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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Family on the hot, hot savanna

It only takes me a second or two to bring back the delicious sensations of the hot, hot savanna. When I was speaking at an Ethiopian heritage and culture camp this summer, I showed this picture. Someone asked me, “But

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When disaster knocks

Alas. Suffering…who needs it? No thank you. But no matter how many times we decline the invitation, most of us discover the knocking never stops.  And often the guest barges right in and stays. I can’t look at any of

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Facing down terror

Writing a book starts with a totally empty page.  Or screen. Terrifying. I didn’t find it so when I was starting out.  I always felt charged up and confident and bubbling with ideas and words and details.  (John Gardner said details

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Finding peace in the middle of fizzledom

Life fizzles. Life drizzles. Life drips. Just like in my book Rain Romp. And let’s face it–sometimes when it rains we cannot go out and stomp in the puddles and get our grouchy feelings out. I’m just home from a

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Bring on the camel teeth

I spent a whole bunch of hours on airplanes yesterday…seven of them from Abu Dhabi to Paris…ten from Paris to Salt Lake City…about two from Salt Lake City to Portland. Lesson learned:  If the Air France agent in Abu Dhabi

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Surprise

Seven years ago, my son and daughter and my brother’s daughter took time from their college years to volunteer in an Ethiopia Reads library in Addis Ababa.  They taught English classes and made stories pop off the page using puppets and

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If you could…would you?

Recently I’ve been mulling this question: If you could spend a modest amount of money or time and open the world of reading for the most brilliant, motivated, determined kids in your neighborhood, would you? I think most of my friends wouldn’t

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Small consolations

Back home from Christmas wanderings, I just listened to a song that was shared this year by an author friend whose heart is deeply sweet and whose words are silky and rhythmic on the tongue:  http://www.kathiappelt.com/blog/books/the-angel-next-to-me/  As I listened, what I thought about…again…was

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