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

Teacher strikes

Emotions are sizzling in Portland as the public school teachers–including my brother and sister-in-law–go on strike next week. Eeek. Overpaid whiners? People actually write that? In public? These days? Eeeek. I’ve worked with so many amazing educators–classroom teachers and librarians–in the past 10 years.  And of course I am a teacher. I’m on the faculty

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What good does an author visit do?

Wow!  We’ve had more snow in Portland than (I think I heard correctly on the news last night) we’ve had in 21 years.  My sister Cathy came over and we tromped through it together.  Just like old times!  (She’s the one sitting in front of the snowman and I’m behind it–in the year we lived

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Crowdfunding, teamwork and beating the blues

As 2013 draws to an end, I’ve had the crowdfunding blues a bit. I’ve joined the crowdfunding team in the past year or so, but only as a contributor.  Here and there, I’ve pitched a few pennies toward projects launched by friends of mine.  Mostly I do philanthropy the old-fashioned way.  I write checks.  I

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Gratitude Attitude

The ancient Egyptians believed in the magic of the written word–so a cartouche (that rope symbol) around the the hieroglyphs that spell out the name of a king or queen is there as protection from evil-doers who might mess with that name and thus do damage to the person in this world or the next.  We often

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Crawling out from under the bed now

I never intended to crawl under the bed and stay there. Yes, it’s scary and hard and unnerving to take pieces of your innards and put them out for everyone to see.  But I’ve survived a lot of scary things in my life. Once, I watched my dad in a wild windstorm clinging to the

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Hiding under the bed

When Jon Klassen gave his Caldecott speech at ALA this summer, he talked about the astonishment and, oh, maybe even terror he feels when he sees his books in a bookstore or anywhere else out in the world.  Wait!  How did that escape from my house?  How, um, EXPOSING is that? I gave two VCFA

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The next breath

Why, we wonder, do bad things happen to good people?  We don’t ask why good things happen to good people.  But in a world with so much sorrow and aching, don’t good things amaze, too? One of those good things happens every summer in this little building by the Pacific Ocean: a week-long writing course

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Author Power

It’s tough times for writers of children’s books. All of the things that hit education and libraries in the United States also hit children’s books.  And families live busy, distracted lives–sometimes too busy to read; sometimes too busy to visit a bookstore.  And publishing is centered in a city of devastatingly expensive real estate. I

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Sorrow and what we do with it

It was a super busy week–the ending of the semester for Vermont College of the Fine Arts students and faculty.  I don’t know where my brain was when I drew up the semester’s schedule.  Oh wait.  As I wrote to several of my students…it was on painkillers.  So when I got a box of the

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Following the Big Duck

My dad did not love school. He did not love reading (or at least not until my mom had hold of him for many years :>)  He had a curious mind, though, and a way of grabbing hold of baffling ideas and wrestling them through and then turning his conclusions into stories.  Growing up in a

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The torment of step step step

Do you have a project that baffles or befuddles you?  Something that no matter how hard you lean on it, you can’t get it to budge?   A door that refuses to open? My writing is often that way. Right in

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Not there yet

Parts of my recent ship trip brought back snippets of memories–probably not even from that first trip when I was two and our family moved to Ethiopia for the first time, probably from the ship that floated us back across the Atlantic when I

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The hard and fancy bits of vacation

I have only a handful of memories from my first ocean journey across the Atlantic as our family headed to live in Ethiopia. My dad took us up on the deck one night and showed us the moon on the water. 

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The gorgeous chaos

“Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world.”  Diane Ackerman Here’s a powerful word.  GIRLPOD. Have a girl?  Are a girl?  Want to make a difference for a girl? Think about girlpods and “Hope by 12”:  “When a

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Story power rippling on

A new year always seems to be a time to pause, raise my head, and look around.  Get my bearings.  Figure out not only what kinds of visions and resolutions pull me forward into the next year of my life

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What story will YOU read next?

Birthdays. Some places in this world don’t even mark them.  Some people have no idea on which day they were born. In some places on this earth, life spins out on a thin thread and can so easily snap. In

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For its own shining sake

    When my American Girl editor and I started talking about Lanie and who she was, we set a goal that this character would show girls that we all can make a difference around the world AND in our own back yards. 

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Writing…what a mess!

I’e had a week of fascinating writing workshops with third, fourth, and fifth graders at Brent International Schools in the Philippines.  When I pointed out that as I travel, I don’t pay much attention to official sites and monuments–like this

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Ah…the flowers of Atlanta

Denver has donkey carts, too :>  One of them sits in this school and reminds kids to bring their pennies for Ethiopia Reads.  I was proud to meet this leadership team, glad to meet kids making a difference…and also the

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The power of Julie + more

I met Julie Evans when I spoke at a reading conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  At that point, I was sharing what felt like a big and tough dream–that we could help Yohannes Gebregeorgis move from his job as a

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