Saturday, November 1, 2014


I am recently back from a quick trip to Tennessee with my BFF and writing partner, Mary Nethery. We spent a wonderful day with the students and staff at Winstead Elementary (thank you, Dawn Wright!) where one of the many highlights was lunch with 6 chatty and confident girls whose parents had bid on the "prize" of having lunch with the authors. After meeting those wonderful young ladies, I feel very confident our future is in good hands.

When our Winstead visit was over, we were carried to the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro (note to non-Tennesseans: it's pronounced Murphysboro; who knew!). After an amazing dinner at Peter D's, Mary and I headed back to the hotel to practice our presentations. Here's the deal: the two of us rarely get the chance to present together. So presentations that look great on paper need tweaking when it's time to actually go live.

That night, we managed to stay up clear til 8:30 (give us a break; we were on West Coast time!).

I don't know if we could have asked for a more gracious audience for our first presentation Friday morning. I think "kind" is the perfect synonym for "Tennessee Librarian." Kind and understanding -- when a long line still remained at the end of our signing, those sweet librarians agreed to come back after our second presentation. And they did! In the same order.  Talk about Southern manners.

That night, Mary and I managed to calm our nerves to deliver a joint keynote talk, spelling out the joys and challenges of creating the Volunteer State Award winning book, Nubs. Someday, we should put that whole story in writing. Suffice it to say, we persevered.
Photo credit: Sharon Draper

We love Tennessee!

To my author friends: My dearest wish is that you, too, someday win a Volunteer State award so you can also experience the love and appreciation of the wonderful librarians of TASL. And to the amazing librarians of TASL: thank you, thank you, thank you.

And Nubs says woof, woof.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friend Friday

I met Lynn Brunelle on a plane a few years back when we were both headed to BEA. We exchanged cards and the promise to go to coffee but life intervened. Then Lynn popped up at the dinner lovely hostess Suzanne Selfors hosted in my honor at her home in August and I learned that Lynn was just about to launch a new book. (I also learned that black pepper, on a plate, is a great wasp deterrent; thanks, Lynn!) So of course I wanted to celebrate her; she agreed to be today's guest blogger. Go, Lynn!

Lynn Brunelle

            I have always loved Halloween. I love the costumes, the night, and the candy. Gotta love the candy, but only specific kinds. Like the holiday itself, I am drawn to the darkest of chocolates with something unseen and unexpected underneath.
Mostly I like the surprises. The shocks.  I love carving pumpkins—turning something familiar like a pumpkin into something unanticipated. I love the fall air and the turning of leaves and the dried up piles of them scratching along the sidewalk and collecting against curbs and tree trunks. I like spooky ghost stories, dry ice fog, fake blood and spicy mulled cider.
As a kid I would construct elaborate costumes. Once I was a tightly wound mummy, which left me breathless. Another year I was a bag of jellybeans. That was bad because I couldn’t go to the bathroom without liberating my beans. 
Once I made a giant column out of chicken wire covered with papier-mâché.  I used newspaper headlines as vertical lines to indicate fluting around the column. I was a newspaper column!
Another year I was invited to a surprise party for a friend whose birthday was on Halloween. I wore all black and then wound fuzzy yellow boas around my neck, waist and hips. I had wings and a tiara. I was a queen bee.
When I got to the party, the door opened was greeted with a room full of laughter. No one else was dressed up except one French maid and a Dungeons-and-Dragons guy who greeted me merrily from the far side of the room. They were very happy someone else came dressed up.
It was a Halloween shock and surprise of a different sort. “Didn’t I tell you it was costume optional?” my friend said.
What is it with Halloween?
I am loathe to give it up. This is a good thing because for a writer like me, it’s always Halloween!
Every day I launch into something scary. I push back the chattering of voices that whisper and howl of worries and possible rejections and disapprovals. I light my tiny candle in my crazy pumpkin and shine out into that night. And just like Halloween it scares me, but I love it.
If not for the fear of it, the reality would not be nearly as surprising and thrilling.

A four-time Emmy Award-winning writer for "Bill Nye the Science Guy," Lynn Brunelle has over 25 years experience writing for people of all ages, across all manner of media. Previously a classroom science, English and art teacher for kids K-12, an editor, illustrator, and award-winning author of over 45 titles, Lynn has created, developed and written projects for Chronicle, Workman, National Geographic, Scholastic, Random House, Penguin, A&E, The Discovery Channel, Disney, ABC TV, NPR, The Annenburg Foundation, World Almanac, Cranium and PBS.

A regular contributor to Martha Stewart Radio as a family activity consultant and a regular contributor to NPR's Science Friday, she is the creator of Tabletop Science—videos that make science fun and accessible. She has also written for several children’s and parenting magazines. She is a member of the Seattle 7 Writer’s group and is active in teaching and raising literacy.

Her newest book, a memoir called Mama Gone Geek, was released this month from Roost/Shambhala Press.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thoughts for Thursday

I don't often get personal on my blog, but am taking time today for a little public service announcement.

This is my darling mom. She raised 4 kids (5 if you count my dad) and worked the whole time I was growing up. Though she is extremely gifted with words (a letter or card from her is a treasure), most of her jobs involved numbers; I might not have her resume completely right, but I think she worked for the gas company here in Seattle, as well as a company called Allied Electronics. When our family moved to Bellingham in 1971, she went to work for Sears.

Mom was really, really good at her job. She is patient and precise and very detail-oriented, aside from being kind. (In the sexist 70s, there was no thought of promoting her, but Sears did "allow" her to train the men who would become her managers. That's stuff for another post.) She was also incredibly dedicated. So dedicated that, when she sat at her desk one day and saw big black floaters in her eye and flashing lights, she didn't go to the ER or even to the eye doctor. She finished out her day.

The upshot of that choice is that my mom lost vision in her affected eye due to a retinal detachment. Back then, there were fewer treatment options and the surgery she underwent only messed things up more. So for the past 30+ years, she's been legally blind, seeing only shadows and shapes. Not that you would ever know that! She didn't let visual challenges keep her from cross-stitching tiny baby bonnet Christmas ornaments for each of her 9 grandchildren. She still reads, with a big magnifying lamp. And I've never once heard her complain.

As we age, our eyes do change. If you are over 50, and you are near-sighted, you are more susceptible to vitreous tears (I should know -- I have one myself). And not all vitreous tears lead to retinal detachments, as happened with my mom. BUT, if you see dark floaters in your eyes, especially those looking like a rain shower and/or flashes of light, don't mess around. Call your ophthalmologist right away. Or get to urgent care.  

Mom says so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.

Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Teacher Tuesday

Donna Miller, Elementary Library Teacher in Massachusetts, agreed to play along for today's Teacher Tuesday.

Donna, please fill in the blank:
You should never read and (blank) at the same time.

Just had this lesson with my Kindergarteners - never shower/bathe and read at the same time

If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for  her to read?

Tough one - Rain Reign by Ann Martin or Counting by 7s by Holly G. Sloan or Hattie Big Sky

What is the funniest book you've read?

Bossypants by Tina Fey

What is the saddest?

Fault in our Stars or Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Favorite reading snack/beverage?

Stacy's naked pita chips or chocolate - as long as it isn't too hot out and it gets all over my fingers.

What's next on your TBR list?

The whole list or just the top few? - Brown Girl Dreaming, Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and WildThings!:Acts of Mischief in Children's literature

Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians, lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured on Teacher Tuesday. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friend FridayKimber

When our paths crossed at the Michigan Reading Association conference on Mackinac Island, what first caught my eye about Kimberli Bindschatel was her bag. Isn't it amazing? It's made to look like her book!

Of course, I had to ask  her how she'd made it and one thing led to another, which led to my inviting her to be a guest on Friend Friday. Take it away, Kimberli!

Kimberli Bindschatel

I wasn’t always a writer. I mean, as a serious pursuit. I’ve always been an artist and nature lover. Only recently did I decide to find writing as a way to explore my passions.

Born and raised in Michigan, I spent summers at the lake, swimming and chasing fireflies, winters building things out of cardboard and construction paper, writing stories, and dreaming of faraway places. Since I didn’t make honors English in high school, I thought I couldn’t write. So I started hanging out in the art room. The day I borrowed a camera, my love affair with photography began. Long before the birth of the pixel, I was exposing real silver halides to light and marveling at the magic of an image appearing on paper under a red light.

After college, I freelanced in commercial photography studios. During the long days of rigging strobes, one story haunted me. As happens in life though, before I could put it to words, I was possessed by another dream—to be a wildlife photographer. I trekked through the woods to find loons, grizzly bears, whales, and moose. Then, for six years, I put my heart and soul into publishing a nature magazine, Whisper in the Woods. But it was not meant to be my magnum opus. This time, my attention was drawn skyward. I’d always been fascinated by the aurora borealis, shimmering in the night sky, but now my focus went beyond, to the cosmos, to wonder about our place in the universe.

In the spring of 2010, I sat down at the computer, started typing words, and breathed life into a curious boy named Kiran. Together, in our quest for truth, Kiran and I have explored the mind and spirit. Our journey has taken us to places of new perspective. Alas, the answers always seem just beyond our grasp, as elusive as a firefly on a warm autumn night.

Kimberli A. Bindschatel’s debut novel, The Path to the Sun, is the story of seven teens who set out on a quest to save their forsaken village, but when it turns into a fight for survival, sixteen-year old Kiran is forced to question everything he was taught to believe about faith, truth, and his place--and ours--in the natural world.