Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow Falls!

Nineteen inches of snow fell from Christmas Eve (Thursday) through Saturday. US Interstates 29 and 90 were closed, shutting the state down border to border for most of that time. Snowplows ran around the clock keeping emergency routes open and finally opened up side streets yesterday. After that, neighborhoods were busy with snow blowers and shovelers. See pictures here.

Today, the people we saw were cheery and thankful--thankful that we didn't lose power, thankful that it wasn't so cold, thankful it wasn't too windy, thankful that people we loved were safe if not with us for Christmas. Some people saw more fun than work in the snow, enjoying sledding and snow angels. See pictures here.

This event brings to mind three wonderful books about snow. They are aimed at children, but if you are a child at heart, take a look and experience the wonder all over again.

If I Had a Snowplow by Jean Patrick. This rhyming picture book tells how a little boy would use construction equipment to do something nice for his mom. Jean lives in Mitchell, SD, so she knows snow!

In The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats , a classic Caldecott Award winner, a boy named Peter discovers the wonder and fun of snow. Keats' collage and watercolors give this book a special flavor.

Another Caldecott Award winner, Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian, tells the true story of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farm boy who devoted his life to snowflakes. Bentley's fascination led him to photograph and study snowflakes. Many of his photographs are still in use today.

Sledding is fine, but for me, there's nothing better than a good book on a snowy day! What books would you recommend?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Wishing you and yours the best Christmas ever! Please view the link below and enjoy the magic.

Christmas card

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shop Local Because....

Local store owners have always admonished us to shop local. We shop local quite a bit because we realize it's good for the local economy. What we didn't know was just how good. Now a "shop local" movement is afoot, containing facts and figures that make shopping local look even better. You may not be able to get every item on your wish list at a locally-owned store, but dollars spent there go farther to boost the economy in your neighborhood. Here's the flyer:

Do those statistics startle you as they did me? Click here for more information about this movement. Now about those last-minute Christmas gifts....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Is Many Circles of Love

The title of this post is the title of this work of art found here and used under Creative Commons agreements. It celebrates the way many of us spend Thanksgiving Day, feasting with family and friends, visiting, appreciating each other.

I'm looking forward to one of those Thanksgivings, too. I'm thankful for family, friends, food, home, health, job, and so many other things. I try to give thanks every day, not just one day in November.

Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it. --Ralph Marston

Thank you, reader! Happy Thanksgiving! For what are you thankful?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Book Chose You?

photo by Becky Meyer

Carmen Agra Deedy, a master storyteller and award-winning author, held her audience of upper elementary school boys and girls rapt as she told a scary, funny story from her Cuban heritage--one of the Juan Bobo stories. One boy laughed so hard he rolled on the floor next to Carmen's chair. Kids (and adults), whose usual attention spans max out at 10 minutes, sat captivated by the story for 45. No batteries, videos, flashing lights or noises other than Carmen's voice held our attention at the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival. Such is the power of story.

At the luncheon, Carmen told her personal story. We laughed and cried as she told how her older sister, needing to be rid of 6-year-old Carmen for awhile, shoved her into the public library for the first time. Carmen was not a reader. The library lady interrogated Carmen, unsure whether this little Cuban girl transplanted to Georgia could be entrusted with the library's books. The library lady gave stern directions to the children's room and strict orders about what to do there. She told properly terrified Carmen that the right book would choose her. What did that mean? Carmen wondered.

Carmen entered the room and ran her fingers along the spines of the books on the shelves. One book was not flush on the shelf, and when Carmen tried to right it, it fell onto the floor. Is this the book? The one that's choosing me?

Turns out it was. Charlotte's Web, usually not checked out to those so young, grabbed Carmen's heart, mind, and imagination. She was hooked on reading, stories, and libraries. (Hear Carmen tell her growing up stories in her recording, Growing Up Cuban.)

