Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Multicultural Children's Book Day 2019~by Christy Mihaly

GROG is jumping in a bit early this year to start the celebration of the sixth annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day -- January 25, 2019.  

Children’s reading and play advocates and bloggers Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom teamed up in 2014 to create this national event and non-profit initiative. MCBD's mission is to raise awareness of the need for kids’ books celebrating diversity in homes and schools and libraries. It also works to get more of these books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators. 

In 2018, MCBD's total social media share impressions totaled more 3.2 billion (with a "B"). That is spreading the word! MCBD involves a giant blog tour with book reviews by lots of bloggers (including GROG) and tweeters; classroom giveaways and educational materials; and a huge Twitter Party. 

MCBD’s Twitter Party is set for 1/25/19 at 9:00 p.m. EST. They'll be giving away lots of prizes and book bundles. More details here. And check out the official MCBD hashtag, #ReadYourWorld.

For this year's GROG multicultural book review I'm pleased to share an illustrated picture book, Celebrate Holi with Me! 

Part of the Toddler Diaries series, this book is written by Shoumi Sen (a MCBD co-host) and illustrated by Abira Das. This creative team published the "From the Toddler Diaries" series on CreateSpace. These books bring holidays celebrated in India to life for young readers. 

Shoumi, who grew up in Paris, Mumbai, and Dubai, wanted to help Asian Indians living around the world preserve a connection to their culture. As she explains, "Living outside India, it is sometimes challenging for parents to ensure that their children remain connected to their Indian roots, while at the same time, appreciating the culture of the place they are growing up in. Books can certainly help with that challenge and my hope is that the series 'From The Toddler Diaries'  can play a part in helping our children grow into global citizens."

Riya, the book's lively narrator, introduces readers to the Hindu spring festival of Holi. This book retells the ancient story of Prahlad, whose evil father could not sway him from his devotion to Lord Vishnu. Prahlad of course prevailed, and Holi is a celebration of how good triumphs over evil. The colorful illustrations depict celebrants of all ages throwing and spraying colored powders and water, playing music and singing, dancing, and enjoying delicious foods. It's a neighborhood-wide color-and-water fight!

Educators will appreciate the glossary, which defines words from Bollywood to gulal and abeer (colored powders and shiny crystals thrown as part of celebrating Holi) to malpoa (a yummy dessert). Check out the book on Amazon here

And here's more from the good folks at MCBD: 
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators.
Free Diversity Books for Teachers.

A word about the MCBD sponsors: 

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht AminiAuthor Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan BernardoMilind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. 
Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Bustin' Out with 2019 - Make It Your Year - by Kathy Halsey

Nothing but blue skies at the rodeo today. The year is still fresh, your intentions are good; you have saddled up your pony for a successful ride up the writing road. Hold your horses, writer gals and guys. I rounded up some help for you while you mosey down the trail.  

Anti- Resolutions Revolution
Back at the ranch house, Julie Foster Hedlund gave us some provisions for the trail. You might call it "food for thought." Back in 2014, I began participating in Julie's 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. (web site here and FB group here) From December 26 -January 6, we come together to review/reflect on our writing year to refresh/renew ourselves for a new year. The Facebook group closes January 10, 2019, but circle Dec. 26, 2019  on your calendar so you can join us at the year's end. Julie believes that most resolutions come from a place of negativity so we began with surprises, successes, move to challenges and disappointments, what we learned from both and then build goals from last year's achievements. This year 503 children's writers joined the fun. 
I'll share my illuminations from the process and the ripples of change that are already coming to fruition for me and others writers.   
“A surprise is an extra gift over and above what you set out to achieve.” -Julie Hedlund 
One of the best surprises that continues this year is that Beth Stilborn and I became accountability buddies. Every Monday we email our weekly accomplishments and our intentions for the coming week. We're not critique partners; we don't even write for the same age group! Beth lives in Canada and I'm in the Midwest, but we were surprised by this great motivator and wonderful friendship. You might try this, too.
Guiding Word/Motto for 2019
Some writers created vision boards; many of us came up with  a word/phrases to guide our writing and goals. Words like "Power," "Treasure" "Fearless" were claimed. One writer said, "I want to treasure what has been given to me, like friends in the writing community, opportunities, ideas, and time to write. I want to treasure the process and let ideas grow organically into the stories they were meant to be." Beth came up with this formula: FOCUS plus FOLLOW-THROUGH leads to FRUITION.
The cover page to my 12 Days features my guiding phrase.

