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Nevada SCBWI Conference and Mentorship 2019

Last night I got back from a jam-packed weekend in Las Vegas. I was there for the Nevada SCBWI Pitch Perfect Conference and to kick off my mentorship program with Jim Averbeck.

 

I also snuck in a few hours of sight-seeing.

 

I love writing conferences – I always learn a ton and come home excited to work on my manuscripts. In fact, I wrote so many notes that the fountain pen in the next photo was over half empty when I got home. To put that in perspective, that’s the ink equivalent of a couple of ballpoint pens or more. That’s a lot of writing!

 

But it’s also just plain fun to hang out with people who love books as much as me.

This was my first writing conference outside of Illinois, so I can now say that writers everywhere are some of the kindest, loveliest humans on the planet. I’m running on fumes today because I stayed up every night chatting with my fellow conference-goers. It was definitely worth it.

Three days into my mentorship, I’m also excited to jump into revisions. Getting critical feedback on your work isn’t easy – but right now I’m excited to see these picture book manuscripts turn into something amazing.

**cracks knuckles** Ok, let’s get to work.

 

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 3 Collections

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 3 Collections to organize your writing

Today I excited to share the third part of my series on bullet journaling: collections to add to your writing bullet journal.

But before we jump in, if you aren’t familiar with Bullet Journaling read part 1. I’ll wait.

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

Ok, ready to rock your bullet journal? Here we go!

 

What is a Collection?

Just in case you skipped over the intro to bullet journaling (tsk tsk) – a collection is a place in your journal where you can gather together information around a theme — usually a page or a spread of pages dedicated to a particular topic.

I’ve gathered together collection ideas for all kinds of writer needs:

  • Must have collections for every writer
  • Collections to organizing your writing
  • Collections for events and projects
  • Collections to help your writing grow
  • Useful Collections

This post covers collections to organize your writing life. I have free printables of many of these collections in my Free Printable Bullet Journal Inserts.

 

Must-Have Collections

1. Goals and Habits

At the very front of my bullet journal, right after the Index and Calendex, is a spread dedicated to goals and the habits I want to form. That’s because I want to state up front what my intentions are for my writing life this year. I start there so that through the year, those intentions will keep me on the path to my goals.

Bullet Journal Collections: Goals and Plans for 2019
Bullet Journal Collections: My Goals and Plans for 2019

Some tips for goal setting:

  1. Be SMAART: If you’ve been a New Year Resolution drop out in years past (guilty), take heart. Research says if you set SMAART goals you’ll be much more successful. Check out these tips for setting goals.
  2. Take Control (when you can): Keep your goals firmly centered on the things you can control. You can’t force an editor to give you a book contract, but you can work your hardest to produce a book that will tempt them.
  3. Form Habits of Excellence: Big goals are accomplished by forming small habits. Books are not written in one day – the habit of regular writing is what gets you to THE END. The same applies to most other goals you might want to achieve. So think of what daily habits you can build to launch you to your dreams.

 

2. Accomplishments

Let’s face it: writing is hard. You spend years writing a book, then revising, querying, and more revising before you get the joy of holding it in your hands. That’s a long time to work for proof of your progress.

Bullet Journal Collections: Accomplishments
Bullet Journal Collections: My Accomplishments collection ready and waiting for 2019

Marking the small accomplishments along the way will show you the progress you’re making (especially when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere). I always create a collection to record small (but significant!) accomplishments like:

  • Writing a rough draft (for a picture book)
  • Writing a chapter (for a novel)
  • Giving critiques
  • Receiving critiques
  • Writing blog posts
  • Reading a craft book
  • Completing a writing class
  • Watching a free webinar
  • Attending a conference or workshop
  • Giving a talk/author visit
  • Submitting a manuscript to an agent or editor
  • Entering a contest
  • etc.

Even if you’re early in your writing journey, you can still find a fair number of these to add to your list. There are a wealth of free webinars and other resources online to help you develop your writing muscles. You’ll be surprised at how long your list gets by the end of the year.

 

3. Ideas

I think every writer has had this experience: you’re trying to fall asleep or sitting at a red light and an amazing idea springs into your head. It’s so amazing that you’re sure you could never forget. Think again.

