Storytelling in Word and Image, Fall 2021

I am thrilled to have launched a brand new program this semester with professional illustrator, Janet McDonnell. Writers often create visual art as part of their creative process, a way of ‘seeing’ their story more clearly. In our class, we immersed ourselves in mixed media storytelling, too. If you would like to learn more about this program, click here. I’m delighted to share and celebrate the work of some of the talented youngsters who took part in the class (click on the illustrations below to see their stories in word and image):

Young Writers’ Conference 2022

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Write On, Door County Young Writers’ Conference next year. I will be running workshops on “How To Find A Story Anywhere” and “Faces: An Exercise in Character Development.” If you would like to learn more about this exciting conference for budding young storytellers, click here. Early bird rates currently apply.

Recording Available For Limited Time

Wow! Had a wonderful time last night, hosting the SCBWI Magical Middle Grade event with Lorelei Savaryn, learning all about her writing process, building magic systems, tying magic into plot, plus tips for creating engaging, heartfelt stories. The audience was so engaged that we ran overtime! If you’d like to join in the middle grade fun, a recording of event is available for a limited time .

SCBWI: “Finding Buried Treasure” presentation

If you’re interested in writing or illustrating kidlit, you can access a wealth of professional information, support, and networking opportunities at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Join our SCBWI Oak Park network online tomorrow, Sept. 9, at 7pm CST for a free presentation by SCBWI Illinois‘s Regional Adviser, Deborah Topolski, to learn about the treasures on offer.

Summer Creative Writing Competition, 2021

As we head toward Labor Day and the end of summer, the results of my creative writing competition are in! It was wonderful to connect with so many lovely young storytellers over the last few months. Thanks to all who submitted their stories. Co-judge Shawn Shiflett and I loved reading them. Click here to find out the winning entries, together with our comments about the things we loved most about each one.

Summer Enrichment Ideas for Advanced Learners

Looking for Ideas for Summer Enrichment for Your Child? Check out this list compiled by Illinois Association for Gifted Children members. There are many excellent resources. Please also see details about some of my upcoming creative writing summer camps! ✍📚😎

How Picture Books Can Help When Losing a Pet

Recently, my dear neighbor mentioned her concerns about her small grandson who is very attached to their aging family dog. How do you help a little person begin to understand ‘end of life’ issues? What can we do to prepare him, to find the words to explain at the right time? 

By chance, a few days later, the subject was raised again to me: wasn’t it strange that so many young children have to come to terms with the death of a pet?  I decided to  investigate so that I could make some suggestions. Thanks to the lovely SCBWI-Illinois community and my local library, I put together this list of books that may help.

Paws + Edward by Espen Dekko, illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen

Paws & Edward by Espen Dekko, illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen is one of my favorites. It a warm, loving story about a boy and his faithful old dog who is becoming so very tired, just wants to sleep. Now he only dreams about rabbits, whereas he once used to chase them. A lovely, gentle way of showing a natural end to life, celebrating the past, and cherishing memories after Paws has gone. 


Stay (a girl, a dog, a bucket list) by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Stay (a girl, a dog, a bucket list) by Katie Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. This story also showcases a loving relationship between Astrid and Eli, the dog who greeted her when her parents first brought her home as a baby. We learn about the different life spans of the two friends as Astrid grows up and Eli grows old. Astrid creates a bucket list of things for them to do, although, in the end, it is the simple pleasure of time spent together that matters the most. 


By contrast, Harry loses his dog, Hopper, in an accident. His sensitive dad stays nearby as, night after night, Harry ‘sees’ Hopper. However, over the course of these nocturnal visits, Hopper changes and Harry slowly comes to terms with his loss. (Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood). 


The Invisible Leash by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

In The Invisible Leash by Patrice Carst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, two friends find comfort in the love the remains after the loss of their pets.




The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Duith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvard

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, is an older book but a treasure. After the death of Barney the cat, a small boy is so sad that his mother suggests that he thinks up ten good things to say about his pet at the funeral. The boy lists nine good things, but the last one eludes him. As he helps his father in the garden, they talk about Barney and nature and life as the small boy discovers his final ‘good thing.’

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies tells of Evan and his dog who are inseparable friends, especially in their beloved garden. But when the dog dies, Evan ‘slashed the garden to the ground… [made it] the saddest and most desolate spot he could make it.’ Until, one day, something new started to grow…

Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

I love and have already reviewed Ida, Always by Caron Lewis, illustrated by Charles Santoso. This picture book is about Gus and Ida, inspired by the real pair of polar bears at New York City’s Central Park Zoo. To read my review, click here.  A beautiful story. 


If there are any other titles that you would recommend, I’d love to hear from you.

Illinois Association for Gifted Children — 26th Annual Conference

Are you looking for new approaches to promote creative thinking and storytelling in the classroom? A great way to inspire students is to explore strategies used and suggested by professional authors. Join me at the 26th Annual IACG conference as I discuss How To Foster Creativity In Young Storytellers. Topics covered will include: ways to spark imagination, how to deepen story craft techniques, and a discussion of writerly processes to improve conditions when working with the imagination. There will also be an opportunity for a Q&A. Attendees will leave with practical resources to help their pupils’ stories to soar. Click here for details.

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