November is National Family Literacy Month. Enjoy reading and telling stories with family and friends! And tell me, what book chose you?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Publishing Prodigy

Gordon Korman is a favorite author among upper elementary and middle school students. His road to publishing is unique. At age 12, he wrote his first novel. He knew that to be published, he had to send it to a publisher. The only one he knew was Scholastic, because he was the Scholastic book sale captain for his class. So he sent off his manuscript, and they liked it! Scholastic released the book when he was 14 and a high school freshman. "I don't know what my friends were thinking inside," he said, "but they didn't make any big deal of it. It was just what I did."

Now age 46, he has written over 60 books--all still published by Scholastic--and won many awards. He told his Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival audience that his humorous school and family stories are inspired by his own experience. He takes a trait of someone he knows and gives that trait to a character, exaggerating it to make it more humorous. His adventure books come from research. He told about learning about the science behind deep sea diving, including shark behavior, and using that information in his plots for his Dive series. Korman is also one of the authors of the popular 39 Clues series.

See an author interview and learn more about his books here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Write Now!

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution declaring October 21 the National Day on Writing. The National Council of Teachers of English is sponsoring writing galleries where you can post your work and read the work of others.

You're never too late to start writing. John Erickson, creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, had been told in school that he was a good writer. In his young adulthood as a cowboy, his short stories were published, but he didn't begin writing full time until he was in his mid-30's with a wife and children.

Unable to sell his ranch stories to New York publishers, he invested in creating his own publishing company, and Hank the Cowdog was born. Puffin picked up the series, with Number 54 as the newest addition.

Erickson writes 3 Hank books a year and meets his readers at schools and childrens' lit festivals. At Plum Creek, Erickson taught his audience of hundreds of kids rousing renditions of Hank songs, including "Rotten Meat." Kids shouted out answers to his questions about characters and plot from random numbers in the series. He said he makes the books easy to read because he wants kids to enjoy them, and he was a reluctant reader himself as a kid. From the opening line, "It's me again, Hank the Cowdog" to the end, kids love Hank and his ranch dog adventures.

Erickson advises young writers to "leave your readers better off than they were before." With homespun humor and kid-friendly scenes, Hank books show that Erickson takes his own advice.

You still have time to post in the National Gallery of Writing. It's not too late to write and leave your readers better off!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Footloose! (Or The Library to the Rescue)

photo by the Nebraska Library Commission on flickr

Last Thursday night, I drove to the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival on Concordia University's campus in Seward, Nebraska, where I would present on Saturday. It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night and it had been a hectic week. I threw professional clothes in my suitcase and took off.

One hundred miles down the road, my memory clicked. I had forgotten my dress shoes! What to do? I could drive into Lincoln on my way to Seward and see what I could find. I could cut out of Friday's activities to drive to Lincoln to buy shoes. Neither of those options appealed. Then I literally saw a sign--Fremont, Nebraska, was coming up. Fremont was big enough to at least have a Walmart. (You now sense my desperation. White sneakers wouldn't do!) Maybe I could get shoes there and get it taken care of.

The highway went right by the public library. It was 8:20. The lights were still on! I pulled around the corner and into the parking lot. "Yes," the reference librarian said, "we have a Walmart," and she gave me excellent directions. Backtracking, I turned onto another highway. Before I got to Walmart, I encountered--even better!--a Payless Shoes.

I sped into the parking lot with 20 minutes to spare before they closed. I yanked the door open and held up 5 fingers as the clerk asked,"May I help you?" He could tell I was desperate.

"Size 5 Women's." I strode toward the area where he pointed. "Jackpot!" I called. Not only did I find the pair I needed, at their special rate, I got another pair, too.

Once again, the public library came to the rescue. From research to programming to apparel, they know their stuff, and it's there for everyone. Thanks, Keene Memorial! (And Payless.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Right to Know

Happy International Right to Know Day on 9/28!
The Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA) Network is sponsoring events worldwide to draw attention to citizens' rights to know what their governments are doing. Strides are being made around the globe for greater access to public information for all citizens, including our own.

