August 23, 2023

The Creative Recharge Part of the Writing Life

I've been quiet on social channels this past few months. 

Tualatin River Float

That doesn't mean I've been quiet, creatively. In fact, quite the opposite. I've written new stories, made meaningful revisions to others, read stacks of mentor texts, and started actively experimenting to find my voice in new (to me) genres. 

Although engaging in social channels is an important part of the work (and, indeed, helps me meet fellow creatives and other industry professionals, while opening doors to new ideas and information that aligns with my creative goals), it can also sap my creative energy and take away from my writing time. 

When I'm feeling overwhelmed or depleted, one of the best things I can do for myself is get out into nature. 

And one of my favorite ways to commune with nature is paddling and/or floating on the gentle sections of the Tualatin or Deschutes Rivers. One is near my home in Portland, Oregon. The other is near my home-away-from home in Central Oregon. Both are stunning, and both are replete with sensory details that often find their ways into my stories. 

I also love visiting South Twin Lake, the Cascade Lakes in Central, Oregon, and Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Here are some pics of "Sweet Sophs," one of my favorite paddling companions, relaxing, exploring, and marveling at the natural world around us:

Deschutes River Float

Paulina Lake Paddle

Relaxing on Paulina Lake

Do you have a favorite place or way to creatively recharge? I'd love to hear. 

Find more of my posts about the Writing Life, here

April 11, 2023

The Literary Legacy Part of the Writing Life

Last week I was honored with the Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award, an award presented by the Programs for Writers Advisory Council and the Board of Directors of Literary Arts to a person or organization in recognition of significant contributions that have enriched Oregon's young readers. Literary Arts is a community-based nonprofit with a mission to "engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature." 

Photo Credit: Andie Petkus Photography

To say I was in utter shock and disbelief when I received word of receiving this award is quite the understatement. Walt Morey is a big name, and his legacy runs deep. It’s been hard for me to comprehend how I’ve been selected for an award in his honor. 

This is not me being humble. 

Last year my publishing income shrunk to the point that my accountant said I was at risk for the IRS considering me a hobbyist because, and I quote, "They frown on people who are bad at their business." I’ve been rejected by many an agent and editor, but now by my accountant and the IRS?  That was hard to hear. 

And so I hollered out to the Universe: “Hey, I need another book contract with a nice advance. Soon.” 

And the Universe replied, “How about a highly esteemed literary legacy award, instead?”  

“Say, what?”

I am not a hobbyist. I am, in fact, quite serious about my work. And, like the main character in my picture book, Lucy’s Blooms, I’m as persistent as all get out. But you can’t fault me for wondering how my name got flagged for this meaningful acknowledgement. What one big thing had I possibly done to take someone’s notice in a field of literary giants, many of whom would be sitting in the room when I received my award?

These questions prompted me to reflect on the work that I've done. The work that I hold most dear: teaching early literacy workshops, writing books for young readers, advocating for strong school libraries, mentoring aspiring writers, amplifying the voices of other authors via my blog, writing to my lawmakers to let them know where I stand on key issues, knocking on doors to remind my friends and neighbors to vote, caring for and advocating for my family members and the community, the world, that we live in.  

I am the poster child for small steps, and in my experience, little action items add up to bigger action items.  This is what I thought about as I wrote my acceptance speech, which I've shared below: 


