Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Few International Reads

December 11, 2015

On my bookshelf, I have all sorts of outdated Rick Steves guidebooks from the days my husband I roamed around Europe with our kids. Product Details In one of his books, he recommended that parents have their kids watch movies to help get them excited about different locations before they arrived.  I remember picking up the Italian-dubbed version of Anastasia at the library in Merano where we lived.  My Saving the Griffin could be a good choice for kids visiting Tuscany. While most of the book is set at a villa there, several chapters take place in Siena.


Here are a few titles that really brought me back to France and Italy after I returned to the U.S.:




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A Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Paris)
A Box of Gargoyles by Anne Nesbet  (Paris) Previous book’s sequel


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Black Radishes
by Susan Lynn Meyer (Opens in Paris)





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The Thief Lord (Venice)

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Bloomability by Sharon Creech (Much takes place just north of Italy, but there’s a trip to the Dolomites)



A Book for Girls Who Love Soccer

December 10, 2014

Do you have a fifth, sixth or seventh grade girl in your life who likes soccer? Well, here’s a spot of shameless self-promotion.  I’m going to share a few reasons why you might consider getting  a copy of DEFENDING IRENE as a Christmas present for a girl who loves to play soccer.

Let me start with a short summary:

A thirteen-year-old American girl plays on a fiercely competitive boy’s soccer team during the year her family spends in Italy and experiences culture clashes both on and off the field.
A girl who plays soccer in Italy is regarded in much the same way as a girl who plays football  in America.  So Irene faces opposition from players, coaches, and even her Italian grandmother.
Here are some reviews:
 What keeps this tale from being just another soccer story with play-by-play action is the unique setting; the inventiveness of the chapter headings, which consist of Italian words, pronunciations, and definitions; and Irene’s determination.” —School Library Journal

“Soccer fans, especially girls, will appreciate the well-drawn action sequences and Irene’s feisty spirit.” —Horn Book Guide
The March, 2008 of Library Sparks included this novel in their round-up of soccer picks as did School Library Journal in their Extra Helping series.  It was also listed in Nancy Keane’s The Big Book of Teen Reading Lists in the Girls in Sports category for younger teens.

You typically won’t find this book at a bookstore–it was published a long time ago–so you’d probably have to order it  by clicking on one of this link to  Amazon.   But if you think DEFENDING IRENE might interest a young soccer-playing friend,  another very good option would be to check it out at your local library or talk to your children’s librarian about ordering a copy.

Paired Texts

December 10, 2014

My friend and fellow writer Stephanie Bearce wrote in her blog about how she’s a fan of pairing fiction and nonfiction in the classroom:

“It’s a great way to get students to try new genres of books.  Those who believe nonfiction is “so boring” can learn just how exciting facts can be.  And those children who don’t like “make believe stories” can learn how much research actually goes into writing a fiction book.  Plus it makes for great discussion, stimulates student inquiry, and covers a multitude of common core requirements.  It’s a win all around.”

She used the 2015 NSTA/CBC Best Science Tradebooks List.  I was pleased and happy when she paired my Saving the Griffin with Marc Aronson’s The Griffin and the Dinosaur.   In her blog, Stephanie highlights great nonfiction and gives suggestions for lesson plans that grew out of her time in the classroom.



Doing the YA Cha-Cha

October 15, 2014

I’ve been neglecting this blog.  I think one of the reasons for this is that I’ve moved twice in the past two and a half years. But more than that, I’ve been busy doing the YA Cha-Cha. What’s that? Well, the astonishing Conrad Wesselhoeft, author of DIRT BIKES, DRONES AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY and ADIOS, NIRVANA  explains that in a song that he wrote for Erin Murphy’s Dog when we were live in Vermont.    It can feel like you’re going two steps forward and three steps back.


Thinking About Soccer?

November 24, 2012

Some kids aren’t really sure whether or not they’d like to play a sport. If you know someone who’s thinking about trying soccer, strongly consider handing that person a copy of Ruth McNally Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle: Most Valuable Player This is the fourth book in Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle series, a delightful collection of books for kids in third to sixth grade. Kirkus described the first book as “Part journal, part graphic novel, all fun.”   

While I’m recommending this book for kids who’re not sure if they’ll like soccer, the action will also satisfy kids who love the game.

Meeting with Students in Jefferson City

November 9, 2012

I”m looking forward to doing a day of writing workshops with students in Jefferson City, Missouri this Saturday.  We’ll be looking at using specific detail and figurative language in the morning and examining the relationship between conflict and character in the afternoon.

34343 Words

November 4, 2012

While I’m not participating in the NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I am tapping into some of its energy.  Instead of polishing words and phrases, I’m only taking them to a certain level before moving on.  I have dreams of wrapping up a draft for my high school and college-age beta testers by Christmas.  It’s been so helpful to have pictures from our trip to Italy.  I’d been able to work off of old photos from when we used to live there as well as images from the net, but some of the shots I needed were rather specialized: gates, train tracks and bus stops. 

Gaps provide opportunities

It is forbidden to cross the train tracks.

Just Kill Him

November 1, 2012

Sometimes writers stop in the middle of conversations once they realize what they must sound like to the outside world.  Often this happens when discussing the motivations of various winged or furry creatures.  Yesterday, the woman behind the counter of the coffee shop must have wondered for a second or two whether the Missouri Mob was meeting at her place. I don’t want to give away anyone’s plot point, so here is an inexact reproduction of the conversation that will at least give you the gist of it:

X: You know that you’re going to have to kill the boy.
Y: Oh, definitely. He’s got to go.
Z: I’m not sure. That seems like such a cliche at this point.  I mean two broken legs, a couple of broken ribs, and a punctured lung. Isn’t that bad enough?
Y: No. You have to be ruthless here.
X: Seriously. It’s the right thing to do.
Z: Well, I suppose I could….
X: Come on. Just kill him.

USA Vs. Japan for Gold in Women’s Soccer

August 7, 2012

The gold medal women’s soccer game will be played on Thursday at 12:30 Eastern Time on NBCSN, the NBC Sports Network.  I’m expecting another dynamic game! 

The Canadians and Americans hustled and scrapped their way through the game. Both sides committed fouls, both accidental and tactical, but none of the them were malicious. 

And there was a moment of genuine sportsmanship when an American player was injured and stayed down. The Canadian women had an advantage and the ref was going to let them play on, but the Canadian women kicked the ball out of bounds to stop play.   Once everything was resolved, the Americans sent the ball down toward the Canadian keeper, but did not attempt to make any kind of play on it. So in essense, they were giving it back to the Canadians.  I love seeing that kind of caring and responsibility among opposing players even when a trip to the gold medal game is on the line. 


Taking a Risk

June 12, 2012

At the Missouri SCBWI retreat back in late April, Viking editor Kendra Levine shared a couple of ways to think about creating a high-stakes story.  It’s been more than a month, so any mistakes or misrepresentations of what she shared are the fault of my less than stellar memory and note-taking.  But anyway, she started with a “What if…?” question.  I was pretty satisfied with my response for PORTRAIT: What if a girl receives a small portrait from a relative that could have been painted by a Renaissance master? 

But then Kendra went on to expand past the concept:

After inciting incident, a main character must main action while risking the stakes during setting.

And behold, as I tried to convert my “What if” into a plot, a wide and gaping hole opened up before me.  In fact, after I tried an initial run at my story, I wrote the following in my notes:

While Risking:


So I knew there was a problem, but I do often need a metaphorical two-by-four applied to the side of the head.  This came very gently with a preliminary evaluation from my insightful agent, Erin Murphy. I knew that my character was taking certain chances to do the right thing in my manuscript, but she wasn’t risking anything on a personal level.