Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just the Right Size

Think of a book about mathematical theory and physics. Now imagine people passing it around at a party. Well that's what happened with Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies. I handed it to one friend to read, he passed it along to someone else. I could tell who had it by following the guffaws and chuckles. This is a very funny book for kids based on very good science.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Heart of a Shepherd

One of my favorite recent middle grade novels, The Heart of a Shepherd, was named one of the year's best by Horn Book. I'm thrilled. The book has just the right combination of action, adventure, drama, and humor. Yet it also has a character-driven plot, and raises questions about life, death, and faith.
I wish I could pull this off so well!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fact or Truth

Stephen Koch has an interesting discussion of facts vs. truth in his book Writer's Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction. (I'm loving this book.) He says that whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, facts alone don't make it. You have to get "possession" of the facts. Internalize them, find their inner truth. It doesn't matter where the "facts" came from, whether they came from they came from reality or your imagination (as in making up a character). John Keats said it this way, "A fact is not a truth until you love it."

I can totally relate to this in writing biographies for children. It wasn't the facts, it was the truth that I found in them, that made middle schoolers tear up when I read aloud Dian Fossey's biography from Women of the Golden State.

Thanks to the Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School for inviting me to take part in their readathon.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Last week my yoga instructor's class focused on gratitude. Practicing gratitude is more than just reciting a list of what you're grateful for. It is a way of approaching life.
We are such a goal-oriented society. Sometimes we are so busy striving for what we don't have that we forget all that we do have.
So when you feel bombarded by the media message of "buy, buy, buy," this season, take a moment to reflect on your bounty of blessings.

Despite what I said earlier about gratitude being more than a list, here are some things that make me grateful:
Family and friends
The russet gold of New England November
My ongoing assignments with the American Notable Women Series. (I just got my list of Illinois ladies.)
Early morning walks with my golden retriever, Willow, even when it's raining.
And my wonderful yoga teacher--Ellen Schaeffer

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heaven to Betsey!

I recently returned from a Florida trip. I had picked up a couple of paperbacks to read on the plane. I was drawn to one by its quaint cover and Anna Quinlen's plug--"There are three authors whose body of work I have reread more than once over my adult life: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Maud Hart Lovelace."
So I was surprised to discover that this title was actually a children's book--the high school (two books in one) sequels to the Betsy-Tacy series, HEAVEN TO BETSY and BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF.
The books were very quiet. I'm not sure they'd be published today. Betsy's small problems were readily solved. Yet I was totally caught up in her character by the end of the books, enough so that I ordered the first title in the series from my library. I'm not sure what made Betsy so captivating, but I mean to find out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recuperative Reading

I've been laid low by a nasty upper respiratory infection. The good side of this is that I've had the chance to catch up on three wonderful middle grade novels, Avi's Poppy and Ereth, the hilarious Mississippi gambling Crows & Cards by Joseph Helgerson, and my favorite, Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry.

Let me warn you now, there are some spoilers here.
As usual, I like to figure out what makes a book work so well...
Avi is a master storyteller, and his use of multiple POV in Poppy and Ereth is phenomenal. He opens with Poppy and Rye, enjoying a cozy winter snooze together. Then he switches to Rye's POV as he forges out into the snow to write a lovely winter poem. Rye returns coughing. Next chapter Avi switches to Junior, the son. Junior is pounding on Ereth's door to inform him that Rye died.
Wow! Who kills off a main character in the second chapter? But Avi cushions the blow by pulling back and telling us the news through Junior's perspective. Amazing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As it snowzles outside my window this raw October day, I keep warm thinking about last night's meeting of the Story Spinners critique group. We talked about finding new ways to celebrate one another.
The Story Spinners always broke out the champagne when someone published, but we decided we also needed to celebrate rejection letters--hey we were brave enough to send that baby out, and we got a response.
That naturally flowed into celebrating submissions--five of us submitted something lately.
Most of all we celebrated the gifts each of us bring to group. Apparently I'm the mother/nurturer of Story Spinners. Sweet!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Women of the Golden State Launch and Negative Space

Last weekend I drove to New Hampshire for the Book Launch Brunch for Women of The Golden State. Apprentice Shop Book's ( publisher, Muriel Dubois, put out a delicious spread. I relished the chance to meet the other authors who worked on this project. They are an interesting bunch!

