AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? with Dawn Prochovnic

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Dawn Babb Prochovnic as we celebrate the release of her darling companion picture books WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? both illustrated by Jacob Souva and both published by West Margin Press. Congratulations! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE, not just FUN, but truly INSPIRING FACTS about the books from the author herself.

FIVE Fun Facts About Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? & Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?

By Dawn Prochovnic

FUN FACT #1 Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? was inspired by the antics of my son, then a toddler, now a senior in high school. 

There was a day when my son was being particularly silly, running through the house with a diaper on his bottom, a bandana on his head, and a pirate’s patch over one eye. He looked at me with an ornery twinkle in his uncovered eye, and asked in his best, pirate-y gruff toddler voice, “Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?”  I knew immediately that was the title for a book, and I started drafting a manuscript soon after. It took many years and many revisions to get this story just right, but what I continue to love about it is that each time I read it, I am instantly transported back to that memorable moment shared with my son, when he first posed that silly question to me. 

FUN FACT #2 Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? emerged out of a writing exercise.

My pirate manuscript was a crowd-pleaser at open mics at writing conferences, and it received several close looks from different editors and publishers, but it had yet to sell. Eventually, I decided to completely reimagine the story with another main character. In 2015, I was invited to contribute a story to a beautiful picture book anthology called Oregon Reads Aloud. The primary submission guideline was that every story in the book needed to relate to Oregon in some fashion. I took a close look at my work-in-progress file, and after some encouragement from one of my critique partners, I decided to “Oregon-ize” a “first-day-of-school” story that had gotten a few editorial nibbles, but that also hadn’t sold. I LOVED the experience of revising within a structured framework. Ideas for clever revisions that fit within the Oregon theme and within my overall plot structure and rhyme pattern came relatively easily. Happily, the story was accepted for inclusion in the anthology, and I had a refreshed publication credit under my belt and a renewed sense of confidence in my writing ability.   


A couple of years later, as a writing exercise, I challenged myself to experiment with westernizing my pirate story. Unfortunately, my attempts fell flat. I eventually came to realize that I was essentially inserting a random cowboy into my pirate’s story. I needed to do some deeper work on character development. Then I had a new idea: What about a cowgirl

I found myself immediately transported back to a time when my college-aged daughter was in grade school, and her wardrobe included a bright pink pair of cowgirl boots. I paged through old photos and found the one I was looking for: A photo of my daughter dressed-up for her western-themed grade school carnival. I finally had the kernel of a new character in my mind’s eye. This character was unique and separate from the pirate character that I couldn’t let go of, and she had her own story to tell. Yee-Haw!

FUN FACT #3 I went from having no contract offers on the table for my “potty books” to having two simultaneous contract offers on the table–one for the pirate story and the other for the cowgirl story. 

Once I finished my cowgirl story, I identified a list of publishers that would be a good fit and started the process of submitting this new story. I had not submitted my pirate story in quite some time, and unbeknownst to me, it was going through the acquisition channels at a New York publishing house. Seemingly suddenly, I had publishing offers from two different publishers on the table, each primarily interested in one of the two books. Soon, both publishers indicated they would like to acquire both books and publish them as companion pieces, so I needed to decide which of the two publishing houses I wanted to work with and begin negotiating a contract. I reached out to a handful of agents on my agent prospect list to see if anyone would help me navigate this opportunity. I only heard back from one, and she graciously declined. I then reached out to a handful of authors, booksellers, and librarians in my personal and professional networks to seek input and advice. Once I decided that West Margin Press (then called Graphic Arts Books) was the best fit for my vision for the books, I turned to the Authors Guild to help me identify the contract terms that were most important to me. 

Although I certainly would have welcomed representation during this process, I learned so much along the way, and I don’t regret how it all turned out. I’m very comfortable with the decisions I made, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience of working with West Margin Press. That said, I continue to have deep admiration for the publisher I didn’t get to work with–and I continue to hold hope that we will land on another project that is a good fit. 

FUN FACT #4 I used a HEAP of sticky notes to help me organize my thoughts and ideas during the editorial process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? 

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big fan of sticky notes. I use sticky notes to help me prioritize competing to-do’s and organize larger projects, and I’ve taught many others to do the same in the workshops I teach. I have them plastered near my front door to remind me to bring a particular something with me when I leave the house. I have them in my car to remind me of errands I need to run. I leave them on the kitchen table to let my kids know where I’ve gone and when I’ll be back, and I have them in wild disarray all over my desk with scribbles of story ideas, to-do’s, and phone numbers. Every so often (truthfully, not often enough), I consolidate the notes scattered on my desk to one or two notes, and start anew. 

I heavily leaned on sticky notes during the revision process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? to help me organize my thoughts and the characters’ dialogue. After the editing process was completed for Cowgirl, I wrote out the text of the story on sticky notes. The story is told in dialogue bubbles, so I used different colors to indicate main character, supporting character, etc. I then did the same for the (yet to be edited) Pirate story, leaving blank sticky notes for dialogue that had not yet been written or that needed to be revised to align with the structure and tone of the Cowgirl story. I find that sticky notes makes it easier to revise/move text, and it creates a visual point of reference to assess the pacing of the story. 

FUN FACT #5 Helping create songs for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does A Cowgirl Go Potty? may just be the most fun I’ve had yet! 

Last year, as a gift to my husband for our 30th wedding anniversary, I wrote the lyrics for a song and worked with a singer/songwriter who wrote the music and recorded the song  (You can listen to the song and read a blog post that tells the story behind the song here. The process reminded me how much I love being a part of “music.” Whenever I see live music, mostly in small, local venues, not only do I enjoy the experience of listening, but I find myself wishing I were on the stage performing with the artists. I’ve long joked with friends that I’d like to be part of a “girl band” (whatever that means), saying I play a mean tambourine and could sing back-up (I played the drums in middle school and can still keep a pretty decent beat… and I regularly lead songs in my parent/child “sing and sign” classes). 

This past January, as I was making goals for the coming year, I realized that I was making this “joke” more and more often, and that I really wasn’t joking–I DID want to be part of something musical.

So …. I started reaching out to my personal and professional networks, (and in some cases perfect strangers), and eventually was introduced to two different singer/songwriter/performers. They each have completely different work styles and musical styles, but what they have in common is that they are both wonderful musicians and sincerely good people, that I now call friends. I collaborated with these musicians to create a companion children’s song for each book. In one case I wrote all the lyrics, in the other I co-wrote the lyrics. In both cases, the musicians wrote the music and performed and recorded the songs, which are works of art in their own right. I couldn’t be any more proud about how the songs turned out. 

The music for the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? song was written and performed by AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, with Annie Lynn, Walt Wilczewski, and Chris Arms, and starring Red Beard The Pirate, a.k.a. Alexander Wilczewski. 

You can listen to our song by viewing the animated book trailer that illustrator Jacob Souva created for our book:

The song for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? was written and performed by Singer/Songwriter/Performing Musician, Marshall Mitchell.

You can listen to our song by viewing the Cowgirl book trailer here: https://youtu.be/VCC90qkNk7I

The song-writing process was SO. MUCH. FUN! … I can’t wait to do it again!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Laura! I really enjoyed thinking about and writing about Five Fun Facts related to my new books. 

About the Author: Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist, and she is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored as a 2015 Oregon Library Supporter of the Year by the Oregon Library Association. She is a frequent presenter at schools, libraries and educational conferences, and the founder of SmallTalk Learning, which provides American Sign Language and early literacy education. Dawn loves to travel and has visited thousands of potties across the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two kids, two cats, and a feisty dog. Learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DawnProchovnic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DawnProchovnicAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dawnprochovnic

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Hillside Avenue School!

I spent a delightful couple of hours Monday morning visiting with the K-2nd graders at Hillside Avenue School. After introducing myself and sharing a couple of the sparks (real-life things that happened to my own kids) that inspired the story, I read them LOVE IS KIND, pausing occasionally to reflect on how the text and the illustrations work together to tell the story. I also challenged them to give me a nod when we got to the parts of the story that were inspired by real-life events. (Hint: They had to do with the tooth fairy and a floating five dollar bill! If this intrigues you, you’ll just have to read the story.)

Afterwards, using sketches, galleys and more, I took them on the journey a picture book takes from inspiration to publication. And all along the way, I challenged them to think about how they, too, are writers and illustrators and how the stories we create just keep getting better and better when we take those original sparks and play and play with them through multiple rounds of revision until they sparkle. Finally, we closed with a Q&A where they impressed me with their thoughtful questions.

