Chester’s Christmas

As promised, below is the latest news on Ann Page’s follow-up ebooks to Maggie’s Christmas Ride. Follow the links for free previews.

ChestersWishList_COVERChestersVisit_COVERChester’s Christmas List Chester is torn between finishing his Christmas list and helping someone in need.

Chester’s Christmas Visit Chester and Maggie visit Chester’s sick grandpa to spread holiday cheer, but things don’t go exactly as planned.

Both eBooks are available at They will be available in paperback in December 2014

For the latest info on Page’s writing projects, go to

Congratulations, Ann!

Elise Parsley Has Arrived!

EliseHyldenElise Parsley. Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley.

I told you I was a name dropper.

Sally Lodge’s awesome Publisher’s Weekly article of December 17, 2013 “From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours: Debut Author Elise Parsley” will explain why I’m babbling.

Every once in a while we are blessed to journey with a superstar and live vicariously through his or her success.  Elise has been that traveling companion for me and lots of MN writers.  Yet, never once has she left us behind, choking in her jet stream. Not when she realized how artistically challenged the majority of us are. Not when she was told by an editor that she had a breakout character and to find an agent right away. And not when she got her three book deal and didn’t need our feedback anymore. She’s bringing us along by her side, where we can enjoy the view, too.

Elise is teaching us what it’s like to be discovered. And how to handle it with grace, wit, and humility. She won’t brag about herself, so we, her fans, have to do it for her. Her agent, Steven Malk tweeted:

Honored to have been part of this quintessential dream publishing story. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer author:…

Well said–by someone who knows a little about success. And how to handle it with grace, wit, and humility. Talk about a dream team …

Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley.

Sorry. I can’t help myself. Once you meet her, you’ll be shouting her name, too.

Keep the Home Fires Burning

It just occurred to me that I quoted Alicia Keyes’ “This Girl Is On Fi-Ya” last year about this time. This Thanksgiving a new fiery experience inspires thankfulness.

While my husband drove us home from a recent out-of-town adventure, I was my usual charming traveling companion self — engrossed in a book. He braked the car abruptly and I rescued my nose from the dashboard just in time to see us speedily approaching a flatbed piled to the sky with hay bales. The pickup driver pulled his rig over, dove out of his truck, and frantically cranked a lever to unhitch his pickup. As our vehicle passed, we noticed why. A bale was burning. My husband parked and we jumped out to help — him with manpower and me to call 911.

When the dispatcher asked me whether we were in Minnesota or South Dakota, I had no idea, so I read the mile marker and the intersection signs nearest me. She sighed and put me through to another dispatcher who said, “You should call 911” and I think he hung up on me. It’s like with Siri. No one takes me seriously. So I called 911 again.

The driver and my husband and another passerby finally got the flatbed unhitched, which was no small miracle, considering how quickly the fire spread.

FlatbedFireIt spread like wild fire. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Sparks blew toward a grove of trees near a farmhouse adjacent to the road.  A college age girl and I scrambled to alert the owners. The door was padlocked, indicating no home dwellers were in danger.

When a lone highway patrol car showed up, I threw up my arms. “I asked for fire trucks and they sent him? What’s he going to do, throw his coffee on it?”

My husband gave me that now-don’t-get-us-a-ticket look. So I saved further complaints for the ride home. We never did meet a fire truck. But, we didn’t hear about any rampant South Dakota/Minnesota fires either, so help must have arrived. And in hindsight I realize how much we have to be thankful for. No one was hurt and the driver had insurance. And we weren’t these unhappy travelers.ThanksgivingDinner

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving! Keep the home fires burning, but only in your fireplaces please.

For great Thanksgiving reading, pick up a copy of Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) by the amazing Barbara Park (April 21, 1947-November 15, 2013).  Barbara Park will live on forever–in her words, in toilet paper roll necklaces, and in our laughter. That’s one more thing for my thankful list.

I Knew Them When …

Children’s book writers all over the world have been polishing their manuscripts in anticipation of this season: Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) regional conference time. These events provide the inspiration and hope that keep us plugging along, one-word-at-a-time for the remainder of the year. I love conference season, because all who plunge in with an eagerness to learn are stepping closer to publication. I’m on the edge of my seat for those who are ripe to be discovered.

Here are a few of those writers:

Louise Aamodt was awarded runner-up in the 2011 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Contest with her picture book manuscript Frankie the Flop. The 2011 web page is no longer available, but below are a couple of screenshots.

















Louise, an empathetic teacher, mother, and animal rights activist, has a gift for pulling her readers’ heartstrings and pressing their funny bones. Her smart and diverse picture books–some humorous and some dramatic–promote thoughtfulness and understanding. Whether they are underappreciated vultures or underdogs with or without tails–they’ve found refuge in Louise’s imaginative manuscripts.

Elise Parsley, picture book writer and illustrator, recently conducted a successful, hands-on dummy book workshop that drew 24 attendees from all over Minnesota.

HylenDummyTalk2013DummyWorkshopElise gained her dummy book creation expertise by writing and illustrating four of her own fabulous masterpieces. I laugh just thinking about Elise’s funny and charming characters. In fact, I feel like I know them–like I’m their aunt or something (well, except for the cows, although I’m awfully smitten with them). I think you’ll feel the same way.

Other MN writers I’d like to endorse are Randy Holland and Alicia Schwab.

Randy Holland’s middle grade mystery novel manuscript first pages blew me away when I attended my first MN SCBWI critique meet-up. I aspired then to try to write as clear and tight as Randy. He’s stocked his manuscript full of intrigue.  And, he’s already busy writing the sequel, because the ideas just keep coming.

Alicia Schwab is another lucky writer who can illustrate, too. She’s got a delightful  picture book ready for bedtime snuggling. If you click on her link, you can see she’s already a published illustrator, but this will be her debut as a writer and illustrator.

Yes. I’m an unapologetic name dropper. And, I hope I’m as right about writing talent as Frankie MacDonald is about South Dakota weather. (Deadwood got 48 inches of snow, BTW.)

I wish my friends (and all conference attendees) success. And I want them and everyone to know how grateful I am that I knew them when …

Fantastic Brain

FantasticImaginationLike most five-year-olds, our youngest granddaughter has a well-formed, confident  imagination. She gets lost in her own world for hours–exploring the carpet ocean on the backs of throw pillow sea turtles, creating LEGO pirate ships and Dr. Seuss-ian towers, or transforming the living room into an elaborate hospital for stuffed animals.

FantasticCreationYesterday, when I complimented her on a particularly inventive  architectural masterpiece, she peeked up from her couch cushion fort, threw up the palms of her hands and breathlessly gushed, “Thanks! My brain is fantastic when it comes up with ideas!”

As I unimaginatively swept the kitchen floor, I contrasted her response to a typical  adult’s. Most of us would have downplayed or dismissed our accomplishment. “Oh, that old thing. Thanks. It’s nothing.” Or, “I made a mistake on my gangplank. See.”

Unencumbered by the false humility or squelched confidence of groan-up-FantasticPirateShiphood, she joyfully and gratefully celebrated her fantastic brain.

Imagine the outcome if we followed our everyday accomplishments with such exuberant thankfulness.

Today, after I think a thought (particularly clever or not) or write sentence or complete a task, I plan to marvel out loud, “My brain is fantastic when it comes up with ideas!”

I can guarantee it will add a twinkle to my eyes, a smile to my lips, and a skip to my step.

And the more I appreciate my fantastic brain, the more fantastic ideas it will give me.

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Siri helpIn the immortal words of Judith Viorst’s Alexander, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

While traveling on the busy freeway I asked Siri for directions.  She said, “I do not know ‘get that little cat’.”