Thank you Literary Arts and to the kind people who nominated me for this award. I am honored and humbled. Thank you to my family for all the love and laughter, and to my parents for filling my childhood home with books.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Snook, for his annual reading contest. The student who read the most books each year won the coveted Pleasure Reading Award; a trophy I proudly brought home in 1978.
That cheesy award trophy, now glued together in places, continues to motivate young readers when I share it at author visits. I also like to share tattered copies of some of the titles I breezed through to boost my book count, books like The Digging-est Dog, A Fly Went By. Back then I thought I was gaming the system by including quick, easy reads on my list, but as Mr. Snook likely knew, all of the reading counted. The lyrical sounds, rhythm, and rhyme in these stories contributed to my love of language, and similar patterns found their way into my own writing. Writing that eventually became books for a new generation of young readers.  
Such lovely things were just said about me. What wasn’t said is that I currently have a myriad of manuscripts sitting in slush piles. I’ve yet to find an agent. The publisher I worked with on my last four books was recently sold to another company, and my next book with another publisher just got delayed to 2025. Not quite the resume one imagines bringing home big awards. 
Over the past weeks, I’ve heard from friends and colleagues who wanted to share their reflections about Walt Morey. Although his books certainly made a lasting impression, what people most wanted to talk about was meeting him at school author visits, decades ago. One person summed it up best saying, “Walt Morey engaged with us as if we mattered.” 
And that’s when it hit me that our body of work, our literary legacy, extends well beyond the books that we write and manage to get published. 
Each of us in this room has the power to influence the literary landscape in our communities, in our schools and libraries, and within our families.
Someone in this room read a book by a local author to a child today. Someone else made a purchase at an indie bookstore. I’ll bet someone volunteered at their local library, someone gifted a book to a classroom teacher, and someone wrote a kind letter that will be read and re-read again and again.
Mr. Snook held a reading contest in 1978 that played a part in this year’s Walt Morey award. 
What if tonight’s gathering inspired each of us to take one more seemingly small action to benefit a young reader, or a children’s book author, or a professional who gets books into the hands of young readers. Imagine the legacy that together we’ll leave.    Thank you. 


Home Video of Armin Tolentino's introduction of Dawn and Dawn's Acceptance Speech.


I will treasure Armin's words, and this award, for a long, long time.

Here I am celebrating with family and friends:

Photo Credit: Andie Petkus Photography

Photo Credit: Andie Petkus Photography

More photos of the event by Andie Petkus  Photography   can be found here.  

Last, but certainly not least, here I am with fellow author, Stephanie Shaw. She's the person who spearheaded the award nomination, and she is an amazing author and literacy advocate in her own right. Her latest book, All By Myself, JUST hit bookstores. NOW would be a great time to support HER work and your favorite local indie bookstore.

Image Credit: Family of Stephanie Shaw

Need some additional ideas on how to make a difference in your literary landscape? Get in touch. It doesn’t have to be something big to make a difference. I promise. 


Media mentions about the award announcement: 

Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Portland Mercury:

Portland Tribune:

Oregon Artswatch: 

March 7, 2023

The "Walking Away" Part of the Writing Life

Sometimes the very best thing I can do for one of my stories is to walk away from it. I often come back to the stories I've set aside, but setting a story aside and coming back to it with fresh eyes after some time has passed helps me see problems (and solutions) I didn't see before. 

Dawn's beloved purple hiking boots

Stepping out into nature is also extremely helpful to me in terms of generating new story ideas. It's as though the story-generating part of my brain requires motion and beautiful scenery in order to operate properly! 

I live in Portland, Oregon and spend quite a bit of time in Central Oregon. Both areas offer many beautiful opportunities to explore the great outdoors. This past week I had the good fortune of enjoying several snow hikes, and I also spent one (long and exhausting!) afternoon snow shoeing. 

I decided I would create a blog post to help me organize and share some of my favorite places to hike in Central Oregon. I'll populate this initial post with the places I most recently explored, but I'll add new locations/updates over time, so definitely bookmark this page for your own reference. 

And now for the obligatory disclaimers and safety tips: I am not an outdoor guide. This blog post summarizes some of the beautiful places I've enjoyed hiking and snow shoeing, but please do your own research before you head out into the woods. Bring food, water, and emergency supplies with you when you go out exploring; be a good steward of our natural spaces and places; let folks know where you are going before you head out; and travel with a buddy.

For those of you looking for an actual guidebook, one of my favorites is Bend, Overall by Scott Cook. The most recent edition of this book was published in 2010, and the author has since moved to New Zealand, so I don't anticipate it will be updated again. I'm sure there are more current (and thus more accurate) books available, but this is the one I've dog-eared over the years and still turn to as a general starting point for Central Oregon outings. My husband regularly references the AllTrails Website and App before/during our outings, for more up-to-the-moment info about trail conditions and routes.  

Here are some of the routes we have recently enjoyed:


Deschutes River Trail at LaPine State Park (PDF of LaPine State Park Map):

During the winter months we have hiked this trail with snow shoes, slip-on traction cleats, and snow boots. This is trail I prefer in the winter vs. the spring/summer because the "walls" that border the far side of the river are prettier when they are covered with snow versus bare soil. One of the times we walked this trail we were escorted by a very vocal eagle. It was a breathtaking experience and one that has not repeated itself, but we keep hoping we will cross paths with such a majestic living creature again in the future.  We park near the Don McGregor Memorial Viewpoint and hike along the Deschutes River Trail with the river to our left until just past the cabins for rent when the trail makes a sharp turn to the right. When we hiked in snow boots on 2/28/23, the sun came out at our turn around spot where we stop for lunch. It was glorious! (Last visited 2/28/23)

View of Deschutes River from Don McGregor Memorial Viewpoint

The sun shining down on us and on the snowy trail alongside the Deschutes River

Dutchman Sno-Park Trail Head to Todd Lake (PDF of Nordic Map):

We've done this route previously when the snow shoe trails were more groomed/packed down, but our visit on 3/1/23 was timed directly after some significant area snowfall, so the trail was very soft, deep, and not very wide. We even made the mistake of going along the nordic trail for a bit of time, (which also wasn't groomed, but was a bit wider,  and which (rightfully) irritated a pair of nordic skiers we briefly crossed paths with). The route to Todd Lake is about 3 miles in (and apparently down hill, which we didn't fully grasp until the 3-mile hike back out)! We hiked to the lake, patted down a section of snow alongside the frozen lake to sit on while we ate lunch, and took in the glorious views of Broken Top until our fingers froze and we needed to get moving again. The soft, deep snow combined with the climb out (and it being our forth straight day of snow hikes, but our first hike of the season with snow shoes) left us more exhausted than exhilarated, but the views on this trail and at our lunch break spot are absolutely spectacular and well worth the trek. (Last visited 3/1/2023)

Heading out on Dutchman Flat Trail with Broken Top Mountain in View

Heading deeper into the forest on Dutchman Trail

View of Broken Top Mountain from our lunch spot along the snow covered shores of frozen Todd Lake

Fall River from Day Use Parking Area Near Fall River Campground to Fall River Guard Station:

This is one of our very favorite go-to outings. It's easy to get to from our place in Sunriver, it's a simple walk alongside one of the clearest and most beautiful rivers I've ever seen, and it's as gorgeous and satisfying in the summer months as it is in the winter months. We park at the day use area of the Fall River Campground, which is near a beautiful wooden bridge. We don't cross the bridge, but we nearly always hang out on it for a few minutes to spy on the fish and/or watch the fly fisherman. We walk along the fisherman paths with the river on our left until we reach the end of the river (or more accurately, the beginning of the river). This river literally springs out from ground. Coming from the other direction, one minute there is nothing but forest, and the next minute there is a majestic long and winding river that  springs from the ground. This area is our turnaround spot. It's also the place we typically break for lunch or a snack before turning around. There is a parking area and a primitive rental cabin in this location, so the hike we typically do could easily be done in reverse, starting where the river begins, and ending at the wooden bridge. I never grow tired of looking at Fall River and can't wait to return. (Last visited 2/27/23)

