Monday, March 25, 2013

Escape The Weather with LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! by Nancy Viau

When life is not ideal, it can be nice to lose yourself in a book.  And with Winter Storm Virgil flurrying all over NYC, I need to do just that. 

Where is Spring? 

I long for luscious green grass so deep you can get lost in.  And flecks of brilliant flowers in aromatic gardens.  Guess I have to wait...and lose myself in a book.

My recommendation to escape the "Spring that won't come" Blues is to delve into Anna Vojtech's glorious illustrations of LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! written by Nancy Viau.  Set among blue streams, grassy fields and colorful leaves (remember those? they grow on trees), this book is the perfect antidote for those of us who need to remember how wonderful Mother Nature can be.

I had the great honor of writing a Teacher's Guide for this gem of a book.  It's an affirming story about baby animals who take great lengths to accomplish goals of reaching, hunting or flying.  It reminds our little ones of the determination needed to try new things and succeed!

Written in rhyme, Viau's story of encouragement offers a text whose very pattern is predictable, yet a great stepping stone for young readers to read on their own.  With a couplet per spread, the words and illustrations build a simply beautiful world which is inviting for all.

Peppered throughout is a lyrical refrain: --"Friends of forest, / field, and stream, / Keep trying on your own. / Be proud today. / Have fun and play. / In time you will be grown".  What a beautiful message.

So what do you think, Spring?  Can you do it?  I believe you can.  Strive!  And soon you will be saying LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! too.

One of the best aspects of writing Teacher's Guides is that I get to know and have personal relationships with some really cool authors, like Nancy Viau.

I recently asked Nancy a series of fun questions a la "Inside the Actor's Studio".  Here are her answers.  Thanks for playing along, Nancy!

What is your favorite word? Effervescent, because it's fun to say and I never get to use it in a children's book.
What is your least favorite word? Unfortunately, because nothing good ever follows that word in a sentence.

What makes you happy? It's a toss-up between the smell of the Atlantic Ocean in the springtime and the fluffiness of fresh snow at the very top of a Colorado mountain.

What makes you sad?
Selfish people.

What sound do you love? Uproarious laughter from my kids.

What sound do you hate? The crack of thunder when the storm is immediately overhead.

What is your favorite time of day? 10:00 PM

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? CEO of a major corporation.

What profession would you not like to do? Accountant.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"Fortunately, your mom, dad, and brother knew you'd get here eventually, so they saved you a spot."

Nancy Viau grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but now lives near a forest, field, and stream in New Jersey.  She loves to hike and bike on quiet trails, and often stops to watch the animals work and play.  Viau is the author of two other nature-inspired books:  Storm Song and Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head.  Find out more at

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Creative Habit: #12 "The Long Run"

On Monday evening I had the great pleasure of attending a live talk with Tomie DePaola at Pratt.  I was excited, thinking back to the days in my elementary school library when we would all beg to have Strega Nona read to us.  To me, Tomie is a legend.

Throughout the interview he gave insights to his incredible life and career (this includes 250 books, 8 honorary doctorates, and over $15 million in book sales). 

Unfortunately, they took some questions from the audience but didn't have time for a lot.  One of my friends who attended with me said, "I wanted to ask him what the key to a long career is."

A long career.  That is what we all want, right?  But what does that mean.

I finally was able to finish Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life". In the final chapter, The Long Run, she addresses this idea of a long sustaining career.

"I was 58 years ols when I finally felt like a 'master choreographer'.  The occasion was my 128th ballet.  Why did it take 128 pieces before I felt this way? A better question would be, Why not?  What's wrong with getting better as you get more work under your belt?"

She goes on to state that there is no long run without devotion, commitment, persistence.

"My heroes are the artists whose bodies of work are consistently surprising, consistently fresh.  They all had stunning early triumphs, and they kept getting better through their middle and later years."

Perhaps there is no better example to this than the 8 year career, 13 albums of the Beatles. 

Or give Bowie's newest album a listen.  He doesn't disappoint.

But what we need to have this kind of staying power is the devotion to craft.  The commitment to being an artist.  And the persistence to give it a go even when it is not easy.

Its easier said than done.  But the creative habit, having a routine makes this possible.  It feeds us.  Sustains us.

Tharp concludes the book with a story about her company in the days that followed September 11, 2001. 

"As the chaos of 9/11 developed, I thought about working with my dancers that day, but decided it was impossible, for so many reasons.  I phoned all of the dancers to check on their welfare, and I told them there was no obligation to attend rehearsal the next day.  Yet they all showed up, ready for work, arriving in a shaken Manhattan, with its bridges and tunnels only just reopened, from Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey and Westchester County to the north.

We could have easily become absorbed by the tragedy, lost in it, and paralyzed by it, but what came back to us was the instinct to dance.  I began as a dancer, and in those days of pain and shock I went back to where I started.  Even in the worst of times, such habits sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, life us up.  I cannot think of a more compelling reason to foster the creative habit."

I finish this book--this series--a very different person than I was.  During Chapter 1, I was frustrated in an overwhelming job and struggling to find 2 minutes to focus on my writing career.  Weeks would go by and I would not have written a word.  I felt dried up.

However, I have had the glorious opportunity to have focused solely on my writing career for the past 3 months--to the day.  (I stopped working at my job on December 21st).  And yes, I was lucky to be able to do this...but it won't last forever.  I am currently interviewing for my next job.

But I have learned how to form a habit of maximizing my minutes and finding the time to write daily. This is something that I treasure and know that I will be able to carry on into my next job.  It just took some stepping back to figure out how to make it all work.  I now realize that I need to write every day.  I need to work on forwarding my writing career to feel alive.  And, like Dorothy Gale, I had the ability to do it all along...but now its a habit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I've been Tagged!

I was recently tagged by Julie Rowan-Zoch for "Tagging Thyme".  Thanks, Julie!

I have to answer 11 questions then tag 11 people who would be willing to answer weird questions.  So here ya go....

1)  What is the strangest things you have ever eaten in public? 
I am sure when I was a kid I ate a booger or two, but since being a nanny I realize that is not really strange.  Lots of kids do it.  Hmmm....I am not a picky eater, but I am not sure I am a daring eater, either.  In fact, I could NEVER watch Fear Factorfor that reason.  So I am going to go with ostrich...even though that isn't that weird.

2)  If you had to go on an adventure with elves, dwarves, or hobbits who would you take and why?
This would be when I kick myself for never reading Tolkien or playing Dungeons and Dragons.  I am sure they all have their pros and cons, but I wouldn't know who.  I'll go with hobbits.  I used to love to watch the 1977 animated Hobbit movie when I was a kid.  I still know some of the songs.  Might be fun for a little sing-a-long with them on our adventure!

3)  You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next?
Put it on my lap.  I have always been good at following directions.  But I might have to ask "why" once I do so.

4)  If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
Coffee. I LOVE coffee. 

5)  In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today? (comedian)
Carol Burnett.

6)  If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be?
"Turn off your television.   There are much better things to do with your life."  And then I would list as many things as possible that are BETTER uses of time than tv. 

7)  What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever?
I like taking long walks.  Holding hands.  Doesn't matter where...just who I am with.

8)  If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why?
Rick Springfield.  I practiced kissing when I was a kid by kissing my Rick Springfield poster.  Just seems right that we would make it official at least once.  Then I'll have closure.

9)  What is the worst song you have ever heard?
Without giving it much thought....I am going to say Bruce Springsteen's cover of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town".  He sounds awful.  He's basically yelling.  Not sure why this has become a favorite of so many. 

10)  If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE BROOKLYN!  But since you are asking, I am going to go with California.  I love the weather.  I love that it smells like things growing. 

11)  Who- in your opinion- was the greatest person to ever live?

Hands down, Jesus Christ. 

Okay – now the following people are cordially invited to answer 11 questions and tag 11 others:

Joanna Marple
Kathy Ellen Davis
Genevieve Petrillo
Tara Lazar
Patricia Nozell
Lauri Meyers
Sylvia Liu
Jennifer Young
Kimberly Sabatini
Ame Dyckman
Alison Hertz

Friday, March 15, 2013

FOOD FIGHT: The Winners!

Creative people have a zillion flitting ideas throughout any given day.  Only sometimes they actually decide to act on one of them.  That is what happened last September when I was struck with the idea of FOOD FIGHT. 

After a one-on-one critique with Dr. Mira Reisberg it occured to me that although I absolutely love onomatopoeia I hardly ever remember to use it in my own writing.  That needed to change.

I came up with the idea of FOOD FIGHT as a way of promoting and reminding the writing community about the fun and beauty of onomatopoeia.

I knew it would be fun.  But I didn't know if anyone would participate. 

Enter 11 brave bloggers and 21 food flingers who took my idea and literally ran with it.  The creativity was astounding. 

We had stories that varied in setting from a car to a school cafeteria to sleep-away camp.  We had fights between farmers and bunnies, witches and princesses, cows and sheep.  And the choices of food to fling were hysterical, from rotted and spoiled food, to a bucket full of worms, to even a chipmunk in a forest fight.  There was even a very creative intergalactic food fight with words worthy of Dr. Seuss and weapoinzed food!  And who didn't love Timmy's grandma who definitely celebrated her birthday with a BANG, or should we say SPLAT?

You can read all of the entries here.

Thank you to each one of you who participated.  I definitely plan to run this as an annual event in conjunction with World Read Aloud Day. 

Also, I plan to create an ONOMATOPOEIA Word List which will include all of the fun words you created during FOOD FIGHT ~ like one of my favorites...BUNKARUNKADUNG!  I hope this list will be a living list and will be a reference guide for writers.  Stay tuned for that.

Now on to the winners.  And trust me, it was NOT easy.

First we have the winner of the Most Food Flung.  This person commented multiple times on each story and definitely was community personified. 


She wins a copy of KA-BOOM!: A Dictionary of Comic Book Words, Symbols and Onomatopoeia.  I hope it is a wonderful reference for you.  Watch out, everyone.  She's well-armed for next year. 

Be sure to email me your address at, Donna.

And now the winner of The Best Story. 

This was very tough.  As I said, the creativity was overwhelming and definitely had me rolling on the floor. 

The judging finally came down to the story which was not only creative in its setting, scenario and characters, but also set up an incredible challenge for the community, asking those who "grew" the story to be extra creative and write in rhyme.  This story elevated the FOOD FIGHT to a level of community building I had not intended.  So cool!  And that winner is

Mamma D wins free registration in the Picture Book Academy's self-paced e-course "Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books" which is taught by Marsha Diane Arnold and Dr. Mira Reisberg.

Please reach out to me at so we arranged your prize.


Congrats to the winners.  And once again, thank you to all of our participants.  I hope it was truly a good time and we hope to play with you again next year! 

I also want to thank Julie Rowan-Zoch for our fabulous badge that kinda screams cafepress.  We might need swag next year. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Today is the Day ~ Will You Help?

Today is the day, folks!  And this coming Sunday is my first 1/2 marathon of the season.

This spring I have committed to running in 4 Half Marathons (the NYC Half, the Nike Women's Half in DC, the MORE Magazine Half in NYC and the Brooklyn Half).

Although I do enjoy running to a certain extent, that is not WHY I run. I run because I want to end blood cancers.

When I was growing up, I watched a childhood friend lose his battle with leukemia. I ran the NYC Half with Team in Training (the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) in 2011 in his memory.

Thanks for the efforts of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, along with Team in Training, childhood Leukemia is no longer a death sentence. But there is so much that still needs to be done in regards to research, treatment, and patient services.

Now I choose to run for those children who are still fighting and I am running in honor of 4 year old Meredith ("Merry").

To help my fundraising efforts, my dear friend Suzi Shelton, kindie rocker extraordinaire, is having a benefit concert TODAY ~ Wednesday, March 13th at 6:30pm EST. Tickets are only $10! Please consider stopping by! Its online, so you enjoy from the comfort of your own home.
Watch while you get dinner ready!

We will be raffling off many amazing prizes throughout the interactive broadcast, including

I would LOVE to have you join us.  Show some love. All proceeds with be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Your donations will help fuel me on all 13.1 miles Sunday and will show support to Merry as she continues her fight. 
Already bought your ticket?  Leave a comment and let me know.  :)

Can't make it but want to show some love anyway? Stop by my donation page. Even $20 helps!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Read the Completed FOOD FIGHT Stories Here!

Phew!  Anyone else exhausted?  What a fun time! 

Thank you ALL who participated in the First Annual FOOD FIGHT!  And an extra special thank you to the 12 bloggers who allowed us to FLING and SPLAT all over their pages.  They have had the weeknd to clean up and today you can read their completed stories here.

Blogger Participants, please link your story below. 

Judging will start this week with a winner announced Friday!



Friday, March 8, 2013

Last Day to Fling Your Food! FOOD FIGHT closes at Midnight EST

Sad, but true.  Our FOOD FIGHT comes to an end at midnight tonight (EST).  So, grab that last spoonful of chocolate pudding or that last bowl of creamed corn and make it count!

It's not too late to win the coveted "Most Food Flung" award. 

Your comment needs to grow the story.

Read the posted story and all of the comments that precede you. Then, post your comment. Be sure to build on and further the existing story. Your comment should flow. The story should read as if it was written by one person when read from beginning to end.

ALSO, your comment needs to include at least one word of onomatopoeia and one thrown item of food. Your onomatopoeia must be a word that has not been used already in that story, as well. That's right. Be creative.

You can comment more than once on a story, however, you cannot fight with yourself...meaning, you cannot follow one of your own comments...someone else needs to comment before you can comment again. Have fun.

To my Participating Bloggers:

Over the weekend (March 9th and 10th) blog owners need to wrap up their story. 

Clean up any comments that do not contribute to the story (you know, those "I heart this post" comments). 

I am going to ask you to repost the story in its entirity in a brand new post. 

Create a satisfying ending.  Tie up any loose ends.  Flex those creative writing chops.

Judging starts on Monday and the prize for "Best Story" will be awarded the following week.  Remember, the prize is spectacular!  Free registration in the Picture Book Academy's new self-paced e-course on "Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books". 

You MUST be a Follower of this Blog to be eligible for prizes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Next Big Thing: A Blog Hop

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop celebrates what writers are working on or what they have coming up next. Welcome to my stop!
I was tagged by picture book author extraordinaire, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, author of many favorites, such as Chicks Run Wild, Hampire and Pirate Princess.  See what her next big thing is HERE.
Obviously my post will be a little different from Sudipta’s as my journey is in a different place.  You see, I am pre-published and have just recently started to “put myself out there” in hopes of finding an agent.  That being said, I have one submission-ready manuscript that I am currently shopping around.  I suppose that is what I will talk about here.

1: What is the working title of your book?  LYLE AND THE PENGUINAUTS
2: Where did the idea come from for the book? Never underestimate the creative energy that can be found on Facebook.  LYLE AND THE PENGUINAUTS was inspired by a bad pick-up line that a friend of mine had posted.  Truly.  A picture book inspired by a bad bar pick-up line.  Who’d thunk it?
3: What genre does your book come under?  Picture Book.
A Lego creation inspired by Lyle
by BKNY Bricks
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I have always thought of Lyle as I kind of Buster Keaton-like character.  In fact, in the very early drafts of this story, I did not have Lyle saying anything for that very reason.  He just putters around getting things done.  But even now, I sort of think of his dialogue in thought bubbles.  He is a very internal character.  As for the other penguins, no one in particular stands out.  But I would love to hear the line “Where’s the fish, Lyle?” spoken by John Ratzenberger or Brad Garret (although he would be a little tall for a penguin).
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?   I think I am going to pass on this question, not because I can’t write it.  But because the book is not under contract and I don’t want to give up the plot.  Guess you’ll just have to wait for this one.  J
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? None of the above.  But I’m gonna  keep on keeping on. 
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I wrote the first draft of my manuscript back in January 2012 for the 12x12 Online Picture Book Challenge.  I sat on the couch in my fiance’s art studio and wrote it in about 2 hours.  Fast forward 13 months, countless critiques and revisions and it is finally done!
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? LYLE AND THE PENGUINAUTS has been called FLIGHT OF THE DODO by Peter Brown meets Kevin Henkes’ KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? As I said earlier, I initially got inspired by the bad pick-up my friend posted on Facebook.  That little line sparked so many visuals in my head. That’s how it always works with me.  I can have a zillion ideas in a day, but when one sparks an entire movie of visuals to play out, I just have to get it down on paper.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It’s a silly fantasy.  As a writing teacher of mine said of an early draft, “this has the Marcie stamp of humor and absurd joy.” That is what I hope to bring to all of my stories:  A sense of wonder.  A sense of adventure.  A sense of humor.  All packaged in a book to be shared at the most tender of moments…those between an adult and a child.

Thanks for checking out what I’m working on! Next week be sure to stop by the blog of author Nancy Viau who has an amazing Spring ahead with the release of TWO picture books!  You won’t want to miss that!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WRAD13: Reading Aloud Builds Community

"Read-aloud is the common thread that ties together all of the listeners in the classroom. It gives them books in common, authors in common, stories in common, and characters in common. Read-aloud is when we think together, laugh together, and sometimes cry together.

Read-aloud is a movie theater where everyone in the audience hears the same soundtrack, even though the screen and the pictures are inside each head."

 ~ Mary Lee Hahn, Stenhouse Publishers on World Read Aloud Day 2012

(read Mary's blog post in its entirity here.

Today at The Write Routine we continue our FOOD FIGHT by building community and allowing others to "grow" our stories and fling as much food as they can through comments.

I am thrilled to say that we have 12 amazing blog participants who have cleverly started the story for you.  Now its your turn!

FOOD FIGHT Rules of Engagement:
1)  March 4th til March 8th (midnight EST) ~ Comment on as many of the Food Fight stories as possible. Your comment needs to grow the story.

Read the posted story and all of the comments that precede you. Then, post your comment. Be sure to build on and further the existing story. Your comment should flow. The story should read as if it was written by one person when read from beginning to end.

ALSO, your comment needs to include at least one word of onomatopoeia and one thrown item of food. Your onomatopoeia must be a word that has not been used already in that story, as well. That's right. Be creative.

We are creating community here. Anyone can participate. Comment on as many stories throughout the week as possible.

You can comment more than once on a story, however, you cannot fight with yourself...meaning, you cannot follow one of your own comments...someone else needs to comment before you can comment again. Have fun.

2) Over the weekend (March 9th and 10th) blog owners need to wrap up their story with one last comment. Make sure the ending is satisfying. It should feel like the story is defnitely concluded. Flex those creative writing chops.

3) There will be 2 prizes. One prize will go to the "Most Food Flung", meaning the person who commented/participated the most. Another prize will be given to the owner of the blog with "Best Story Overall" to be decided on by our judges You MUST be a Follower of this Blog to be eligible for prizes.

* A special note to Blog Participants, please keep the comments portion of your blogs clear of any comments that do not add to the story.  Its nice when people comment with praise or encouragement, but for the sake of the "flow", please delete these comments.

FOOD FIGHT Participant Stories:

Monday, March 4, 2013

FOOD FIGHT!: Start Your Stories

It's here!  The Write Routine's First Annual FOOD FIGHT! in celebration of World Read Aloud Day.

So what do you do?

If you have a blog, create a post in which you start a story. This story should have a clear setting and at least one clear character. Set the scene. Be creative. It can be anywhere and anything.

There is no word minimum or maximum.  But remember, I am a kidlit let's keep it clean (until we start throwing food, of course).

Write the story up to the moment when a food fight breaks out. And then stop.

Publish your post, enter the link below...and then sit back.

If you don't have a blog, relax...your participation will be needed too.  Read full FOOD FIGHT instructions for participation here.

Remember, you MUST be a Follower of this blog to be eligible for prizes, including FREE registration in the Picture Book Academy's self-paced e-course "Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books." 

FOOD FIGHT! Participant Stories: