August 16, 2019

Potty-Humor-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan

Hello Readers!

It’s time for me to share a lesson plan for a potty-themed sign language story time. Why?

#1 Because I’ve written many books and many blog posts that incorporate sign language.

#2 Because I have two new books coming out this fall that are full of potty humor (Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?).

As a result, I have started gathering potty-themed story time lesson plans and related resources to support these new books.

But … I have yet to merge the sign language and potty themes together! This post is the maiden voyage for this merger. It’s a mash-up of many different activities you could incorporate into your own potty-themed story time or event. It’s unlikely you will be able to fit all of these activities into any one event, but this way you’ll have lots of ideas to choose from in one handy place.

So let’s get rollin’ (pardon the pun) on this lesson plan:

Potty-Themed Sign Language Story Time:

Welcome Participants, Introduce the Theme, & Introduce the Signs in Preparation for Song #1

Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/potty/ (The “T” handshape wiggles)
Dance: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/dance/ (First two fingers dance on palm)

NOTE: The sign for potty/toilet (the noun) and the sign for to use the potty/toilet (the verb) are the same. 

Sing and Sign Song #1:

Invite all participants to sign potty and dance each time these words repeat in the song, OR break the group in half, and have one side of the room sign potty and the other side of the room sign dance each time these words repeat in the song.

Song #1: The Potty Dance (Sung to the Tune of The Hokey Pokey) by Dawn Babb Prochovnic (inspired by songs from Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot by Bruce Lansky and Catherine Blake)

You hold your bladder (belly) left.
You hold your bladder (belly) right.
You wrap your arms like this, and you hold on super tight. 
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

You cross your right foot left.
You cross your left foot right.
You squeeze your knees like this, and you hold on super tight.
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

You search in this place left.
You search in this place right.
You hoot and hop like this, and you hold on super tight.
You need to find a potty or you’re gonna wet your pants.
You’re doing the potty dance.

Introduce/Review Signs in Preparation for Story #1:

Where: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)
Pirate: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=5287 (Boat + Eye Patch)
Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)

Read: Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?

Invite all participants to sign wherepotty, and pirate each time these words appear in the story, OR break the group into thirds, and assign one section of the room to sign where, potty, and pirate respectively, each time these words appear in the story.

Invite all participants to make the sounds that appear on every other page of the book.

Introduce/Review Signs in Preparation for Song #2:

Poop: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/POOP/6100/1 (Poop drops down)
Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)
Where: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)
Hooray/Applause: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/APPLAUSE/7950/1 (Hands celebrate)
Flush: https://youtu.be/Ir9fbZGpexo / https://youtu.be/eIQb8kKBaXo (Flushing gesture)
Wash: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WASH/8247/1 (Washing gesture)
Done/Finished: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/finished/ (Palms in, palms away)

Sing and Sign Song #2:

Invite all participants to sign as many of the words they can (poop, toilet, where, hooray, flush and wash) as they appear in the song. Note: If adding all of the noted signs feels overwhelming to you/your participants, just choose a few of the signs to incorporate. 

Song #2: I Can Poop in the Toilet (Sung to the Tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame)
by Dawn Babb Prochovnic (inspired by songs from Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot by Bruce Lansky and Catherine Blake)

I can poop in the toilet.
I can poop in the pot.
Just need to find it, I hope it’s near.
Where is that toilet? Hooray, it’s here!

Ahhhhhhhh. (or farting sound)

So I’ll flush, flush, flush, when I’m finished.
Wash up with soap when I’m done.
I pooped once, twice, three times today.
It was so much fun!

Introduce/Review Signs in Preparation for Story #2:

Where: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)
Cowboy (can be used in place of cowgirl): (Think of a gunslinger)
https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=502
Cowgirl (fingerspelled): https://www.zazzle.com/cowgirl_asl_fingerspelled_sign_t_shirt-235509914240383706
Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)

Read: Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?

Invite all participants to sign where, potty, and cowgirl each time these words appear in the story, OR break the group into thirds, and assign one section of the room to sign where, potty, and cowgirl respectively, each time these words appear in the story.

Invite all participants to make the sounds that appear on every other page of the book.

Let ‘er Loose with a Potty Party (or a Bathroom Boogie)

Turn on some music and dance.

Coming Soon: Links to songs and book trailers/animated shorts that go along with Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Potty? In the meantime, here are some toilet-y tunes to consider:

The Poop Song, by Lori Henriques
It’s Potty Time Theme Song, by Two Little Hands Productions, the makers of Signing Time
The Potty Dance Song, by Two Little Hands Productions, the makers of Signing Time
Spin Again (sample), by Jim Gill
Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot (a variety of songs) by Bruce Lansky and Catherine Blake
Skip to My Loo (incorporate action words like jump/hop/walk/run in addition to Skip to my Loo--the Loo is the bathroom, after all).

If you’re looking for a collection of potty-training related songs, you’ll find a bunch, here and here

Finish with a Flush or a Fart: invite participants to use iPads, Computers, or cell phones to:

Make a Toilet Flushing Sound: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/423197696232635506/
Play the Burp and Fart Piano: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/423197696232598700/

Extension Activities (Some of Which Can Be Self-Directed/Open-Ended)


TP Tower Challenge**

Supplies: A couple dozen rolls of toilet paper (if you use toilet paper with the wrapper still intact, it will last for multiple events, or it can be donated to a local charity after the event).

Option #1: Use one set of TP. Take turns seeing who can make the highest stack before the TP tower falls.

Option #2: Use two sets of TP. Two participants play at a time. Have a volunteer time participants to see who can stack all the rolls the fastest without the TP Tower falling.

Option #3: Stack the rolls of TP into a pyramid shape. Place an object such as a stuffed animal or stuffed poo emoji on top of the pyramid. Participants take turns tossing a bean bag or similar object toward the tower. Object is to dislodge the stuffed animal/poo emoji without knocking down any of the rolls of TP.

