‘Weird Little Kids’ Become Writers


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Yes, I do qualify as a “weird little kid.”

As evidence may I present this letter written to the Tooth Fairy after I received money for my lost tooth. I put the miniature missive back under my pillow. I figured that was the fairy return mail system.

I even decorated the front of the little homemade envelope (that must have been sent home from school with my tooth in it). Check out that realistic kleenex with blood on it!

Another favorite story regarding my ‘weirdness’ takes place as an adult. I was sitting around a kitchen table visiting with some other women at a friend’s house. Our hostess’ 4 year-old daughter was playing with a doll nearby. At some point I chimed in with her play without thinking and as I recall threw out something about magical fairy dust. The little girl came to a full stop, turned her whole body towards me, paused while looking me up and down, then asked with complete assurance, “Do you want to come to my room?”

She meant, “This whole imaginative thing you have going on? I want to take advantage of it. Let’s go. Let’s go play right this minute.” Her mom laughed and said something about the adults talking right now. But truly? I was so ready. I would’ve gone with her in a split second.

I’m like that at other gatherings and parties, too. I’d often rather be playing make-believe with the kids.

Writer Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins) says in her collection of essays, Gates of Excellence: On Reading & Writing Books for Children:

“When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was, better still, a weird little kid,  and though I would never choose to give my own children this particular preparation for life (she talks about being nine years old, recently off a boat from China to North Carolina, wearing missionary barrel clothes and being called “Jap”), there are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.” (Gates of Excellence was re-printed with The Spying Heart as A Sense of Wonder.)

She also says, “…the reading of fiction has helped me not only to come to terms with the weird little kid I was and am but also to realize that almost everyone I meet has a weird little kid tucked away inside.”



Heroic Girls of Literature: Pippi Longstocking



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Pippi. Her combination of supreme silliness and breezy bravery is irresistible.

And the names this author uses for characters and places! Villa Villekulla? Longstocking? So good and funny.

Pippi’s a mess. Her clothes don’t match. She lives by herself. She does whatever she wants, however she wants. This is satisfying especially for kids I think. She’s a lot of fun and her own person, with a good heart who “enjoys talking to people.”

She does exactly all the kinds of wild things that kids think of doing. Cooking pancakes and flinging them across the kitchen onto plates? Extreme, not holding back kinds of actions — these can be what fiction is for!

And her strength!

“Why, she could lift a whole horse if she wanted to! And she wanted to.”

(And she has a horse!)

Her attitude! “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top.”

Life next door to Pippi and as her friend, is definitely not boring — her neighbors, the other children Annika & Tommy and their tidy, orderly life are perfect foils for Pippi’s outrageousness. And vice versa. Pippi’s father is an absent (but romantic) Cannibal King, while the other two children’s parents are present, ordinary and typically adult.

Some of the cultural references in this story could be misunderstood nowadays as being politically incorrect or insensitive — but instead I think one should keep in mind it’s all supposed to be ridiculous — and the fact that other cultures or ethnicities are even mentioned actually ups the diversity score for this book.

Imaginative, goofy things are not supposed to make sense in one way; even as there must be a core element of truth in all good stories. Pippi saying things like, “people in Egypt talk nonsense all day long” (so I should be able to occasionally) need to be taken as tongue-in-cheek, (and enjoyed). She also completely knows she’s lying/making stuff up and says so. Probably while stomping down the street backwards, one foot in the gutter and one on the sidewalk.

Such gleeful nonsense. It’s awesome.

I’ll leave you with the observation that Pippi’s methods for cleaning appeal to something deep within all of us. Strapping cleaning brushes to your feet and flooding the house with water and suds? “Excellent!” We all say, “That would be a splendid/dope method for washing your kitchen floors! ”


(c) 1945 by Astrid Lindgren


A Few of My Favorite Things


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I’ve always loved the song.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with string
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into spring
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Read more:  The Sound Of Music – My Favorite Things (maria) Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I never noticed before how it seems to go from Fall around to Summer again!

Colorado Aspen

Several of my own favorites below also have an Autumn tinge to them…

I’m not going to include pictures on purpose so that you can see them as you wish in your own mind’s eye.

  • fleece or flannel-lined jeans
  • 3M scrub pads
  • pure maple syrup (sweetness from deep inside a tree…why *wouldn’t* this be good?!!)
  • pansies on an overcast day
  • addictively popping bubblewrap
  • popping those canisters of instant dough
  • wheat bread with nuts
  • chocolate croissants, tomatoes (not together)
  • piles of puppies
  • sweeping, diaphanous skirts
  • the still eyes of a deer
  • heaps of golden yellow leaves against green grass
  • a handwritten note with a meaningful stamp

Would anyone like to make a song out of these? Anyone??

What are your favorite things?!?

Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon

Heroic Girls of Literature: Rosie (Rosie Revere, Engineer)



“Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!

Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!”


There are scientific studies on the value of failure. But ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER sums up the concept perfectly — and you get brilliant illustrations and humor along the way.

What I love about this book is that it’s NOT about one single person. The little Rosie character is helped by her caring, older Great Aunt. This is wonderful. None of us makes it on our own.

The inspiration-to-completion trajectory of the story is great. The gadgets created are fun. There is enjoyable silliness throughout.

We need to do way more celebrating of failure. And it’s related imaginative exploration.

Throw a “failure party” and read this book aloud!

I also love that Rosie makes a big, giant, colorful mess when she’s making things.

Written by:

Andrea Beaty


Illustrated by:

David Roberts



(c) 2013 Abrams Books for Young Readers

Heroic Girls of Literature: Irene (Brave Irene)


“She pushed out her lip and hurried on.”

Irene is a determined person. She’s stubborn at times when fighting for what she believes, and she’s a loving girl.

In this super book, she battles through adversity while having irritation at the presumption of the forces opposing her. Which is both kind of hilarious and admirable  — and of course, universal — who hasn’t felt insulted and mad about something keeping us from moving forward? (:

This story is a wonderfully illustrated adventure, with a warm, caring ending and lots of humor mixed in.

Go, Irene!

(And Go, too, Irene’s awesome mom!)

brave irene

Thanks to my friend Laura for giving this book to our family as a gift several years ago!

Thanks, William Steig, for the character, illustrations and story ~

bill steig

My Playlist


It was awhile before I heard about writers having playlists for certain books. Interesting concept. Some writers have certain customized soundtracks that they listen to while working on a particular story.

I myself wanted silence most of the time while composing the first draft of my WIP (work in progress). I would drive alone with the radio off and think — or go to the small apartment gym where we lived and look vaguely into the distance while my brain spun as I exercised. I didn’t want noise. Or, I wanted only the background of the jazz station that was piped into the exercise room by the apartment management.

But then it happened a few times that when I needed to work out (or my knees don’t operate properly) people were watching TVs in the small space so loudly so they could hear above the treadmill. So that meant I needed something to be able to create my own little bubble and concentrate in public. Thanks to our son, I figured out how to order songs off iTunes and put them on my phone.

These songs have now influenced and worked their way into my manuscript.

Or maybe it was the other way around – there are certain elements in the text (and in me, or that I see in life) that are also reflected in these songs.

While doing the elliptical, then floor exercises, then the treadmill — I listened to the songs below. They’re broken up into ones that I listen to in that order of activities. But I do sometimes mix it up. ‘Cause that’s the joy of modern technology.

Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson – the greatest song ever, to begin a workout with. Especially when getting started on that torture machine (the elliptical). It’s so upbeat and I appreciate the humor, i.e:

“I’m smoother than a fresh jar ‘o Skippy.” (:

“I’m too hot — hot da** — make a dragon wanna retire man.”

“Gotta kiss myself I’m so pretty — smoooch.”

Here are my favorite videos of dancing to Uptown Funk:

This 60 year-old dance teacher and her students have such energy in the first one! (: (: They’re at a competition and it’s amazing – you’ll be inspired. The second one is their appearance on Ellen.

Shake It Off – by Taylor Swift – just genius, and also a great beat for gettin’ ya goin’

Rich Girl – by Gwen Stefani & Missy Elliot — such a cool pairing and a cool song

Gangnam Style – by PSY – Love his philosophy of “Dress Classy, Dance Cheesy.” Plus any song that has actions a preschooler can enjoy, I will probably also like:

Kids know it’s just fun to jump around.

I Will Survive – by Gloria Gaynor – I love that the words can be applied to anything bad in our lives that we need to leave behind.

U Can’t Touch This – by MC Hammer – uh, again the humor … & also just the attitude

Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) – by Shakira & Freshlyground – goosebump inducing:

“You’re a good soldier — choosing your battles…”

“Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and back in the saddle”

“When you fall – get up, oh oh — and if you fall – get up, eh eh”

[and then some stuff in another language – which I love]

Good stuff.

<– This one also gets listened to on repeat.

Single Ladies – by Beyonce – she’s awesome, so is this song

Footloose – by Kenny Loggins

Let’s Make a Better World – by Judith Hill & Tata Vega – 20 Feet from Stardom (Music from the Motion Picture) Believe me, you’re going to want this version of this song. You’ll need to buy the whole album, and it is SO worth it. These women’s voices…!!!

Lean On Me – by Darlene Love (feat. Lisa Fischer, Jo Lawry & Judith Hill) — see above — the soul in their amazing voices

Flashdance – by Irene Cara

Power – by Jeremy Loops

Fight Song – by Rachel Platten – I LOVE this song. I’ve listened to this one 15 times in a row before, when I especially needed a boost to continue writing work.