Bullet Journal Collections: Ideas
Bullet Journal Collections: Ideas

I’ve been known to jot ideas on scraps of paper, in my phone notes app, or even send it to my husband as a voice-to-speech text — anything to get the idea down before it leaks out of my brain. But it’s easy to lose tracks of those ideas even when they’re written down, so later (when I’m not driving or trying to sleep) I move them to this collection.

At the end of the year, I migrate these to Evernote to make them easier to find later.

 

4. Business Collections

If you take your writing seriously (and you should), then you need to treat it like a business.

These are collections you will want to have somewhere. I prefer to keep them in Google Docs or Evernote (mostly because I dislike copying over lots of data), but they could easily be collections in your bujo.

  • business income and expenses
  • manuscript submissions (it can be easy to lose track of submissions!)

 

Collections to Organize Your Writing

5. List of Manuscripts

In early 2018, I was struggling with finding a way to keep track of all my manuscripts. I wrote 8 picture book drafts in 2016 and 12 in 2017,  plus I had a novel and a middle grade nonfiction book in the works. I was drowning in my own work!

 

Bullet Journal Collection: My 2018 list of manuscripts
Bullet Journal Collection: My 2018 list of manuscripts

 

I came up with this simple list to track them. I list each manuscript with a status – work in progress, draft, done, or retired. In my post on my magical monthly spread, I discuss the writing process I use to keep track of projects. But not every project makes it to that list. This collection is where I track EVERY manuscript – even the ones that get tossed in a (metaphorical) drawer as soon as the rough draft is done.

On retiring manuscripts: some manuscripts don’t work. One of my goals is to write 12 picture book manuscripts a year – not to produce 12 query-ready pieces. Only a few turn out to be gold nuggets, but ALL of my writing improves for the practice.

At the end of the year, I migrate this list to Evernote for permanent storage. So I start the year with just the manuscripts I will be working on and add new manuscripts as I complete the first draft.

 

6. Blogging

If you have a blog, you can use your bujo for managing your blog. I keep a simple list of blog post ideas and use my blogging platform for everything else.

Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 Blogging Collection
Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 Blogging Collection

Some bloggers prefer to use their bujo more heavily in blog planning.

You could consider adding collections for:

  • blog topic ideas
  • tags you use
  • posting schedule
  • a table of all blog posts
  • page view statistics
  • post sharing to social media

Need inspiration? Tiny Ray of Sunshine has an excellent post on organizing a blog with a bullet journal.

 

7. Your Work In Progress

There is a lot of information to track when you’re writing a manuscript: characters, settings, research, mentor texts, etc.

In a later post, I will cover this topic in more detail but remember that you can always make a collection to hold all the information about your WIP. Or a collection for a particular type of information about your WIP – like a character sheet or scene list.

 

Collections for Events and Projects

8. Book launch and marketing

Publishing a book is a big event in the life of a writer! It’s also a lot of work. There are a ton of things to do before and after.

Bullet Journal Collection: Book Publication and Branding
Bullet Journal Collection: Book Publication and Branding

Even though I Pray Today didn’t come out until September of 2018, I was already working on marketing in January. I made this collection to hold onto all the information about the book release – including these notes from a meeting with my lovely editor and marketing director.

It also housed the list all the things I wanted to do before the book released: a website overhaul, setting up a blog tour, etc.

Bullet Journal Collections: Blog tour Collection for I Pray Today
Bullet Journal Collections: Blog tour Collection for I Pray Today

Later, the blog tour got its own collection where I kept track of dates, topics, and posts. As I cleared details with my hosts, I checked them off: when we agreed on a date, when we agreed on a topic, when the blog post was finished and sent off. A blog tour is a lot of work!

 

9. Conferences and Workshops

When I plan to attend a conference or workshop, I make a collection to track all the pieces of information relevant to it: date, time, location, reminders, to do lists, etc.

Bullet Journal Collections: Conference or event collection
Bullet Journal Collections: This Collection is a place to gather information about the Wild Wild Midwest conference that I plan to attend.

I’ve already got a spread for SCBWI’s Wild, Wild Midwest 2019 with the date, location, and registration date listed. (our regional conferences fill up FAST.) Later I will add more information I need to keep track of: the sessions I register for, the hotel I’m staying at, dinner dates with friends, etc.