Option #4: Allow free play “block building” with the rolls of TP.


Undie Fling**

Supplies/Prep: Several pairs of (unworn!) tighty-whitey underwear; Two small baskets or bowls--one to hold the underwear that is going to be “flung,” and one positioned across the room for the target to fling/snap the undies into; Colored tape put on the floor to mark the location for the basket that’s the target and several other pieces of tape at increasing distances to mark the places from which the flinging/snapping should take place--the closest line should be about 4’ away from the target, and each subsequent line should be about 2’ additional feet away. 

Activity: Participants take turns flinging/snapping undies into the basket.


Turd Toss** (Yes, that IS a gross name...this is a potty-humor post)

Supplies: Use colored tape to mark the floor to indicate where tossing to and from should take place. For “turds” use brown bean bags, stuffed poo emoji’s, or create your own. To create your own, scrunch up newspaper, cover it with wrinkled brown construction paper, and wrap with packing tape--the end result is durable, but squishy (ewww!). These can be created ahead of time, or participants create as an activity. For “toilets” go simple and just use baskets or bowls similar to the activity above, or go all out and create a toilet contraption using a round waste basket, toilet seat, white duct tape, and poster paper or white laundry basket, foam core, white poster paper, and duct tape.  If you go the “all out” route, creating the toilet(s) could be an activity, or “toilets” could be made ahead of time. Here are links to some examples

Option #1: Participants take turns tossing “turds” into “toilet” from a specified line. Try five tosses, before your turn ends.

Option #2: Two or more participants race to see who can get all of their “turds” into the “toilet” first (or who can get the most “turds” into the “toilet” before a timer rings.

**These fun activities were inspired by a Captain Underpants event hosted by the Moline County Library. You can find additional info (including photos) about their event here


Pin the Poo on the Potty

Supplies: Draw a toilet on white poster board. Make or buy poo emojis or poo emoji stickers. Use bandanas (which ties in to cowgirl story’s them) or double pirate patches (which ties into pirate story’s theme) for blindfolds.

Activity: Participants take turns being blind-folded and pinning (actually taping or sticking) the poo on the potty. An example is here.


TP Roll Race

Supplies: Rolls of toilet paper. Tape to mark starting point and finish line.

Activity: Participants get on their hands and knees and race by pushing their TP roll with their nose from the starting point to the finish line. An example is here


TP Bowling

Supplies: 15 rolls of TP and one ball for every bowling alley.

Activity: Set up TP as a pyramid shape (vs. standard bowling pin set up), with five rolls of TP as the base. Take turns rolling the ball and knocking down the TP. The player who last rolled the ball resets the TP pyramid for the next participant.


Pirate, Pirate, Potty! (Played like Duck, Duck, Goose!)

Activity: All but one player (the “pirate” who is “It”) sit in a circle. The “pirate” goes around the circle and gently taps each player on the shoulder saying “Pirate” each time, until he or she decides to say “Potty!” The person who is tapped for “Potty” must get up and try to tag the “pirate” before the pirate steals their seat. The game continues with a new “pirate” as long as interest holds. (Note: The game can likewise be played with a “cowgirl” who is “It”)


Hot Pototty (Played like Hot Potato) 

Supplies: A selection of music (see above for potty-themed songs) and a small object such as a poo emoji stuffed toy or a roll of toilet paper.

Activity: Participants sit in a circle and the leader turns on the music. Participants pass the small object while the music plays. Whoever is holding the small object when the music stops is out. Play continues until there is only one participant left.


Potty Walk (Organized like a Cake Walk)

Supplies/Prep: Tape numbered pieces of paper in a circle on the floor. To stick with the theme, each piece of paper could be deemed a “toilet paper square” OR decorated with the shape of a toilet seat or poo emoji. Ideally, there will be approximately the same number of pieces of paper as there are participants for each round of play. Fill a basket or bowl (or toilet-shaped prop!) with slips of paper that match the numbers on the floor.

Activity: Participants each stand on a numbered “toilet paper square.” The leader starts the music, and participants proceed around the circle. When the leader stops the music, everyone must be standing on a square. The leader then draws a number from the bowl. The participant who is standing on that number wins a prize. Play continues as long as interest holds (or prizes last). Some ideas for silly prizes that tie into the potty theme can be found here
 

Make (and/or Play With) Poo Play Dough***

Supplies: ½ cup of Nutella and ½ cup plus one tablespoon of powdered sugar per “serving.” Mix until a dough forms, then finish mixing by hand.

This play dough is technically edible, but use your judgement as to whether or not you want to encourage this!

NOTE: Per the manufacturer’s website, Nutella does not contain peanuts or peanut ingredients and is not manufactured in a facility that is at risk for peanut cross contamination.

***Recipe originally discovered here.


Potty-Humor Props

I have gone a little nutty finding different props that could be used for a potty-themed event. You can find all the fun on my Pinterest page.

Hands down, my favorite potty-humor prop is a game called Toilet Trouble.

The flushing sound it makes is amazing. You can use it as a real game, filling the bowl with water, and having participants take turns flushing the toilet to see if they will get sprayed with water, but I enjoy using it without any water in it, just for the flushing sound. You can even fill the bowl with little potty treats like this.


More Signs for You Over-Achievers:

Need Signs for More Words That Relate To This Theme? Here goes:
Fart: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/FART/6128/1
Now: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/NOW/361/1
Pee: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/PEE/2078/1
Sink: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/SINK/7026/1
Stinky: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/STINK/4597/1
Toilet Paper: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/TOILET%20PAPER/5520/1
TP: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/t  / https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/p
Underwear: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/UNDERWEAR/6200/1
Wait: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/wait
Water: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/water/
Wipe: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WIPE/7161/1

Need Signs for Words that the Diaper-Changing Crowd Might Want? Gotcha Covered:
Change: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/CHANGE/3112/1 / https://www.lifeprint.com/
Clean: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/CLEAN/76/1
Diaper: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/DIAPER/5559/1
Dirty: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/DIRTY/546/1
Dry: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/DRY/748/1
Wet: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/wet/

*Don’t feel compelled to introduce every possible potty-related word/sign you can think of. Start with a few general words that fit with the theme and are relevant for your group.