(Also by this time I was back up in our apartment and could do the last few exercises I do up there. One involves standing on one leg and throwing a beachball against the wall – so I could sing out loud and just dance around. :0)

Apparently this one was overplayed on the radio at one point, according to my husband. Too bad, because it’s awesome.

Brave by Sara Bareilles – I know she wrote this song for her friend. But like all good art, it has a universality to it that transcends even what the artist meant when creating. I think that also, the love that goes into something makes it more vibrant in the end.

Celebration – by Kool & The Gang

Unwritten – by Natasha Bedingfield – If this isn’t an anthem for writers, I don’t know what is. But it’s actually great for everybody ~

Staring at the blank page before you; open up the dirty window; let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find…

There’s that universality again.

Old Time Rock and Roll – by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band


Sk8er Boi – by Avril Lavigne

The Best of Both Worlds – by Hannah Montana – kind of makes me poignant listening to these words now, considering Miley’s life trajectory since then

Independence Day – by Martina McBride  – pulls at the heartstrings, but has hope somehow

To Daddy – she’s such a maestro, Dolly (Parton) is – what a storyteller

Let It Go – by Idina Menzel

I Love Rock ‘N Roll – sometimes I just wanna hear Joan Jett (& The Blackhearts) scream ARHWWWWUH!!!!!! That’s really the reason I listen to this song.

The Climb – by Miley Cyrus – great lyrics:

“I can almost see it, That dream I’m dreamin’,  I gotta keep tryin’,

Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose, Ain’t about how fast I get there, Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side,

It’s the climb, Just gotta keep goin'”

— stuff like that

Emma Opening Titles (from Emma 1996 film) – for when someone’s blaring the TV & I want to read on the exercise bike

Thanks to all the writers, artists, musicians who brought this music to the world!

What songs are your favs for working out (or writing)? I’d love suggestions for others. Many people are much more ‘musical’ than I.

Mind Blown by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.



Unpacking books after our move, I was putting all the old, leather-bound ones up onto one shelf. We’ve inherited a few of these from basements (ah, to be back in the land of basements) on both sides of the family.

I came across two volumes written by the said Elizabeth.


Flipping open a small green and gold one rocked my world, when I came across this:

“And you,

An artist, judge so ?”

“I, an artist — yes :

Because, precisely, I’m an artist, sir,

And woman, if another sat in sight,

I’d whisper, — Soft, my sister ! not a word !

By speaking we prove only we can speak,

Which he, the man here, never doubted. What

He doubts is, whether we can do the thing

With decent grace we’ve not yet done at all.

Now, do it; bring your statue, — you have room !

He’ll see it even by the starlight here;

And if ’tis e’er so little like a god

Who looks out from the marble silently

Along the track of his own shining dart

Through the dusk of ages, there’s no need to speak;

The universe shall henceforth speak for you,

And witness, ‘She who did this thing was born

To do it — claims her license in her work.’

(from Aurora Leigh, Eighth Book)


Holy Crap!!!!

Was that ever powerful — made me cry and have goosebumps at the same time.

How she describes the  effects of a humbly but courageously made piece of art. How the creation has a life of its own. The proof that the artist is meant to do that, because of what she has made. Oh my goodness. And the inherent encouragement, person to person.

The book’s dedication to her father is also A-MAZING. Again, tears and goosebumps. We can sustain and comfort one another:


Finally, another wondrous and shining example of the wordsmith’s work in this description of “the church” ~


That none may take the measure of the place…

Heroic Girls of Literature: Raina (Smile)




I’d heard so much about this book before getting ahold of a copy at a school Book Fair. I’d heard that people liked it. I ended up loving it too. It was my first “graphic novel.”

What a great story.

Raina is technically not a character, but is based on the author’s own real life experiences.

The author/illustrator does such a good job portraying the time period, and her feelings and thoughts about friendship and her own life in sixth grade. Dealing with a dental emergency whose treatment stretched on made for good drama.

What’s a graphic novel? I’ve heard strong opinions, including that they’re not worth deeming “books.” I think this idea might come from the content of some comics being more about the violence and the action drawings than the story?

According to Oxford Dictionaries a graphic novel is, “a novel in comic-strip format.” So:  it’s a longer comic book.

Well this one’s a keeper. Not only are the awesome pictures integral to the emotion and tension of the book but they’re just nice to look at. What a pleasure to read an illustrated story for older readers.

This story is about an ordinary girl with opinions, to whom dramatic things happen. It’s about someone with normal family conflict, and ultimately increased self awareness and development as an artist and person after some life experiences. Wonderful.

(c) 2010 Scholastic Graphix

Thanks to Raina Telgemeier



Heroic Girls of Literature: Grace (Amazing Grace)



“Grace was a girl who loved stories.” — is the first line of this book.