 

10. Author Events

Like a conference collection, this is a place to park all the relevant information: time, date, schedule of events, contact person, payment, etc. In October of 2018, I got to be a visiting scholar at Purdue University for four days. I used this collection a lot that week!

Bullet Journal Collections: An Author Visit collections from my 2018 bullet journal
Bullet Journal Collections: An Author Visit collections from my 2018 bullet journal

 

11. Project management

I’ve been writing a work-for-hire picture book series with the folks at Purdue University since 2016. Right now I’m in the middle of writing a second batch of books for the series. This deadline cheat sheet was so helpful for writing the first book that I copied it over into my 2019 bujo to keep it handy as I finish the next two.

Bullet Journal Collections: Project Management
Bullet Journal Collections: This spread is my cheatsheet of deadlines for my current work for hire contract

 

12. Meeting notes

When I have meetings about my books (like the marketing meeting notes for I Pray Today above) or my contract work, I keep all the notes in my bullet journal.

When the meeting is scheduled, I make it a collection so I can jot down all the relevant information (time, date, location, etc.) On meeting day, it becomes a place to jot down notes.

 

Collections to Help Your Writing Grow

13. Books you Read/Want to Read

Most writers are also avid readers. If you aren’t, you should consider picking up the reading habit since it will improve your writing.

Many bullet journalers track the books they read or plan to read in their bullet journals.

I prefer to use Goodreads since it’s less time consuming to keep track of the 300 or so books I read a year.

If you have time fitting in reading, check out these six tips to squeeze more reading into your busy schedule.

 

14. Critique groups

A critique group is a fabulous thing! As a writer, getting critical feedback from fellow writers is one of the best things you can do for improving your writing.

Bullet Journal Collections for Writers: A Critique Group Collection from my 2018 Bujo
Bullet Journal Collections for Writers: A Critique Group Collection from my 2018 Bujo

I’m currently in three critique groups. That’s a LOT, and I need a way to keep track of it all. I give each group its own collection. In the header, I list the names of the members and the meeting schedule.

Each month, I jot down what I submit and list each member who submits. As I do critiques, I underline or cross off the names so I can easily see which critiques I still need to do.

 

15. Writing Challenges

I love writing challenges! They aren’t for every writer, but for me, they give me a push to achieve my goals.

I give each writing a challenge its own collection. Here I can write any relevant information like deadlines, websites, etc. And since writing challenges often require writing, I put that here, too.

Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 collection for the 12x12 challenge
Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 collection for the 12×12 challenge. It’s immensely satisfying to see that all filled in at the end of the year.

There are a ton of writing challenges out there – you could easily spend all your time on challenges and never do any writing, so be choosy. Pick the challenges that bring you joy and help you achieve your goals.

I devised this spread last year to track my monthly progress in the 12×12 writing challenge. I write down the working title of each manuscript I write or revise as I complete them. When I watch a webinar and use one of the special submission opportunities, I check the box. It’s immensely satisfying to get to the end of the year and see this page all filled out.

I have a free printable bullet journal spread just for my fellow 12x12ers.

12x12 Bullet Journal Spread
Free printable bullet journal spread for 12x12ers

 

More Useful Collections

16. Social Media

Facebook groups, posting schedules, etc. If you need to track it, you can make a collection for it. There are some lovely examples like this one from Journal Tea.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hello there on this beautiful Friday! I hope you’re all having a great day so far Thank you for all your comments and messages regarding my last post! My weekend will be filled with Friends visiting us with their dog, rainy weather, planning the next week and Netflix I can’t wait Also if you haven’t seen it yet, go over to my blog (link is in the description-box) and you can read my post on planning Social Media posts and what tools and apps I love to use when it comes to Instagram ✨ If you have other tools or apps you can recommend let me know Wish you all a lovely Friday and a great weekend!! . . . #bulletjournaldecoration #bulletjournaldoodles #bulletjournaldeutschland #bujodoodles #doodleartist #bulletjournaladdicted #bulletjournalweekly #bulletjournalsetup #bujosetup #bujoweek #bujoweekly #bujoweeklyspread #weekly #newweek #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #bulletjournalist #bulletjournalcollection #bulletjournalingcommunity #bulletjournalsetup #bulletjournalgermany #bulletjournalaustria #bulletjournaljunkies #bulletjournaladdicted #bulletjournaljunkie #bulletjournalinspiration #bulletjournal2017 #bulletjournalspread #bulletjournalsystem #bulletjournallove #leuchtturm1917

A post shared by (@thejournaltea) on


She explains the spread in a blog post on managing social media with a bullet journal.

 

17. Books to Review

In 2018 I started reviewing books every month. As I was reading through the year, when I came across a book I loved I would add it to the list. I never had trouble coming up with topics!

 

18. Pen Test Page

It’s super annoying to write one page only to realize it bled through the page and now the backside is unreadable. Grr. You can prevent this by testing each new pen or marker before using it in your bullet journal. Bonus: if you fall in love with a pen or ink, you have all the information to buy it again.

Here’s the pen test page in one of my bullet journals.

Bullet Journal Collections: Pen Test
Bullet Journal Collections:
Pen Test

When you flip it over, you can see how much bleed through and ghosting you get from your pen.

Bullet Journal Collections: Back side of the Pen test page
Bullet Journal Collections: Back side of the Pen test page

Note: Learn from my mistake. Don’t use the very last page, because when you flip it over, it’s against the dark cover, so it’s harder to tell how much ghosting you will get when it’s against a page. This year I’m using the second to last page.

 


Now that you know how to use Collections in your bullet journal, you can download my free printable. It has many collections pre-made for you!

Next time I’ll be sharing how I use a bullet journal to help me organize novel writing.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

18+ Bullet Journal Collections for Writers

 

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 2. The Magical Monthly Spread

Bullet Journaling for Writers Part 2: The Magical Monthly Spread

Today I excited to share the second part of my series on bullet journaling: the monthly log that is the magic to the whole system.

But before we jump in, if you aren’t familiar with Bullet Journaling read part 1. I’ll wait.

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

 

Back? Great.

Now let me tell you how I got here.

 

How Success Led to Chaos

In late 2016 after a few years of working to build my writing career, I was finally getting somewhere. In September 2016 my first book, Goodnight Jesus, was published. That fall I also got to write my first Work for Hire picture books, the Little Elephants’ Big Adventures. Hurrah!

But that also meant I had a lot to keep track of: marketing a new book, managing contract work, writing my own manuscripts, querying, seeking additional contract work, and on and on and on.

I had also increased my writing output, but I was struggling to balance multiple projects.

Which projects is still out to query? Which should I send to my critique group this month? And I had a great idea for a new manuscript – where did I put that?

I couldn’t focus, and I wasn’t getting anything done.

In short: I was swamped.

I grabbed my bullet journal and made a monthly spread. I divided up all my tasks into different categories like marketing, submission, and writing.

I also listed out every manuscript I was working on. All of them. And I categorized them based on where they were in the writing process.

Suddenly, I could clearly see all the different moving part. I could zero in on the most important tasks and make plans for the future. And that paralyzing anxiety of too-much-to-do went away.

Magic!

Over time, I’ve refined this system, but the basics are the same. I divide tasks into categories and have a framework for managing multiple writing projects.

Monthly spread of my bullet journal
Monthly spread of my bullet journal

 

Schedule

At the top of the left-hand page, I list out my schedule and deadlines for the month. I love the Calendex, but I like having this right there, so I don’t forget things. Copying it over first, also means that I have a good handle on the month before I start making decisions on what to tackle.

 

Task Categories

The rest of the left page is broken into sections based on the major categories of writing tasks I want to accomplish each month:

  • Business and Marketing: Writing is a business, and there are tasks associated with that: seeking new Work for Hire contracts, seeking speaking engagements, website work, and blogging. When I have a new book on the horizon, this section beefs up with all the marketing work involved.
  • Submissions: Every month I submit to agents, editors, awards, etc. Here is where I can list what I plan to do for the month.
  • Craft: I’m a big believer in continually learning and improving my writing. I aim to do some craft development each month. That could be something big like going to a conference or completing an online class. Or it could be small – reading a craft-focused book or watching a free webinar.

MAKING THE TASK CATEGORY LISTS:

Most months, I tackle items in each category. That means I’m continually moving forward on many fronts. Over time that adds up to a lot of progress.

