News & Events

Book Review – A Properly Unhaunted Place

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

This is my first book review in 2018 — a great choice for middle grade readers who are in the mood for an unusual, thought-provoking ghost story.  Click here for my review.

Shake Rag Alley – Writers’ Retreat, April 2018

Interested in carving out some dedicated writing time in lovely surroundings, while learning more about the craft of telling stories? The second annual Writers’ Retreat at the Shake Rag Alley School of Arts is scheduled for 27-29 April 2018. It is open to writers of all levels. I’ll be running a workshop in writing for young people. To find out more, click here.

Book review for Halloween

Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly

I’ve been reviewing again — this time I picked a deliciously wicked picture book for Halloween. Click here for the full review.

Summer Writing Camps

Monster corner book marks

It’s almost time for school to start again, but I’ve had lots of fun over the last few months with the students in my summer writing camps.

I heard some wonderful story beginnings: from modern folktales, to time travel dystopias, to animal shenanigans, to memory-inspired realism.


Paper plate faces


My Grades 1-2 Story Explorer classes involved some book-related crafty fun. Here are some pictures of the projects we tried out.

It’s always exciting to hear the ideas and the meet the characters that are born in a workshop. Everyone has a story to tell.



SCBWI-IL Co-Rep News

I’m thrilled to have been invited to join the SCBWI-IL Oak Park and Near West Suburban Network as Co-Representative, alongside Sallie Wolf and Karen Walker Ward. As a newcomer to Chicago, it’s wonderful to feel part of a vibrant writing community again. I used to live in Bath, England, a place hopping with writers and creative ideas and all things bookish — I’m lucky to have landed on my feet again. We meet at 7pm on the second Thursday of the month in either the Main Library or Dole Library in Oak Park for lots of story shenanigans. You can find out more about the Illinois Network plans here.

Book drive for Lepholisa Primary School in Lesotho, Africa

Interested in helping to build a library for Lepholisa Primary School in Lesotho?

This idea started when I gave my stepdaughter, Maggie Shiflett, the picture book WHEREVER YOU GO by Pat Zietlow Miller as a graduation gift. The little book has joined Maggie on her travels as a Peace Corps volunteer to teach English in an African school. It found a fascinated audience in Lesotho (a landlocked country in South Africa). A boy visited Maggie (see photo above) and asked her some questions about it :

“Madam, what is these?” (pointing to the boats, trains, and oceans in the illustrations);

“Madam, how do the animals know how to drive?” (pointing to the animals driving the cars in the book).

Maggie suggested that a book drive would offer her students the opportunity to foster creative thinking. One of her goals is to give the children a space to explore artistic expression. A story is a wonderful thing.

If you are interested in making a contribution, please consider:

  • Donating a picture book. The pupils (Grade 1 – 7) are learning English as a foreign language.
  • Donating towards the cost of posting the books to Africa. Even $1 helps.
  • Dropping me a line and I can provide further details: [email protected]/
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