In a different kind of knowing, have you tried the Free Rice site lately? It began as a vocabulary game that donated grains of rice to the needy. It has since expanded its subject areas to Art, Chemistry, English grammar, Geography, Languages, and Math. Give it a try, test what you know, and help the hungry all at once!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Happy International Peace Day! (If you are reading this after Sept. 21, go ahead and celebrate anyway.) The goal of the day is to enjoy peace for one day. If one day, why not one more? And one more after that?

Is peace more than the absence of war?
Enjoy these links as you contemplate the meaning of "peace."
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Peace like a river
Peaceful, easy feelin'
On earth, peace, goodwill to all
The peace that passes understanding
Peace, I leave with you, my friend
Shalom, Salaam, Pax, Paz, Paix
Peace train
Peace and quiet
Peace Corps
Peace pipe
Nobel Peace Prize
Peace and justice
What do you think of when you think of peace?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Read All About It!

Join UNESCO and the International Reading Association in celebrating International Literacy Day on September 8.

How can you celebrate? READ!
*cereal boxes
*street signs
*technical manuals
*graphic novels
*clothing labels
*store ads
Read anything at all!

Model reading. Let others see you read!
Read aloud to
*your child
*your spouse
*your teacher
*your friend
*your dog, cat, fish or other pet

Be thankful that you can read. Here are some facts from a statement by the International Reading Association:
*It is estimated that nearly 860 million of the world's adults do not know how to read or write.
*85% of juvenile offenders [in the U.S.] have reading problems.
*American business spends $60 billion each year on employee training, much of that for remedial reading, writing, and mathematics.
*Africa, as a continent, has a literacy rate of less than 60%.

Which countries are the most literate? The least? Where does the U.S fit in? See the answers and related information in this UK Guardian article from March 9, 2009.

How will you celebrate?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Your Mother Was Right!

"Get a good night's sleep!"
"Go outside and play."
"Pay attention!"

These orders have come from many a parent's lips. It turns out they were right, though they might not have known why. Getting a good night's sleep, getting plenty of exercise, and paying attention are three ways to improve your brain power!

John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, studies the brain as it relates to cognitive abilities and is the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

Dr. Medina has learned that many office and school environments are designed in direct opposition to how brains best function and learn. Cubicalization hinders creativity and productivity. Sitting in rows in desks dulls the senses.

To see all 12 principles and learn more about how our brains work, see the Brain Rules website. His book expands on the concepts introduced on his website.

How can you change your habits or environment to increase your brain power?

"Get a good night's sleep!"
"Go outside and play."
"Pay attention!"
--And thank your mother!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Still Flower-Fed

Custer State Park, in South Dakota's Black Hills, is home to a managed wild buffalo herd of approximately 1,500 head. Rounding a bend just off the Wildlife Loop, we saw this bull grazing.

Once these creatures roamed the plains by the hundreds of thousands. From 1800-1900, commercial hunting took its toll until the herds were nearly gone. Fortunately, a few men had foresight to save and raise some calves from the wild herds. Their descendents live in Custer State Park today.

Also known as American bison, these animals can run 35 mph and can jump 6 feet in the air from a dead stop. Their strong legs and massive skulls are weapons against predators.

Our vehicle was so close we could hear the bull rip the grass from the ground and chew it. I could have reached out and touched him, but I knew better!

Vachel Lindsay's poem, "The Flower-Fed Buffaloes," came to mind:

The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more
They trundle around the hills no more: --
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low,
Lying low.

Lindsay was known as a "singing poet." He performed his poems, chanting, percussing, emoting, inflecting, and infecting his listeners with sound. Hear the regret in his voice as he gives tribute to this mammoth of the plains by clicking on the poem's title here.

At Custer State Park, the buffalo are still flower-fed and bellowing. I think Lindsay would be pleased.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reading is Good

photo by the San Jose Library

Few people would disagree with the title of this post. But have you ever stopped to think about why you think reading is good?

Reading is far from the passive endeavor it appears to be. Reading of all kinds--long, short, print, online, fiction, non-fiction--develops the imagination, critical thinking, and memory.

The National Endowment for the Arts conducted a study with surprising results about the lives of readers vs. non-readers. Dana Gioia, head of the endowment, explains in a video here.

Do your civic duty and read, and encourage others to do the same!

For what other reasons do you think reading is good?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Reading for Young People

photo © Chibi for CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

Can you stand more on summer reading? (I just started The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, by the way.) "ShelfTalker," a blog I read regularly, is by 2 women who run independent children's bookstores. One of them wrote about the dismal state of student's summer reading lists. Most of the lists she saw were classic titles by dead white men. So she asked her readers what books they would include on a summer reading list for young people. Click here for the result. Even if you are more young at heart than young, you might like to try some of these.

As for classics, yes, there's a reason they are classics. Two classics that I loved as a young person were Heidi and Black Beauty--both by dead white women. What classics did you love as a young person?

Monday, July 6, 2009

More Summer Reading

Most newspapers have drastically reduced their book sections, so I was pleased to see our local paper feature summer reading recommendations. These are especially interesting because the books are recommended by local professionals in a variety of fields, not just librarians, book sellers, or reviewers. Many of them were titles I didn't know. Click here for the list and find some potential new favorites.

What are you reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unusual Facts about Best Selling Authors

I'm on vacation, so I'm sending you to Mental Floss to read Ethan Trex's article, "Surprising Facts about 15 Bestselling Authors." Click here.

What fits & starts did you encounter on the way to your current success?

Monday, June 15, 2009

You Matter

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Where does your light shine? Where does your presence loom large?

How do you make a difference in the world? Click here for a list by author & presenter Seth Godin.

What would you add to this list?

I'm sure you fit into at least one of those categories. You matter. I'm glad you're here!

Monday, June 8, 2009

You CAN Go Home Again

This week, I'm privileged to be a guest devotional blogger on Diane's Women to Women: Sharing Jesus . Stop over and see the devotionals others have written there, too.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer Reading!

Summer reading is underway! I passed a yard where a girl sat in a tree reading a book. "Beach reads" some call novels released during the summer, as if any of my landlubber friends or I will likely loll by a beach anytime soon. Or loll at all, for that matter. Still, the idea of more time to read in the summer persists, the activity squeezed in between yard work, house work, and oh, yes, the job.

Here are some suggestions for your beach, mountain, back deck, recliner, whatever reads this summer:


Nevada Barr's latest national park mystery, Borderline, is set in Big Bend National Park, on the border of Texas and Mexico. This time, ranger Anna Pigeon and her husband are on a rafting vacation that quickly turns deadly. It's up to Anna to figure things out--if she can get anyone to listen. In the meantime, she must also keep a newborn baby alive. Balancing border issues, park politics, and Texas politics keep Anna busy and the plot suspenseful.

Diane Mott Davidson, creator of the Goldy Schulz caterer mysteries, has Goldy contend with catering a Bridezilla's reception and embedding herself and her friends at a spa whose owner seems up to no-good in her latest, Fatally Flawed. In addition to the usual cast of characters, Goldy's godfather is a main character. When he has an induced heart attack, the search for the killer becomes personal.

Sandra Dallas once again mines Colorado's history and hits the mother lode with her historical tale of the strength of women, their friendships and secrets in a high-mountain mining town. In Prayers for Sale, elderly Hennie befriends young Nit and helps her (and us) learn mining camp ways. They and their quilter friends share life stories until one last secret is revealed at the end.

Alexander McCall Smith is back with another "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" book. This series set in Africa is catagorized as mystery, but the books are much more about life and human nature than suspense of any sort. Teatime for the Traditionally Built is another gentle addition, where Mma Ramotswe gets involved in a potential football (soccer) scandal, her assistant fears her fiance's potential unfaithfulness, and her husband replaces her beloved little white van.

A really hot day may be the best time to read The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. A sad episode in history, the blizzard of 1888 suddenly blasted the upper Plains states, killing hundreds, including many school children trapped by the storm. Laskin's excellent writing and meticulous research show the dramatic, devastating effects of the storm as well its weather and societal causes.