At my table Joyce Ray and her husband talked about their upcoming trip to Japan, volunteering with an organization that teaches sustainable farming techniques. Janet Buell shared information about her Time Traveler series of books on mummies, including the Ice Maidens of the Andes. I also had a chance to meet some of the folks who work behind the scenes at Apprentice Shop, like the all-important bookkeeper.

One of the best parts of the trip was driving up with Sarah Hemenway. She's an artist as well as a writer and provoked me into thinking of writing in new ways. Artists often draw the "negative space," but what is negative space in writing? Is it the subtext, the things hinted at but unsaid? Anyone have comments to add on this topic?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Humor scene?

Okay, ready or not, here's my answer to the humor challenge, feeble though it is. Somehow it seemed funnier when I first wrote it. Funny is hard!

Holly and Alex stood panting on the dock, watching the boat carrying their classmates get smaller in the distance.
“The ferry left without us. What will we do?” cried Holly.
“My scout leader says that in any survival situation, you should first take stock of your supplies.”
Holly rummaged in her backpack. “I have a camera, my water bottle, and half a smooshed peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“At least we won’t go hungry,” said Alex. “I have my keys, a notebook, and a self-inflatable dinosaur.”
“A self-inflatable dinosaur! What on earth are you doing with that?”
“My dad gave it to me. He’s the IT guy at the Museum of Natural History.” Alex looked at the sky. “Storm’s coming. The dinosaur could provide shelter.”
“How big is that thing?”
Alex hefted his backpack on his shoulder. “I’ll show you. If I remember correctly, there’s an empty field at the end of this street.”
The two trudged past tourist shops and up a hill to a grassy space surrounding a lighthouse.
Alex took a large rubber rectangle out of his backpack and uncocked the self-inflating mechanism.
It hissed and whistled and wheezed as the dinosaur took shape. The head was as big as Holly’s bedroom. The neck looked like a tree trunk. The body was as big as a school bus.
“A tyrannosaurus!”
“Indeed,” said Alex. “Dad thought it was an appropriate choice for his son, Alex Rex.”
There was a sudden gust of wind from the sea. The dinosaur bucked.
“Don’t let it blow away!” cried Alex, wrapping his arms around its neck.
Holly grabbed a floppy foot.
They tumbled across the field, bounced over the trees, and came to a shuddering stop against a tall stone arch.
“The dinosaur’s head stuck in the entrance to the labyrinth at the top of the island,” announced Alex.
“A-mazing,” said Holly.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Humor Challenge

I don't usually see myself as a funny writer, but Ellen Wittlinger's ( talk at SCBWI's Encore on humor got me thinking.
She says that humor often has:
1. exageration,
2. surprise
3. recognition.
So I challenge thee and me to come up with a humorous scene by next weekend.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Plot Challenge Review

This plot challenge really helped me over a hump. In his book Writer's Workshop, Stephen Koch says you have to write your way through writer's block and this exercise helped me to do that.
So let's all think on our keyboards!

Monday, September 21, 2009

More plot ideas

I even came up with an extra plot idea--of course they're not equally enticing, but here goes:

Plot #2: Aggie and her mom often laugh about how uncoordinated they are, but it's not funny when Aggie's mom slips on the ice and ends up in traction. Aggie's father's sister, figure skater Celina Valska, comes to take care of Aggie. Aunt Celina, who missed an Olympic medal by a tenth of a point, and was knocked out of this season's competition due to an injury, has issues of her own.

Plot #3: When Lester carves the top off of his halloween pumpkin, a little man pops out who gleefully cries, "I'm free!" and scampers away. An army of beings tramp through Lester's kitchen. They tell Lester that he's released a Puckling and recruit him to track down the prankster. Chaos ensues, but in the end, Lester realises that life is more interesting spiced with a bit of mischief.

Plot #4: Shy Shannon's outgoing online persona couldn't be more different than her real personality. Pretending to be someone she isn't is fun until her online buddy Connor announces he will be attending Shannon's cousin's wedding. Who will the real Shannon Walton be when her worlds collide?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Plot Idea # 1

Okay, here's my first plot idea:
Nine year old Jack Ward wakes up to discover his wandering tinker family has vanished, leaving him alone with his pony. He sets off across the Burren to the tiny coastal town where a small girl once offered him a kindness, in search of his family and who or what caused their disappearance.

I'm not sure that this qualifies as "high concept," but it grabbed me...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Women of the Golden State

"High Concept" Plot Challenge

At last Saturday's Encore! author/editor Lisa Papademetriou gave a terrific talk on writing the middle grade series. She said that her boss once asked her to come up with three book ideas in two days...Her trick in getting this done was to come up with a character idea and an inciting incident. 
Lisa also spoke about how editors were on the lookout for "High Concept" plots, or ones with wide commercial appeal.
So here's my challenge--by Tuesday, come up with three high concept book ideas...notice that I'm giving you more time than Lisa's editor did!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Women of the Golden State

I opened my mailbox and what was inside? The advance copy of my latest book, Women of the Golden State: 25 California Women You Should Know. It was so exciting to hold this first copy in my hands. I waved down the neighbors driving by, bursting to share my news.
The cover announces that the book was written by Linda Crotta Brennan and others--this was a collaborative effort. I wrote three of the biographies in the book, Dian Fossey: Protector of the Mountain Gorilla, Dorothea Lange: Changing the World Through Photography, and Maud Younger: Millionaire Waitress.
You can find out more about Women of the Golden State, and the other titles in the American Notable Women Series at the Apprentice Shop Books website,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Encore and Writers' Salons

Oh, I wanted to let people know about two wonderful SCBWI New England events coming up. (I'm helping out with both.) You can find out more about these events at

Encore Details: On Saturday, September 12, SCBWI in Southern New England will host ENCORE 2009, a day of four workshops by faculty from recent past regional conferences. Workshops include: "Choices in Narrative Voices" given by author and editor J. L. Bell, "What's so Funny and Why" given by award winning author Ellen Wittlinger, "Writing the Middle Grade Series" given by editor and author Lisa Papademetriou, and "Before and After" given by Houghton editor, Erica Zappy.

For this event, SCBWI New England is teaming with the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature (ASTAL) at Rhode Island College in Providence. The registration fee of $50 includes a continental breakfast and buffet lunch.

For information and a simple registration form, download this PDF file, print it, fill it out, and mail it in. Additional information on the workshops and presenters is below. The registration deadline is September 1st.

Writers' Salon details:

Taking Your School Visits to the Next Level: Q&A with Two School Visit Coordinators


Passion and Process vs. Product and Promotion: A Group Discussion

Saturday, September 19, 2009, 10:00 - 2:30, in Acton, Massachusetts

An event for published authors and illustrators of books for children

SCBWI Salons are gatherings for published authors and illustrators of children's books...

  • To share ideas, triumphs, and struggles
  • To discuss what SCBWI-NE can do to help us as published members
  • To grow as artists
  • To be inspired by experts in the field
  • To get connected

The topics for the 19 September Salon are--

Taking Your School Visits to the Next Level: Q&A with Two School Visit Coordinators

Two experienced school visit coordinators describe their idea of the perfect author/illustrator visit and offer advice for making your programs better than ever.

