Summer 2015 roundup

The days are (final­ly) get­ting cool­er and damper here in the Pacif­ic North­west and most of the kids are back in school, so it seems like a good time to reflect on the summer.
I typ­i­cal­ly don’t get to do much writ­ing-relat­ed work over the sum­mer, since the kids are home from school and the sun is shin­ing, but this sum­mer was filled with fun and excit­ing author events!

2015-07-11 Andersons Bookshop kids books extravaganza 2First, I got to par­tic­i­pate in a huge author pan­el at Ander­son­’s Book­shop in Naperville, IL. The kids’ books extrav­a­gan­za on July 11th includ­ed some of my best friends in the indus­try, includ­ing Chris­tine Hayes, Ruth Bar­shaw, Lyn­da Hunt, Keyan Atte­ber­ry, Jen­nifer Cham­b­liss Bert­man, Tara Dair­man, Janet Fox, and Amy Finnegan. It was even more won­der­ful because I got to meet the very spe­cial some­one who wrote one of my all-time favorite reviews Emmanuel’s Dream, Kee­gan Knott, and it was her birth­day, too! I got a hug. It’s a day I won’t soon for­get, let me tell you. Thank you Ander­son­’s and Kee­gan for the won­der­ful mem­o­ries! =D

EMLA costume partyNext I head­ed to the Erin Mur­phy Lit­er­ary Agency client retreat at The Abbey Resort at Lake Gene­va. I can’t even begin to explain what a pow­er­ful, amaz­ing this annu­al event is for me, and this year was no dif­fer­ent. We do lots of fun, sil­ly things like the cos­tume par­ty, but we also do a lot of learn­ing, net­work­ing, shar­ing, con­nect­ing, grow­ing, and more. I feel so blessed to be a part of this community!
2015-07-12 Mustard Museum2015-07-12 St LouisIMG_2675From there I con­tin­ued on down to St. Louis to sign books at ILA and con­duct a research trip. Our first stop was the Nation­al Mus­tard Muse­um.

What am I research­ing there, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see! St. Louis was beau­ti­ful, ILA was a lot of fun, and I even got to go to
Cyn­thia Levin­son’s book launch par­ty for Watch Out for Fly­ing Kids while I was there. Plus, the research trip was a huge suc­cess. I can’t wait to get back to work on that manuscript!

I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to appear at sev­er­al sum­mer camps, includ­ing one on being a change­mak­er and anoth­er on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy, which I loved, and I did inter­views on two dif­fer­ent live radio programs.

IMG_2956Last but cer­tain­ly not least, I also spoke at the Pacif­ic North­west Library Asso­ci­a­tion (PNLA) annu­al con­fer­ence in Port­land with two of my favorite non­fic­tion authors, Mary Cronk Far­rell and Eliz­a­beth Rusch, and I did my first sto­ry­time for My Dog Is the Best at Uni­ver­si­ty Book­store in Bellevue.
It was a busy, ful­fill­ing sum­mer, and now I’m look­ing for­ward to some qui­et writ­ing time!
 

Radio Interview: Brooke Taylor’s A Special Connection

I recent­ly had the hon­or of being inter­viewed by Brooke Tay­lor on her inspir­ing radio show, A Spe­cial Con­nec­tion on WHKW AM1220 in Cleve­land, Ohio. Brooke just hap­pened to have stum­bled across one of my books at her local pub­lic library and was moved by it, so she reached out to me to talk about it.
The whole show is fan­tas­tic, but if you’re in a rush, we start dis­cussing Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Sto­ry of Emmanuel Ofo­su Yeboah at about the 31:58 mark, and Be a Change­mak­er: How to Start Some­thing that Mat­ters at about 45:37.
I hope you’ll enjoy listening!
https://soundcloud.com/living-the-word/a‑special-connection-with-brooke-taylor-july-25th-2015
What fun! Huge thanks to both Brooke and her pro­duc­er, Brett Crowe, for mak­ing it such a pleasure.
I’ve got a cou­ple more radio inter­views in the works as well, so please stay tuned for more audio in the com­ing weeks!

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.

Indies First 2014, this Saturday!

Indie's first logo
 
For the hol­i­day 2014 sea­son, best­selling author Neil Gaiman and musi­cian-author Aman­da Palmer called upon their fel­low authors to get behind Indies First and “vol­un­teer” at book­stores on Small Busi­ness Sat­ur­day (Nov. 29).
I could­n’t choose just one inde­pen­dent book­store to hang out in (we’re lucky to have so many to choose from where I live!), so I’ll be doing two shifts:

I’ll be sign­ing copies of BE A CHANGEMAKER and rec­om­mend­ing a few of my oth­er favorites, and I’ll be in great com­pa­ny with many oth­er local authors and illus­tra­tors. So, if you’re in the area, please stop by and say, “Hi!”
If you’re not in the area, be sure to check out the inter­ac­tive Indies First map to find a par­tic­i­pat­ing store near you!
 

