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

Read More »

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,

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Don’t leave home without it…

A team, I mean. Too many things go wrong on the road. People get sick or turn out to have needs or expectations that we were barely able to articulate ahead of time. Obstacles wave their tentacles until you can

Read More »

Stories circle the globe

http://www.ethiopiareads.org/ethiopian-odyssey-ii  I’m super jazzed to talk with my Vermont College of the Fine Arts students about how to think about the progression of a tale. I’m also super jazzed to see what this artistic collaboration can bring to some very

Read More »

The swirl of travel

As my Vermont College semester winds to a close, two new adventures loom in my imagination: the January residency, where I will be leading a workshop focusing on picture books, and a trip to Ethiopia where I will be leading–am

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Brave mothers

Long plane trips between continents…learning how to manage life in Addis Ababa and then in the countryside where (at first) water arrived at our house on the backs of donkeys and cooking was done on and in a wood-burning stove…landing on

Read More »

Makers all

My smart, wonderful writer of a daughter is in a PhD program in the English department at Purdue University, and she reported the irritation literature scholars and others felt when Purdue tagged itself as “makers all,” in honor of its

Read More »