When I tried and tried again she consistently answered,  “You’re welcome.”

Determined to be more helpful than Sassy Siri, I vowed to bring cheer to two depressed acquaintances.  So, I mailed them rough  dummies of my  children’s picture book manuscripts, because my depressed, young protagonist makes me laugh.

When I called to see if they got my dummies, one said, “What do you want me to do with these?”

Seeking a more positive review, I called the other. She said, “You should meet my neighbor–she’s a good writer.” Then for the next agonizing hour and a half she recited every one of her neighbor’s poems. By then, I was depressed.

To cheer myself up, I visited my grandkids. One pointed to the back of my knee, “What awe those bwoo wines on you-a wegs, Gwamma?” (Translation: “What are those blue lines on your legs, Gramma?”)

My husband teased, “Connected, they’d make a tattooed map of Argentina.”

Later that evening, I had the auspicious opportunity of having my chapter book manuscript critiqued by a real live published writer. I beamed as I handed her draft #658. Until her face contorted. I checked the table for the sour lemon. Seems she’s averse to first person present tense. She left the table abruptly. I think to go vomit.

On the drive home, I was tempted to pout. But then Charlie Brown, Rodney Dangerfield, and  Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day sat on my shoulders and made fun of me. (I must have been delirious. Instead of angels and devils, I got round-headed whiners. ) 

Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown said he wouldn’t have gotten a cartoon column if Lucy let him kick the ball.

Rodney Dangerfield said he wouldn’t have had a schtick if he had gotten any respect.

And Judith Viorst’s Alexander said his story wouldn’t have been as funny if his teacher loved his invisible castle.

They all told me to embrace awkward and to look for the funny in tattooed maps of Argentina. Then they asked me what I learned from my terrible horrible no good very bad day. I had to pray the Litany of Humility Prayer to see.

#1: Like Charlie Brown, I’ll keep trying–even when success seems improbable. But, where Siri’s concerned, I now bring a hard-copy map in case she takes me to that little cat. And I’m learning to enunciate my words.

#2: I don’t send depressed people my writing. It’d be embarrassing if my manuscript was left on a ledge after a jump. But, I do listen and learn. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I’m ready for the hecklers. In fact, I savor hecklers, because frustration generates the funniest writing material.

#3: I now wear pants (mostly). The South American Department of Tourism is disappointed, but they’ll get over it.

#4: I edited my invisible castle/manuscript rather than succumb to an overwhelming desire to move to Australia (an Alexander reference). I did some research and learned that no one is passionate one way or the other about past tense. But many people have visceral, negative emotions about first person present tense. So, I revised my chapter book manuscript to incorporate the less risky formula. (Because I’m a coward.)

My writers’ group thanked me for this. (Except for one comrade who came back from the Illinois conference declaring that present tense is all the rage. That was after I’d changed my entire 8,341 word manuscript to past tense. He coerced me off the ledge by conceding that I could wait to be adventurous–for when I don’t need critique advice–which will be–um–never.)

#5: Imperfect, insecure protagonists are funnier. My characters are more interesting because of my daily frustrations.

If you got stuck on this blog because Siri won’t give you directions or because you Googled giant Argentina tattoo, you might be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Celebrate! Then write about it. That’s how Charlie, Rodney, and Alexander got their start.



THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE, written by Lord Dunsany. Artwork by Milo Winter. This image by THE AESOP FOR CHILDREN is a public domain image.

Writing a book is a marathon–not a sprint. So much else in life is an all-out race, this slow-and-not-so-sure reality makes most book writers feel judged for not producing immediate results.

Our cultural urgency to succeed and do it now deals writers an undue amount of shame and guilt. We’re rarely there on time to meet and greet the people  prematurely gathering at the finish line.

A 90-year-old relative said to me, “People ask me what you do with all of your time. I told them, ‘I have no idea.'”

Another relative, a 23-year-old, said, “What will you do while I take my nap?”

I said, “I’ll work on my book.”

A couple of hours later, she awoke and stretched. “So, are you done with your book?”

Another friend said, “Oh, children’s books.Those are easy to pump out, aren’t they? So-and-so wrote a children’s book. If he can do it anyone can.”

That’s what I used to think.

Instant success expectations are why there are more people who want to write books than books. Writing is humbling. And if enough people think you’re taking too long or doubt you can finish the marathon, you can start to doubt it yourself.

Me? I’m sticking with the process because I know how the story ends. The tortoise wins the race–maybe skinny and battle-scarred by the sacrifice–but she/he crosses the finish line.

The pleasing ending of the Hare and the Tortoise was possible because the tortoise was at home (a state of being for us/a physical place for tortoises) doing what he/she was designed to do, yet unafraid to stick his/her head out and plod forward under the protective thick shell of faith, hope, and focus.

Limbitless Nick Vujicic

Man of Steel Christopher Reeve drew admiration leaping tall buildings in a single bound faster than a speeding bullet. And all of that in tights. His superhero persona wasn’t bad, if you like that rippling muscle, perfect jawline, piercing eyes sort of guy; but he earned my hero-worship when he persevered, even thrived, as a  quadriplegic after his real-life horse-riding accident. It was then he said, “Some  people are walking around with full use of their bodies and they’re more  paralyzed than I am.”

Wow, did his words convict me. It’s so easy to let life intimidate and stop us short of our potential. Then I learned of another real live superhero five years ago. A friend sent me a YouTube link featuring a motivational presentation by Australian Nick Vujicic. Vujicic’s fearless joy stirs me to the core.

I hope to introduce everyone I know–children and adults–to Nick, as an inspiration to live life zestfully and gratefully, and to never become paralyzed by fear of life’s failures or successes.

Some people make us move forward in hope. See for yourself why I wanna be like Nick.

Click on the photo for a recent presentation by Nick Vujicic.

Click on the photo for a recent presentation by Nick Vujicic.

And, here’s what he’s up to now.

Click on the photo for a 2013 60 Minute report on Nick Vujicic and his wife.

Click on the photo for a 2013 60 Minute report on Nick and Kanae Vujicic and his wife.

Vujicic Family with Baby Kiyoshi James

Vujicic Family with Baby Kiyoshi James

Nick Vujicic’s life formula:
I’ve never met a bitter person who was thankful.
Or a thankful person who was bitter.

Click on the photo for the short film starring Nick Vujicic.

Click on the photo for the short film starring Nick Vujicic.

If you want more:
Nick Vujicic full DVD

His web sites:

When life paralyzes you, remember Nick Vujicic. Like him, you are important and your life is a gift for the world. Don’t deny us the joy of knowing the real you. Keep moving forward!

100 is the New 30

100 is the new 30 in Heaven.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

MyDadMy DadHappy birthday to my father, Elmer, who turns 100 today, July 3, 2013.

I hope you’re keeping up with those 5,784 year olds, Dad. Tell those firefighters, we appreciate their sacrificial service. And, give my love to Mom and Barbara and everyone else.

Thanks, Dad, for your abundant humor and your abundant love.  I miss you and I love you–to infinity and beyond!

The Rain Has Gone

Iris OpenFor the first time after a long winter and a deluge of rainy days, Minnesotans are singing their blahs away with Johnny Nash’s, “I Can See Clearly Now”.FragrantWonder Yellow

Our KEM GEMS writer’s group welcomed the sunshine via a fragrant field trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.





St FrancisDoveLilac ClusterRedConeColor Coated

You need to smell it to believe it.  If your senses need a vacation, this is just the place for you.Arboretum Rainbow

Thanks for sharing the beauty, University of Minnesota!  And, thanks to my writing sisters, for leading me to this Garden of Eden Prairie.  (No offense, Chaska or Chanhassen. Garden of Eden Prairie sounds better in this story.)