The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books
author • speaker • teacher • volunteer

A Woman Walked Into a Picture Book…

After decades of publishing books that have sometimes been called lyrical and important and poetic, I’m about to publish a picture book that my friend Carmen Bernier Grand calls hilarious. Thanks, Carmen. Ironically, this book was born in a brainstorming session where my writer retreat friends and I were making each other laugh—and the idea

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Ready Set Illustrate

When I fell in love with the dream of an artistic life in children’s books it was through writing picture books. I used to love to draw when I was a kid. I didn’t pursue visual art with the same kind of single-minded determination I applied to the craft of writing fiction and creative nonfiction,

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2018 dawns full of emotion and the messy glory of life

Mid-January, I was battling both rain and snow (which of course = ice) at Vermont College of Fine Arts and loving doing the picture book workshop at residency with ten students eager to learn about this quirky genre + Liz Garton Scanlon + Ashley Wolff showing us how life looks from the illustrator’s point of

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A time to write and a time to figure out next steps

After all the fun of creating Ready Set Go Books for Ethiopia in 2017, I reluctantly admit it’s time to think about next steps. In 2016, Stephanie and Troy and Nahosenay and Yacob met with those young illustrators in Ethiopia and read them a few of the simple stories I had written. I was charmed–and

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It’s fall and that means time to write!

It’s fall! Most of my apples have brown fuzzy centers (since I don’t use any pesticides in my yard) and then every once in a while I cut open one that is beautiful.  Yesterday, traveling birds also stopped by the yard to feast on elderberries. The world is bursting with good things. And then there

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Ah. Every author’s dream question! I recently was asked it about my new middle grade novel, Planet Jupiter. Some authors have flippant answers…from the idea fairy. I capture them tumbling under my bed with the dust bunnies. I sometimes point out that a novel has to have interesting and unusual ideas for every scene–and that maybe

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On Being Grateful to readers

I was thanking my artistic friend Stephanie Schlatter today on the phone for her support of the new Ready Set Go books, and she said something I’ve heard from other people I’ve thanked in the past few weeks–I didn’t do much it was your determination blah blah blah. But here’s the thing… If Stephanie hadn’t

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Creating books

I’ve published an interesting bunch of 30+ books–fiction, nonfiction, picture books, easy readers, middle grade and young YA novels. I’ve written articles and short stories and magazine pieces and grant proposals and memos. (When I taught Business and Technical Writing at the University of North Dakota, one of my favorite assignments was a memo announcing

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Travels and the writing life

When I talk to young writers and when I have conversations with MFA students in the Vermont College of Fine Arts program, I like to imagine I can take a bit of the mystery out of words like “inspiration” and “imagination” by pointing to ways that details and scenes in my books have grown out

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Drinking water???

I like global projects that leave everyone surprised and a little more open-hearted. This photo is from a day when artist Stephanie Schlatter and her artist friend Aklilu decided to show kids in Ethiopia that anything can be a canvas–including

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Back to School in Ethiopia and always

Not long after we got to Ethiopia, my big sister got to go to kindergarten.  Her teacher was so fond of her, she even gave her a lovely, big doll. I was probably mildly jealous of my sister’s having such

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Foodie process/writing process

I picked up the baton on talking about writing process from one of the writers who often goes on retreat with me in the fall: http://jacquelinebriggsmartin.blogspot.com/  She and I have a lot of the same themes going on in our work

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Life imitates art imitates life

When I started writing about Lanie’s garden, I admit that I was mostly working from memory–drawing on the details of my Dad’s garden in Ethiopia when I was a kid but even more from my various vegetable gardens that I

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One brave turtle vs. the world

When I was asked to write the books for the 2010 Doll of the Year, American Girl flew me to Wisconsin to brainstorm about the theme–something related to saving the earth. American Girl talks about keeping things “girl sized.” As

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Higgeldy-piggeldy wanderings through spring

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver writes that on Mother’s Day, in keeping with local tradition, they took a tomato plant to a neighbor. “Carrying the leggy, green-smelling plant, our family walked down the gravel driveway to her house at the

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Starting as a clueless mess

The beginning of my rootedness wasn’t pretty. I lived in Portland, Oregon until I was two years old (look at the daffodils behind us) with a good and beautiful princess of an older sister and (eventually) a younger sister. But

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Happy Earth Day

Earth Day seems like a good time to start my new blog thread…going from being a somewhat restless traveler to putting down roots. Literally. It all goes back to Maji, Ethiopia.Since there was no winter in Maji, my sisters and

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