*If you plan to introduce several signs at once, it’s more fun (and easier to learn) if you introduce the signs by singing vs. simply showing the signs and asking participants to sign along/practice with you. You can sing a song such as “This is the way we sign for potty/flush/wash/all done, etc” to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush,” or any other familiar tune that allows for plenty of repetition.

If you’re looking for more potty-themed books, you’ll find a robust list here

You can find more potty-themed (and cowgirl and pirate-themed) lesson plans and resources here.

Fun fact: Dawn loves to travel, so get in touch if you’d like her to personally present a story time program of this nature (pardon the pun) in your learning community. 

Now GO! and have yourself a real good time!

..oh, one more thing… if you share photos of and/or blog about your story time / event, be sure to tag me so I can share in the fun. Even better if it’s something I can link to in my round-up of resources for my readers! 

Instagram: @DawnProchovnic
Twitter: @DawnProchovnic
Facebook: @DawnProchovnicAuthor

August 5, 2019

Birth Stories for Books: You are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood, by Aimee Reid

Gather 'round friends. It's time for another Birth Stories for Books post. Today's guest is Aimee Reid, author of  MAMA'S DAY WITH LITTLE GRAY and her most recent book, YOU ARE MY FRIEND: THE STORY OF MISTER ROGERS AND HIS NEIGHBORHOOD (illustrated by Matt Phelan, Abrams Books for Young Readers, August, 2019).

by Aimee Reid and Matt Phelan


The Story Behind My Stories
by Aimee Reid

My first book was born from a bedtime conversation with my eldest child. When I was tucking her in one night, she asked—as was her custom—what our plans were for the next day. I shared what I thought we might do together, and she wiggled in anticipation. Then she said words that sparked my imagination: “When I grow up and you grow down . . . .” She continued to chat about what we would do if our roles were reversed. Her ideal day would be a gentle one—filled with simple activities we shared together.

by Aimee Reid and Laura J. Bryant

Mama’s Day with Little Gray (Random House) is the book that grew out of that conversation. It’s the story of a small elephant who—like my daughter—dreams of growing big enough to take care of his mama just as she has cared for him. Each time Little Gray puts into words his hopes for the future, his mama affirms his character. When Little Gray says that he’d pick the tastiest leaves and share them with her, Mama replies: “You would be big! And very kind.”

It’s been a joy to hear from caregivers about their family’s delight in the book and the time they’ve spent nestled together making their own special memories.

The passing on of affirmations is also the theme for my newest book, You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood (releasing from Abrams Books on August 6th, 2019).

I didn’t discover Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood until I was a young mom. Right about the time that Rachel’s words gave me the idea for Mama’s Day with Little Gray, we began to watch Mister Rogers on television. That half hour became a special time for us. We sang the opening and closing songs together and enjoyed watching Fred Rogers interact with his guests and television neighbors in his kind, consistent way.

I began to read about Rogers’ life and was even more inspired. I learned that Freddie Rogers was a shy child who suffered from many childhood illnesses. One day, Freddie’s Grandfather McFeely shared some affirming words with his grandson: “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

Illustration from You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid and Matt Phelan

That message sank deep into young Fred’s mind, and he began to believe it. Eventually, Fred grew up to be known as Mister Rogers of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood television program. During every episode, Fred passed on the words of acceptance that his grandfather had shared with him.

It’s been a privilege and joy to honor Mister Rogers’ legacy by writing You Are My Friend. I hope that as children nestle in laps and gather in classrooms and bookstores and libraries to listen to the words of this book that they, too, will hear his time-honored message and know that they are important and enough just as they are.

Thank you for sharing the tender beginnings to these tender stories, Aimee. Mr. Rogers is such an iconic part of childhood, and he has been a steadfast ambassador for kindness. I can't wait to read your book! 

Readers: Aimee is offering a kindness-infused giveaway! Find all the details (including how to enter) here. The giveaway closes at 12:00 PM EST on August 13, 2019, and Aimee will contact the winners.

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When Aimee Reid was young, she wanted to be two things: a teacher and a mom. She didn’t even realize that she could grow up to be an author! She always loved books and has a wonderful memory of being taken to her school’s big library after she’d read all of the books in her classroom.
Aimee grew up to be a teacher and then she became a mom. After her first child was born, she started writing books for kids. Her first book is called Mama’s Day with Little Gray (Random House, 2014), and her newest one is a picture book biography called You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood that comes into the world on August 6, 2019.

Connect with Aimee:
Website: www.Aimeereidbooks.com
Twitter: @aimeereidbooks
Instagram: @aimeereidbooks
Facebook: AimeeReidbooks

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

July 31, 2019

Have Swag Will Travel: MY QUIET SHIP, by Hallee Adelman

by Hallee Adelman and Sonia Sanchez
I'm excited to bring you another post in my blog series, Have Swag, Will Travel: Tips for Planning Book Events.

Today's guest, author Hallee Adelman, shares her school visit experiences related to her picture book, MY QUIET SHIP, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (Albert Whitman & Company, 2018).


Have Swag, Will Travel
by Hallee Adelman

My debut picture book, My Quiet Ship, launched October 2018. Since I love sharing the book with classrooms, Dawn asked if I could provide a glimpse of my school visits with tips for other authors.  Thanks, Dawn!

For some background, I have taught elementary through university students, so I always think of any book as both the story on the page and the “after-page” reflections, activities, or impact. That’s why when I visit a classroom my goal is not only to reach as many students as possible with the text, but also to go beyond sharing my book. I strive to encourage students and maybe even their teachers to write, read, create, or wonder.

My Quiet Ship touches on a sensitive topic: yelling in the home. While all students might not have heard their parents yelling, all of them understand the feeling of having a sound that they wish they could quiet down.  For this reason, the students and I begin by sharing bothersome sounds: barking dogs, loud siblings, chirping birds (this one surprised me), speeding cars, and even funny snores. Together, we make those sounds in a playful way.*

*School visit tip: Before doing anything with students that requires noise-making or movement, I’d recommend starting by setting the tone with the class.  Often, I start by doing a clap back. I clap a pattern that kids need to repeat. We do lots of patterns which is not only fun, but also useful if the class needs a reminder that we’re going to move on to the next activity.  I also let the students know when we are going to start the sounds by saying something like “When I say 1,2,3,GO we are going to make the sound of a speeding car.” After our cars are roaring loudly, I can then use the clap back technique to get the students’ attention again and allow for us to keep moving forward.

After we’ve honked and zoomed and arff-ed, I share that when I was a little girl, the sound that I wished I could quiet down was the sound of my parents’ yelling. Some kids nod as if they understand and others listen attentively.  I explain that it was my wish, combined with my former students facing their own parents’ yelling, that inspired me to write My Quiet Ship.

Before we read the story, I show the students two random pictures: a penny and a heart. I tell them that by the end of our time together, they will know how these two things can help them select their own topics for writing a story.  Shifting gears, we discuss the parts of the book (front cover, back cover, spine) and the name of the book’s illustrator and its publishing house. Since the amazing illustrator of My Quiet Ship, Sonia Sanchez,  is from Spain, I ask if anyone knows how to say “Thank you” in Spanish so that we can send a loud “Gracias, Sonia,” overseas.*

*School visit tip: If there is a topic like “parts of the book” that ties into student curriculum and is an easy tie-in for me to mention/reinforce, I like to make that  connection. Students who speak other languages are often excited to share their native language’s phrases with their peers.

Then we read as if we were all part of a performance. I have different students play different parts (e.g. Quinn, Pilot, Mom, etc.) and the rest of the class becomes my “crew.” They help to make other sounds from the book--like the rumbling of the rocket ship or the countdown to blast off. When we are finished reading, the students and I make a nice, soft, quiet sound together. This contrasts the beginning sounds we made and also gets the students ready for a calm, reflective discussion.*

*School visit tip: I type out reading parts like a simple script and cue the students before they read. Often, I’ll send this script in advance to the teacher so that he/she/they can select students that will feel most comfortable reading those parts in front of the class. For schools that have projectors, I made a digital/power point version of the book that I can show on screen. 


Post-reading, we talk about the idea of a “Quiet Ship,” a space like a fort or a pillow tower that can help if things feel noisy or uncomfortable or can provide a quiet place for someone to think, color, or imagine. Many students describe what their already constructed “Quiet Ships” look like and how they built theirs. Others report how they use one, perhaps to get homework done or to get away from loud sounds.

Then we get back to those pictures of the penny and the heart. Students make guesses about what the images have to do with picking a topic for their own writing. I remind them about what I said earlier: When I was a little girl I __ __ __ __ ed that I could quiet down the sound of my parents yelling.  Students help fill in the blank. They often realize that a penny reminds them of making a wish. So we discuss the difference between a regular wish that is easy to get (e.g. I wish I had a pencil, I wish I could brush my teeth) vs. a “PENNY WISH”--or a most important wish that if someone had ONLY ONE penny to throw in a fountain, that is what he/she/they would wish for.  In order for a wish to be a “PENNY WISH” it must pass a “HEART CHECK”. These heart check questions are: Would I make this wish from my whole heart? Would I try almost anything to make it come true? Is it hard to get? Does thinking about it make me feel a very strong emotion?  We talk how penny wishes can make good starting points for a story because if they pass a heart check, and someone has so many feelings around it, then most of the time readers will feel something from their hearts too. Together we stand up and take our imaginary pennies and throw them into imaginary fountains as we launch our penny wishes.*

*School visit tip: I like to find moments where kids can stand up or perhaps switch from a carpet area for reading to their desks for additional discussion. I’ve found that these “resetting” or “resettling” moments make nice transitions and allow students to stay engaged or get ready for new information.

After all the launches, from “Quiet Ships” to “Penny Wishes,” I take questions from the students. Questions range from “How old are you?” to “Have you written other books?” to “How long does it take you to write a book?” to  “How does your writing get turned into a book?” Because of some student questions, I’ve created additional slides and images that show how things progress from idea to manuscript to finished product. Depending on the age of the group, I love mentioning my writing group, agent, editor and the other amazing people on the publishing/sales/marketing team so students see 1) that being a writer requires a lot of great minds, and 2) that it’s not just their teachers who say revision is important.*

*School visit warning: If you are older than 19, the kids’ mouths might drop open in full shock/horror at the sound of your actual age.

By the end of our time together, some students will start thinking about their “Penny Wishes” and future writing topics, while some will be drawing or brainstorming their own quiet ships. Others might feel proud that they helped with the reading, or that they asked a question, or that they taught me something new.

In addition to leaving the class with a piece of my heart, I also leave behind a “Penny Wish” brainstorm page for students who like to write; “My Quiet Ship” drawing sheets so students can playfully draw or imagine where their quiet ship would go; and some fun swag that includes a kazoo. Maybe if they make enough noise, and it drives someone else crazy, they’ll be able to share the idea of quiet ship for someone who needs one. 

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This is such an excellent post, Hallee. I learned so much from you. I loved your book before, but now I really, really connect with it. It is so obvious that you have experience teaching learners of all ages, and now everyone who reads this will benefit from your expertise. I especially appreciate how any educator (e.g. a teacher, librarian, community educator, or a parent) could easily lead a lesson around your book just by following your detailed notes and tips in this post. For this reason, I will also add this post to the lesson plans featured in my Start to Finish Story Time series. 

