Hoppily Hopping on the Children’s Blog Hop

WHAT A FUN IDEA! I love the way the kidlit community supports one another… and this is just another way.

The Children’s Author Blog Hop.

Kidlit authors answering four questions and then inviting three other kidlit friends to join in.

My sweet friend and gifted writer, Amy Dixon, “tagged” me. I want to print her post and hang it on my wall because I LOVE EVERY WORD. And not just because she gave me a shout-out, but because she gave my dear friends shout-outs too. I LOVE WRITERS! Okay, I know I’m yelling a lot. So let me step aside and introduce you to Amy. I met Amy at an SCBWI event in Fresno, CA. She was looking for a critique group and I had an awesome one. So I invited her to join. What luck that was for us. Her generous spirit, gifted writing ability, and commitment to the success of her stories and ours makes her an incredible asset to our group and our lives. Just goes to show…  🙂

I’m honored to introduce you to my dear friend, Amy Dixon.

Amy Dixon author photo AMY DIXON grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home in Clovis, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. MARATHON MOUSE is her first picture book. Her second picture book, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE, will be out from Sky Pony Press in Fall 2014. Find Amy online at http://www.amydixonbooks.com/. (Do you have any idea how much fun it is to see books published that you’ve helped critique? Thanks for letting me in on that journey with you, Amy!)

Alright, here are my answers! 🙂


I  have about five picture books in the mix… two of which I’ve been working on for a couple years (like, 25 or more revisions) and one is newer but has been re-written a number of times already. I also have a narrative non-fiction novel in revision from NaNoWriMo last year… and plan on writing a YA novel this November. (This is way out of my comfort zone… I’m a picture book writer… yet this idea has been plaguing me for awhile. We’ll see where it goes). A couple of these are submission ready (as ready as they’ll ever be, right?) so off my “babies” go! Wish them well!


One is a character-driven fractured legend… I’ve never seen it done and it’s super clever (thanks PiBoIdMo for the idea!) All it needs is a publisher and a fantastic illustrator. It even has Mira Reisberg’s stamp of approval which excites me- it’s always nice to have professional affirmation. Another PiBoIdMo idea has transformed into a story way beyond what I expected (this is the new one I’ve already re-written). The characters had a different story to tell than I first imagined and now I’m just following them along. I already have a fabulous illustrator friend who’d love to work with it. It’s also a character-driven story that takes a unique twist on name-calling and finding friends in unlikely places. Another one takes a look at a child’s imagination- entirely from his point of view. The illustration will show what’s really going on while the text is purely his world as he sees it. It’s a lot of fun and a unique look at imagination.


Why do I breathe? Why do I eat or sleep? I have to. Here are two great quotes that sums up my life:

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

-Flanner O’Conner

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

-Maya Angelou

Now, why children’s books? Like most writers, I’ve always been a writer.  I’ve been writing for children since I was a child. However when it came down to what I’d write professionally… I began with kidlit because of a dear friend, Dorina Gilmore, who mentored me in. I wouldn’t be here without her; it’s true. My goal- whether for children or for adults- is to offer hope, whether through inspiration, through laughter, or through a memorable character who struggles and is better for it.


Oh man. The first draft is sometimes pure agony. Hemmingway said it well:

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

That blank screen just screams, “You’ll never get this out of your head onto paper and make it good. And no one will want what you do write.” As Anne Lamott says, one has to grab those crazy, screaming monkeys and lock them in a jar. The other hardest part is all of the silent rejections once you do love what you have and start subbing it. ‘Nough said.

NOW, on to the really cool people. These three lovely ladies are part of my European critique group and they are amazing. We are made up of writers and illustrators, published and not, all bringing such unique and important perspectives to our art.




Maria Bogade is an illustrator and author with an animation background. After graduating 2007 from the University of Media in Stuttgart in Audiovisual Media, she started working as a freelance animation artist. Maria worked on award-winning projects such as “The Gruffalo.”

In 2011 she went after her dream of drawing all day. Shortly after leaping into her illustration career she authored her first book, “Schlafplatz Gesucht,” which was published beginning of 2012 by Bohern Press AG. Maria loves creating illustrations with a strong narrative, colourful and beautifully composed to entertain children and adults alike and let their imagination take them places, they might not have been before. Maria is a member of SCBWI and lives with her three children and spouse in a tiny town in Southern Germany. [She is currently the Regional Advisor of the Germany/Austria region of SCBWI!]

Clients include: Big Cat HarperCollins, Picture Kelpies an imprint of Floris Books, Kerle Verlag, Herder Verlag, HABA, Connect Marketing, Bohern Press, Magination Press, American Greetings, Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, Clavis Books, Oxford University Press, Roth GmbH,

Awards: Nautilus Silver Award 2013 for “Ben’s Flying Flowers.”

You can find her here: http://www.mariabogade.com/index.html 



Gabrielle Smith-Dluha has a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and has been teaching English in countries all over the world for the past 20 years. Currently, she lives in Olomouc where she teaches English to both children and adults. In addition to teaching, she also writes textbooks, puzzle and game books, and children’s books. During the summer months, she teaches English at Stanford University in California. She is originally from California, but 20 years ago she fell in love with a handsome Czech university student and it changed her life forever…



Maggie Shen F. J. has been creating artwork for as long as she can remember, and art has always been a part of her life. She has worked with soft sculpture, installations, painting, and printing. She is also an art therapist. Most importantly, she loves to draw for children and to share life through art with them. Maggie Shen is a picture book author and illustrator based in Lausanne, Switzerland. You can find her at http://maggieshenfj.wordpress.com/

Picture Book Academy & Publishing

PBA-graduation-button-square-bear2 I have been working with the intentional goal of publishing for children since about 2008/2009. I have been (and am) a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators. I have been to major conferences, regional meetings, and workshops in Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, Fresno, Paris, Stuttgart, Kandern… and I’m sure many other places (especially if you count the various skype calls and e-courses I have participated in.) I participate in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In fact, my most popular stories among critique groups are PiBoIdMo picture-books and my NaNoWriMo novel.

Why is this important???

Because I just completed five weeks with the Picture Book Academy… and I have to say: It was SUPERB.


Enough years in the children’s market and the messages become familiar.  I leave with more knowledge, yes, but still stuck in my story “problems.” I’ve worked with Mira before and should have known she would yet again astound me.

It was such great, hard work that I was proud of my graduate certificate. So proud, I decided to have it printed and hung in my writing area. But one of the “catches” to living abroad found me out again… I had no idea what the sizes were when ordering the photo. So this is what showed up: 1370296_10152284821797571_2101488670_n

Just another cross-cultural moment.

I mean, I am proud. But not life-size, poster-proud.

Or maybe I am (hee hee).

1371657_10152284820152571_1252424132_n So I tried again and it went much better.

But enough about my photo-processing cultural challenges and back to why I am so pleased to be a graduate of this stellar program.

The class has so inspired and equipped me, that I’ve been more intentional about submitting, working, pitching, querying… and writing. I have some new, great, practical “tools” in my writer’s toolbox that I didn’t have before.  I’ve left with a new fantastic critique group, an e-book with all the information, access to the website for awhile longer, and Mira.

Mira is amazing.

Since the class ended ( a couple of weeks ago), I’ve won second place in the Perfect Character Driven Pitch contest.

I queried an agent who responded with a manuscript request!

I submitted a book to a publisher I’ve worked with before (SNAP Learning) who loved my work and bought it!

And I’ve received feedback from some of my critique-group friends like this: “This is great! It just needs a publisher!”

All of these are such affirmation to me of the last years of hard work. But it also shows me how much the Picture Book Academy was the final cherry on the sundae.

I’m thrilled to be taking the Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books with Marsha Diane Arnold– one of my prizes for winning the pitch contest. But you can take it too! I’d love to see you over there and know you would find it more than worth your while.

My husband (brag alert) is a ridiculously talented artist… he can sculpt, paint, draw, dance, act… you name it, if it’s art, he can do it. Mira discovered his “magic” for herself when he attended a writing and illustrating workshop with me. That being said, I’m SO excited that he’s decided to take the Hero’s Art Journey e-course. It’s only just begun but I expect some beautiful things to come from this exchange.

I am a connector and networker. I love connecting people to great resources. I get almost giddy when I find two people who need what the other has to offer.

Thus, this post. I couldn’t keep this gem to myself. I know my writer friends would benefit like I have from the Picture Book Academy– whether illustrators or writers. Check out the site- there’s always something fun going on. Free workshops and/or webinars, new e-courses all the time, contests… it’s a great site for keeping you connected to good resources.


An Unforgettable Month- November

It truly has been an unforgettable month!

I took on two challenges this month… National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo).

For NaNoWriMo, I had to write 50,000 words. I picked up and dusted off my early work on a Narrative Non Fiction… per the encouragement of my awesome, Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrator’s RA, Kristen Carlson.

It was on a long drive with her that my story came up and she, in her excitement, asked if I had done NaNoWriMo. Her words triggered something in me and I did it!!!


I also did my third year of PiBoIdMo. Some of my best stories (yet to sell, but they will sell) are from this month of coming up with an idea every single day of November. Sound easy? HA!



Well, it’s not. I mean, maybe it’s easy to come up with any idea… but the point is to come up with ideas so that at the end of the month, we have something we can turn into a full picture book manuscript. I have 32 more ideas to work on!

So now I have the first draft of a completed novel and 30 picture book ideas. Looks like December (or January) or 2013 are going to be busy for me also.

Ultimately, I’m just excited to have the time, energy, and inspiration to write every single day for two months (yep, I took a challenge in October too)…

Congrats to all my fellow “winners” out there… for NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo alike! I am only one among many and I’m truly proud of all my writing / illustrator buddies! WAY TO GO!