Winter view of Fall River from the bridge

McKay Crossing up to Island Falls alongside Paulina Creek

The official name for this trail is the Peter Skene Ogden Trail. We park in the (very small) day use parking area near the McKay Crossing Campground and follow the creekside trail up for about three miles until a trail sign points to a turnoff to a small wooden bridge that crosses Paulina Creek just above Island Falls. This trail passes several waterfalls (several of which are frozen or nearly frozen during the winter months). In the springtime, as the ice begins to melt, dozens of mini "waterfalls" appear, and the large waterfalls take on new shape. We take the trail to the bridge, then back track along the creek to a natural view point at the top of Island Falls where we stop for lunch. After we have eaten and rested, we head back down the trail with the river on our left. I particularly like that this trail starts uphill and ends going downhill. The hike back to our parking spot is always easier than the hike up, and there are a few sneak-peaks of mountains on the way back down to add to the waterfall views! When we did this hike on 2/26/23, we walked the path in our snow boots. During other winter visits we have used snow shoes or slip-on traction cleats. During the summer months we've hiked in sneakers or even water sandals. (Last visited 2/26/23)

View from the bridge over frozen and snow-covered Paulina Creek looking the direction of Island Falls

I look forward to returning to each of these beautiful places again and agin. 

Stay tuned for additional favorites in future updates to this post!

(And for more of Dawn's thoughts on The Writing Life, click here.)

Last updated March 7, 2023

February 8, 2023

Birth Stories for Books: MABEL'S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES, by Candy Wellins

Dear Readers. Kids whose parents live in different homes experience unique challenges. Today's Birth Stories for Books interview is with author Candy Wellins, whose latest picture book, MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES (illustrated by Jess Rose, Beaming Books, October 2022) tackles this topic in a very kid-friendly way. 

by Candy Wellins and Jess Rose

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Candy. I’m looking forward to learning more about the path to publication for your latest book, MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES 

Candy Wellins: Thank you for having me! 

DP: In other interviews you’ve shared the inspiration for your earlier books. I’d love to hear the inspiration that sparked the idea for this latest book, as well as the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this book and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

CW: My parents divorced when I was very young, and I grew up in two homes so the idea came to me very early! I don’t remember what exactly sparked Mabel’s specific story, but I do recall starting with the line, “This is Mabel’s house…and this is also Mabel’s house.” It was fun coming up with contrasting experiences at her two different houses—something I was very familiar with.  

I started writing the story in 2016. It’s gone through many revisions, and we sold it to Beaming Books in early 2021.  

by Candy Wellins and Jess Rose

DP: “This is Mabel’s house…and this is also Mabel’s house” is a great opening line. It immediately drew me into the story and into Mabel's home life. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

CW: One of the biggest changes revisions brought was the addition of Izzy, Mabel’s class pet. Previous versions of the story just had Mabel comparing two different days at her two different houses. My wise critique partners noted that I needed more conflict. I played around with a few different scenarios, but nothing was working. At the time my son was in kindergarten and had a class pet (a stuffed animal thankfully) that spent weekends with different students. The variety of fun weekends inspired me to add Izzy to the story.  

DP: That's such a great example of how critique partners can help us see opportunities for improving our stories. 

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? 

CW: I don’t know if there was one particular moment, but I’d say that anytime you write honestly about authentic experiences it resonates with readers and that often leads to publication. 

DP: When you compare your path to publication for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES to your experience with your earlier books (SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA and THE STARS BECKONED),  what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each and/or the similarities and differences between the three different editors/publishers that you’ve worked with?

CW: Book publishing is a bit like parenthood. Every book/child is a totally different experience, but so far everything has been positive for me. There was a time when I would have been worried about publishing with a smaller house. I was worried that I wouldn’t get the same exposure as I might with a bigger name, but I’ve found that hasn’t been the case at all. Write something worthwhile and it will get its due notice.  

DP: I really appreciate that perspective, Candy. That's been my experience as well. 

One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. Given your experience as both a former teacher and a children’s book author, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) book events? 

CW: I create educator guides that go along with each of my books. I realize not every school can afford author visits and even when you visit a classroom, it’s never long enough to cover everything you’d like. Educator guides allow teachers to go more depth with your book (or topic) with lessons that fit their specific students.  

DP: That's an excellent tip, Candy. I have educators' guides for each of my books as well, and I always encourage teachers, librarians, and parents to check out the book resources on author, illustrator, and publisher websites, because so many provide fantastic learning extensions for their books. 

You are a member of the Soaring 20’s Debut Group. Your group appears to still be quite active well beyond your initial debut cycle. How did you come to be a member of this group? and What advice to you have for others who want to create/be a part an effective book promotion group? 

CW: When I first sold SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, I reached out to Cate Berry for advice and the first thing she told me to do was join a debut group. I was lucky to connect with the Soaring 20s.  

I highly recommend a support group (they aren’t just for debut authors anymore). Not only is great for promotional support (read and reviews, social media shares, blog tours), but it’s great for every day support (advice, encouragement and big virtual hugs when you need them).  

If you’re in a debut group, I’d say play to your strengths. Do you have a favorite social media platform? Can you manage a second account for the group? If technology isn’t your thing, maybe you can help set up blog or podcast visits. Less extroverted types might be able to manage member books and share them amongst members to read and review.  

DP: This is really helpful info, Candy. Thank you so much. 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

CW: I always wanted to be an author, but I felt like it was a bit of an impossible dream. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue it earlier than I did.  

DP: Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES, that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet? 

CW: No one has asked about the names of all the kids in Mabel’s class. My three kiddos are hidden in there as well as a few of their friends plus some random names that just felt right.  

DP: Love it! 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

CW: I just got back the first final art spread for my next book, A GEODUCK IS NOT A DUCK. It’s a picture book graphic novel mystery about the world’s largest species of burrowing clams. It’s going to be so much fun and I can’t wait to share it with the world in early 2024. 

DP: What a great title and concept. I can't wait to read it!

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES with us, Candy. 

Readers, you've heard me say it before: The best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. Candy's books, including MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES are available everywhere books are sold—but you know I'm partial to supporting your local, independent bookstore 


Image Credit: 
I am a lifelong writer and book lover. A former teacher, I have a BA in journalism and an M.Ed. in literacy education. I’m now a full-time mom to three wonderful children who keep me up-to-date and immersed in children’s literature. When I’m not reading, writing or mothering, I love running, traveling and naps! My debut picture book Saturdays Are for Stella (Illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan, PAGE STREET KIDS) was named a Kirkus Best Picture Book of 2020. Publishers Weekly called my debut picture book biography The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space (Illustrated by Courtney Dawson, PHILOMEL) “an introduction to a space pioneer that’s ideal for the youngest nonfiction readers.” My family and I make our home deep in the heart of Texas. 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, 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  

February 1, 2023

The WRAD Part of the Writing Life, 2023 Edition

WRAD 2023 is officially a Wrap! 

World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) is a special literacy event that takes place around the globe on the first Wednesday in February each year. It's hosted by LitWorld, and originally founded by Pam Allyn. For the past several years, author Kate Messner creates a space on her website where teachers and librarians can connect with authors and illustrators who are willing to volunteer to offer free virtual book readings to children around the world. It's one of my favorite book-related events to participate in. 

For the past couple of years, I've used a Sign-Up Genius to help me coordinate my virtual visits. I also now have a Google Form for folks who want to be among the first to find out when the scheduling tool is available for  next year. 

This year I scheduled visits with ten schools, and successfully completed visits with eight schools. Even with excellent coordination, it's not unusual that one or more of the schools needs to cancel at the last minute due to weather-related school closures or some other scheduling or technical snafu. Also, some schools that hope to meet with me are unable to match their scheduling needs with my available times, and/or my schedule is full by the time they reach out, or there are members of the learning community who were absent on World Read Aloud Day. 

For these schools (and now for you!) I compile some of my best resources as a stand-in for a real-time virtual author visit. These resources are of course not quite the same as real-time virtual visit, (or a full-length, personalized author visit), but they do allow young readers to connect with an author in some fashion, in honor of World Read Aloud Day. Please feel welcome to explore and share these resources with your learning community: 


Here is a link to a “Hello” slide deck that I shared with the schools/classrooms that I visited.

It’s not the same as a real virtual visit, but it will allow your students to connect with me for World Read Aloud Day in some fashion. (The “speaker notes” below each slide provide my general talking points and related resource links.) 

Speaking of resources, here is the link to the plethora of Resources tab on my website.

From this landing page, you can access things like: 

1. My YouTube channel with full readings of several of my books including Lucy’s Blooms,  Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and First Day Jitters from the collection of stories in Oregon Reads Aloud. This is where you will also find animated book trailers and companion songs for my three most recent books, as well as some ASL interpreted readings for Lucy’s Blooms and the companion song

2. Curriculum-Aligned Educators’ Guides for Lucy’s BloomsWhere Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (All three of the guides include STEM tie-ins, and for my Pirate and Cowgirl books, these guides include Readers' Theatre scripts.)

3. Lesson Plans for Sign Language Story Timesthemed enrichment activities, and fun extras such as Pirate and Cowgirl Name Generators. 

I also have a couple of different “virtual-virtual,” or “self-guided” author visits via Google Slides that you/your students can peruse (the “speaker notes” below each slide provides the talking points I would typically deliver during a school visit): 

Write On! Why Writing is (Possibly) the Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Do

From "Ahoy, Matey! to “Howdy, Pardner!” How to Create Vivid Characters by Giving Each a Unique Voice

Please reach out to me directly and I would be more than happy to provide links to these virtual visits. 

Once a school or classroom has interacted with one of my books, (via the video story times, and/or virtual workshops on Google Slides on your own), I would be more than happy to respond to written questions from students. How this typically works is that the librarian or classroom teacher assigns a “post visit” writing lesson for the students where they each ask me a question (about my books, or my writing process, or my “office assistant, Pickle, etc.), and then you would deliver the full set of questions to me via postal mail or email (in one batched email from you vs. individual emails from students). After I receive the questions, I will reply to the students with a compilation response that I will deliver to you. Here is a link to some examples of my responses from my interactions with other schools. 

I hope these options are helpful resources. Please feel welcome and encouraged to share them with your families and your colleagues, and please let me know if I can be a resource to you in any other way.

Warm wishes,


Reach out via email, Twitter, or through my contact form (at the left of this post on the desktop version), if you'd like to schedule a time for me to meet with your students in the future! 

January 24, 2023

The "Staying Grounded" Part of the Writing Life

The past few weeks have been a doozy. 

On Christmas Eve, my mother-in-law experienced an unexpected  health issue that resulted in several days of hospitalization. A couple of days after Christmas, there was a huge windstorm in our area, and a large tree fell on a home we own. (Gratefully, no one was hurt, but the event created the need for lots of extra work communicating with an overwhelmed insurance company and coordinating with multiple contractors.) 

That same day, we lost power for a three-day stretch. Right after the power came back on, my mother-in-law came to stay with us to recuperate for about a week; her care needs necessitated multiple wake-up calls in the middle of the night. The day after she went home, my own mother experienced a health issue requiring emergency surgery. She is still in the hospital due to various complications that have delayed her recovery. I have spent the better part of the past week at the hospital, providing emotional support and engaging with healthcare providers as she heals and recovers.  

Add to this my husband hurting his back and being out of commission for several days; helping our daughter prepare for a move from our family home into her first post-college apartment; and helping our son as he returns to college after winter break and begins planning for a study abroad experience that starts next term, and suffice it to say, my plate has been FULL! 

Meanwhile, the month of January, a month that's typically very productive for me in terms of creativity, marches on.  

Although I've had very limited time (or head space) for creative writing this past few weeks, the truth of the matter is that writing (and writing-related practices) helps me stay grounded during times of stress and uncertainty. It's during times like this that I lean into the muscle memory of the writing routines I've developed over the years to keep my creative goals moving forward. 

Some of my creative writing accomplishments for the past few weeks include:

-Participating in StoryStorm to generate new story ideas.

-Tinkering around with two of the new story ideas that I've come up with during StoryStorm.

-Revising a story in response to an upcoming call for submissions to a publisher that I'd like to work with.

-Preparing a submission packet for a publisher that has an open submission window this month.

-Completing weekly manuscript critiques for my critique partner. 

-Sharing one manuscript for critique with my critique partner.

-Writing a heartfelt letter to a family member. 

-Coordinating author visits for World Read Aloud Day 2023, coming up on February 1st. 

-Exchanging weekly creative writing goals and weekly accomplishment reports with my critique partner. (I'm a week behind on this, but I'm determined to get caught up!)

-Preparing a year-end blog post, hosting a guest author on my Birth Stories for Books blog series, and writing this blog post.

Creative writing goals that I've yet to accomplish this month, that are high on my list of priorities, include:   

-Writing a heartfelt letter to another family member.

-Polishing and submitting stories for the two calls for submissions mentioned above.

-Preparing submission packets for a new round of agent queries (Note to Universe: I'd like for 2023 to be the year that I find a literary agent who loves my work as much as I do, and wants to be my career partner.)

Many years ago, I wrote this succinct mission statement related to my writing work: 

I write to teach, empower, process, and persuade. 

When I wrote this mission statement, the word empower was meant to convey that I wanted to write books that empower my readers. As I reflect on this mission statement today, I realize that adhering to my writing practices and routines has helped empower me during this period of time filled with uncertainty and powerlessness. 

My creative writing goals (those that have been accomplished, and those I've yet to accomplish), are helping me stay grounded during this challenging time. 

What helps you stay grounded during challenging times? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

[Click here for more posts on the topic of The Writing Life. 

If you find my blog helpful, please consider ordering one of my books. It supports me and my work.]

January 11, 2023

Birth Stories for Books: SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE, by Phaea Crede

Welcome to a new year, dear readers, and welcome to a new series of Birth Stories for Books interviews and guest posts. Today's guest, author Phaea Crede, last visited the blog to share her path to publication experience for her debut, Jet the CAT (Is Not a Cat)

In today's post, Phaea serves up another inspiring behind-the-scenes look, this time for her latest book, SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE (illustrated by Zach Smith, Viking Books, September 2022),  a silly and heartwarming story that piles on the puns. 

Take it away, Phaea!  

by Phaea Crede and Zach Smith


The origin of wood-fired warrior Super Pizza and their side kick, the lean, green roughage machine Kid Kale is as twisty and turn-y as a waterslide coated in olive oil. Here is a thyme line of how all the revisions, heartbreaks, and ultimate publication of Super Pizza & Kid Kale (Viking Books, 2022) went down.

June 2018

While playing a brainstorming game we learned at a recent library visit with author Josh Funk, my then 3.5-year-old daughter invents a character: a piece of pizza that wants to be a super hero. WOW! I immediately wonder what it would be like to be a hero that everyone wants to eat. 

With my kid’s permission, I start to work on a story about Super Pizza. 

July 2018 

So far, the story is just food pun nicknames for Super Pizza. Some examples are:

The Savory of Bravery
The Anchovy Ace 
The Loaded Legend
The Star Scrapper of the Sauce
The Muscled Mozzarella 
The Crusty Contender 
The Crust You Trust
The Lion Pie of Liberty
The Slice of Justice
The Garlic Guardian

(None of these made it into the final draft FYI.)

September 2018

Finally, I have a draft. Well, a 12th draft. After vetting the story with my critique group, I feel ready to try and DO something with the story.

October 2018

NESCWBI Agent/Editor Day, a lovely event that allows aspiring authors to get feedback from colleagues, agents, and editors. I bring two stories to read. At my second table with an editor, I share Super Pizza & Kid Kale. It goes okay! I send a follow up email to said editor.

November 2018

Said editor writes back! He says he likes the story and thinks it has potential, but feels it’s missing something. He recommends I add a side kick or a villain. If I do that, he says he’d like to read it again.

I revise immediately. Just kidding! I felt like the story conflict was PERFECT. A piece of pizza who wants to be a hero but can’t because kids keep eating it! Where would a side kick fit in? Nowhere. I move on to other projects, content to have written a brilliant story that no one understands.

May 2019 

The New England SCBWI Spring Conference. I love this conference. I always learn new skills and make new friends. I’m checking in when I see a familiar face – the said editor! I greet him and HE ASKS ME IF I’VE REVISED SUPER PIZZA YET!  I'm taken aback that he not only remembered my book, he was still hoping to read a revision. I try to not throw up all over myself and I tell him I will get the revision to him soon.

June 2019

I revise. I decide to combine the idea of a side kick and a villain into one character. A food that is the complete opposite of pizza: kale! In the new story the conflict comes from Kid Kale’s jealousy of Super Pizza’s popularity. KK turns against the townsfolk and causes weed-like kale plants to destroy everything!

Late June, 2019

I resubmit the revision to said editor. I feel great. This is really going to happen!

July 2019

The revision is rejected. Beep boop. I cry some marinara tears, then stuff the manuscript into a virtual pizza box and shelf it.

May 2020

I’ve just sold my first book, Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) have an amazing agent, Moe Ferrara and I’m out on sub with a new book, Asparaghosts, a story about a kid who is haunted by the ghosts of the veggies she rejects only to team up with them and rebel against the narrator. I feel great!

June 15 2020

Asapraghosts collects mass rejections. But, one rejection catches my eye. An editor says that while she doesn’t connect with this story, she likes my writing, and that food-related books are a personal favorite of hers. 

Hey! I have a food-related book! I send Moe a copy of Super Pizza & Kid Kale. She likes it, but has notes.

July 2020

I revise Super Pizza & Kid Kale again. Moe likes it! She sends it on to the editor and a few other houses for good measure.

August 2020

The editor passes. But the publishing house doesn’t! She says while she personally has a full list, she showed Super Pizza & Kid Kale to another editor who loved it. They wanted to make an offer, as long as I was open to some revisions.

I am now always open to revisions.

Still August, 2020

I have a call with my future editor Aneeka Kalia. She’s amazing. She has a few ideas for the book for me to consider including making the conflict between Kid Kale and Super Pizza less dramatic and centering the action at a school and not all over town.

She also has the idea of a huge double spread food fight. She is an awesome editor. I think all these revisions are great and will take the story to the next level. I say, heck yes.

Late August, 2020 

Viking Books officially acquires Super Pizza & Kid Kale

December 2020

I deliver the final draft of Super Pizza & Kid Kale to Aneeka.

March 2021

Aneeka sends me the first sketches from our illustrator, Zach Smith. They are amazing. This book is going to be amazing.

Sketches by Zach Smith

Summer 2021

Aneeka, Zach, and I work on some small edits to better support the layout and art. The book is coming together!

September 2022

Super Pizza & Kid Kale is a real book! I’m so proud of this graphic-novel style story that celebrates friendship frustrations and food puns. As Super Pizza & Kid Kale like to say, “with great flavor comes great responsibility.” I could add “with great patience and the willingness to revise without ego comes publication.” 

Grab a copy of Super Pizza & Kid Kale anywhere books are sold and check out my website to learn how to get a personalized, signed copy from my local indie book store Word on the Street.

Thank you for sharing a slice of your Birth Story for SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE, Phaea. You've shown us that persistence, flexibility, and a generous appetite for revision are key ingredients in the path to publication. 

Friends, the best way to thank authors whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books for yourself and as gifts. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE is available everywhere books are sold, including from your local, independent bookstore (which you can access online via


Photo Credit: 
Phaea Crede loves writing silly picture books for silly kids. Serious kids, too! She is the author of the picture books Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) and Super Pizza & Kid Kale. Phaea lives outside of Boston with her husband, two kiddos, two kittens, one puppy, and a slightly stinky dog named Gus. 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, 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