This event helped kick off the school’s Week of Respect, a national occasion that is celebrated in schools nationwide. And since love and kindness are two thoughtful ways one can show respect, LOVE IS KIND seemed a perfect pick.

Thank you, teachers and students for a great visit. And a special thanks to the school’s very kind librarian for arranging the visit. What a fun way to start the week!

Happy reading and writing to all!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts About TWO New Books with BROCK EASTMAN

I always enjoy meeting authors through social media and was delighted to connect recently with Brock Eastman who has written not just picture books/board books but also middle grade. He’s here today to share FIVE FUN facts about his two newest releases for littlest readers, Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound both published by Harvest House. The publisher sent me a review copy of Mommy’s Favorite Smell so I could have a full sense for his books. I’ve never read a book that focuses so exclusively on smell! FUN! I hope you enjoy the post. Happy sniffing!

FIVE Fun Facts About Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound

By Brock Eastman

FUN FACT #1: My kids inspire me.

My daughter asked me, “Is this your favorite sound?” as she moved a slinky back and forth in her little hands.
“No that’s not my favorite sound,” I said.
“What’s your favorite sound?” she asked.
“Kinley, I love you,” I said.
“Daddy, I love you too,” she repeated.
I smiled and said, “That is my favorite sound!”


And that is how Little Lion came to be. After ten years and many drafts, Daddy’s Favorite Sound found a home with Harvest House. And soon there were two books, one for Daddy and one for Mommy. 

FUN FACT #2: My wife inspires me too.

All the credit for the second book’s idea, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, goes to my wife. We were driving back from a date talking about what Mommy’s Favorite could be and she shared one her favorite moments as a mom with me, and that was it. We are excited to share what Mommy’s Favorite Smell is to us, and we think you’ll probably agree. But to find out, you’ll have to read the book aloud to your kids or grandkids or classroom.

FUN FACT #3: Reading wasn’t my thing, and neither was writing.

I despised reading when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to enjoy reading. And with a degree in marketing, writing never occurred to me as something I might do. But God opened some doors and next thing I knew I had a 5-book contract for a middle grade series called The Quest for Truth, in fact the final book (Hope) released in July. From there I’ve continued to create new stories.

FUN FACT #4: Illustrator David Miles is amazing.

I met David Miles the illustrator for Daddy’s Favorite Sound and Mommy’s Favorite Smell through a story I wrote for Clubhouse magazine. I wrote a story called Waste Deep, which was connected loosely to The Quest for Truth galaxy. Clubhouse magazine selected David to illustrate the story, and soon he brought my story to life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

FUN FACT #5: Readers…Parents…Imagination

I hope parents will read my stories to their soon-to-be-readers while snuggling up together with their kids, And I hope that as kids hear these stories, their imaginations will be sparked and they’ll want to read more and more. 

 Brock Eastman has a degree in Marketing and works for Compassion International. Previously he was a producer and podcast host for Adventures in Odyssey. He is the author of The Quest for Truth series, Daddy’s Favorite Sound, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, Bedtime on Noah’s Ark, Sages of Darkness series, and Imagination Station series; Showdown with the Shepherd. He writes articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. Magazines. He loves reading stories to his four kids each night.

Author Website: BrockEastman.com

Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/Brock-Eastman/e/B005FZUM4Y/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eastmanbrock/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/author_brockeastman/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bdeastman

And the Winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway,  a brand new copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS is…

Kim P!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you today so we can get the book to you.

Thank everyone who took the time to comment on this week’s post. Happy reading and writing, all!

FAITH, HOPE, STRENGTH: Thoughts on BLESSINGS Given and Received

It’s been almost six years since my mother, whose lovely banner still graces this blog, passed away.  And though I no longer mourn her loss in the intense way I did in the months following her death, every so often, something catches me – takes me by surprise- blessing me anew with memories of how faith-filled and strong she was —even the midst of struggle.

The blessing happened again recently as I was sorting through a desk drawer. This particular drawer was stuffed with old journals, letters and photos and, in an effort to thoughtfully thin the contents, I pulled everything out so I could sort into keep and toss piles. That’s when I discovered this: 

I knew what it was immediately – one of my mother’s many sketchbooks, but I wasn’t sure exactly why it was in this drawer, since all the other contents were assorted papers of mine.

I have several sketchbooks of hers and they are all similar – a blend of notes to herself to remember – say – to pick up milk at the store – and sketches she made while sitting in concerts or coffee shops or parks. 

I opened this sketchbook gingerly and it was an instant peek into her soul.  Turning the pages, one by one, my heart filled with love for the hand that had etched each quick sketch and stylized ink creation, for they all reminded me of her. Here are some samples:

Then I turned the page and wow, just wow! Right before my eyes was the answer to a question I’d been longing to confirm for years —and regretting that I had not written down.  It was like an answered prayer —and a renewed blessing to me.

In the spring of 2012, six months before my mother was diagnosed with ALS, but when she was starting to suspect something wasn’t quite right because she was struggling to regain her strength after back surgery, despite intense physical therapy sessions at the gym, she felt overcome by fear and anxiety. So one morning, during her prayer time, she asked God to please grant her faith, hope, and strength for the days ahead. 

When she arrived at the gym she was in for a surprise.  Her regular therapist was not in that day. Instead, a new therapist, one she had never seen before, greeted her. There was nothing particularly different about him. He was just an ordinary guy, but he was kind and sweet with my mom and very soon she noticed three special things about him. First, he had two crosses around his neck (FAITH!).  Second, he had big tattoo on his right bicep that said HOPE!  And, third, as my mom explained to me afterwards, he was very, very strong (STRENGTH!). 

I remember the joy in my mom’s voice as she described this encounter to me, for she immediately saw God in the moment —using that therapist to bring her the promise of FAITH, HOPE and STRENGTH that she so longed for.  And, given my mother’s sense of humor, it arrived in the perfect package.  

It brought her such joy, indeed, that, later that day, she sketched it into her notebook —a soul-nourishing reminder that God hears us when we cry out to Him, and that if we are listening, and waiting expectantly, He will answer. 

Those drawings were primarily for feeding her soul, of course, but my re-discovering them also fed my soul. For me, and I hope for you, too, her sketches are a much needed reminder not to underestimate the power of the still, small voice of God to speak to you in the midst of your struggles – most likely in the way you least suspect – such as through presence of this kind therapist whose appearance, which reflected all three attributes my mother had prayed for that day, was just what she needed.  

Here’s my mind-boggling (at least to me), closing thought.  When that therapist got dressed that day, I’m sure he had no idea that God would use his very presence to bless a worn and discouraged woman who needed a little boost of encouragement.

Think about it. Maybe this very week, or this very day, or this very morning, you might be God’s vehicle —in a way you haven’t even fathomed— to bring Light and Hope to another. I don’t know about you, but that sure motivates me to step out into this day, with all that it brings – in kindness and love.  

May your week be filled with blessings —both received and given!

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: God’s Protection Covers Me (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God.  The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to start an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books, 2018), written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYSA Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME

by Amy Houts

PURPOSE:  To recognize that just as various structures/coverings protect natural creatures, God’s protection covers us. Using Houts’ lovely metaphors as the spark, we’ll delve into Scripture for promises that God indeed cares for us with an everlasting love and protects us in the palm of His hand.

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Building Card Houses

Open in prayer, then explain that today, we’ll be reading a story about all the kinds of structures animals build or find for protection.  Can they name some?  What do we build to protect us?  Houses! Tell them it’s time to do a little building – with cards!  Using only a deck of playing cards, challenge them to build their own houses. Demonstrate two building methods:  triangular and four-card cell. This article from wiki-how will give you helpful construction tips, if needed, so you can demonstrate before the kids have their turn.

INTRODUCE THE STORY:  Introduce the story by showing the book cover.  Ask what protection means?  What are some ways they protect themselves?  (Wearing helmets, using seatbelt etc.) Have you ever thought about how God protects us?  Ask them to be thinking about that as you read them the story.  Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

  1. Marvel at all the amazing ways animals are protected in nature.
  2. Brainstorm all the ways their parents protect their precious children – them!
  3. Ask, “Do you think God protects us?”  Yes!  “How?” He provides all good things – including families that care and watch over us, bodies that are designed to fight infection, human intellect that has allowed man to make medical advances to fight disease, create safer cars etc. and MIRACLES!  Yes, God is not limited by what is possible.  He invites our prayers to protect and provide for us even in the midst of the IMPOSSIBLE!
  4. And where can we find reminders of God’s protection? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders of God’s protective love and care.  Use these verses to get you started: 

Psalm 5:11-12   Psalm 32:7       Psalm 116: 5 – 7  

Matthew 6: 25 – 26  I Peter 5:7

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:  Select from one of the engaging activities provided by the publisher in the GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME Activity Guide.

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity – remember together all the animals and protective things mentioned in the story.  Ask what those can remind us of?  God’s protection covers us!  That is wonderful news indeed.


TWO TOUGH TRUCKS: Six Extension Activities for 3 – 6 Year Olds (And a Giveaway!)

There’s a new TRUCK-LOVING picture book that recently roared onto bookshelves everywhere, just in time the new school year. It’s called TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) and it’s co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, with illustrations by Hilary Leung. Using two big trucks as stand-ins for two kids, it’s the perfect story to calm back-to-school nerves and set the wheels in motion for a terrific school year.  Written by two of the best rhymers around, it’s also full of fun word play that will tickle the engines of young readers everywhere. 

Now, to celebrate reading in general – and this book in particular – here are six book-themed extension activities perfect for 3 – 6 year olds. So, invite your kiddos to find a good spot to read… then extend the fun with one, two, or all of these activities (which rhyme, by the way, just because). 

Take a local truck tally! After reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, have each child grab an index card and pencil, then take a little drive to look for trucks of all sizes.  For younger kids, simply tally the number of trucks you spot.  (This is a good opportunity to teach them how to tally- a wonderful counting skill.) For older children, consider having them list the different types of big trucks they see, then make tallies for each of those categories.

Have a mini-truck rally! Inspired by Rebecca’s and Corey’s truck-racing text and Hillary’s wondrous setting, grab your favorite toy trucks (and/or cars) and head outside to the sandbox, playground, or even your backyard. Rev up your engines for some good old-fashioned races, challenges, and maybe even a few stunts.  

Take a picture read through. After reading TWO TRUCKS, let your littlest ones re-read it to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Do a “Read. Discuss. Do!” Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for this book. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

Have a truck-themed book fest. After reading the story, your kids might be inspired to read more truck-themed books. If so, head to the library and have a truck-themed book fest!  Your librarian can help you find some good books.

Painting truck tracks is the best!  Mess and grime and MUD are part of the fun when it comes to trucks (at least in my opinion). That’s why I’ve selected this messily adorable craft for post-reading artsy fun. Be sure to spread out some newspaper or a vinyl cloth before running those trucks through the paint! Smocks also advised. Afterwards, simply rinse the trucks off in a bucket of water -which also becomes an activity in and of itself that your kids will LOVE!

I found many renditions of this craft online. Here’s the one I thought had the clearest instructions: 

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope these extension ideas inspire you and your littles to extend the conversation and the fun after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS.  If you enjoyed this post, please help me to grow my audience (and ensure that you’ll be among the first to know about new posts) by following my blog or liking my Facebook Author Page. Thank you.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/3/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday!

PAPA WISDOM: Taking “The Long Cut” in Life and Writing

Not only has my dad always been a loving, caring father (and more recently a wonderful champion of my writing endeavors), he’s also been a life long creator of wonderful phrases that make life a little bit funnier. Memorable dad phrases include “I’m going to get my hairs cut”, instead of haircut, “Don’t worry, Daddy-do-it”, and, my favorite, “Okay, kids, we’re taking the long cut”, the opposite of short cut, which translated means, “I took a wrong turn, so now we’re going to explore”. 

On road trips as a child (and we took many), I remember my mother would often sigh and roll her eyes (in a loving way) when Dad announced that we were taking yet another “long cut” because he was a real stickler for doing it himself (i.e. “Daddy-do-it”) and refused to stop and ask for directions, unless the long cut got really, really long, or if it became apparent that we were just going in circles and even then he might not ask for directions.

But though she might roll her eyes, I think secretly she, and certainly my sister and I, came to really love and appreciate Dad’s “long cuts”. After all, without them, we might never have discovered that little out of the way village with the wonderful bed and breakfast run by a little Scottish woman who took us under her wing the time we got lost, I mean “took the long, long cut” through some Scottish countryside. 

And without one of my dad’s “long cuts” we would never have had the amazing fascination of having a picnic in a field in Spain, next to a big, big rock, only to discover the skeleton of a cow on the far side of the rock!  (Actually, my dad discovered that and wouldn’t let us look, which I for a long time I resented, but which actually I now realize he was doing to save us from losing our appetites).

And without my dad’s “long cuts” we most likely would never have found the perfect lunch spot in a meadow overlooking the Chateau de Chantilly, or have sat on a lonesome bench on a twisty mountain road with a view like this!

Looking back on my childhood, some of my favorite memories are of discovering unexpected and wonderful spots while were were taking “the long cut” between destinations.  I see now that those “long cuts” instilled in me an important life principle, for they taught me, in a wonderfully meandering fashion, that life is richer when I’m not rushing from one pre-determined destination to the next.  In fact, in my opinion, the best part of living is being willing to take the long cut and enjoy the wonderful things you discover along the way.  Thank you, Dad, for instilling that in me!

Now for the writing tie-in:  Like many new writers,  when I first started out, I expected immediate results – i.e reaching my destination without any twists or turns. And I’m embarrassed to say that in those first couple of years, as I was exploring the craft, I submitted stories and poems to publishers far too prematurely.  Now, when I look back at my earliest pieces, I’m amazed at how stilted, clumsy and rough they are.  Indeed, it wasn’t until I slowed down and really started to savor the writing process through years of writing daily, reading, studying the craft, attending conferences, and participating in peer critique  (in other words, taking the writerly version of “the long cut”) that I began to develop into the writer I am today (who is still ever-working on improving and expanding her craft). 

So, here is my bit of writerly wisdom for the day:  Writing is not a race to get published. It’s a beautiful “long cut” journey to be savored and enjoyed. So, take heart and be patient. Join a critique group. Attend a conference. Sign up for a writing class. Read a book about writing.  Spend time at the library reading all the picture books you can get your hands on. And, through it all, keep writing, writing, writing! The results may not fit your pre-conceived conceived timeline, but if you keep at it, I think you will find that the “long cut” journey – though not short, to be sure, – is rewarding.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: I Want Your Smile Crocodile (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week during July and August, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God.  Over the course of the fall, I will be sharing these and other picture book lessons that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today, I kick off this occasional series by sharing my lesson for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018) written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic. Stay tuned for more this fall.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE

by Denette Fretz

PURPOSE:  To recognize that each one of us is a miracle of God, wonderfully made and created with a special purpose and that our Heavenly Father delights in lavishing His love upon us! Praise God!

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Zoo Charade 

Open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be taking a trip to the zoo. First, have the children write down (on little scraps of paper) several animals you might find at the zoo.  Put the slips of paper in a cup, then let each child pick a slip and then use pantomime to act out which animal they have. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.

INTRODUCE THE STORY: Introduce Denette Fretz’s I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, by showing the book cover. Can they guess what is happening?  Explain that Meerkat has a problem. He’s got a bad case of “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome! Can they guess what that is?  It means he thinks he would be happier if he had what others had, instead of what God gave him.  Have they ever wished they had what someone else had?  Did they think it would make them happier?  What do they think God would say in this situation?   Share and ponder together, then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:   After enjoying the story, use these questions to spark meaningful conversation.

1. Who does Jack remind us of? US!!  

2. Who does the zookeeper remind us of?  GOD!

3. Do we need reminders from our zookeeper, GOD, that we too are wonderfully made and created for a special purpose?  YES!

4. And where can we find those reminders?  IN THE BIBLE!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME:

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders from God that we are wonderfully created and made for His wonderful purposes.  Use these verses to get you started:

Genesis 1:27   Genesis 1:31 Psalm 139:14     I Peter 4:10

STORY-BASED CRAFT TIME:  Craft Stick Crocodiles (from Easy Peasy and Fun!)

This fun crocodile-themed craft which I found on the amazing blog Easy Peasy and Fun (and which I am sharing here with their permission) was a big hit with my class. They especially loved the crocodile’s big, toothy smile. As we made the crocodiles, we chatted about what special gifts God has given us. If not big toothy grins, then what? Their answers were thoughtful and fun. Here’s the link to the craft: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/craft-stick-crocodile-craft/ or you can follow this helpful video tutorial:

10:25  WRAP UP:  As children are finishing up craft – have them review who the various characters in today’s story are supposed to remind us of. Then, give thanks that God loves us and created us with His special purpose and that He loves us very much. That is the beautiful message of today’s story.

And the winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Glenys Nellist’s new book with Zonderkidz, “The Wonder That is You” is…

Gail H.!!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Glenys, for stopping by to chat with us about your new book and thank you, Zonderkidz, for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!