As I create this spread, I’m making many small decisions that help me set and achieve goals.

For instance, in Business and Marketing this month I have blog posts to write (like this one!), I need to gather up the last of my tax documents, and (time permitting) put together a page on my website about Author Visits.

I also want to submit to Work For Hire publishing houses to drum up more contract work for the future. However, it’s not pressing (I’m booked out through February). Also, a peek at the Schedule at the top lets me know that I don’t have time this month. I could decide this goal isn’t worth pursuing and cross it off. Instead, I decided it’s still something I want to do… just not this month. The arrow signifies that I’m bumping it down the road to the next month.

Similarly, this month I don’t have any Submissions listed. Although I try to submit each month, I know December submissions tend to languish while everyone is busy with holidays. So I decided to put my efforts towards other endeavors this month and hit the ground running after the new year.

These small decisions stack up over time. I’m setting goals and intentions every single month. By the end of the year, it amounts to a substantial amount of work all of which is aligned with my goals.

 

Project Status

Most of the right page is used for what I call a Project Status. This is my lifeline for managing multiple projects. It’s an overview of all the manuscripts I’m currently working on, sorted by their present stage in the writing process.

The Writing Process
The Writing Process

The process reads from bottom to top:

  • Simmer: I always write down story ideas when they come to me. I have long lists elsewhere in my bullet journal. The most promising get put here. I let these stew in my brain for weeks or months. That simmering time helps lets the idea-fragments coalesce into a fully-formed idea. Plus, after a bit of stewing, I can usually tell which are worth pursuing and which are… not. When ideas languish on this list for a long time, I know they aren’t worth pursuing.
  • Write: These are the things I am planning to write this month. I pluck them from the simmer list, contracted work, or a new idea that’s too exciting to wait. I try to push a piece all the way through to a complete first draft before I set it aside. Then it moves to the Draft list.
  • Resting Drafts: This is the where I place all the manuscripts that are written but not done. Resting is a vital step in the writing process. A bit of distance helps you critically evaluate your manuscripts.
  • Revise:  Most months I choose a piece from the Draft list for revision. I try to take it through a complete revision before setting it aside. I work over the whole manuscript focusing on just one aspect of revision. Usually, it ends up right back in the Draft list to rest before another round of revision. Very rarely do pieces graduate to the Done pile.
  • Done: Every step up to here has resulted in manuscripts being culled. Some never make it through the idea simmering stage. Others I may revise multiple times before I realize they’re not workable – at least not right now. But those that make it through the process end up here. These are the manuscripts I consider to be as complete and polished as I am capable of making them. They’re the ones I’m currently querying (that’s the Q designation). Even still, I will occasionally decide that a manuscript is just not publishable right now. Then I drop them off the list. Once in a while I will review a retired manuscript I find a new angle for it.

MAKING A PROJECT STATUS LIST:  Each month, I’m considering and critically evaluating the manuscripts on this list.

  1. Done: I start with the previous month’s list. I copy over anything that is Done. Occasionally, I decide that a manuscript needs to be retired. Usually, this is after I’ve queried it and not gotten any bites. Since these are the pool of manuscripts I’m currently submitting I made a simple designation to show what’s been queried ( -> Q) and what has been subbed elsewhere (like to awards and grant programs).
  2. Revise: I look at the list of Resting Drafts from the previous month and decide which is most promising to Revise this month. I try to keep this list short – one or maybe two picture books a month is about what I can handle. This month is a little longer because my novel is with a Beta reader.  I’m not doing active work on it, but it’s not exactly sitting in a metaphorical drawer either, so I listed it here with a note that it’s out to a Beta reader. 
  3. Resting Drafts: I copy over the rest of the items that are in the Resting Draft stage. As I do, I consider if these are workable or if they need to be retired, too. Sometimes I will include a note about a manuscript. I have one draft that I think may be better suited as a poem than a picture book.
  4. Write: I consider the ideas on my Simmer list from the previous month. I look at the list of story ideas and choose the most promising to write into a new draft. Again, I try to keep this list short. This month I have one picture book listed. I’ve also started listing blog posts or other non-book writing here. I don’t put my non-book writing through this full process, but it’s a reminder so I don’t bite off more than I can chew.
  5. Simmer: Lastly, I copy over any ideas that didn’t make the cut for writing this month. I consider if each idea is worth pursuing or not. If not, I leave them off. If

This whole process takes me just a few minutes. But as I go I’m making small evaluations (Would this work better as a poem? Is this idea worth pursuing? Which draft do I want to make each month?) And those small decisions mean that I am setting goals (like what I will write) and critically evaluating my work.

