How has volunteerism impacted you–what's your story?

Happy National Volunteer Week!CelebrateService logo
According to the Points of Light website, “National Volunteer Week, April 12-18, 2015, is about… taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.”
That sounds a whole lot like the message behind Be a Changemaker, don’t you think? I thought so, so I decided to help spread the word about an initiative associated with National Volunteer Week called “What’s Your Story?” The purpose of that effort is to celebrate people who are doing awesome things and encourage others to get involved. You can play along by sharing your story, tagging friends and asking, “What’s Your Story?” and use #NVW2015 in hopes of getting #NVW2015 to trend on Twitter.
As for me personally, my most recent volunteer work was yesterday, helping to stuff 370+ attendee folders, organizing handouts, and getting prepared for the SCBWI Western Washington’s annual conference for writers and illustrators. It was hard work, and the group of a dozen or so of us were focused and busy for four hours, yet there were hugs, and laughter, and doughnuts, and it felt absolutely wonderful to be a part of. The conference itself kicks off on Friday, and I’ll be busy participating in and volunteering at it for three days straight. It’s an amazing experience every year. I can’t wait!
For more information on National Volunteer Week, the “What’s Your Story” campaign, or how you can play along on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook, visit the Points of Light web page here.

 
 
 

In which I make my podcast debut on The Artist Rolls!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love listening to podcasts. One of my favorites is The Artist Rolls.
The Artist Rolls logo
On The Artist Rolls, Sean and Jamie ask their creative guests to fill out a form loosely inspired by character sheets from role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. They use these character sheets to help explore and discuss how each guest divides their time across the many different roles creative people must take on, what mediums they use to do their work, what their personal work style is, and how they view their own skill set. They incorporate dice to randomize the conversation, graphs to help visualize it, and humor and heart to bring it to life. It’s a fun way to learn about other people’s creative processes and challenges.

Sean and Jamie, the hosts of The Artist Rolls
Sean and Jamie, the talented hosts of The Artist Rolls

I was introduced to The Artist Rolls by my good friend (and amazing collage artist!) Liz Ruest. Since then, I’ve enjoyed listening to and learning from many of their chats with other creative types, so it was a thrill to be able to participate in one myself, made even more exciting by the fact that it was my podcast debut! I revealed much of my nerdy nature and consistently rolled well below average, but other than that I don’t think I embarrassed myself too badly. Check it out for yourself by clicking below:

The Artist Rolls, Episode 26 – Laurie Thompson Reminds Us to “Do Unto Others”

3 easy ways to help an author

book shelves

Many people have asked me what they can do to help promote my book. Many others have already helped in ways both big and small, and I’m grateful for each and every one. If you’ve ever wondered how to help an author friend, here are some quick, easy things you can do that will have a big impact.
1. If you can, buy the book… for yourself and for others!

  • Day 193: The Bluest EyeBooks make great gifts, so consider holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations as well as graduations, retirements, new babies, and other milestones coming up in the lives of your friends, family, teachers and coaches, and co-workers.
  • Many places are thrilled to receive donations of new books, too. Think about buying extra copies for your local food bank, hospital, shelters, schools, and libraries.

2. Help get the word out. 

  • Ask your local bookstore if they carry the book. If you’re bold, you can even tell them why they might want to consider stocking it!
  • Request the book from your local library, and then check it out when it arrives.
  • book shelvesAsk for help finding it on the shelf in bookstores and libraries, even if you already know where it is, so the booksellers and librarians will know where it is, too!
  • Ask the author for some bookmarks or other swag, which you can hand out to bookstore employees, librarians, and teachers or leave behind in coffee shops, doctor’s offices, waiting rooms, etc. as appropriate.
  • Share photos of “in the wild” sightings of the book to increase awareness of the cover and title.

3. If you like the book, share your thoughts with others!

  • Add to GoodreadsWrite a nice review on Amazon, BN.com, Goodreads, and/or elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be long or profound: Five stars and a simple “Loved it!” can go a long way!
  • Mark well-written good reviews you see on those sites as helpful (and, conversely, if you see reviews that are just mean or unfair, mark them as not helpful).
  • Share your thoughts on the book with your friends and followers on your social media outlets like your blog, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Tell the author! Not all reviews are positive, and hearing from someone who liked the book might be just what the author needs.

Fan mail: a teacher email about Be a Changemaker

I recently received this email from a middle-school teacher:

I wanted to let you know that one of my students has taken your book to heart.  He’s been carrying it with him for six weeks, and he is in the process of trying to start a nature club at school.  He is a super hard worker, and a wonderful, bright, sensitive 12-year-old boy–the type who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. He is passionate about this endeavor, but he doesn’t feel that he’s being taken seriously: adults are assuming he’s not going to work hard enough, he feels like things aren’t moving fast enough, and he’s disheartened. Still, he recently cited your book to me, saying, “She says sometimes it can take forever, and then sometimes things happen out of the blue,” so your words matter to him.

