GOODNIGHT, ARK sails in from KOREA!

IMG_5786Look what landed on my porch today.  Six copies of the Korean edition of GOODNIGHT, ARK!  The illustrations by Jane Chapman are just as gorgeous as ever and the text looks wonderful. What a delightful experience it is to see my words translated not only into a different language, but into a different language with such a beautiful alphabet.  My next goal is to see if one of my Korean-speaking friends will read it to me.  Story time, anyone?  And will it still rhyme, I wonder?  I will find out and let you know.

In the meantime, keep sailing, Noah and friends.  First English, then German, then Korean. What language next?

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IN MEMORY OF MY EIGHTH GRADE TEACHER:  Thank you, Shirley Vaux!

IMG_5668Thursday night out of the blue, while on Facebook, I was “waved” at by my ninth grade English teacher.  I’d never been “waved” at before, but it seemed fun, so I “waved” back and then she sent me a “thumbs up”.  This teacher and I reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago when she commented on a mutual friend’s post and I decided I wanted to reach out to thank her for the profound influence she had in fostering my love of writing.  Indeed, Mrs. Rebholz was the first teacher to encourage me not to settle for the first thought that crossed my mind during discussion or when writing, but to “keep percolating” as she called it.  I’ve written a couple of posts about  the influence her challenge to “keep percolating”  has had on my writing. You can find those here and here. But I digress.

After our friendly “wave”, I decided, on impulse, to ask her if she was in contact with another special teacher from my Valley View Junior High days.  Earlier last year, I had attempted to get in contact with this teacher, but without success.  Now, here suddenly, was a new opportunity. Full of hope, I sent her this inquiry via Facebook message:

“Are you ever in touch with Shirley Vaux? She taught creative writing and I had her in eighth grade. I kept a creative journal for her in that class which I still have. I would love to reconnect with her if she remembers me.  Is she on Facebook?”

Her answer stunned me.  “Her funeral was today.  She would have loved to know your success.  Keep percolating.”

Saddened that I had waited too long to say thank you, and a little in disbelief over the sorrowful news, I quickly googled “Shirley Vaux obituary MN” and, sure enough, there it was in the Star Tribune. As I read the obituary, I marveled at what a remarkable woman Shirley Vaux was.  Not only did she teach English for years and years, but she was also (long after I graduated) the principal of my high school.  And I could tell by the obituary, that she was a beloved wife, companion, sister, mother, grandmother, and even great-grandmother.

Overcome with emotion, I decided, again on impulse, to leave a comment using the newspaper’s comment function. This is what I wrote:

“I was just tonight asking Carolyn Rebholz, who I reconnected with via Facebook, if she was in touch with Mrs. Vaux, as I wanted to reach out and thank her for the wonderful creative foundation she helped set in place for my future writing endeavors. Alas, I was just a few days too late. She was a gifted teacher and beautiful soul. I still have (and treasure) the creative journal she had us keep in her eighth grade creative writing class. Blessings to her family.”

But now, as I’ve been percolating over the whole situation, I realize I want to remember her more fully. And the way I want to honor her memory today – is by saying THANK YOU for being one of the best teachers a young, tentative writer could have!

I had the privilege of having Mrs. Shirley Vaux for a one semester creative writing class in the spring of my eighth grade year. Over the course of the semester, Mrs. Vaux opened the channels of imagination and wordplay for her students. We wrote poems, character sketches, short stories and even picture books.  But the assignment that forever shaped who I have become as a writer was her introduction of a writer’s journal. Each day for eight weeks, we were to keep a daily writer’s journal because good writers, as she explained, needed space to write freely and explore.

IMG_5659This is the journal I chose to use. Over the course of the next eight weeks, I diligently wrote in it every day. And those moments of writing were the best moments of each day. I couldn’t wait to write!  I wrote about my memories of living France. I captured snippets of conversations on the school bus. I experimented with free verse.  And each week, Mrs. Vaux, diligently and lovingly read each entry and responded!  With comments like theseIMG_5661… and these.IMG_5663

And after the eight weeks ended, I kept writing. I’m not kidding.  By the end of high school, I had filled this many journals….IMG_5664

by the end of college, this many…IMG_5665

by the end of my first eight years of teaching this many…IMG_5666

by the time my children were school age, this many…IMG_5667

and to date… this many!IMG_5668

And when I stopped teaching to raise my family, I started submitting stories and poems to magazines.  Lots and lots of magazines.. a whole thick binder of clippings worth! IMG_5669 2 And then I delved into picture books with first one… then two…then three… with one more due out at the end of next year… with hopefully more after that!

 

 

Dear Mrs. Vaux,  I am so sorry that I missed the chance to thank you for the special role you played in getting this ball rolling.  But now, I hope, that perhaps by posting this, your loved ones can know, as indeed they must already know, what a special person you were!

THANK YOU, Mrs. Vaux and rest in beautiful peace.

(Please share, if you are so moved, in the hopes that Shirley Vaux’s loved ones will know that – near and far – she is remembered fondly and with great respect.)

Sincerely,

Laura

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Introducing Diva Delores and Fernando (the Opera House Mouse!)

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In just three months Diva Delores, the star of my next picture book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children’s Books, March 6, 2018) will make her debut, as will her darling sidekick, Fernando.  And all of a sudden, last week, it hit me — what will they wear?  I mean a diva can’t  just wear any old thing to her debut. And neither can her companion.  They need to look special. They need to look dazzling.  They need to take your breath away.   I realized, I better get busy!!!

So, over the holidays, with the help of a couple of sweet elves (a special thanks to Dianne Herrick and Nancy Benz!), and inspired by Rebecca Gerlings wonderful illustrations, we got Diva Delores and Fernando all dressed up and ready to go. Since I plan on attending each and every book event and school visit as well, we pulled together a little something special for me too!

Ready for a sneak peek? Enjoy!

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Both Delores and Fernando were extremely cooperative with the whole “glam” up process.  Here they are right before we got started, chilling out with the notions on Dianne’s sewing table.

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Here I am sewing on Delores’ pearls.  She was a very patient seal and the pearls look “daahling”.

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Delores was dee-lighted with Dianne’s superb sense of style in creating a dazzling headpiece. Fernando, meanwhile, was extremely patient, though he did manage to get into the cheese while Dianne was sewing the headpiece in place. (See below.)

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With headpiece and pearls in place, it was time for me to drape and sew on Delores’ boa.  After all that work, she and I decided to take a little break and practice our cadenzas.

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After a few more cheese and crackers, we were ready to return and get Fernando dressed in a snappy blue jacket.  I’m still working on his spectacles.

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And since I plan to attend Diva Delores’ many events as well, we thought it only proper that I have something dazzling to wear too.  A big thank you to Dianne for finding the shoes and to Nancy for providing the snazzy pink fascinator, not to mention the long black gloves and gaudy baubles.  The pearls were my mother’s.  See you at the opera!  =)

And the winner of ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS is…

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I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Glenys Nellist’s and Elena Selivanova’s beautiful picture book ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS, published by Zonderkidz, is…

AMY!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Glenys and Elena, for sharing your thoughts with us in this week’s interview. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment and to my daughter, once again, for lending me one of her snazzy hats for the drawing.

And the Winner is…

BigSister_LittleMonster_Cover_HiRes (1)I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum’s humorous new picture book BIG SISTER, LITTLE MONSTER, published by Scholastic Press and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, is…

Tzippora!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Andria, for taking time to chat in this preview interview, and for offering to send one lucky winner a copy of your new book.. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on this week’s post and to my daughter, once again, for lending me her snazzy hat for the drawing.

ARBOR DAY: A Poem by James, age 7 and Art by Miss A.

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Earlier this week my adorable seven year old neighbor, James, reminded me that Arbor Day was just around the corner and that to celebrate, he planned to write a poem. It think he told me this because he knows I like to write too.  I told him I’d love to read the poem once he’d written it and Thursday after school I finally got the chance. “I’m going to read it over the loudspeaker at school tomorrow” he explained.

And that gave me an idea! With his mom’s permission, I asked James if he’d like to share it on my blog as well. He thought that sounded neat! And, to illustrate, Miss A. offered to let us use her newest art work – a stained- glass illustration of a cherry tree in bloom.  Now, without further ado, please enjoy this delightful collaboration between two young artists in celebration of trees!

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And now a bonus… an illustration by James as well!

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I think both the artist and the poet did a great job!  Happy Arbor Day to all!

AUTHOR VISITS… Puppet Style!

IMG_1044My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. Quite honestly, the former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

Well, the skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book came out, I knew I wanted to pair that story with a book-specific puppet as well. Without too much trouble, thanks to the wonderful puppet designers at Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!

Rooster’s very loud which, quite frankly, is a big problem because Goodnight, Manger is a bedtime story and bedtime is supposed to be quiet. So together, the kids and I decide that we’ll show Rooster what “quiet” looks and sounds like. After we’ve read the story, we see if we can teach him do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus. And once again, like those stinky skunks, Rooster, too, has been a big hit.

In fact, these darling puppets have been so popular at author events, I’ve decided that each and every picture book that I write must be paired with at least one puppet. So far I’ve been lucky and have found perfect matches.  Now, with more books in the publication pipeline, I am again in the market for puppets.  Without revealing too much…. I need an adorable mouse, an owl, and if possible, a seal!  Any leads?  =)

Happy author visits, all! And perhaps you, too, will decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit.

GOODNIGHT, ARK: A Framing Follow-up

After my post last week about about framing my newly arrived, and oh-so-special, original Jane Chapman illustration, many of you requested that I share the outcome.  As you may recall, I spent almost two hours at the frame shop dithering over matte, frame and layout.  That dithering led me to write (for myself, mostly) a little writerly pep talk, which I certainly needed that day. I hope it was just what you needed as well. Here’s that pep talk  post, just in case you could use a writerly boost.

Now, without further ado, here’s the final framed version – first in the shop…

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and now hanging in a cozy lamp-lit corner of my living room where I can enjoy it everyday!

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This is where I’m sitting right now as I write this post and this is where I look forward to writing some more tomorrow and on Sunday.  I hope you, too, can find a nice cozy place to curl up and be creative this weekend. Happy reading and writing, all!

Merry Christmas (And a Special Thank You)

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I just wanted to take a moment this Christmas Eve to wish you all a joyful Christmas. I also want to thank you for reading my blog and my books and for being such a wonderful community of encouragers and book lovers!  I’ll be back in January with brand new posts (and hopefully some fun new book news!)

In the meantime, take good care and keep reading, writing and celebrating life!

And the WINNER is…

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I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Glenys Nellist’s beautiful picture book CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD, published by Zonderkidz and illustrated by Rachel Clowes, is…

SARA!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Glenys, for giving us a heartwarming glimpse into book’s dedication. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on this week’s post and to my daughter, once again, for lending me her snazzy hat for the drawing.