Interview w/Matthew Winner of the Let’s Get Busy podcast!

Every now and then I stum­ble on some­thing so won­der­ful that I want to add it my own list of “My Favorite Things” and share it with the world: the Let’s Get Busy pod­cast from Matthew Win­ner is one of those things. Whether you’re an author, illus­tra­tor, teacher, librar­i­an, agent, edi­tor, bookseller–if you have any­thing to do with chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture at all–this show is too good to miss. Think you don’t have time for pod­casts? I lis­ten while I’m in the car. Or while I walk the dog. Or while I clean the house. And, believe me, all of those tasks are way more enjoy­able when you have Matthew and his guests with you!
Matthew recent­ly record­ed his 100th episode of the pod­cast, and he put togeth­er a mas­sive blog and pod­cast tour to cel­e­brate. Here’s where he’s been so far:

And I’m thrilled that today is my turn to host! Matthew was kind enough to answer a few of my ques­tions, so we can all get to know him better.
LT: Hi Matthew, and wel­come! I’ve already gushed to you about how much I love your pod­cast, but I’m curi­ous to learn more. How and when did you first become inter­est­ed in doing a pod­cast like Let’s Get Busy? How did you get started?
MT: I lis­ten to a lot of pod­casts. I mean, a whole lot of pod­casts. All the time. When I’m dri­ving to work. When I’m wash­ing the dish­es. When I’m shelv­ing books. When I’m mow­ing the lawn. It’s the pri­ma­ry media I con­sume. The idea for doing a pod­cast of my own and, specif­i­cal­ly, a kidlit pod­cast just sort of popped into my head one day, took up camp, and then would­n’t leave. But it took a con­ver­sa­tion with Travis Jonker (of 100 Scope Notes) to nudge me into actu­al­ly start­ing it. He and I were talk­ing one evening dur­ing an ALA con­fer­ence in Chica­go about how much we love the insights but also those mem­o­rable vignettes that inevitably stick in your brain when­ev­er you’re in the com­pa­ny of authors or illus­tra­tors (or any­one who has some­thing to say, for that mat­ter). Travis asked me what my next big project would be and I told him that all I could think about was this idea of cap­tur­ing these sorts of con­ver­sa­tions through a loose­ly for­mat­ted pod­cast. Then he basi­cal­ly asked me when I was start­ing, and that was all it took.
LT: Some­times we just need the tini­est nudge, don’t we? (Thanks, Travis!) You sure have been busy since then. I can’t believe you start­ed less than a year and half ago, and you’re already up to 100 episodes! 
LT: How much time do you spend on the pod­cast over­all, and what’s the break­down of how that time is spent (lin­ing up guests, record­ing and edit­ing, pro­mot­ing, etc.)?
MW: Eeep. Let me try to make this as inter­est­ing as possible.
MW: I shoot for 30-minute record­ings so that I’m able to post twice a week (or 8 episodes per month). A lot of this is based on band­width lim­i­ta­tions and the cost of main­tain­ing a sub­scrip­tion on Lib­syn, a pod­cast host site. I usu­al­ly talk with each guest for about an hour total and we spend the unaired time lock­ing into a com­fort­able can­dor (or going on tan­gents and then say­ing, “Shoot! I should be record­ing this!”). Edit­ing and prep­ping the accom­pa­ny­ing blog post takes any­where between 30 and 60 min­utes. And coor­di­nat­ing sched­ules and review mate­ri­als and record­ing logis­tics over email can take upwards of 30 min­utes per sched­uled guest, but that might be over a series of weeks.
MW: So, let’s see. That’s 25 minus the cir­cum­fer­ence of Y, car­ry the 3 and sub­sti­tute 7 for X… about 2–3 hours per guest from first con­tact to pub­lished and pro­mot­ed episode.
LT: That’s a big com­mit­ment (but less than I thought–you’re fast!). What then is the hard­est part of doing the pod­cast, and how do you deal with that?
MW: The hard­est part for me is ask­ing new peo­ple to come on. It seems like every­one and their moth­er has a pod­cast nowa­days, but I’m often the first pod­cast my guests have ever appeared on or, in some cas­es, lis­tened to. And also, many of them have no idea who I am. That gets in my brain and makes me think all sorts of wonky things and then I start to psych myself out over send­ing that first con­tact email. I’ve coped with it by ask­ing each of my guests, fol­low­ing our own con­ver­sa­tions, to rec­om­mend a friend or col­league whom they think my be a good fit for the pod­cast or this inter­view for­mat. It’s worked pret­ty well for me and my guest list now reads like one great big fam­i­ly pho­to album with all sorts of zigzag­ging con­nec­tions between each of the faces.
LT: That is real­ly neat to envi­sion. So much of what we do is built on per­son­al rela­tion­ships, isn’t it? I don’t think you have any­thing to wor­ry about, though. First, kidlit peo­ple are the best peo­ple in the world, don’t you think? And sec­ond, I’m sure most authors and illus­tra­tors are thrilled by the oppor­tu­ni­ty to chat with you: you’re inter­est­ed in our work, and you give us a chance to talk about it. Just remem­ber: we’re nice, and you’re doing us a favor. There’s no need to psych your­self out! 🙂
LT: What has sur­prised you most about the podcast?
MW: Every­thing sur­pris­es me about the pod­cast. Some­times the thing that sur­pris­es me most is know­ing that any­one’s actu­al­ly lis­ten­ing. I learn some­thing new with each new per­son who comes on and by rule of thumb I allow myself space to won­der, to be excit­ed, to nerd out over process, and to ask what­ev­er comes to mind. That approach has served me well and has led to a good deal of sur­pris­es when our con­ver­sa­tions take unex­pect­ed turns. It’s how I learned that Lau­rie Keller (Arnie the Dough­nut) plays ban­jo, that Nick Bru­el (Bad Kit­ty) used to work at Books of Won­der, a land­mark chil­dren’s book­store in New York, and that Steve Light (Have You Seen My Drag­on?) works with PreSchool students!
LT: I love that every episode feels like a casu­al con­ver­sa­tion between friends, rather than an inter­view, per se. In fact, it’s my favorite thing about lis­ten­ing to them! What is your favorite thing about doing them?
MW: So, I have a blog called The Busy Librar­i­an. I start­ed it as a sort of advo­ca­cy blog for all of us teacher librar­i­ans who are all just so busy all the time. On Octo­ber 10th, 2010, I pub­lished my first post. Here is the text in its entirety:

