Oh! The HORROR! “Highlights” of Books With Bite

This past week I was privileged to return to The Highlights Foundation for a workshop retreat on writing horror, called Books With Bite. Yep. Many of you don’t know this, but I’m working on a couple of YA novels along with my picture books…and once I saw the description and the brilliant authors who would be presenting, I knew I had to apply. I was thrilled to be accepted!

Highlights Dragon Spooky
Our Dragons couldn’t have been more excited to find this rock in the Highlights famous word garden.

People tend to throw around the term “fearless leaders” a lot, but I can honestly say that Nova Ren Suma and Micol Ostow literally fit the description.

Highlights nova & micol

As always, the folks at Highlights could not be more welcoming:

Highlights cabin 16

Highlights dessert
While my Dragons insisted on showing one of the more playful, festive desserts, the food served at Highlights is, well, one of the many HIGHLIGHTS…a 5-star farm-to table celebration of healthy yum three times a day!

Before we even got started, my Dragons and I got to meet the fantabulous author/illustrator Denise Fleming, who was an artist in residency. #buckletlist #fangirling

Denise & me

The first night, we enjoyed ice breakers and got to know each other. We’d all received 20 pages of each others’ manuscripts. It was so much fun to match the faces with the extraordinary minds of what had given me nightmares over the past few weeks, lol!

Then we hit the ground running the next morning, talking about what we’d enjoyed within each manuscript, and what we had questions about. To ensure everyone had adequate time, we discussed three manuscripts each morning. I learned so much from my new friends! Plus, each person received a one hour one-on-one with one of the mentors. Mine was Micol. It was enlightening not only to hear her comments, but to truly see how an editor reads. I received so much information, I think my brain began to ooze out my ears… (hey, I’m working on writing horror, give me a break here.) 😉

The grounds are breathtaking, and there was plenty of time to enjoy nature walks while digesting the comments. I took several.

highlights misty morning

highlight creek

Molly, the Highlights beagle, kept us on track:

highlights molly.png

And then, there was time to write. My Dragons found their own creative outlet:

Highlights dragons in sand

As might be expected, we did spend one night telling ghost stories. The moon was only too happy to accommodate:

Highlights moon

Luckily, I had my brave Dragons to protect me…highlights dragons afraid

Or not.

The cherry on top of this awesome workshop is that a group of illustrators were also enjoying a retreat, and welcomed me into their little fold one night at dinner. (I may have gushed a little…illustrators rock, and to be a part of their conversation was an honor.) My Dragons made friends with this little brownie, handcrafted by the incredible Chris Derby.

highlights Chris Derby & Brownie

So, to honor the rule of “3” (as many of us writers are apt to do):

Brain full.

Stomach full.

Heart full.

Tons of thanks, love & hugs to all who made this possible (including my hubby, who truly supports me in every way…)

highlights thankful.JPG

And now, I must write.

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Bitten (literally) by the Picture Book Bug

This morning, I got bit by the bug to return to a story I’ve revised over 100 times.

Literally.

No, I won’t post a picture of the itchy, rapidly swelling lump on my arm. But I will post a picture of the probable culprit:

spider.jpg

Isn’t she pretty?

You see, I’ve spent most of the summer working on a young adult novel (and it’s “horror” – go figure! All those years of reading Stephen King have had an effect…what can I say?) And I did write a new picture book manuscript featuring an elephant…

So this lovely little lady apparently wants me to return to her story. I can’t say she hasn’t been on my mind. Over 100 revisions means her tale is important to me. Because it’s about perseverance. Striving to live your dream no matter what the barriers. Which is what I believe children – of all ages – need to hear. To believe. To internalize.

Maybe her bite has given me amazing spidey powers. To spin the right words to make an editor or agent share the same passion that I do for this story. So we can inspire others as well.

And now, I must write.

Winter’s Coming…

whipples dragons snowman

I don’t know what happened to this summer. I blinked and poof! It disappeared faster than chocolate at a writer’s conference.

Luckily, Labor Day didn’t disappoint. The sun shone, the breeze whispered and the lake beckoned. We spent a precious five hours there, toes planted firmly in sand.

Of course Larry had to build one final castle for the season. After all, winter’s coming and the Dragons of the world (well, at least our little corner of it) need a nice place to live.

Labor Day castle Larry

Thankfully, he had help.

whipples wall

Larry shared his skills with them. They were worthy students.

whipples 2 boys larry

What I loved most about these brilliant young assistants was that while they helped, they had a long, involved discussion about which tower they would live in if they were dragons. Their words rang logical, yet filled with heartfelt caring. Their decisions personal, while at the same time sharing.

Perhaps the world needs to be a worthy student of theirs as well.

When A Dragon Moves In To BookFest PA: Celebrating the Arts

For me, the real “fireworks” start after July 4th.

I’m not talking about the hand-held sparklers, or the loud firecrackers, or even the color-splashed glittering sky.

I’m talking about the brilliance, the luminosity, the light, the love and the sheer joy inspired by art. This past weekend, I was privileged to attend three amazing festivals: The Central PA Festival of the Arts,

blog arts fest

People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts,

blog people's choice.jpg

and BookFestPA. blog bookfest logo.png

Larry and I spent Saturday sharing book – and Dragon! – love at BookFest:

bookfest larry set.JPG

We connected with author friends… (here I am with the amazingly talented Gayle C. Krause and Denise Kaminsky)

Bookfest gayle denise me

…book-loving friends… (fantastic volunteer Amy and brilliant organizer Maria Burchill of Schlow Centre Region Library, who took such great care of us!)

Bookfest maria amy

…and made a TON of new friends! (Yes! I finally got to meet BookFest organizer David Pencek & his adorable son!)

Bookfest jodi david son

Our Dragons received a lot of love.

shari woman's expression reading

BookFest customers reading

And found precious new homes.

Bookfest child reading dragon

Oh! How I wish I could share more pictures of the sweet little faces of Team Dragon, but I would never post a child’s face without their parent’s permission.

I guess it was no surprise that we found Dragons are “drawn” to edible art:

If you give a Dragon a cookie…?

Bookfest baby dragon.w cookie

Some Dragons are into “pop” culture:

arts fest dragon kettle corn

Although the arts festivals run mid-week through Sunday, our schedules only allowed us to have Sunday free. So we walked four miles of artist booths between the two. (It was heaven!)

Of course, since I ran Larry ragged, I treated him to ice cream:

Arts fest ice cream.JPG

Okay…um…that might have been mine. YUM! 🙂

And now, head and heart full to overflowing with inspiration…I must write.

Breaking News: A Dragon Moves Into WTAJ-TV’s Central PA LIVE

Baby Dragon Central PA live

This just in:

Dragon and I were invited to help spread a little book love in anticipation of BookFest PA 2017, to be held Saturday, July 15 from 10 AM to 4 PM under the tent in the parking lot of Schlow Library in State College, PA, in cooperation with The Central PA Festival of the Arts. The full interview can be found here. This year, BookFest PA will host a variety of amazing authors (and illustrators!) sharing picture books, novels, graphic novels, comics, nonfiction and more.

We had so much fun! Baby Dragon fan-dragoned over some of his favorite shows…

Baby Dragon Big Bang

Baby Dragon Stephen Colbert

…and the brilliant anchors & crew – check out all of their awards!

Baby Dragon Commentators Awards

Which made him think perhaps he’d like to be a news commentator when he grows up:

Baby Dragon WTAJ News

Tons of thanks, love and hugs to the fantabulous folks at BookFest PA, Schlow Library and WTAJ for setting this up and allowing us to share a little summer Dragon lovin’! Hoping to see you on July 15th!

And now, I must write. Hugs!

When A Dragon AGAIN Moves Into POLAND!

Sometimes our postal worker delivers bills (and admittedly, since I’m a writer, a few rejections.)

Other times, she delivers a new BABY!

Check out the new Polish edition of When A Dragon Moves In Again!

Polish Baby Dragon

*Tigger dances*

*squeals*

*tosses chocolate confetti*

Baby Dragon and I can’t stop hugging the sweetness!

Thanks, love & hugs to our friends in Poland for adopting both of our Dragons: When A Dragon Moves In and When A Dragon Moves In Again

Polish Both Dragons.JPG

…and (as ALWAYS) to Shari Dash Greenspan and everyone who works so hard in my Flashlight Press family to deliver such joy into my world…into the world.

And now, I must write.

 

Life is A Box of Crayola Crayons

Forrest Gump told us life was like a box of chocolates. Indeed, you never know what you’ll get.

And forgive the cliché, but it’s also important to remind ourselves, especially when life is moving like a high-speed train, to take time to smell the flowers.

So, after eating (way too many) Easter chocolates, I needed both physically and emotionally to take a walk and seek out some blossoms.

What I found was that sometimes life mirrors a box of Crayola crayons:

b tulips

b cardinal

b pink closeup tree

b purple red

b pink flowers

b dandylion.JPG

b firey sunset

*sneaks one more piece of chocolate*

And now, refreshed, renewed and re-inspired, I must write.