And the winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Shari Barr’s newest book with Barbour, “Camp Club Girls: McKenzie” is…

Sara M.!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Shari, for stopping by to share your inspiring experiences with writing in assignment and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

And the winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the two winners of last week’s special giveaway, two two-book bundles of Diane Stortz’s faith-sparking devotionals: STOP AND GO DEVOTIONALS and I AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD are…

Tiffany and Katie!

Congratulations! I will be in touch so we can the books in the mail to you. Thank you to everyone who entered and to Diane for providing the books.

Blessings all!

And the Winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Amy Hout’s picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME, published by Beaming Books, and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester is…

Annette!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Amy, for stopping by to chat about the book and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

And the Winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Sarah Floyd’s picture book, TEN CLEVER NINJAS, published by Clear Fork Publishing, and illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski is…

Ashley Congdon!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Sarah, for sharing your five fun facts about the book and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

COUNT DOWN TO THE NEW YEAR: Top Five Posts of 2018


I thought it would be fun to kick off the new year with a countdown-style look back at my TOP FIVE BLOG posts from 2018. It’s rather fascinating because only one was actually published in 2018. The rest are from past years and folks just keep coming back to them! Over the past few days, I revealed all but #1 on Facebook. Now here’s the complete roundup all in one spot:

#5 PICTURE BOOKS WITH P.U.N.C.H: Cumulative Stories. This a post from 2013 which also, incidentally, places #2 for all-time popularity in the 6 years since I started the blog. It’s part of a series I did a few years ago about picture book structures. Is this an indication that maybe I should re-open the series this year with some fresh posts?

#4 PICTURE BOOKS WITH P.U.N.C.H: Parallel Stories. This is another post from my 2013 Picture Books with P.U.N.C.H Series, which writers keep returning to.

#3 IN MEMORY OF MY EIGHTH GRADE TEACHER:  Thank you, Shirley Vaux! I wrote this heartfelt post at the beginning of the year right after learning that a dear teacher who influenced my journey to becoming a writer had just passed away – days before I had hoped to reach out to her to share my thanks. My prayer with this post was that her family would somehow see it… and they did!

#2 (and #1 OVERALL since the blog began with 4,663 hits!): FIVE CHARACTERISTICS THAT GIVE PICTURE BOOKS P.U.N.C.H. This is the post that kick-started the Picture Books With P.U.N.C.H Story Structure Series. Thank you for returning to this post again and again! And again, it makes me wonder if you would like more posts like this in 2019?

#1 Examining LYRICAL PICTURE BOOKS with Diana Murray This guest post by the talented Diana Murray, written in 2016 when her lovely lyrical picture book CITY SHAPES released, also continues to be a perennial favorite – so much so that it was my top-hitting post for 2018!  

So there you have it! Thank you all, for reading my blog. Now I have a favor to ask. What kinds of posts would you like to see in 2019? I’m all ears (and I have my pen ready.) Happy New Year!

And the Winners Are…

Flashlight Night_hi-res coverI’m delighted to announce that the winners last month’s FLASHLIGHT NIGHT birthday celebration giveaways are… Marty and Trine!

Marty’s name was picked to win ONE SIGNED copy FLASHLIGHT NIGHT.

Trine’s name was picked to receive an awesome packet of KidLitTV swag!

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

Thanks again, Matt and Fred, for a lovely interview. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on the post and to my daughter, once again, for lending me a hat for the drawing.

IMPORTANT Housekeeping Matters: Please read!

IMG_2384It’s time for a little housekeeping. By now, you’ve probably heard about the new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), that comes into effect May 25, 2018. Though most of my followers are from the U.S., out of an abundance of caution and in order to comply with GDPR consent requirements, if you are currently receiving my post announcements in your email,  please take a moment to decide whether or not you would still like to receive them in your email. (I don’t sell or share your information with anyone, ever.)

If you wish to continue receiving my weekly (approximately) new post announcements in your email, you do not need to do anything. If you would prefer not to continue, simply hit the unsubscribe tab (at the bottom of this email if you are looking at this in your inbox) or by using the “You are following this blog – manage” tab on the right sidebar of my blog.  Then you will be officially unsubscribed from my blog.  Thank you so much and have a wonderful day!

And the winner is…

20180409_154659 (2)I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a fresh off the press two-book bundle of Glenys Nellist’s adorable new board books, GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL and GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL, illustrated by Estelle Corke and published by Zonderkidz,  is…

Jennifer S.!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Glenys, for sharing your five fun facts about your newest books. I’d also like to thank Zonderkidz for providing the winning book bundle.  Happy Friday, all!

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?

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