Readers: Hallee is offering a giveaway! Comment on this blog post or share it on social media and tag @DawnProchovnic and @HalleeAdelman by August 7, 2019 to enter the giveaway of a signed copy of My Quiet Ship book and a Pop up Rocket Play Tent.

To make your own quiet ship or to download a free lesson plan, head over to www.myquietship.com. Hallee’s next book, Way Past Mad, steams out in Spring 2020. 

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Hallee Adelman is committed to bettering the lives of children and families through education and story. With a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Learning Technologies, Hallee has taught university and elementary students, having been nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award on multiple occasions. Hallee has also served various organizations related to children and/or education such as Franklin Institute, Please Touch Museum, and Simon’s Heart. My Quiet Ship (2018) was her debut picture book. Her next book, Way Past Mad, is due out Spring 2020. Hallee loves sharing writing tips with educators, children, and teens. She is married with two children and two dogs.

Random fact: Hallee does work in film and is the producer/director of an upcoming documentary (Our American Family, 2020).




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Have Swag Will Travel is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

July 26, 2019

The Learning Part of the Writing Life: National Day of the Cowboy and the Cowboy (Cowgirl) Code of Conduct

When I visit schools, libraries, and professional development conferences, one of the things I like to mention is that book writing always leads me on new paths of learning.

Some of these paths are somewhat logical and to be expected. For example, in writing my forthcoming books, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, it isn't too surprising that while researching these books I found myself watching YouTube videos about western and coastal animals' potty behaviors, or that I'd eventually curate some of these videos into playlists such as "Humorous Animal/Potty-Related Videos," and "Fascinating Toilet/Potty/Animal/Poop Science." 

It's also not particularly surprising that I'd research "cowgirl lingo" and "pirate lingo" and curate my cowgirlpirate, (and even potty-humor-related) discoveries on a Pinterest page.

It was while I was doing this book-related research that I met a singer, songwriter and performing musician by the name of Marshall Mitchell, (who wrote an amazing song for my Cowgirl book that I can't wait to share with you ... soon!) and with whom I've now become friends. This research and subsequent friendship has put me on many new paths of learning.

It all began with internet searches on terms such as, "cowgirl music for kids" and "cowboy music for kids." I was trying to curate some music that would tie into my Cowgirl book that I could incorporate into my author visits and other book events and that I could share with my readers. One of those searches led me to Marshall's website. Based on the info I could glean from Marshall's site and related links, it looked as if I had found just the right resource. I wanted to purchase the music via download, but I couldn't find a way to do that, so I reached out to Marshall using the contact feature on his site.

Soon after, I received a response from Jennifer Michaels, Marshall's booking agent, and thus began the beginning of a friendship--first with Jennifer, then with Marshall.

Through this friendship, I learned that Marshall has spent his lifetime creating music (for adults and children), and I learned about the Clean Water Rangers, a music-infused science program that teaches children about the importance of taking care of the environment, particularly, the watershed.

I also learned about the Cowboy Code of Conduct. Marshall incorporates the elements of this code of conduct, which is about human decency, into his concerts for kids. Elements of the code include honesty, respect, integrity, responsibility, courage, perserverence (something MY cowgirl knows a little something about), and wisdom.

It is also through this friendship that I learned about the longtime efforts of cowboys and cowgirls like Marshall and Jennifer to draw attention to cowboy/cowgirl culture and the pioneer heritage through a national observance called National Day of the Cowboy. The goal is to hold this as an annual observance on the fourth Saturday of every July, which happens to be Saturday, July 27th this year. There have been efforts to bring this observance forward at a national level, but now the focus is on working at the state level, state by state. Oregon, my home state, was the 6th state to pass legislation acknowledging National Day of the Cowboy, (back in 2013), and this past year, Arkansas became the 13th state to pass this legislation. Marshall and Jennifer were both active volunteers on this project in Arkansas.

Just last week I learned that Marshall Mitchell was recognized as a recipient of the 2019 Cowboy Keeper Award, which is a very high honor. He will be celebrating with his family and many of his friends, including Jennifer, at the "music house" on his property in Arkansas. According to Jennifer, the music house is "set up with a small recording studio in one room and storage for equipment and props in another room. The rest of the house is used for having folks over, usually for his song circles the 2nd Friday of every month." He also uses the space for hosting house concerts for traveling musicians. Jennifer says it is a space filled with "music, fellowship, storytelling, and food."

It is in this space that my friend Marshall recorded a most wonderful gift to me and to young readers: the song that will accompany the book trailer for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? I can't wait to share it with you! Stay tuned, folks, it's coming SOON!

I encourage you to get to know Marshall Mitchell and the beautiful music and life lessons he brings to our world. Happy National Day of the Cowboy, Marshall, and congratulations on your recent recognition as a Cowboy Keeper. Yee-Haw!

July 24, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, THAT'S FOR BABIES (and other books), by Jackie Azúa Kramer

I'm so pleased to bring you another Birth Stories for Books interview. This week's guest is Jackie Azúa Kramer, author of many wonderful books for children. Today we'll be focusing on the story behind her path to publication for her latest book, THAT'S FOR BABIES (illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg, Clavis Books, June 2019).

Jackie just returned from her daughter's wedding and a road trip through Oaxaca and the Yucatán in Mexico, so I feel especially grateful that she was able to find some time to chat about her publishing experiences.


Dawn Prochovnic: I can’t imagine watching one of your babies get married and launching a book into the world all in the same month, but that’s what you’ve done! Your most recent book, THAT’S FOR BABIES, arrived in bookstores June 25. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? I know from reading Tara Lazar’s blog that the idea for the book likely arose from something your daughter, Daisy, said back when she was in kindergarten, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

Jackie Azúa Kramer: Thank you! The wedding was a joyous and celebratory event!

(Click here and here to see some photos from Daisy's wedding.)

Hard to believe so many years ago, she was the inspiration for That’s for Babies. The process for that book and timeframe between initial idea and submission was lengthy. I submitted the story to a guest agent via 12x12. I was fortunate enough to receive a reply in which the agent liked it, however, suggested some ideas towards a revision. I enthusiastically agreed and got to work. Long story, short—they unfortunately, still passed.

Here’s what—this business is subjective. One editor’s rejection may be another’s acquisition. I felt confident with the new revision to submit elsewhere. And, the rest as they say, is history. What I learned from this experience is that everything happens for a reason. Hard work with great intention is not wasted energy. It’s not always clear at the time where your path will lead you. As a result, Clavis Books not only acquired one story, but two more. If You Want to Fall Asleep (2018) and Miles Won’t Smile (TBD).

DP: Thanks for sharing those lovely photos from Daisy's wedding, Jackie. I especially love the picture of you and Daisy together. Thanks also for the important reminder that "hard work with great intention is not wasted energy." Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication?

JK: Meeting Philippe Werck, Publisher at Clavis Books at Book Expo America. Out of Belgium, Philippe publishes beautiful picture books in many languages. After a lovely conversation where I shared some of my stories and piqued his interest, Philippe asked to see them. It goes without saying, I was over the moon! If You Want to Fall Asleep is now in five languages including Simple Chinese and Russian. It’s exciting to think of little readers around the world reading my books. I look forward to where That’s for Babies and soon Miles Won’t Smile, will travel to.

If You Want to Fall Asleep, by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Lisa Brandenburg

DP: That IS exciting! I also think it's exciting that you went to Book Expo! 

When you look back to your earlier published books, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, and IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP as compared to this book, what were some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

JK: I often pinch myself and think about the serendipity of the publication of my books. I read an article in Publishers Weekly in 2015 about the Swiss publisher, NorthSouth, expanding their footprint in the United States. This was before I had an agent and I contacted NorthSouth for their submission requirements. I almost fell off my chair when they replied suggesting I should send whatever I felt were my best stories and subsequently, published The Green Umbrella (2017). Similar to my experience with Clavis, both happened as a result of discovering opportunities, however and whenever, they present themselves.

Interior Image from The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Maral Sassouni

DP: It sounds like your hard work and pursuit of opportunities (coupled with a pinch of serendipity) has been the recipe for success for you! 

Is there a genre within picture books that you prefer to write in? For example, quiet books, nonfiction, fractured fairytales, bedtime, poetry, humor, folk tales, lyrical, rhyming, concept, biographies, character driven?

JK: Simply put, no. I feel I continue to grow, change and evolve in my writer’s journey. I’ve written lyrical stories like The Green Umbrella. If You Want to Fall Asleep is a bedtime story and That’s for Babies which is a humorous, character-driven story.

I believe this is why I chose my agent, Stephen Fraser. We have a good working relationship because I don’t fit into any box and he gets it.

For example, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla, is about loss and love (Candlewick, 2020); I Wish You Knew taps into my Latina culture. The story is about deportation, empathy and diversity in a school setting (Roaring Brook Press, 2021); We Are One is a 260-word poem that shares the synchronicity and connections between each of us and the natural world (Two Lions/Amazon, TBD). I’m very excited about my first non-fiction biography tentatively called Herbert and Dorothy-- The Story of a Postal Clerk and Librarian and the Largest Priceless Art Collection in One Small Apartment (Cameron Kids, TBD).

Image Source

DP: That image says it all! Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

JK: I keep a long list of ideas, titles, themes, characters any little seed that inspires me. Two of these seeds have begun to bloom. Without giving away too much—one’s about space and the other a child’s magical thinking. It’s sometimes a surprise to me what the harvest brings.

DP: One more question: I see in your bio that you enjoy globe trekking. I have the travel bug, too. Where are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled, and what’s next on your wish list?


JK: WOW! Tough question to answer for myself who loves to travel. Everywhere I’ve been has had something memorable and beautiful—whether it’s the people, culture, food, history, geography, art, music, language, to name a few things.

I’ve travelled to five continents; however, I tend to fall in love with the last place I visited. I just returned from a road trip through a tiny part of Mexico, and I say tiny because Mexico is HUGE! We travelled in Oaxaca and the Yucatán. In Oaxaca, I wielded a machete cutting agave plants for Mezcal.



Most impressive were the women entrepreneurs who sold their artisanal wares or food at the markets.



In the Yucatán, we drove to the breath-taking, Chichen Itza, the Mayan city built around 550 AD, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.



And, if that wasn’t enough, I swam with Whale Sharks in the Yucatán Peninsula! What an honor and pleasure to explore some of Mexico and I hope to return one day.



DP: Thanks for stirring some wonderful travel memories for me, Jackie...my husband and I visited that same part of Mexico over 30 years ago. Thanks also for sharing your publishing experiences. You've provided a lot of inspiration for those in the trenches waiting for their first, "Yes" to open the door of publishing adventures. 

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Jackie Azúa Kramer studied acting and voice at NYU and earned her MA, Queens College, Counseling in Education. Jackie has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Her work with children presented her an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. Now she spends her time writing children’s picture books. Her picture books include, the award-winning The Green Umbrella (2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year), If You Want to Fall Asleep and That’s for Babies. Upcoming books- The Boy and the Gorilla (Candlewick, 2020); I Wish You Knew (Roaring Brook, 2021); We Are One (Two Lions, 2021); Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, TBD). Jackie lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find Jackie reading, watching old movies and globe trekking.

Visit: Jackieazuakramer.com
Twitter: @jackiekramer422
Facebook: Jackie Azúa Kramer
Instagram: Jackie Azúa Kramer

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

July 17, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, I LOVE MY DRAGON (and other dragon books), by Jodi Moore

Make way for Dragons! And make way for another installment of Birth Stories for Books.