This month I have a work for hire picture book due and another one to begin. With blog posts, that’s more than enough for a busy holiday-filled month.

Starting with the Done and Revise manuscripts means that I’m focusing on pushing manuscripts toward the finish line. (Instead of continually producing new drafts that don’t get anywhere.

 

Top Priorities

The last thing I do is to make a quick list of the month’s top priorities. By this time, I’ve made all my decisions about what to work on. I like having a handy list where I pull those top tasks from the different parts of the monthly spread.

—–

Now that you know how to use my Magical Monthly spread, you can download your own copy here. In the next post on Bullet Journaling for writers, I’ll be going over collections just for writers.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

 

 

 

Solar Eclipse 2017 Part 1: Learn About Solar Eclipses

If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming solar eclipse. Which I like to call eclipsapocalypse. (If you do live under a rock, I don’t judge.)

I’ve gathered together some resources so the children (and inner children) in your life can have enjoy the eclipsapocalyse in style. In this first post, we’ll look at resources for learning about solar eclipses. Scroll down for videos and book recommendations.

Later posts will cover viewing the eclipse and hands-on eclipse activities.

LEARN ABOUT SOLAR ECLIPSES

Solar Eclipse diagram

A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the Sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow on the Earth. If you’re standing on the part of the Earth where the shadow falls, you’ll see the moon move in front of the Sun and block out the light.

It’s a big deal because full solar eclipses are rare. It’s been nearly a 100 years in In a full eclipse the moon lines up exactly with the sun to completely cover it. Around the area of the full eclipse there’s a much bigger area that will see a partial eclipse. The sun and moon don’t line up exactly, but part of the sun’s light will still be blocked.

Partial eclipse
Partial Eclipse

BOOKS:

You knew there would be books, right?

Eclipses

Eclipses: The Night Sky and other Amazing Sights in Space by Nick Hunter

This book all about eclipses is perfect for younger children.

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing by Joe Rao and Mark Borgions

This fun book has a short chapter on eclipses. Perfect for newer readers or as a read aloud to a younger child.

Space Encyclopedia

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond by David A. Aguilar 

My favorite space encyclopedia has sections on eclipses, too.

 

VIDEOS:

This NASA video explains how it works and what it will look like. (Appropriate for young kids to the young at heart.):

If you want to dive deeper into the science of eclipses, this video from Crash Course is great (Appropriate for Adolescents+ (or really nerdy little kids)):

 

Tune in next time to learn how you can see the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

 

 

 

My Favorite Goodnight Jesus Review

Goodnight Jesus with a chewed cover The reaction to Goodnight Jesus has been amazing. I’m humbled by the many wonderful reviews. And they just keep coming.

But his one is my favorite because this review came from a child.

Not just any child but a sweet boy with autism and a language delay. So how can a child show appreciation for a book when they don’t have any words to tell you?

By eating it of course.

His mother explains:

“The picture prompts work great for our son with extreme language delay, and the illustrations hit the sweet spot on interesting/overstimulating balance. There’s just enough detail for him to like taking his time looking over the book on his own AND he can follow along while we read without having a sensory overload. As you already know if you follow this blog, my son eats books he really likes.”

Over at Writing Like A Mother you can read the full review where she discusses how the book was received by all her kids: the older, the younger, the wiggly, and those with special needs. Goodnight Jesus may have chunky pages and short text of a board book but it has hidden depths that can be a discussion springboard for older children, too. 

Thumbs up for Goodnight Jesus

Goodnight Jesus Review from Raising Saints

Goodnight Jesus interior pagesThe reviews of Goodnight Jesus just keep coming. Today’s comes from Elissa Bjeletich of Raising Saints.

“If you have not yet seen Angela Isaacs’ new board book for babies and toddlers, you are missing out. Frankly, I was blown away.” [Emphasis mine.]