In the rush and hurry of getting through my inbox, this message brought me to a full stop. I’ve always said that I will feel like I’ve achieved success when I hear from one reader that my work mattered to them. Though not directly from the reader himself, this message from such a caring, dedicated, clearly amazing teacher on her student’s behalf feels every bit as wonderful. Reading this email was an even grander “first” for me than seeing my name in print for the first time, or holding the final book in my hands, or signing stacks of books at an event. This was a real connection with a young reader, a potential shift in the trajectory of this young man’s life that might not have occurred without my work. It’s both humbling and validating.
I have no doubt in the world that this student is indeed the type who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. It worries me, though, that even with this supportive teacher clearly on his side, he stills that one of the obstacles he faces is other adults assuming he’s not going to work hard enough. I mean really, what have we got to lose, adults? If they encourage him and he later quits, there’s no harm done: He feels valued and respected, he learns something about himself, and things go back to the way there were before. If they encourage him and he succeeds, the outcome really isn’t all that different: He feels valued and respected, he learns something about himself, and things get a little bit better.
I know that I’ve been guilty of similar reactions with my own children and their ideas. I’ve been too quick to point out what challenges I see and the reasons why their ideas might not be perfectly feasible. I questioned their long-term commitment to the projects they proposed. What I thought was helpful realism, however, wasn’t really that helpful at all. Indeed, what if my “realism” was actually cynicism, and maybe their “fantasies” could have actually worked? We’ll never know, because countless times I’ve inadvertently stopped them in their tracks before they even got started, all in the name of thinking things through and not embarking on something they couldn’t finish.
I think many of us (adults, especially, but kids, too) have become so goal-oriented that we don’t want to do or support anything that doesn’t seem very likely to succeed. We’re overly focused on the results, when so many of the potential benefits come from the process itself. We don’t want to waste time on something that might fail, but we forget that we learn by making mistakes.
If I’d focused on the likelihood of ever getting an email like this one, I would probably never have stuck with the process of honing my craft, revising my drafts, putting myself out there, etc. But if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I wouldn’t have received an email from a teacher that brought me to tears.
I’m going to try to do better for my own kids and other young people I interact with, and I hope you’ll commit to trying to support the young changemakers in your life as well. Let’s value their ideas and intentions for what they are, and let go of our expectations or concerns over the results. I have no doubt that, given the right encouragement, they are all the types who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. And we need each and every one of them to try.

It's PiBoIdMo time!

November is here, and that means it’s time for Picture Book Idea Month. So far, I’m two for two: woohoo!
PiBoIdMo 2014 banner
Remember the Howdy Doody theme song? Did you ever notice how PiBoIdMo has the same number of syllables as “Howdy Doody?” Now that I’ve noticed, I can’t get it out of my head. So, I thought I’d share my little earworm with you here:

It’s PiBoIdMo time.
It’s PiBoIdMo time.
Tara and her great crew
Wish PiBoIds to you.
Let’s give a rousing cheer,
Cause PiBoIdMo’s here,
It’s time for books to grow,
So here we go!

I love PiBoIdMo. Sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with ideas (okay, most times), other times they seem to flow faster than I can write them down (okay, rarely, but when it does it’s awesome!). Either way, it feels good to have those ideas tucked safely inside my notebook, ready to blossom when given a chance.
And yes, even nonfiction writers (like me!) can participate in PiBoIdMo! Christy Peterson has a great blog post on how to do that. I recommend reading it here (even if you write fiction!). I usually come up with about half nonfiction ideas and half fiction ideas, and I use all of the methods Christy mentions in her post.

sample Fiction Magic card
sample Fiction Magic card

This year I’ll also be using a new tool that just arrived (perfect timing!). My friend Deb Lund is a talented author, teacher, and creativity coach. She’s made a deck of cards, called Fiction Magic, which features prompts to inspire writers as well as a handy guidebook on how to use them. I drew one card today, played around with it for a while, and voila… I had two new ideas! You can get your own set of Fiction Magic cards here.
I probably shouldn’t be doing PiBoIdMo at all this year. I have too many projects calling to me at the moment, and the last thing I need right now is more ideas! But, PiBoIdMo is about so much more than the ideas for me. It’s about creativity, playfulness, freedom, and fun, and every year I end up rediscovering why I decided to write for children in the first place. In those ways, it’s good for my career. PiBoIdMo also reminds me to look at the world through a lens of discovery and curiosity, wonder, gratitude, and empathy. In those ways, it’s good for my soul.
I may not love all of the ideas I come up with during PiBoIdMo, but I love what PiBoIdMo does for me. If you want to write picture books, I hope you’ll give it a try, too! You can register through November 7th at this link.