This is a blog for busy librarians.
For those of us who feel, well, overwhelmed.
It’s a place of com­fort and, hope­ful­ly, a source of inspiration.
Here you will find the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­act glob­al­ly and to impact locally.
We’ll syn­er­gize moments, ideas, and activ­i­ties that will enable us to become more effec­tive librar­i­ans, more effi­cient in our libraries, and more ener­getic with our stu­dents, with­out feel­ing like things are careen­ing out of control.
So, let’s get busy!

It made per­fect sense to me to name the pod­cast as an exten­sion of the blog itself. Hence, Let’s Get Busy. My very good pal Sher­ry Gick, teacher librar­i­an at Rossville Con­sol­i­dat­ed Schools in Rossville, IN, and author of the Library Fanat­ic blog, and Nik­ki Ohs Barnes, fel­low Nerdy Book Club mem­ber and co-founder of the Vir­tu­al Book Club, met me at ALA where, just one night pre­vi­ous, Travis and I had talked about pod­cast­ing. Super excit­ed to share, I told Sher­ry and Nik­ki that I was going to start a pod­cast and that I decid­ed to call it Let’s Get Busy after my blog. They both imme­di­ate­ly broke into what they decid­ed would have to be the pod­cast sound effect… a sort of BOW-CHIKKA-WOAH-WOW that I have not to this day been able to get out of my head when­ev­er I’m about to start an inter­view. Car­ry­ing those sorts of mem­o­ries around every­where I go is def­i­nite­ly my favorite thing. And with 100 episode behind me, I’m def­i­nite­ly car­ry­ing around a lot of stories!
LT: I’m sure you are! 
LT: How do you feel your oth­er activ­i­ties (teach­ing, pre­sent­ing, writ­ing, blog­ging, Twit­ter, par­ent­ing, etc.) make the pod­cast bet­ter? And, vice ver­sa, how does the pod­cast con­tribute to those oth­er facets of your life?
MW: Oh my word! Every­thing and I mean EVERYTHING goes into the pot when it comes to mak­ing these record­ings. Books from my pic­ture book guests are typ­i­cal­ly already bed­time sta­ples with our 4‑year-old son. Teach­ing and being a teacher librar­i­an is the best and comes up over and over again on our chats because I like to share the way that the guests’ book is reach­ing kids and sup­port­ing read­ers in ways that I get to expe­ri­ence first­hand. Twit­ter is my pro­fes­sion­al learn­ing com­mu­ni­ty, but it’s also where I get to nerd out with friends over great kidlit and meet very cool peo­ple cre­at­ing very cool books in the process, many of whom I’ll invite on the pod­cast because their work sticks with me.
MW: Doing the pod­cast brings me pure joy and is or has become a part of my iden­ti­ty. And I’ve got­ten to meet a ton of real­ly cool peo­ple in the process. I’m thank­ful that our son is grow­ing up in a house sur­round­ed with beau­ti­ful pic­ture books, both on our book­shelves, and in frames hang­ing up through­out our house.
LT: Oh, I love that. Why have I nev­er thought of fram­ing pic­ture books?  (Hmmm… just in time for Christ­mas, too!)
LT: I’ve always said that I will know I’ve made it when I receive one let­ter from one child say­ing that some­thing I wrote made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in his or her life. How do you define suc­cess? Do you feel like you’ve achieved it? If not, what’s left on your to-do list?
MW: I lis­ten to my guests and I lis­ten to my lis­ten­ers. The pod­cast suc­ceeds when the guests feel like they’ve found a home in our con­ver­sa­tion and when the lis­ten­ers feel like they’re in the room with us. I also try to take in the kind things peo­ple are say­ing about Let’s Get Busy or about me per­son­al­ly. Sey­mour Simon once told me that he thinks of me “like a son” and that he’s proud of me. I achieved all I ever want­ed when I pub­lished the very first episode of Let’s Get Busy. And I’m thank­ful that so many peo­ple feel moved to tell me how the pod­cast is con­nect­ing with them. Suc­cess to me is know­ing that one per­son cares about the thing you’re mak­ing, or say­ing, or cre­at­ing. And I’m one per­son that cares a great deal about what I myself am mak­ing, say­ing, and cre­at­ing. So with every episode I get to share, I’ve already achieved suc­cess before a sin­gle down­load occurs.
LT: What a won­der­ful atti­tude, Matthew! I care a great deal about what you’re mak­ing, say­ing, a cre­at­ing, too. Thanks so much for shar­ing it with us ! 


As you can see from above, Matthew calls him­self “the busy librar­i­an” for good rea­son. Here are some of the places you can find more from him:

And be sure to fol­low the rest of the Let’s Get Busy podcast/blog tour, here:

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.

Changemakers in the classroom

I’ve been huge­ly grat­i­fied by the respons­es I’ve got­ten from teach­ers around the coun­try about using BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS in their class­rooms. The very first of these was a love­ly 8th-grade ELA teacher from a pri­vate Catholic school in Louisiana. She reached out to me before the book was even released, and let me tell you, her enthu­si­asm was a much-appre­ci­at­ed sooth­ing balm for all of my pre-release jitters!
She is using the book for her stu­dents’ “20% projects,” an idea adapt­ed from the cor­po­rate world where com­pa­nies allow employ­ees to spend 20% of their time work­ing on a pet project that inter­ests them. They’ll be using the books through­out the school year to choose self-direct­ed projects and bring them to life. Isn’t that excit­ing? I sure think so!

8th graders in class 1 with their new books
8th graders in class 1 with their new books

As part of her cur­ricu­lum, she was able to pur­chase a copy of the book for each and every one of the stu­dents, and she even got them per­son­al­ized! It was a huge pile of books for me to sign, and such an incred­i­ble hon­or for me to write each stu­den­t’s name in his or her own book.
8th graders in class 1 with their new books
8th graders in class 2 with their new books

These pic­tures are from the day she hand­ed the books out to all of the stu­dents. I hope you enjoy see­ing them as much as I do!
The stu­dents also watched a video I made for them to help kick off their project. I post­ed about that video ear­li­er this week. Check it out here if you missed it.
I can’t wait to hear about these stu­dents’ ideas and fol­low their progress through­out the school year. I’ll post updates here as I get them so you can fol­low along, too.
I love hear­ing about young peo­ple using the book, whether on their own or through a class or oth­er orga­ni­za­tion, so if you’re using (or think­ing about using) BE A CHANGEMAKER on your own or with your stu­dents, scouts, chil­dren, youth group, etc., please let me know! My email address is at the bot­tom of this page, or you can reach out on my Face­book author page or on Twit­ter.

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. 

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