She gushed about the illustrations:

“Nicholas Malara’s illustrations may be the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.”

And had kind things to say about the text, too:

“Angela Isaacs keeps the wording simple and pure, with a lovely rhythm that is exactly right for a bedtime book.”

But mostly she saw just how important a book like Goodnight Jesus can be be a young child:

“I can’t help but think that book like this will open a child’s heart to love — God’s love, the love of the Saints and the love of the family. Truly, it’s a wonderful book, and a really beautiful first step in a child’s religious education.”

You can read the full review over at Raising Saints.

And of course, the book is available now on Ancient Faith’s website.

One Year After New Horizons Visited Pluto

Yesterday marked one year since the New Horizons space probe made it’s flyby of Pluto. That also means it’s been over a year that I’ve been working on writing a book about the mission. Uhm, wow.

It’s been quite a year.  The New Horizons mission was historic. It was the first mission to Pluto and the first to visit anything that far away in our solar system.

Pluto Has a Heart

Scientists made many amazing discoveries. First off, Pluto has a heart. And it has a heartbeat! (Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline.) The heart is known as Sputnik Planum and it’s made of nitrogen ice. On Earth nitrogen exists as a gas in our atmosphere, but Pluto is cold enough for it to freeze into ice. Nitrogen periodically bubbles up out of the planets crust and spreads out over the heart. The rest of the planet may be roughed up with craters and mountains, but the heart is nice and smooth. These “heartbeats” are like spreading a layer of frosting over a cake – it gives it a nice smooth finish.  A frigid, icy heart would be a bad thing for a person, but for a planet it’s just plain cool.

 

We also found out that Pluto is bigger than we thought. That’s a big deal. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union ruled that Pluto wasn’t a real planet – it is part of a new class called dwarf planets. The decision was spurred when a researcher discovered something out past Neptune that was bigger than Pluto. Many such things had been found but this was the first that was bigger than Pluto. If Pluto was a planet, so was this new thing. And it might not end there; one estimate is that there are hundreds of these things. Rather than let new members to the planet club, Pluto got demoted. Not all scientists agree with the decision. The head of the New Horizons mission has been particularly vocal in his disagreement with the decision. So you can imagine how he felt when it turned out Pluto was the biggest dwarf planet after all.

Dwarf Planets
Named dwarf planets. Pluto narrowly beat out Eris as the biggest

 

It’s not over, though. A year out from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and we’re still getting data back from the probe. It’s so far away and uses so little power that sending information back to Earth is slower than a turtle in molasses. We’ll still be getting new data until October. It also takes scientists awhile to make sense of all that information. We’ve learned a lot, but we will still be making new discoveries for years to come. 

New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object MU69
New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

In 2019, New Horizons will make another historic first. It will be the first to flyby a Kuiper Belt Object. The Kuiper belt is a band of icy, rocky objects far out past Neptune in our solar system. Some dwarf planets orbit out in the Kuiper belt but mostly Kuiper belt objects are just lumpy rocks covered in ice. That might not sounds that interesting, but scientists would disagree. Those lumpy rocks haven’t changed since our solar system formed. Studying one of these Kuiper belt objects up close will tell us a lot about the early solar system. New Horizons could unlock secrets of our early solar system.

As exciting as this year has been for science, its not over yet.

Happy Flyby-versary, New Horizons! Here’s to many more.

Happy 1 year Flyby-iversary Pluto

Big List of Books to Give to Kids

Big list of books to give to kids

The holidays really snuck up on me. I was lured into a false sense of security by the bizarrely warm weather. Now the soul-suckingly cold weather has returned and I just realized Christmas is less than a week away.

If you’re scrambling for last minute gifts for the kids in your life, you’ve come to the right place. Books make amazing gifts for kids. But the kid’s book market can be a bit dizzying.

So let’s make it easy.

Here’s my book gifting guide for kids:

 

Board books for babies

Board book for expectant parents and little babies

Babies love books. They get cuddles and attention from their favorite adults. The get to learn about the world around them. They’re also great for teething….. I recommend board books with stiff, durable pages and short texts for baby bookworms.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Moo, Baa, La La La

Llama Llama Time for Bed

I Love You Through and Through

And of course Goodnight Moon

 

Board books for active babies and toddlers

Books for active babies and toddlers

They’ve just learned how to use their bodies so they want to use those newfound skills. A lot. Don’t fear, in a few short months they’ll want to cuddle again. Until then offer books that appeal to their desire to move and do. Durability is still important while they learn the fine art of turning (not tearing) pages.