The animal lovers among you will appreciate Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by outdoor writer Ted Kerasote. Merle found Ted when Merle was about 10 months old and Ted was hiking and camping in Utah. Ted documents what is actually a love story between him and Merle and gives evidence for dogs' higher cognitive powers than science admits to.

I hope some of these interest you, and I hope you will share some of your latest favorites with me. Happy reading!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lemonade Stand

Hey, my friend/fellow writer/blogger/scrapbooker, Jane (love the name), bestowed upon me the Lemonade Stand Award for my blog. Ta Da!

Here's what it means:
The Lemonade Stand Blog Award

The rules of this award:
*comment on this blog
*cut and paste the award logo and use it on your own blog
*nominate 5 to 10 blogs you feel show great attitude and gratitude
*link to your nominees within your blog post
*comment on their blogs to let them know they received the award
*link back to the person who gave you the award to show your appreciation

Thanks, Jane!

And the award goes from ME to YOU special bloggers who show great attitude and gratitude. Thanks for lifting me up!






Monday, May 11, 2009

Looking for Robert Sabuda...

...and finding David Small!

Our outdoor plans in Omaha foiled by rain, we made our way to the Joslyn Art Museum. Publicity had led us to believe they were featuring an exhibit of pop-up book artist, Robert Sabuda. But, alas, the publicity was in error. Sabuda's work will be shown this fall, according to the man at the desk.

Our disappointment was soothed by the building itself, one of the finest examples of art deco in the country, built of Georgia rose marble in 1931. We saw two galleries of early Western artists, Alfred Jacob Miller and Thomas L. McKenney.

And we lovers of children's book illustrations were delighted by the exhibit featuring the works of David Small, Caldecott Medal winner in 2001. Not a household name, at least not in our household, we enjoyed realizing that we recognized his style and did know his work after all.

Who knows what we will find the next time we're in Omaha on a rainy day? Click on the links to see more about the art museum and the artists. Then let me know what great art exhibits you've seen lately, especially children's book art.

Happy National Children's Book Week!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Results of Poem in Your Pocket Day

(photo by Eddi 07

Did you particpate? How many poems did you put in others'pockets? Did you keep a poem in your own pocket and pull it out every now and then? Or was the poem one you'd memorized so you could recite snatches of it in your mind--or to others?

Honestly, handing poems to strangers could be seen as odd. But the responses I got were pure delight. "Oh," the grocery checker exclaimed,"I love stuff like this!" She put it in her pocket to read later. "I have a drawer full of this kind of thing. You never know, I might use it some day!" We smiled at each other, and I went on to my hair dresser.

"Oh, what's this?" she asked as I handed her a poem. I explained that it was Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day. "How neat!" And she read it then and there.

I'm thinking I might like to keep a stash of poems in my pocket and hand them out now and then, whether it's Poem in Your Pocket Day or not. I dare you to do the same--and let me know the results.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

(photo credit:

April is National Poetry Month, and to help us continue the celebration beyond the month, is sponsoring "Poem in Your Pocket Day" on April 30.

The day is named after Beatrice Shenk De Regniers' poem that encourages children (of all ages) to keep poetry and art close by to stave off loneliness.

As the site says, the idea is simple. Keep some copies of your favorite poem in your pocket, and hand them out to people you see throughout the day. As Sara Teasdale said, "Life has loveliness to sell." Why not share it? The site offers poems to print if you are at a loss for what to choose.

If poetry for adults seems too obscure, try poetry for children. Children's poetry is experiencing a new heyday. Every day this month, Greg at Gottabook has published a new poem by a children's poet. Sylvia Vardell reviews new poetry books for children on her blog. Poetry is alive, well, and kicking!

What poets and poetry spring to your mind? If too much high school and college analysis put you off poetry for good, give it another try. Here are some links to poetry, old & new, in no special order. Let me know if you find a new favorite. And don't be surprised if someone takes a bit of paper out of his or her pocket and hands you a poem!