Ripple Effect
Most of my critique group participated in this challenge and we've revised and renewed some of our procedures. During our first online 2019 meeting we came up with these ideas.
  • Post a calendar on Google docs and sign up for a critique. Commit to the date.
  • Commit to writing sprints every first Thursday of the month.
  • Create our own missions statements for the year and share online for greater accountability.
  • Change up our critique style by using Manuscript Magic. Look at big picture items first. Give themes, motifs, goals for the manuscript. 
Another writer friend and member of 12 Days, Beth Gallagher   and I decided we wanted to submit more in 2019. With accountability as a key, we created the Facebook group 100 Rejections Are a Good Thing. Join us and go big in this year's writing rodeo. 

Finally, some folks were inspired to write poetry and share with the group. Derick Wilder reminded us that small steps lead to success with this poem.

The Mighty Teeny Tiny

Teeny Tiny isn’t much— 
shy, timid, brittle.
But Teeny Tiny 
can become,
a Little.
Now Little’s also 
no big deal,
but better
than before.
And if you add 
those Littles up,
you get 
a little More.
More is less
than you would like,
but treasure 
what you’ve got.
Just lay some Mores
and then you’ve got
a Lot.
So dream delightful, 
vibrant dreams— 
make them 
sheeny shiny.
But don’t forget
each begins
with but a
Teeny Tiny
Julie had us end our 12 days with a list of gratitude. The gratitude attitude is one we can all cultivate as we grow into 2019. I am grateful to Julie and all the writers who shared so much over these 12 days. 
"Remember to illuminate your writing life, shine a light on the dark places, but even more, the light places, those where we excel." Julie Hedlund 
As Jane Yolen reminds us in her book Sister Fox's Field Guide to the Writing Life, "The joy is in the process."


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Kick off the New Year with Story Ideas

by Sue Heavenrich

It's January, which means it's time to... StoryStorm!
What's StoryStorm, you ask? It's a month of brainstorming ideas. Any genre.
Ideas of all sizes welcome.
Big ideas that scribble across pages.
Tiny ideas that take up less than a line on an index card. Ideas sketched in pencil or a rainbow of crayon color.

In the past I've spent the month generating picture book ideas. Partly because that's how it all started - as PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month).

This year I'm trying something new: generating ideas for a novel that's been bumping around in my brain for the past year. Instead of 30 picture book ideas - why not 30 chapter ideas? Maybe take the characters out for a pizza party or pit them against each other in a snowball fight (followed by hot cocoa and graham crackers).

Tara Lazar is the fearless leader and person who came up with this brainchild of StoryStorm. Every year she creates a wonderful space on her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) for StoryStorm posts - an entire month of inspiration and insight from novelists, picture book writers, nonfiction writers, artists, and experts in creativity. And did I mention there are prizes?

It's great fun! But here's the catch: you've got to register now. Registration is open through Monday, January 7  here, where you'll also find a link to the Facebook discussion group. Then check in on Tara's blog every day for Storystorm posts (or be lazy like me and sign up for email links).

Grab a notebook! Sharpen your pencils! Sign up and ... StoryStorm away!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Enjoy the Season!

We're taking a break to enjoy the snow, hot cocoa, winter sky, sledding...
      see you in the new year.

collage art ~ Sue Heavenrich

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Dip into Art, Find a New Writerly You by Leslie Colin Tribble and Kathy Halsey

Any amount of creativity takes incubation.
Kathy:  This past fall was hard on me mentally and by October, I felt creatively dry. I had not read Julie Cameron's The Artist's Way but I have done Morning Pages and knew to take myself on "creativity dates" to art museums, the woods, or whatever to just feed my soul and heart. I changed up my creative routine and challenged myself to try pen and ink sketching with Inktober a week into the challenge. Although I didn't get 31 drawings done, one a day with a prompt, I did enjoy the pursuit of another medium. Here's what I learned dipping into a new art form.
One of my pen & ink sketches w/acrylic. Inspired by a photo and the prompt "angular."

  • It freed me from being too critical of myself, since I didn't consider myself an artist. 
  • I met other artists and saw how many different ways there are to render art with pen & ink.
  • I sketched on planes, in pubs, and found that people were interested in what I was doing. 
  • By the month's end, I realized that as I wrote, I was beginning to think in pictures and what I would sketch on a page. 
  • I gained courage from trying an art form that was new and realized that all artistic expression has rough patches, trial and error, fun, and breakthroughs.  
Sometimes you have to be patient and wait until the time is right.
I knew some of my kid lit friends had other talents and asked them to comment on what they enjoyed in addition to writing and how each art helps feed the other. Twenty-three writers responded to my question over at KidLIt411. I'll share just a few responses.