I Love My Dragon by Jodi Moore and Howard McWilliam
Today’s guest is Jodi Moore, author of a heap of dragon books, including her latest, a board book entitled, I LOVE MY DRAGON (illustrated by Howard McWilliam, Flashlight Press, 2019).

Fun Fact: Jodi's publisher, Flashlight Press played a role in my path to first publication. As I've shared before, David Michael Slater was the author who helped me connect with my first publisher, Abdo Publishing Group. The reason I first came to know David's work was because of his book, The Ring Bear, which was published by Flashlight Press! Cool beans, huh?

Well, let's get back to dragons, and hear directly from Jodi:

On Inviting Dragons to “Move In”
by Jodi Moore

My lifelong passion for stories began on my mother’s lap.

Like many parents, my mom worked outside the home when I was a toddler. Each night, she’d bring home a different book for us to share. It was only natural that I would learn to associate books with love.

Jodi Moore with her Mom
As soon as I could hold a crayon, I began crafting my own. First, in pictures, then, as I learned to write, with words. As a child, I’d spend hours creating characters and adventures. And as a teen and young adult, I’d draft stories to help me make sense of the world.

I read everything I could get my hands on. “Library” was my favorite day of the week.



When our two sons were born, my husband Larry and I couldn’t wait to fill their shelves with books. (Truth? We enrolled them in book clubs before they were born.) Reading bedtime stories became the time to relax our bodies and ignite our imaginations.

It also reignited my passion for writing stories. I began to read books on craft, attend conferences and write manuscripts. I submitted some of them.

I got rejected.

When I look back on them, I realize they were “positive” rejections, what we call “champagne” rejections, highlighting I had talent, but that my particular story was “not right” for them. Some asked for more.

But I only saw the “no.” And because I felt rejected, I became dejected.

I stopped writing picture books.

However, I did keep writing for trade journals and magazines. And I immersed myself in raising our boys. How I loved encouraging our sweet sons to live their dreams! “Dad and I believe in you,” we’d tell them. “Don’t let yourselves get discouraged. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Then, as children do, they grew up. They left for college.

Empty nest hit hard.

“It’s time to do what you’re meant to do now,” my husband said. “Write those picture books.”

My mind flooded with memories of rejection. “I can’t…it’s too hard.”

“Really?” Our boys challenged me. “Have you been lying to us all these years?” (Don’t you love it when your kids parrot your own words back to you?)

So, my husband and I made a deal. I would commit the next four years to writing. Serious writing. Like “I’m going to work to get a story published” writing.

I became more active in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), attending conferences. I joined a critique group. I connected with other writerly people (who, in every sense of the word, became family.)

That first Labor Day was admittedly tough. Larry and I visited the beach for the first time (since the boys had been born) without them. But my hubby, being my third child, brought the sand toys anyway and began building a castle. Several toddlers in the vicinity decided he needed “help.” One little guy stuck a strand of seaweed in the mouth of the castle. Larry said, “That looks like a dragon’s tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in.”

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
The heavens opened, and the angels sang…and the idea for When A Dragon Moves In was conceived.

When I submitted the manuscript to various editors, I was asked, “Is the dragon real or imaginary?”

“I’d like the readers to decide,” I answered.

Rejections followed.

Until I sent the story to Flashlight Press.

I won’t deny that my brilliant editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, asked that same question. However, when I expressed my desire for the reader to decide, she was intrigued rather than negative. “But…how do we draw a character that may or may not be there?”

Hmm. That did pose a challenge.

We researched for a year, looking at the way other books handled “imaginary” friends. I worried each subsequent email would bring the ultimate rejection.

But, I’m thrilled to say, it didn’t. Shari shared my vision. And when she presented the project to brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, he took it to heights I’d never imagined! His artwork not only dazzles, amuses and pulls on the heartstrings, it offers a dual explanation for every action on each page, truly allowing the reader to decide for themselves.

In 2011, our two young men graduated from college and When A Dragon Moves In (my debut picture book) was released into the world. I’m thrilled to say that readers loved the idea that they could decide for themselves…and debated passionately for their position!

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
Many asked if there would be a follow up, and in 2015, we welcomed When A Dragon Moves In Again (a humorous, yet emotional take on sibling rivalry, where a baby “moves in” to the family and charms the dragon away from our boy.)
by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam

Later this summer, I’m excited to report I Love My Dragon, a board book for the youngest dragon enthusiasts, will wing its way into the book world…and hopefully into your hearts! It’s available for preorder now, through your favorite book seller.



Here’s the thing. They say it only takes one “yes,” one person who embraces your vision and is willing to take that chance. I’d like to extend that a bit.

You see, while writing is a solitary act, publishing a book is not. It takes the support of book professionals and sellers. Of critique partners and writer buddies. Of librarians and teachers. Of readers.

And even before that first word, it takes the support (emotionally and often financially) of beloved family. I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband and our boys. Without extended family members. Without my mom and dad.

Sadly, my mom battled both mental illness and alcoholism, and passed away before she ever held one of my books. This past December, I lost my beloved father, whose strength and love held our family together when everything seemed to fall apart.

The dedication on I Love My Dragon reads: 

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page. 

Because I shall forever associate books with love. And with them. 

Jodi Moore with her Dad

Oh, Jodi, you have me in a heap of dragon tears. What a beautiful dedication, and what a beautiful birth story. I, too, was lucky enough to have heaps of books put into my hands as a child, and I too, equate books with love. (And my nest is only half empty, and even THAT is hitting hard!) 

Thank you for vividly sharing with us the importance of surrounding ourselves with "writerly people" and being persistent in the face of disappointment...and for reminding us that that sometimes the best advice is to listen to the advice we've been handing out to others for years.