Eric Ode
Giggle Poetry
Kristine O'Connell George
Representative Poetry Online
Kalli Dakos
Paul Janeczko
Naomi Shihab Nye
There are gazillions more, but I'd better stop there!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Spring has finally sprung here, it's Earth Day, and thoughts naturally turn to gardening. When you look at the picture above, what do you see? We may not see eye to eye, as I see a tub of fresh green lettuce and darker green spinach. It's not there yet, but it will be!

How about this one?

Last year, this pot produced cucumbers that livened up our salads. It may do the same this year or it may take on a different task.

And what do you see here?
A patch of dried up weeds from last season? A section of dirt that needs a lot of work? Look again and see what the earth might provide: tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, and peas (if the rabbits don't get them first).

I see work, yes. But I also see hope, opportunity, and fruitfulness. Thanks, Mother Earth! What about our planet are you thankful for?

For more on gardening, see the site for the National Gardening Association.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday 2009

Really. What more can I say? The date is off on my camera. This scene really is from April 5, 2009. I guess the weather is off on the calendar!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Write What You Know

S.T. Underdahl, author of young adult books, followed the maxim "Write what you know," and has two books published by Flux.

The Other Sister has a North Dakota connection, just as Underdahl does. Sixteen-year-old Josey learns that she has an older sister that her parents had put up for adoption years before they were married. Underdahl herself is an adoptee, so can accurately portray the upset family dynamics that accompany such a discovery. Josey, her brothers, and their parents are a caring family who communicate, unlike so many YA books where the parents are either absent or completely dysfunctional. Underdahl reveals Josey's feelings and maturation through Josey's thoughts, interactions with her school friends, talks with her mother, and finally, talks with her "other sister." An interesting, realistic novel, the ending holds a surprise for readers.

Remember This springs from Underdahl's experience as a clinical neuropsychologist who works with dementia patients. In this novel, Lucy learns about the joys and burdens of friendship and family. Lucy and her best friend have a falling out. Then something even worse happens. Lucy's grandmother, for whom she is named, is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Lucy's family brings Nana Lucy to live with them, but as Nana Lucy becomes less lucid, they grapple with possible solutions. Lucy grows from a child into a young adult during the course of the novel, while Nana moves in the opposite direction. Underdahl includes a couple pages of facts about Alzheimer's at the end of the book.

Underdahl continues her neuropsychology practice and her writing. I am eager to see what else she knows from her own life to create compelling fiction for her readers.

S.T. Underdahl will be a featured speaker at the SCBWI-Dakotas Conference in Sioux Falls, SD, April 4. Come and hear her talk about her creative process and how she intertwines her real life into her fiction.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Jumping-Off Place

I grew up 30 miles from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie and could take you to The Shores of Silver Lake. As I got older, I was steeped in prairie pioneer fiction, from Giants in the Earth to My Antonia to Free Land.

So I wonder how I missed this gem of a story, The Jumping-Off Place.

A novel for young people by Marian Hurd McNeely, it won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1930, and was published before Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing her famous series. Set in the early 1900's in Tripp County, South Dakota, the book tells how four siblings head west to prove up their uncle's claim. This land was some of the last opened for homesteading. The heat and drought in summer, the cold and blizzards in winter, plowing the virgin prairie, and dealing with contested claims made this a harsh environment for pioneers. The children succeed by following their late uncle's instructions, working hard, and receiving help from neighbors.

The reprinting of the book by the South Dakota Historical Society features an afterword by South Dakota author Jean Patrick. Patrick gives us historical context and biographical information about the author, who lived in Tripp County for several years before returning east to Iowa.

Jean Patrick will be one of the speakers at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Dakotas Spring Conference in Sioux Falls on April 4. (See previous post for details.) She will inspire and guide others interested in writing for children.

What books about your surroundings are special to you?

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Write Connections

(Photo by Kendra,

Writing is a solitary activity, yet writers seek and need connections with other writers. When writers get together, they exclaim, explain, proclaim. They commiserate, participate, and sometimes even conjugate!

Perhaps the best organization for writers and illustrators of children's books and articles is the Society for Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I'm pleased to announce the SCBWI Dakotas Spring Conference! If you want to know more about writing or illustrating for children's publications, or if you want to hear up-and-coming authors tell how they became up-and-coming, please join us in Sioux Falls on Saturday, April 4. Spread the word!

The Dakotas Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators presents
"Books, Art, and Beyond"

Date: Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time: 8:30-4:00 Conference
4:00-5:00 Critiques, portfolio reviews, informal manuscript exchange

Location: Central Baptist Church
3100 W. Ralph Rogers Rd.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Speakers: Tim Gillner, Art Director, Boyds Mills Press

S.T. Underdahl, Young adult novelist --The Other Sister, Remember This

Mary Scarbrough, Nonfiction children's book author--Mission: Space Camp

Jean L.S. Patrick, Children's book author--The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth

Martyn Beeny, Associate Editor, S.D. State Historical Society Press

Mark Geary, Technology and Children's Literature, Dakota State University

Cost: $75 SCBWI members $85 non-members

Advance registration required
Registration form available at

Critique Opportunites (optional)

* Artists/Illustrators: Bring portfolio for general review from Tim Gillner, Art Director, Boyds Mills Press

* Writers: Submit manuscript appropriate for children (1500 wds max)
5-6 of these will be selected for a public first-page review
Deadline: March 14, 2009, postmark

* Private critique: Submit complete story or first chapter (1500 wds max)
Cost: $40 Deadline: March 14, 2009
Don't delay! Limited number of spaces available.

For complete information, go to

Please forward this information to others who are interested in writing and illustrating children's books. Thanks!

If writing for children is your dream, here's your opportunity to make the write connections!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Gettysburg Address

"Four score and seven years ago...." So begins one of the most often memorized and quoted speeches ever given, the Gettysburg Address. In honor of President's Day and in observance of Lincoln's 200th birthday, let's reflect a moment on that speech, given in November 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as a way to honor all war dead.

The address shows a lot about Lincoln's character and understanding of the United States as a persevering nation.

The United States has another Gettysburg address, persevering on the prairie. Gettybsurg's 1,000 residents have a sense of history and a sense of humor in promoting their town.

Gettysburg, SD, is known for its outdoor opportunities--hunting, snowmobiling, fishing, boating, and swimming. It's a friendly community with a lot of spirit.

And if you still want to visit the other Gettysburg, here are directions:

And may it be that these hardy South Dakotans keep their senses of humor and that, in Lincoln's words, "government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Interest

Grumbling about winter (see previous post) won't make it disappear, but a trip to Denver when it was freakishly warm (high 60's, low 70's) certainly helped!

Garden experts advise landscaping for all seasons, planting for winter interest as well as the other green, flowering seasons. One winter interest idea is including evergreens, of course. But bare trees and shrubs can add beauty, too. Bare branches display their graceful forms. Lingering berries or seed pods provide texture and color. Some branches themselves hold red, green, or gold tint year 'round, but only show it in winter. And don't forget the soft rustle of ornamental grasses swaying in the wind.

Photos taken at the Denver Botanical Gardens demonstrate the concept of winter interest very well, especially since the temps felt more like spring!

What interests you in nature this winter?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Day Closer to Spring

Don't be alarmed; that's not a real bird in a cage. It was part of my outdoor holiday decorations. I put everything else away, but thought the peace doves could stay. They looked so happy I could almost hear them coo. During the night the wind grabbed them and posed them like this! I was going to pick them up, but laughed and thought the bird felt the same way about winter as I.

As far as I'm concerned, the last time we hear "White Christmas" is when the white stuff can stop. Mother Nature has other plans this year!

This has become almost a daily scene out my back window. It's like living in a constantly shaken snow globe. Current temp is 2 degrees; wind chill is -16.

Many areas of the country are experiencing unusually extreme weather this winter. To all of us, I say, "Take heart! With each passing day, we must be closer to spring!"