Passion and Process vs. Product and Promotion: A Group Discussion

Passion led us to become authors and illustrators and we spend hours of time creating our works, but sending them out into the world is a job most of us weren't expecting. We will discuss how to balance time spent making books and time spent marketing them.

10:00-10:30 Registration and Networking
10:30-12:00 Presentation and Group Discussion
12:00-1:00 Lunch and Networking
1:00-2:30 Presentation and Group Discussion

Faulkner Room, Acton Town Hall
472 Main St., Acton, MA (directions below)

It's done!

It's been a while since I posted, but my middle grade novel, Paper Doll Ghosts, is done and on the agent's desk!
Now I have to get to work on revising my School Visit fliers and getting them in the mail.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Art of Knowing

I just finished reading the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing by Alison McGhee. Geared for kids aged 9-12, it is deceptively simple and childlike, following Julia Gillian's everyday life with her two caring parents and beloved dog. But then Julia picks up a book she thinks she'll like, until she gets midway through and decides she doesn't want to read the ending. She throws the book out on the fire escape, but she knows it's there, so she hides it with a tower of toys...
this is a profound book on facing our greatest fears.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beginner's Mind

Yesterday I gave the workshop, Reaching Your Audience: Writing for Magazines, at RIC's Summer Writing Institute. A dynamic group of students of all ages attended. They had exciting ideas and projects to share.
Part of the joy of being on faculty was getting to hear the other speakers. Patricia McCormick was our luncheon speaker. She talked about how blessed the students were to have "beginner's mind" as yet unsullied by the experts' rules on writing. Then this morning, I was reading Writing from the Heart by Nancy Slonim Aronie. She writes about trying to return to the place before the judging and labeling and narrowing of vision. She has a great line-Don't should on me!
My bible study for today curiously echoed this idea, in opening one's life to the Holy Spirit.
So for today, I'm going to practice being and seeing with fresh eyes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Institute at RIC

I'll be part of the faculty for this year's Summer Writing Institute at Rhode Island College. Here are the details:

“Calling All Writers!”
Putting Your Talent To Work!

3rd Annual ASTAL Summer Institute Writing for Young People
June 24, 25, 26, 27, 29 & 30, 2009

Once again this summer the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature (ASTAL) at Rhode Island College is offering an institute for people who are interested in learning to write for young people. Participants will write and interact for six days of working with award-winning authors who serve as their instructor/mentors; they will also attend presentations about book publishing featuring editors and publishers and they will meet and hear from guest authors. The instructor/mentor to student ratio will not exceed 1:8 to provide maximum opportunities for individualized instruction and feedback during work sessions. Enrollment will be limited and students will be accepted in the order that we receive the applications by the strand indicated.

Option 1 Full registration
Participants will enjoy everything the Institute has to offer!
Cost: $894 for credit $750 for non-credit

Option 2 "Cashing in on Your Imagination: Becoming a Freelance Writer," June 27, one day workshops
Participants will join Institute participants for a day long program exploring aspects of freelance writing to turn talent into cash in these difficult economic times. Cost: $100

Option 3 Speakers Only
Participants will have the opportunity to attend the author presentations from 9-10 on June 24, 25, 26, & 29 and Luncheon on June 27. Cost: $70

Option 4 Luncheon, June 27
Participants will get to enjoy a luncheon with speaker and book fair with discounted prices. Cost: $30

For more information or to register for this event please visit

Novel Writing

I've been reading up on novel writing, in preparation for leading a workshop for my critique group. We all seem to struggle with how to structure such and long, unwieldy beast.
One helpful hint that I've found is to launch the book with an "inciting incident," one that threatens the MC's basic sense of self. Then craft "set pieces," or scenes with high emotional impact, turning points along your character's path to the "inner cave," crisis point, and resolution. Jot these all scenes down on index cards that you can shuffle, remove, or add to until your plot line makes sense.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Jane again

My big brother Chris said my last post was rude.
So... what are your hobbies?
I collect gravestones.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet Jane!

I recently read an article called "Inspiration to Speak, Reason to Read: Ways to Find Voice" by Mindy Hardwick in Children's Writer Guide to 2009. Mindy suggests allowing your character to blog, and seeing what s/he will say as a means to discovering your character's voice.

So, meet Jane Lombardi, the almost 11 year old lead in my current work-in-progress, Paper Doll Ghosts:

Stop looking at me!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Delta Kappa Gamma

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of educators last night from the Beta Chapter of RI's Delta Kappa Gamma. They are a lively group of women, active in their community. They sponsor scholarships and educational programs for students and teachers. Here's a link to their great organization:

After a yummy Italian dinner at Spumoni's, I spoke to them about creating The Black Regiment of the American Revolution.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Interview with Children's Author, Jeannine Atkins

I want to welcome Jeannine Atkins to my blog for my first ever author interview.

Jeannine Atkins is the author of picture books including AANI AND THE TREE HUGGERS, MARY ANNING AND THE SEA DRAGON, and most recently ANNE HUTCHINSON’S WAY, which was named to Booklist’s 2007 Top Ten Religion Books for Youth.

In 1643, the Hutchinson family sailed from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, hoping to find religious freedom. Soon Anne Hutchinson was forbidden to speak about Scripture in her home. She spoke anyway, and was put in jail. The picture book, told from the point of view of her young, proud, and worried daughter, Susanna, shows Anne’s strong faith as she practices and defends free speech.

What about Anne Hutchinson attracted you? Why did you decide to write about her?

I was aware of Anne Hutchinson growing up in Massachusetts, and she kept returning to my attention as years passed, as if nudging me to learn more about her. At last I paid attention to the nudges and read biographies to understand some of her special qualities.

Why did you choose to write a picture book about her instead of a longer book?

I love the way a picture book may capture the essence of a person by focusing on a few important incidents. And of course I love the way great pictures can quickly fill in a lot about a time that’s so different from what’s familiar to us. While all the details of Anne Hutchinson’s story are important, I wanted to distill from what’s known to highlight her courage and its price.

Anne had a very complex life. She held firmly to her beliefs, though they differed from others. She refused to be silenced, even at great cost to herself and her family. How did you present Anne’s life so that would be accessible picture book readers?

I chose to tell Anne’s story through the point of view of one of her children, to focus on the pride they surely felt along with a yearning to have more safe time with her. I think that mixed feeling of being glad your parent has a good life in the world, while wanting more ordinary time just to be with them, is something many children feel, though not to this extent.

Was it a challenge to talk about religious issues in a secular book? You did so with such grace—how did you approach this?

The difficulties were in trying to find simplicity in what’s complex, which is often the task of the picture book writer. There are many huge books outlining interpretations of scripture that tore apart some communities, and I didn’t want to go there! I struggled to define Puritanism in a sentence.

What special difficulties did you face in writing this book?

I wanted to make the language sound as if it had been spoken a long time ago, yet still be easy enough to understand. And as you mentioned, this book is about a religious drama but it’s intended for readers from any religious background or none. It’s set in a time when religion shaped almost all life choices and consequences. I wanted to convey that without going into the intricacies of theological differences that most children wouldn’t know about.

There is some debate about where the line should be drawn between fiction and nonfiction. What are your thoughts on this? What is your definition of “creative nonfiction”?

I’m an advocate of taking historical facts and working them into scenes based on what we know about a person and a time. I think strategies such as inventing dialogue help readers feel as if they were there, and then, having made that emotional connection, perhaps go on to explore views of history.

How was this book similar or different than the other books you’ve written?

I’ve often been attracted to theme of learning what is true for you and staying loyal to it; that’s something that starts for us when we’re young and continues all our lives. And growing up when women weren’t featured much in history texts, I try to “write women back into history.”

What were your special joys in writing this book?

It is a joy to answer the nudge I mentioned at the beginning of this interview. To say – all right, I’ll pay attention! And then to get to spend months with such a heroic woman and family; that was a joy and an honor.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you for asking such interesting questions, Linda! Oh, and there’s always: what’s next? In April 2010, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers will publish my first book of poetry, Borrowed Names: Poems of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and their Daughters. You can learn more on my website at or read my blog, View from a Window Seat, at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rescheduled interview with Jeannine Atkins

If you were anticipating my interview with Jeannine Atkins, I apologize. I was called away precipitously when my father became seriously ill. He passed away this Tuesday after a long and love-filled life.
Jeannine and I have rescheduled her interview for Friday, May 1st. We'd love to have you join us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interview with author Jeannine Atkins

On Friday, April 17, I'll be hosting a blog interview with children's author, Jeannine Atkins. Her titles include Aani and the Tree Huggers, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, and most recently, Anne Hutchinson's Way. You can visit her website to find out more about her at
Hope you'll join us!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sample Watercolor

I figured out how to add an image! Hurray for me!
Here's a sample of my art from the show.

Gallery Opening

I always said that when I retired, I wanted to paint bad watercolors. Well, I haven't retired yet, but my husband bought me paint and I took a few lessons. You can see the results and judge for yourself!
Two of my paintings will be hung in Carole Berren's show:
Please join Carole Berren and her students for our annual exhibition:
Cranston Public Library Art Gallery
140 Sockanosset Cross Road
Cranston, RI 02920
(401) 943- 9080
Opening Reception: Sunday, April 5, 2009 2-4 PM
Exhibition on view through April 30, 2009
Hours: M-Th. 9AM - 8PM; F-S 9AM - 5PM; Sun. 1- 5PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Morale boosters

I've enjoyed two wonderful morale boosters this week. First was a marvelous luncheon sponsored by RIC's ASTAL, ( and organized by the inimitable Dr. Jean Brown.
We enjoyed a preview of author Kim Newton Fusco's ( and Peter Johnson's ( new books , heard about Beatrice Grombley's ( adventures writing simultaneous biographies of John McCain and Barak Obama, and heard a sampling from Padma Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs.

The second was the fat file folder of thank you notes sent by the children of Sullivan School. You've gotta love kids who say they hope you write a cajillion more books and promise to read them all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Life in the Wild

I firmly believe that nonfiction books deserve time in the spotlight, so I'm going to shine my light on Pamela Turner's A Life in the Wild: George Schaller's Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts. This is an exquisitely written book. And George Schaller is a great and fascinating man who has contributed much to conservation efforts around the world.
The book won the Golden Kite, a well deserved honor!
Find out more at Pamela Turner's website:
And you can find out more about George Schaller's efforts to save our wild places at:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writer's Salon and ASTAL

This past weekend I attended a wonderful Writers' Salon on managing your writing career.
It included talks by author/illustrator Nancy Poydar
and YA author Nancy Werlin
The outcome of the discussion is that each of us has a unique career path and that all are equally valid.
Thanks to New England SCBWI and Melissa Stewart organizing these events. There will be another Writers' Salon in June. Don't miss it!

Next Saturday, I will be at the ASTAL Luncheon at RI College. Speakers will include Kim Fusco, Beatrice Gormley, Peter Johnson, and Padma Venkatraman. For more information and to register, go to

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Newport Historical Society Signing

My illustrator, Cheryl Kirk Noll, and I will be signing copies of The Black Regiment of the American Revolution on Tuesday, April 14 from 1-3 at the Newport Historical Society Museum & Shop at Brick Market, which is located at 127 Thames St in downtown Newport (across the street from Banana Republic and next to Coldwater Creek). If you're in the neighborhood, we'd love to see you there!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Way of the Owl

I just finished reading an adult book, about "a girl and her owl." Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien really made me rethink the intelligence of our nonhuman neighbors and how we relate to them.
Humans might do better if they followed "The Way of the Owl."
Check out Stacey and Wesley's website at

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Afghan Dreams

At March Into Reading at Salve Regina University in Newport yesterday, I sat next to author/photographer Tony O'Brien. He is a photo-journalist and the head of Documentary Studies at the College of Santa Fe, so children's books aren't his normal stock in trade. But he traveled across Afghanistan, photographing children and asking them about their hopes and dreams. The result was the thought-provoking book, AFGHAN DREAMS.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

March Into Reading

I'm participating in an exciting event next weekend, Aquidneck Island's March into Reading. Friday I'll be visiting three island schools and speaking about THE BLACK REGIMENT OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. One of the major battles in the book takes place on the island, so this is local history!
Then Saturday I'll be joining other wonderful authors and illustrators at Salve Regina University for a celebration of reading. Here are the details:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Presentations, Book Sales & Signings, Activities for all ages
O'Hare Academic Center, Ochre Point Ave., Salve Regina University
Free & Open to the Public

Meet the Authors & Illustrators!

  • David Macaulay
  • Michael Dooling
  • Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Mary Jane Begin
  • Linda Crotta-Brennan
  • Tony O'Brien
  • Jeannine Atkins
  • John Brennan
  • Lucinda Landon

Saturday's Schedule of Events

Revolutionary War Reenactors with the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment
9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m. - Mary Jane Begin, Jeannine Atkins
11:00 a.m. - David Macaulay, Janet Taylor Lisle
12:00 p.m. - Michael Dooling, Tony O'Brien

Guest Reader
John Brennan, "The Ghosts of Newport ": 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The Reading Room for Young Children
9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. - Enjoy a quiet break with a read aloud story.

Children's Discovery Rooms
9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. - Medieval Life, The Rainforest, Ancient Egypt

Family & Community Centers
9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. - Pick up a passport to "Aquidneck History 2009" free admission for children to local historical attractons.

Book Sales
9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Book Signings
10:00 a.m. - Michael Dooling, Tony O'Brien, Linda Crotta-Brennan
11:00 a.m. - Mary Jane Begin, Jeannine Atkins, John Brennan
12:00 p.m. - David Macaulay, Janet Taylor Lisle, Lucinda Landon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I've been reading Elizabeth Lyon's insightful book, A Writer's Guide to Fiction. She talks about the difference between objective and subjective POV, something I'd never heard discussed before. But it makes so much sense. It's easy to slip into the objective POV, to describe a scene as a camera would, devoid of personality:
The snow still lay thick on one lawn, shaded by pines to the south. Two doors down a robin sang in the tree.
But to capture a character, use subjective POV, including that character's sensory experience and their emotions and reactions to what they see:
As Willow and I walked past Mr. Stickles' house, I shivered. The snow formed a thick crust across his yard, where Willow's friend Baron used to romp. I hurried past to Sasha's house, where a robin sang in the budding dogwood tree.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Barrington Books

The Kids Heart Books event on Valentine's Day was terrific. Barrington Books is a fabulous place, if you ever have a chance to stop in, do it. They just expanded into a new space--obviously Dana, the owner, is doing something right.
Mary Jane Begin, Chris and Anika Denise, and Liz Dubois joined me for the signing. It was quite the party. Liz convinced me to join facebook. And I'm just recovering from the barage of new friends...
A special thanks is in order to Matali Perkins, who took time away from her writing to organize the Kids Heart Books event!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Out and about!

Just a reminder that I'll be at Barrington Books tomorrow from 10-12 signing books for the New England-wide, Kids Heart Authors event http:/
I'll be in good company with:
  • Mary Jane Begin
  • Anika and Christopher Denise
  • Liz Goulet Dubois
Hope to see you there!

Then at the end of the month, I'll be taking part in March Into Reading, an Aquidneck Island event. (That's where Newport RI is, for out of staters.) There is a stellar line-up of authors and illustrators:
  • David Macaulay
  • Michael Dooling
  • Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Mary Jane Begin
  • Linda Crotta-Brennan
  • Tony O'Brien
  • Jeannine Atkins
  • John Brennan
  • Lucinda Landon
We'll be fanning out across the island on Friday, visiting elementary and middle schools. Then we'll join together at Salve Regina University on Saturday for a grand family-oriented event.
For more information go to

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kids Heart Authors

I'm joining with other authors and illustrators celebrating Valentines Day in an exciting event called Kids Heart Authors. We'll be appearing in independent bookstores across New England and New York .

I will be doing a reading and signing the wonderful
Barrington Books
184 County Road
Barrington, RI
on Saturday February 14 from 10 a.m. -12

To find out more about this event, go to

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Every day events transformed to fiction

I was reading A WRITER'S GUIDE TO FICTION by Elizabeth Lyon. She discusses the difference between a series of events and a cohesive plot, first listing unrelated incidents, then turning them into plot with an overarching emotional context. Intriguing, I thought.
I decided to try it myself. I took some incidents that had happened to me the day before, shot them through with emotional context--in my case, insecurity--and chango-presto, I had plot.
Try it for yourself and see what happens.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Africa Doesn't Matter

Usually I review children's books here, but I just finished AFRICA DOESN'T MATTER: How the West Has Failed the Poorest Continent and What We Can Do About It by Giles Bolton. It's an eye-opening book. In the midst of the financial crisis, we tend to get caught up with our own concerns here in the States, but in Africa people live in incredible poverty--even when the rest of the world is prospering. And now, during financial crisis, we worry about losing jobs, while they worry about eating.
Ireland, China, and India have shown us how a country can lift itself out of poverty, given the chance. It would take very little, comparitively, of the world's resources to give the African nations their chance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Dragonfly Pool

This Intermediate novel by Eva Ibbotson breaks the rules. It begins in the adults' point of view. They will miss their beloved Tilly when she's gone! Tilly, the main character, never seems to have problems of her own. She just takes on everyone else's problem. And I'm not really sure if Tilly or Prince Karil is really the protagonist. Tilly doesn't change, but Prince Karil does. Still this book set during WWII is engrossing, as Tilly and her friends smuggle the prince out his tiny country and away from Hitler's clutches. It reminded me of THE SILVER SWORD, a book I read over and over and over again as a child.
I stayed up late to finish it, even though I was fighting a cold--a bad choice health-wise. But when I was done, I did realize that though I admired Tilly, and I enjoyed sharing her adventure with her prince, I felt distant from her. That was the risk of running around in other people's POV for a good part of the book. But I'm not sure kids would care.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

first lines and a heavenly book

My writer's group has been playing with first lines for the last week or so, emailing off a new first line each day. At the end of the exercise, we asked each other what made a great first line.
We discussed how a first line should pique curiosity, dive into action, etc. But I found as I read everyone's lines that the ones that appealed to me most introduced engaging characters that I wanted to get to know better.
Anyone else have thoughts on those all-important first lines?

Also, I just finished a heavenly book, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD. Antonia Lucia Labella wrestles with catholic school uniforms, making homemade pasta for her family's grocery store downstairs, and being a fifteen year old who has never been kissed. But her real goal in life is to be the church's first living saint, and she petitions the Vatican weekly. The book is funny and poignant, a must read.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Since the new year's begun, I've started each day with my journal. I do a writing exercise or two. Right now I'm using prompts from Elizabeth Berg's book, ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN.
I've also issued a writing challenge to my group--to come up with an opening line every day this week.
This morning I was reading over my responses to the prompts and thinking that they were pitiful, but I reminded myself that they didn't have to be good. They were just warm-ups.
A few minutes later I realized the worth of what I was doing. As I spooned sugar into my second cup of coffee, a drop stained the sugar in the bowl and my grandmother returned to me in a rush. I never would have been attentive to that small detail if I hadn't done the exercises first.