Tales from my first book launch party

decorations

Two of the worst possible things that could happen to a book event in Seattle happened on the day of the Be a Changemaker launch party: one of our major bridges was closed for construction, and the sun was shining! Still, an amazing number of ultra-dedicated friends and intrepid fans braved the traffic nightmare and willingly (or perhaps begrudgingly) sacrificed one of the last sunny Sundays we are likely to have for months. And I am oh-so-grateful to each and every one of them for it!

decorations
Look at the pretty decorations!
I started with a brief thank you. I could have gone on for hours thanking everyone who played a part in this book, but I decided to spare those in attendance and kept the list as short as possible.
presentation
Here I am giving my presentation.
Then I gave a short reading from one of the In My Experience sidebars in the book. I started getting choked up and didn’t want to break down into ugly cry in front of all those people, so I cut it shorter than I had intended. Run away!
Josie Gillett for YUP
One of the inspiring teens presenting her organization.
My favorite part was when four local teens, whose organizations are among those featured in the book, presented a bit about what they do and where their groups are headed. They were all great speakers and held the audience in rapt attention.
signing closeup
I signed some books.
Then, it was time to sign books! I was so afraid I would spell someone’s name wrong, I even asked on the easy ones that I knew for sure I knew how to spell.
signing line zoomed out
I signed a lot of books!
By the end, though, my eyes were starting to cross. I hadn’t made any mistakes, so I let my guard down. One of the very last people in line is one of my dearest friends, whose name happens to be EXACTLY THE SAME AS MINE. Yes, you guessed it: I spelled it wrong. Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor, so we’ll probably be laughing about it for years to come.
Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who came and to Secret Garden Book Shop for hosting. I’m generally not much of a party person, and I really dislike being the center of attention. (Those giant posters of my face were a surprise from my hubby… eek!) But every moment of that launch event was a treat, and the experience is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

The Emu's Debuts launch party for Be a Changemaker

Emu's Debuts bannerOne of the most rewarding experiences of being a debut author has been participating on the Emu’s Debuts group blog (for clients of Erin Murphy Literary Agency who are in between deal and publication). Last week, my fabulous friends and fellow Emus threw me THE BEST LAUNCH PARTY EVER to celebrate the upcoming release of BE A CHANGEMAKER! (They went a week early, since Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN is releasing at the same time. I’ll be helping them celebrate that launch next week!)
They were all so generous, authentic, and hard-working in bringing the daily posts to life (as they are with everything they do!), and I was thrilled anew every morning to see what they had put together. In case you missed them, please go check out their posts. They’re fun, informative, and inspiring!
Here’s the roundup:
On Monday, Lindsey Lane (with some backup support from Tara Dairman), posted Welcome to the World: BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!, which included stories of and interviews with five other Erin Murphy Literary Agency authors who are changing the world in their own meaningful ways:

Tuesday featured several videos compiled by Megan MorrisonBE A CHANGEMAKER: Words of Wisdom. The clips contain contributions from fellow Emu Debuts bloggers offering their own words of wisdom, sharing quotes that motivate and inspire them, and giving advice they wish they’d gotten at the beginning of their journey. Great stuff, and so personal! It’s a great way to get to know these wonderful people a little better.
For the Wednesday post, BE A CHANGEMAKER: Celebrating with Quotes!Jennifer Chambliss Bertman compiled and created a collection of gorgeous images featuring quotes that inspire and motivate the members of the Emu’s Debuts blog team. If you want to spice up your Facebook or Pinterest feeds (or your office walls!), there are some fantastic finds here. Plus, they included the explanations behind why the quotes are so meaningful for them, making them even more special.
For Thursday‘s post, Penny Parker Klostermann, gave readers a sneak preview of Be a Changemaker with excerpts of the first 25 pages as well as the event planning chapter. Her post, BE A CHANGEMAKER: A Tool for Change, gives a sense of how the book can be used as a tool by individuals, teams, and classrooms.
On FridayTamara Ellis Smith closed out the party with Music to Be A Changemaker By, an inspirational and motivating Spotify playlist of songs recommended by the Emu’s Debuts bloggers, along with the explanations of why they included them. Spanning genres and emotions, you’re sure to find something of interest here–I know I did!
I’m so grateful to the awesome authors at Emu’s Debuts! Thanks to them, the Be a Changemaker pre-launch week was better than I ever could have imagined. I’m looking forward to each and of every one of their debuts–coming soon!

I am not my book… Or am I?

Emu's Debuts headerEarlier this month over on Emu’s Debuts, I blogged about the importance, and difficulties, of separating the creator (ourselves) from the works created. Since some of you may not follow that blog, I thought I should post it here, too. Here’s an excerpt…

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Cycles, balance, and making plans

[Note: This was originally published on Emu’s Debuts, but it seemed to resonate with people, so I decided to reblog it here in case you missed it. Sorry if you’re seeing it twice!]
Lately, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the idea of cycles in our lives. Cycles in nature—life cycles, the water cycle, seasons, etc.—keep our physical world in balance. Man-made cycles keep the government running (usually), prevent mechanical failures and medical mistakes (hopefully), even wash our clothes and dishes for us. If you’re an author, you’re probably familiar with the creativity cycle (see below). And as I’ve mentioned before, one of my all-time favorite Emu’s Debuts post was Melanie Crowder’s The Run/Rest Cycle, about sustaining balance as a writer. As creative types, we often have some leeway about how we choose to spend our time each day, so having a cycle in mind can help us manage our activities and maintain balance in our personal and professional lives.

The Creativity Cycle
The Creativity Cycle

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