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Jodi Moore is author of the award winning WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN, I LOVE MY DRAGON and GOOD NEWS NELSON. She writes both picture books and novels, hoping to challenge and inspire her readers by opening new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking. Jodi is the proud, (admittedly) neurotic mother of two talented young men and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord will stretch. She lives in Boalsburg with her husband, Larry, their dove “Bake,” and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. Visit Jodi at www.writerjodimoore.com.





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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

June 26, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?, by Estela Bernal

Can You See Me Now? by Estela Bernal
One of the things I most love about the Birth Stories for Books series on my blog is getting to know members of my writing community a little more deeply. I met Estela Bernal several years ago. We’ve signed books together, shared meals at book-related events, and exchanged friendly conversation at these opportunities, but we’ve not really gotten to know each other beyond these settings.

I really enjoyed getting to know Estela a little bit better as we prepared for this blog post, and I look forward to the next in-person opportunity to connect with her.

Friends, meet Estela Bernal: Air Force veteran, former teacher and social worker, SCBWI and Willamette Writers member, CASA volunteer, foster parent, and author of CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? (Piñata Books, 2014).

My Writing Secret
by Estela Bernal

Born and raised in a small Texas town, my love of books and reading began in first grade. Like most Hispanic kids at that time, I didn’t have books at home and there were no libraries anywhere near the town, much less in the neighborhood. When I started learning English and suddenly had access to books and other written material, I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on, as if trying to make up for lost time.

To this day, I can’t remember how or where I found a copy of The Good Earth. I read and re-read it, losing myself in that world—strange and exotic, yet familiar in so many ways. Since my father was a farmer, perhaps it was my own family’s connection to the land that drew me in and held my interest.

Although I did my share of writing in college, my writing was limited to reports, essays, and such. Unlike most writers, though, it never occurred to me to write my own stories until many years later. It came about in a unique and unexpected way. I was at a Tish Hinojosa concert in a small and intimate venue in Davis, California. Tish sang folk songs, traditional Mexican songs, and some of her own compositions (many of them about social injustice). That very evening, I decided I wanted to write. Rather than songs, though, I immediately decided I’d like to write for children.

My writing journey started with reading books on craft and many more children’s books. Along the way, I took writing classes here and there. I found the whole process fascinating and, although I was working full time and had a part-time job, I spent most of my spare time reading and trying to write.

After I’d been writing for a while, I attempted a YA novel and entered it in a UC Irvine writing contest. I was surprised and elated when, a few months later, I got a $500 check and a letter informing me my entry had won 2nd place. At the ceremony held to celebrate the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners, one of the staff said, “Your friends and family must be very proud of you.” She was shocked when I confessed that no one even knew I wrote.  “Well, now you’ll have to come out of the closet, won’t you?”

But even with that validation of my work, I remained in my little writing closet for a while longer. It wasn’t until I retired from my jobs that I finally shared my “secret” with family and co-workers who were just as surprised as the UC Irvine staff member.

My retirement wasn’t really official until three months after I moved to Portland where I had much more time to indulge my reading and writing passions. I somehow found out about an organization called The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It so happened that the regional group was having a picnic. I couldn’t believe my luck at finding such a resource and the local group of amazing fellow writers. It was there that I met the lovely Dawn and learned about an upcoming Silver Falls retreat. At the retreat I met Kim Kasch. We were both looking for a critique group and, after several short-lived attempts we ended up forming the Rose City Writers group which meets every other week.

I’ve lost count of how many conferences, workshops, and retreats I’ve attended since. I always come away totally energized and motivated to keep going.

Oregon Reads Aloud
My MG novel Can You See Me Now? was published in 2014. A couple of years later, thanks to another lovely lady, Amber Keyser, I was asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for the collection (Oregon Reads Aloud) which celebrates Start Making a Reader Today (SMART’s) 25th anniversary. I was not only honored to join a very talented group of local writers and illustrators, but it was especially meaningful to be part of a project that does so much for schools and children who may otherwise not have the beautiful experience of having a reading mentor. As a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for children in foster care, I knew many CASAs are also SMART readers, so that made it even more special.

Although my free time has again shrunk quite drastically (since I became a foster parent myself to a very active nine-year-old), I continue to attend as many writing events as I can fit in and write a little whenever I can. Some recent SCBWI events (a Novel Idea in April and a Picture Book Intensive in May) were a special treat because, not only did I have the opportunity to absorb great information, I also got to connect with fellow writers and meet new writers and illustrators.

I continue to draw inspiration from others’ creative journeys. I’m currently reading (mostly during the few quiet moments before my own bedtime) A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader, a collection of letters by authors, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and philosophers about the impact reading has had on their lives. Each letter is accompanied by an illustration. As I read these letters, the young reader still curled up inside my heart, keeps nodding, smiling and being reminded that, despite the different creative paths we each may follow, there is one common thread that binds us all—our love of books and reading.

It’s been a wonderful journey so far and SCBWI continues to play a very important role in my life.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your path to publication, Estela, and about some of the other aspects of your life. I'm so glad your secret is out!

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Estela Bernal is an Air Force veteran, former teacher and social worker, as well as a member of SCBWI and Willamette Writers. Her MG novel (CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?) was a finalist in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards. Her PB story Mount Tabor: Home of Ardi the Squirrel was published by Graphic Arts Books as part of an anthology of stories by Oregon authors (OREGON READS ALOUD). Learn more at her website, www.estelabernal.com.

“I believe reading plays a key role in a child’s education and am a big supporter of diversity in children’s books. Because I support diversity in children's lit, I help sponsor a writing contest for children through Skipping Stones, a multicultural literary magazine for children based in Eugene, OR, which promotes diversity in children's books. Through my readings, workshops, and classroom presentations, I hope to instill a love of reading, writing, and learning among children, particularly underprivileged children. I’m currently revising two YA novels (one historic and one contemporary), one MG novel, and several PB stories—all in various stages of completion.”

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.