can see if you read the wonderful picture books she’s written. Take a look at them here.

So without further ado, here are my 50 precious words!

The Rules and The What Ifs

Mom says-

No fish in the toilet.

  What if Fish wants to swim?

Make your bed.

What if Kitty is asleep?

Eat your vegetables.

What if Dog is hungry?  

Don’t wake Baby.

What if she wants a story?


Don’t interrupt!

What if I want to say I love you?

Thanks for reading!

Speaking of Brains…

March 15-21 is Brain Awareness Week. The idea is to “foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science.” Brains are AMAZING! Working 24/7 to keep us breathing, walking, talking, learning and living. Science has learned so much about how our brains work.

As a speech therapist and an author that writes for children, I am fascinated by how a child learns language. For example, did you know that babies throughout the world babble the same sounds. Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl calls them “citizens of the world”. At that point they could learn any language. Over time they weed out the sounds they don’t hear when their care takers speak.  Dr. Kuhl has done some fascinating research which you can hear about in this TED talk.

Her research suggests that babies learn language best from a speaker that is present with them. Not from audio only. Not from a person they are watching on a screen. Listening to language helps an infant learn the sounds of their native language. And the words, sentence construction, prosody and intonation. So, it follows that the more language a child hears the better they will be at using it. And what better way to provide an environment filled with language than to read, read, read to your children.

Books provide rich vocabulary, varied sentence structure and opportunities to engage in conversations about the books. Some find it difficult to talk to a baby since they don’t talk back, so books help immerse your child in language so they can begin to babble, then jargon and finally talk back to you!

Now, as promised, a recipe! Oatmeal is brain food and who doesn’t love a Butterscotch Bar! These are a favorite at our house!

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.

Some Words About Me


When we think of ourselves we may think of a collection of words that define us. In no particular order I am:

Daughter, sister, wife mother, aunt, friend, speech therapist, writer, author, cook, baker, reader, good listener, left-handed, happy, strong-willed, smart, baby boomer, Caucasian of mixed heritage, cat lover… We’ll stop there.  I know I could add to the list. Those that know me could too, and might be better at adding those less flattering words!

So if we take those words and make connections you learn a bit about me.

I was born and raised in Newburgh, New York; by parents who came from Edwardsville, Illinois. I’m a middle child with an older and a younger sister. We were lucky to have loving parents who gave us a good life. I have many happy childhood memories of my home, vacations, school and friends. I don’t remember not loving to read and books were always a part of my life.

I attended the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Connecticut obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech pathology. At my first job, in Williamsport Pennsylvania, I met my husband, also a speech therapist. We’ve been married 35 years and have a son and a daughter, both married and both left-handed. My dad, also a lefty, said we had to be smarter, because we lived in a right-handed world! He was a smart man!

When my children were toddlers, books were a large part of every day. My mother, who inspired my love of cooking and baking by being superb at both, suggested I take a writing course. I did and that is how my writing career began. Although not quite that easily!

While there are the instant success stories, most writers work hard at their craft for years before publication. That was how it was with me. Full of ups and downs, starts and stops, rejections and acceptances. In fact, even with four published picture books and numerous stories in magazines, that is still how the writing life goes. And it’s mixed in with family and friends and paying jobs!

But for me, and most writers, words call to us. They ask us to collect them and connect them. Together they are more. Just like each of us is more than our collection of words and more still, when we connect with others.


My Collection of Words


Thanks for joining me!

You would think starting a blog would be easy for an author, but for me it’s a bit intimidating. First, people will expect quality writing, and there’s the question of what to blog about. Should it be about writing or book reviews or information for parents and teachers, or about me? I couldn’t decide.

I thought about words. They can define us, connect us or separate us. The words are just there waiting for us to pick them up and use them. We speak them, write them, read them and sign them. So a blog, like a conversation, a book, a speech, a lesson or a presentation is just a collection of words. And words have power. The power to teach, to wound, to heal.

So this blog, My Collection of Words, may touch on varied topics of interest to an audience of one or many. The topics will vary, but they will have something to do with writing, reading, books or communication and they will always contain WORDS…

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