Where is Baby’s Belly Button and other lift-the-flap books

Animals: Baby Touch and Feel and other touch and feel books

I Can Do It Too!

 

Picture books for preschoolers

Picture books for preschoolers

Big kids enjoy longer texts and a bit of humor.  These books are tried and true favorites.

Llama Llama Time to Share

Press Here

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site

Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

 

Picture books for kindergarten and elementary

Read aloud picture books for kindergarten and elementary

Picture books aren’t just for little kids! Even kids that are reading themselves will enjoy these longer picture books. And it’s beneficial, even for kids that are already reading.

Rosie Revere Engineer

The Day the Crayons Quit

Corduroy

Click, Clack, Moo: Cow that Type

If I Built a House

 

First chapter books for reading aloud

First chapter books for reading aloud

Most kids will enjoy some longer, more complex stories when they are in preschool or kindergarten. At least some of the time. These chapter books are shorter with some pictures to help along the listener. They’ve also been chosen to have mild, non-scary content.

Little Bear

Frog and Toad

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

 

Read aloud chapter books for preschool and kindergarten

When your child is ready for something a little meatier, try these books. These classics are much loved in our house. They’re also free of scary or mature content* that wouldn’t be appropriate for young listeners.

My Father’s Dragon

Winnie the Pooh

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Anna Hibiscus

* I adore Anna Hibiscus. Adore. The characters and stories are hilarious and beautiful. I also adore that the author tackles big issues like poverty, inequity, and race in a way that isn’t scary for young kids. Even my very sensitive 4 year old was able to handle the content in this book. Use your judgement.

 

Books for brand new readers

Books for brand new readers

Reading is a skill. It takes a lot of practice to master. These shorter books are light on content but high on entertainment. That makes them the perfect place for a new reader to flex those reading muscles. The first chapter books for reading aloud are also great for kid’s just starting to read.

I Broke My Trunk and the other Elephant and Piggie books are pure gold

The Cat in the Hat

Fox in Socks

Ten Apples Up On Top

 

Short chapter books for less new readers

Kids that are ready to read longer books but aren’t ready for novels will love these shorter chapter books.

Amelia Bedelia Means Business (Amelia Bedelia Series)

Dinosaurs Before Dark (The Magic Treehouse Books)

Rapunzel Let’s Down her Hair (After Happily Ever After Series)

 

 

Books for kids that don't like to read

Books for kids that don’t like to read

Most teachers (and authors!) believe that kids that don’t like to read just haven’t met the right book yet. Some kids also get stuck because the books at their reading level just don’t appeal to them. Do you know what almost all kids love? Comics. Know what’s easy to read? Comics. Know what builds reading skills? Reading comics. These books may not be high fiction but they’re a lot of fun. And comics have been the gateway to reading for many kids.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Captain Underpants

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

 

Big books for big kids

Big books for Big kids

If you’ve got a bigger kid that’s comfortably reading bigger novels, these are the books for you. These books have more adventure and scarier villains suitable to bigger kids.

8 Class Pets + 1 squirrel/1 dog = chaos

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Tale of Desperaux: Being a Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable (Genius Files series)

The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians series)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia series, book 2)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter series)

The Hobbit

 

True stories

True stories for kids

So far I’ve listed all fiction books. There’s a reason for that. Most kids like a good story the best. Some kids love true stories best of all.

Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery my daughter wouldn’t forgive me if I left out her favorite book

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Separate is Never Equal

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

The Boy Who Loved Math

Ghandi: A March to the Sea

The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto

Emmanuel’s Dream: the True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu

 

Still looking for inspiration? Check out these 500+ Great Kid’s Books.

Welcome!

Welcome!

I’m a writer, a reader, a psychologist by training, a science geek by inclination, a parent, a cyclist, and a crafter.

This is my writerly page where I share resources for parents, kids, and educators.  You might learn something about writing, find books to read, or see beautiful pictures of nebulae or neurons.