  • To me, creative writing is just one form of artistic generativity. Almost any form of self-expression is useful for generating writing ideas and for getting into creation-mode.
    Different ways of creating often feed into one another. A necklace I've woven may lead to an idea for a different way to decorate a cookie, which in turn may result in an unexpected idea for a children's book. - Michele Blood
  • I enjoy handicrafts like sewing, knitting and needle-felting along with costuming. I also garden. For me, it's about letting my brain have some time to fallow, but my hands need to be busy somehow.  - Kimberly Christensen
  •  I love gardening, and mowing the lawn. How is lawn mowing creative? I mow nonsensical patterns, or only see from above patterns some times. It's great non-interupted creative time too, much writing is figured out in the fresh air! I also do t'ai chi and qigong which help my writing a great deal. - Charlene Brandt Avery
  • Cooking, gardening, and oddly, doing puzzles. I realize that it's not creative in the sense that the pieces are already there. But it both focuses and relaxes my mind. It's very meditative and I often come up with ways to approach a manuscript I'm working on while I'm doing them. - Julie Foster Hedlund
  • Finally, GROGger friend, Leslie Colin Tribble, is an author/photographer and treats Facebook followers to amazing photos. I asked her to tag team with me on this post. Her photography makes me conjure up stories. (They are throughout this post.)  
Leslie: I use photography to help me sharpen my creativity. Often when I'm out hiking I see things in nature which prompt story ideas so I snap photos to help me remember. Or I take photos of things I want to research later - what might that animal track be; what woodpecker makes those types of holes; do kangaroo mice hibernate? I could write these ideas down in a notebook, but slipping my cell phone out of my pocket and snapping off one or even ten photos of something is so much easier. Thank goodness for digital!

Creativity is a reflective endeavor.
I'm not on Facebook much anymore, but I have a presence on Instagram (sagebrush_lessons) and I love it. I follow people, places and hashtags that inspire me to create, whether it's photography or writing. I really enjoy posting my own photos and love showing people a slice of my outdoor life. I seldom post anything personal, but I do post things that I find interesting in the natural world. Instagram boosts my creativity and keeps me looking for unique and fun subjects for posts. 

I also think it's good to take a break from your regular writing. I didn't do much of any writing this past year, and when I finally picked up a pen, I wrote personal journal entries exploring emotions and thoughts, something I definitely am not comfortable with. And I've been trying to write a nature-related tidbit per day, just to jump start the words. Writing is practice and when I don't practice I feel the words and ideas stop flowing. 

Sometimes you have to just stop and absorb all that good energy.
Another practice which has come into my life is that of sketching. I've always wanted to keep that tried-and-true naturalist's notebook filled with beautiful sketches of plants and animals. But I really can't sketch for anything. The point is though, that sketching helps me notice both intimate detail and overall impressions. It helps me better understand what I'm looking at and inspires me to increase my knowledge. It's a creativity booster, even though I am absolutely no good at it. I figure I may never create a journal on the lines of Claire Walker Leslie, but my sketching certainly can't get any worse than it already is. And who knows? In several years (decades?!) I just might be slightly better at sketching than I am now! 

What are some ways which you can try to ratchet up your creativity by exploring other art forms? How about taking a watercolor class or learn sculpting? Maybe you could join a Toast Master's group, learn glass blowing, or learn to knit? I find I do a lot of mental writing when I'm just knitting down a long row of the same stitch (plus I'm not a very gifted knitter - plain and simple for me!) Find something you aren't very good at, especially if it requires you to use a different side of your brain.   
Other times you have to head out and pursue it.
Kathy:  As author Sarah Aronson reminded me in her recent newsletter, "In our creative lives, when we take risks, we don't always succeed either. But you'll never know what can happen in your story unless you try. Unless you let go of playing it safe. Unless you risk losing." Here's to new forms of creativity in 2019. What might you do with this one fabulous life? 

Its always worth the effort and you can congratulate yourself on a job well done.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Writing a Holiday Picture Book ~ by Patricia Toht

This time of year, bookstores are filled with holiday books, with picture books making particularly festive displays. 
A holiday display at Dragonwings Bookstore
in Waupaca, WI
Perhaps that sets you wondering about writing one of your very own. I've written two holiday books, PICK A PINE TREE and PICK A PUMPKIN, and I've learned a few things along the way. 

Let's begin by looking at the pros and cons of holiday books:


• Many holiday books have a ready consumer market every year, with shoppers willing to open their wallets to buy. In 2017, Money magazine asked the National Retail Federation to rank which US holidays have the most consumer spending

National Retail Federation, 2013
The Winter Holidays are #1 by a long shot. The next biggest are Mother's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Halloween (in that order). Each of these holidays offers an opportunity for books.

*The second largest "holiday" spending is Back to School. Another topic to consider!

• The school and library markets also buy holiday books, and are often interested in a greater variety of topics. While bookstores might not carry a wide stock of books on minor holidays, such as President's Day or Groundhogs' Day, schools and libraries order these books to support student learning.

• Often readers build their own personal libraries of holiday favorites, adding to their collections every year. Repeat business!


• The window for selling holiday books is narrow. You only get one shot each year for sales - the rest of the year, sales are pretty non-existent.

• The holiday book market is crowded. It can be difficult to come up with a unique offering that will stand out.

• Holidays are hardly universal. Some are celebrated widely in the world, while others are unique to certain countries or regions. Publishers may not want to take on a book with too narrow an appeal. 

• Publishers interested in selling co-editions (versions of the book published in other countries) will also not be interested in holiday books with a limited audience.

So, still interested? How do you get started? 

1) Visit the library and the bookstore. What holidays are celebrated in books? Read, read, read!

2) Christmas and Halloween are widely covered in the US. If you choose either, can you come up with a unique character, setting, conflict, or other element?

3) Diversity offers opportunity. Is a holiday that you celebrate under-represented?

4) Look at book formats. Has a particular format not been done? Concept book? Wordless? Nonfiction? Historical fiction? Poetry?

5) Apply your craft. Elements that make a terrific traditional picture book are the same ones that make a great holiday book. My favorite craft book is Ann Whitford Paul's WRITING PICTURE BOOKS.

Below is just a small sampling of my favorite Christmas books. What are yours, readers?

Unique setting

Economy of words, and so funny!
Cute character and sweet ending
A classic, in rhymed text
My favorite historical fiction
Christmas book

Merry Christmas! 

Happy Holidays! 

Best wishes for the New Year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Building an Artist's Collective

by Sue Heavenrich

Annie Z ~Night (self portrait)
Annie Zygarowicz and Johanna van Der Sterre were successful illustrators when life - and the economy - pushed them off course. Annie delved into graphic design, developing brochures, websites, and providing a range of publicity services. Johanna managed to carve out some time for painting and began sharing her love of art through a series of art workshops at the local library.

Last summer, both decided they were ready to dive back into children's book illustration. While chatting one day, they wondered whether they could collaborate on marketing - maybe share a website or do some local art shows.

Johanna ~ Day
"But our artwork is so different," said Johanna. She paints animals and scenery with a bright, lively watercolor palette and then digitally refines them. Annie focuses mainly on digital character design and scenes using dark, muted colors.  Johanna's art embraces picture books; Annie's tends towards the middle grade readers. Their work is as different, and as complementary, as night and day - a description that captures the mood of their work as well. Annie's paintings are dark and mysterious while Johanna's tend toward the sunny.

So, in July, they established the Night and Day art collective. Since then, they've added two new members: Marie Sanderson and Jennifer Gibson, whom Annie and Johanna had met in 2016 as part of an art gallery tour. Marie’s serene farm scenes and animals are painted with loose pastel watercolors, with the gentle feeling of "dawn". Jennifer paints plein aire landscapes with gouche and watercolor, garnering her the nickname "dusk".
Jennifer ~ Dusk

Between them, they've illustrated traditionally published and indie-published picture books and are busy working on new projects. As a collective, their goal is to support each other and promote each other's art. Some artist collectives form to share work space and materials. At this point, the Night and Day collective is more oriented to support.  They plan to get together on a monthly basis, like a critique group.

"We want to fit our skills together to collaborate on projects and also explore ways that illustrators can help each other," Johanna said.  To that end, she and Marie are working on holiday cards for a local show.
Marie ~ Dawn

The Night and Day Art Collective website, is currently under construction and should be ready to unveil next month. And you can find out more about each illustrator, and check out their online art galleries, at their individual websites: