Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Column

I have been naughty. I haven't posted at all during the month of December!
I guess I've been taking a little break from writing . . .  but not entirely.

I thought I'd share with you my kid's column for Two-Lane Livin' for the month of December.

Celebrate With Cookies

     What does a gingerbread man put on his bed? A cookie sheet!

     Cookies have been with us for many centuries. But, the first cookies were created by accident. Sometimes accidents are a good thing. Early ovens never had thermostats, so cooks dropped small amounts of cake batter on baking pans to test the oven temperature.
     Cookies came to America in the 1600s. And, most cookies in early America were baked as special treats. In a 1796 cookbook titled, American Cookery, there were only two recipes for cookies. In some early American cookbooks, cookies were given no space of their own but were listed at the end of the cake chapter. They were called by such names as "Jumbles," "Plunkets," and "Cry Babies."
     Now we have cookbooks filled only with cookie recipes. We have bar cookies, drop cookies, molded cookies, no bake cookies, pressed cookies, refrigerator cookies, rolled and sandwich cookies! No matter what kind of cookies they are – soft, chewy or crisp, large or small, fancy or plain – cookies are a treat most of us want to munch, nibble and snack on with a tall glass of milk.
     In 1937, a very special cookie was invented: the chocolate chip cookie. The recipe is on the package of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips. Your cookies can be special, too. Use the recipe on their package, but add a special or secret ingredient to the cookie dough. Some ideas are: M & M’s, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, mint chips, your favorite nuts, sprinkles or crushed candy canes.
     For chocolate chip cookie lovers with a big appetite, a 102-foot-wide cookie was baked that weighed 40,000 pounds in Flat Rock, NC in 2003! The ingredients in this world’s largest cookie included 6000 pounds of chocolate chips.
     Here is an easy recipe to make cinnamon dough ornaments to hang on your Christmas tree:
     Mix in a bowl one cup of cinnamon, ¾ cup applesauce and 2 T. white glue.
     Work the ingredients together with your hands into a ball, cover with plastic and let set for ½ hour.  Put out onto wax paper; lay a piece of wax paper on top of the mixture and roll with a rolling pin until 1/8 or ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. I use star, heart and snowflake shapes. Insert a straw near the top of the cookies to punch a hole for hanging. Carefully lift the cookies and place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for ½ hour, and then reduce the temperature to 175 degrees. I bake them for a total of 2 1/2 hours and turn them every ½ hour.  Let dry naturally for 2-3 days and turn them a couple of times each day.
     Do not eat! Insert a thin ribbon and hang the spicy smelling ornaments on your tree. After Christmas, store them in a plastic bag and bring them out every year to decorate your tree.

You can go here to see more instructions and pictures on how I make my cinnamon dough ornaments.
I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas!
I am eager for the start of the coming year.
I have stories to write and stories to submit!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Picture Books to Read Aloud

I am going to be reading to preschoolers next week at the library.
I only have fifteen minutes.

How do you decide what to read with so many wonderful picture books to choose from.

Do you have any suggestions?

I think children would like fun illustrations to hold their attention, repetitiveness so they can predict what will happen next, funny words or sounds they can repeat or say along with the reader,  good rhyming - all kids (and adults) love rhyming.

At the moment, I am considering these books:

I have even considered reading something I have written. That would be a good way to get a child's reaction to my work. But if I did that, I would have to get some illustrations to go along with my manuscript. Hmmm, I would have to work fast and maybe put pictures on a display board - what do you think? Any ideas?

I love the sparkle in a child's eyes and their laughter. Have you ever read to children before? 

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Picture Books in Honor of our Veterans

In honor of our veterans, I searched the internet and found these picture books:

The Wall
By Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ronald Himler
HMH 1992

A boy travels to The Wall with his father to find his grandfather's name.
Read more about the author here.

I have many veterans in my family, including my husband and my father (now deceased). I have visited The Wall in Washington, DC and I visited The Traveling Wall when it came here to Ripley, it is a very moving experience.  Read about my experience here.

The Poppy Lady: Monia Belle Michael and her Tribute to Veterans
By Barbara Walsh
Illustrated by Layne Johnson
Calkins Creek 2012

When American soldiers entered WWI, Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, almost single-handedly worked to establish the poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. Go here to read more about this book.

H is for Honor

H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet
By Devin Scillian
Illustrated by Victor Juhasz
Sleeping Bear Press 2006

Go here to read more about this book.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Picture Book Lists

There are many lists on the internet of top picture books.
Here are a few you can check out:

Teachers Picks: Top 25 Picture Books.
Caldecott Medal and Honor Books 1938-Present

The following is a great site - click on each title and it takes you to a page that talks about that  picture book:
Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results  

What are some of your favorite picture books?

 OwlMoon1 231x300 Top 100 Picture Books #30: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen            ClickClackMoo1 231x300 Top 100 Picture Books #39: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin  Olivia 300x287 Top 100 Picture Books #54: Olivia by Ian Falconer

  Happy Writing.

Posted by Janet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Writing Workspace

I do not have an office. I do not have a regular desk or a computer desk.

But I have 'my space.' Which is all I need to write.

Below is my old enamel top wooden desk:

This desk holds my laptop, my file folders for ideas, manuscripts, call outs and contests, tips for writing PBs and MGs, etc., my notepad, my books, etc. The pictures and mouse pad provide me with 'childlike' inspiration. There is a fold out poster stored beside of my desk for picture book brainstorming.

I just recently added this corkboard:

I will thumb tack my ideas on this during the month of November!
It currently has six new ideas posted on it!

I think this will work much better than keeping them in a folder or notebook. They will be in full  view at all times.  I will continue to keep my ideas there - whether they be ideas for PBs, columns or MGs even after PiBoIdMo is over.

What does your workspace look like? How many ideas have you came up with this month?

Go here to see links to other people's writing spaces.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Picture Book Month - Illustrator's Process

What is your favorite part of a picture book - the story or the pictures?
I love them both. With picture books, you can't have one without the other.
Well, I guess you can.  There are wordless picture books. But, being an  author, I tend to like picture books with words. How about you?

Words and pictures share top billing in my opinion.

I recently found on You Tube videos made by author/illustrator, Will Hillenbrand.

I particularly liked his video on the process of illustrating the picture book, Down on the Farm. Click here to watch.

Click here for a partial reading of the finished book.

Want to see more of his You Tube videos. Click here for a listing.

I think it is helpful for us wanna be picture book writers to see the process of writing and illustrating the picture book.

Mr. Hillenbrand has a great website. You can go here to visit and look around.

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Start of Picture Book Month and PiBoIDMo

This is the first day of PiBoIdMo and Picture Book Month!
Since yesterday was Halloween, I decided to post about the following Picture Book:

The Bumpy Little Pumpkin
by Margery Cuyler
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Scholastic 2005

The Bumpy Little Pumpkin by Margery Cuyler

In a picture book the illustrations are as important as the words.
The illustrations in this book are superb!

First Lines:
Little Nell lived with BIG Mama,
BIG Sarah, and BIG LIzzie in a great,
BIG house in a great, BIG woods.

But, according to Nell, things do not have to be BIG to be loved.

With all the BIG pumpkins to pick from their garden, Nell picks a bumpy little pumpkin. With help from her friends, including Crow,Cardinal and Sparrow, it is made into a jack-o'-lantern!

I loved this picture book.

Click here for a video on YouTube of The Bumpy Little Pumpkin.

Posted by Janet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween and Pumpkin Surprise!

Riddle: Which ghost is the best dancer? The Boogie Man!

For the October issue of Two-Lane Livin' I wrote Pumpkin Surprise!
Hope you enjoy reading this on Halloween.

  Pumpkin Surprise!

     “It’s Halloween,” said Sadie to her cat. “We need to carve jack-o-lanterns!”
     “Meow.” Pippin strolled back and forth and then pounced up on the window ledge, stretched her front legs and arched her back.  
     Sadie plopped her hat on her head. “Let’s gather pumpkins from my patch,” she said.
     She walked out the door of the cottage pulling Pippin behind her in a little red wagon. She shuffled through the frost covered gold and red leaves scattered upon the ground. The rustling noise alerted the critters that someone was near.
     The squirrels scampered up the tall oak trees. The mice scurried and hid beneath the brush pile. The crows, never afraid of anyone, sat upon the scarecrow’s arms and stared at the old lady and her cat.
     She looked at them and said, “Where are my pumpkins? Did you see who took them?”
     The shiny black crows shook their heads. “Caw! Caw!” Their voices floated through the crisp autumn air.
     “How will I greet the children on Halloween if I don’t have jack-o-lanterns, filled with flickering flames, on my front porch?”
     She searched and searched. The empty vines crawled over the ground and between the dried up cornstalks. At last she spied small ones, in the far corner of the field, hidden beneath the fallen leaves.
     “These will not do. They are not big enough to make jack-o-lanterns.”
     She sighed and picked them anyway. She placed them one by one in her wagon.
     “Meow.” Pippen pounced on top of the pile of pumpkins and rode back to the cottage.
     Sadie placed her finger on her pointy chin. “I have an idea,” she said.  
     The old lady gathered sugar and spices, eggs and vanilla, and everything tasty. Mouthwatering smells floated all through her kitchen.
     That evening they heard shouts of “Trick or treat! Trick or treat!”
     Sadie opened the door and Pippen ran out to greet the ghosts and goblins.
      “Happy Halloween!” they shouted. “We decided to treat you this year.  We picked and carved your pumpkins for you.”
     Her eyes sparkled when the costumed children greeted her with the jack-o-lanterns.  “Come in. Come in,” she said. “I made a treat for you, too. Pumpkin pies for everyone!”

Do you have a favorite Halloween story?


Monday, October 28, 2013

MMGM - Spooky Middle Grades

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I did a search for spooky Middle Grade Books.

I found three of the following.

The Case of the Graveyard Ghost
by: Michele Torrey
Sterling 2009

Who you gonna call to ghostbust a graveyard spook? Doyle and Fossey, that’s who! They’re on the job and ready to free a snobby girl from a tight situation, uncover the culprit who’s ruining some prize roses, nab a dangerous smuggler of rare animals, and of course reveal the truth about that pesky ghost!
Here is a link to the author’s site and more info about the book.

The Dead End
by Mimi McCoy
Scholastic          May 2010

Publisher’s synopsis: Casey Slater can’t believe her bad luck. It’s the summer before seventh grade, and instead of the perfect vacation she’d planned with her best friend, Casey is in a remote country town, where her parents are restoring an old, creaky, creepy house. Worst of all, everyone else in town thinks the old house is haunted. And soon Casey thinks so, too — a vase explodes, a heavy china cabinet falls over on its own — and it seems like the ghost doesn’t want them there. Casey thought she’d be dying of boredom, but now she’s scared to death!

The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root
by Christopher  Pennell
HMH Books for Young Readers
September 2013

This middle grade novel tells the story of a little girl who can only sleep during the day and is awake all night. She befriends a rat and gets pulled into the mysterious lives of the creatures of the woods of Whistle Root.

It is a fantasy filled with unforgettable, quirky characters  and imagery. It shows how one can find friends in the unlikeliest of places, such as windowsills, rabbit burrows and the library.

School Library Journal said - 
"Charming black-and-white illustrations add to the overall effect of the story, which will remind readers of beloved works by Kate DiCamillo and E. B. White. . . . It's all rather old-fashioned and quite lovely."

 I have not read these books, but thought I would post about them in case you or a child you know may want to read them  during this Halloween week.

For more middle grade fun, check the links on