Grace acts out the most exciting parts of any stories she hears, sees, reads, or makes up herself.

This little girl and her buddies … and the ILLUSTRATIONS! in this book are fantabulous.

Theatrical Grace celebrates and seeks out adventure and journeys of the imagination — I love that in this character.

When she doubts herself and is criticized, it’s wonderful to see her bloom again after encouragement and move forward with determination.

It’s also a great story of fairness, “putting your mind to it,” and supportive family (who are women).

Lovely and goosebump-inducing. Be inspired by Grace to follow your dreams! (:

This little girl character is full of color and life, but has real struggles too.


(c) 1991 by Mary Hoffman, Caroline Binch


My Work Space



It’s interesting to see people’s work spaces.

In fact, it seems to be a trend for vloggers to share theirs (and some of those vids, people? waay too long for me! i don’t need to see the placement of every plant. but it’s exciting when it’s yours, I guess).

So I’ll keep this short and sweet  — (maybe that term is relative?) ;).

How and where I work varies.

Here’s a picture of my ‘home office’ assistant making sure that my current draft doesn’t get out of hand.


He likes to provide support where he can.


As I write this, we’ve been living in an apartment-slash-house-in-a-different-state for the past year and a half. We’re still in the apartment but have sold the house, have rental spaces full of storage, and a contract on a new, smallish house.

I don’t have a separate desk or office. Even when I did, I never typed or worked at a desk or even at the kitchen table. I guess that’s not my style.

What I do instead is a hybrid of comfy chairs at home and rooms at the local library that can be reserved for two-hour blocks per day.

Here’s “Tweety” our car, next to “Flower” her much fancier friend, parked at Library 21c. Most study rooms at this library come with white boards and large tables. I actually do sit at those tables and spread out my books and papers and laptop. It’s a wonderful, multi-use place.


I love coffee shops, but there I get too interested in people’s conversations to do much good composing or revising. At the beginning I did mix it up and go to some of these – just to have different surroundings – and to keep the flow of words coming. I’m grateful there are several good ones to choose from around here.

In the heat of a stretch of creating the first draft from scratch, I would spend the morning at one library, come home for lunch, and then head back out to another library for the afternoon. I got good at packing up my stuff and knowing what I needed, and I have a nifty little rolling suitcase/backpack that I love.

Basically, I’m a bag lady of a different, literary kind. :]



A misty view from the library at the USAFA.

Driving from one place to another also gave my brain time to fit things together or make new connections.

Back at the apartment I made an inspiration wall. Let me explain a few of its items.


Regarding the paper in the top left: “Women Don’t Do Things Like that!”

I’ve read like a bullet train since I was a teeny girl. When I was maybe nine or so I remember going through a stage where I was fascinated with biographies. I’d ride my bike to the library and I can still picture the section where the biographies were on the top shelf against the wall. Out of the maybe twenty of them there for kids, perhaps there were three about women. I seem to remember Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale … and that’s it. So I think this lack of representation of females’ contributions to history — is one reason I’m currently finding I need that reminder and motivation on my wall.

The princess sheet below says,

Sometimes, on dark days, I think…”nobody cares and nobody’s coming.” Then I remember who sends thoughts like that…and I straighten my crown.

~ attribution unknown

I like that because I feel like that sometimes, and it’s important to slay those lies.

The partial white sheet is a quote from The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield. It says:

“The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow.”

*keep those huskies mushing*

I just needed to keep telling myself this. Especially at a certain point.

Below that is a quote from Jerome Jarre‘s excellent video (<– click on the link to watch it), saying:

Be Brave. Believe in yourself. Do what you think is right. Take risks. You have this one life.

I found it important to get out of the apartment every day, even though sometimes I wouldn’t technically have to.

The local library here in Monument, Colorado is also a good place to work.

They have a gorgeous, inspirational quilt display annually.


And they have, “Daisy Quackers” who lives at the front desk and wears holiday-themed attire year-round.


Little kids love to feed the geese at the pond at the back of this library. I love to watch them. Many times I like to work in an area which has a low level of activity. The buzz is inspirational. Sometimes though, more quiet, concentrated work needs a quieter space.

As I’ve mentioned already, driving — long distances (or even short) can be a very, very good time for writing, and thinking about different aspects of characters, letting the story develop and show itself, letting your mind drift creatively.

I did a lot of driving when we were living in the two states. Here’s a shot of an amazing cloud formation from one of those trips. I think we were still in Texas at that point. Lots of composing mentally and ideas developed on those miles of highway.


Lastly, I carry these two items in my purse. Somehow, this is part of my work space, too. I like the thought that they’re in there. (: Plus, if I’m seated behind a crying baby on a plane I might be able to use the hedgie finger puppet as entertainment over the seats.


Working. And Space to do that. What a gift.

How and where do you work?