Star Gazing

I guess it’s time for an update! The sound of crickets has permeated this website for far too long. Sorry, crickets, but you’ll have to stop singing for a few minutes while I explain what I’ve been doing.

Here’s how I’ve been tackling picture book writing:

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Engaging in the great wide world of Twitter. Twitter writers of all genres have proved extremely supportive, often following just because I’m a writer. I started out with 0 followers and now, after several months of engaging, talking, laughing, and being generously added to writing threads, I have 1,630 followers. My new-found secret to Twitter is this: be nice, have fun, and enjoy people. Writer hashtags are #writingcommunity #writerscommunity #writercommunity #writerslife and #kidlit. I also love checking in on #kidlitart.

Joining an SCBWI critique group. These people are fantastic. Contributing to and learning from this group has me excited every month. I’m finding that critiques helpful no matter what kind of feedback I receive. The advice I agree with helps me revise my manuscripts, and the advice I disagree with helps me firm up my goals.

Submitting three stories to my first ever contest.  I entered the “Kindergarten rocks” contest put on by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Finishing and submitting my manuscripts was a bit intimidating, but I left feeling more accomplished. Even if I don’t win, I’ve gained valuable experience. The webinar announcing and critiquing the winners is free for writers who entered and $7 for anyone who didn’t submit an entry.

Joining the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge by Julie Hedlund. The challenge is to write twelve picture books in twelve months, but the community is what keeps people signing up year after year. Writers of all experience levels encourage each other in the art of picture books via a forum, a monthly webinar, and a Facebook group. Thinking I couldn’t afford it this year, I applied for a scholarship, which I didn’t win (another great learning experience, and possibly cringe-worthy). Then I received a surprise Christmas check and I was back in business!


Asking boatloads of questions. The biggest one I have in mind right now is Who am I as a children’s writer? What are my goals? Do I want to stick with one style or vary? How quickly do I want to be published? Do I want to pursue agents? What kind of agent do I want to pursue?

Writing. This one seems obvious, but honestly, it can be a challenge. I’m full of all kinds of ideas, but fleshing them out feels intimidating sometimes, especially when the standard word-count for picture books is 500 words or less.

Star-gazing. Lately I’ve felt like I’m staring into the ocean at night, just staring, and wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. I know there’s an island out there, somewhere, but the path feels dark and threatening and this menacing pile of wood sits here next to me, telling me to build it into a boat. My answer to this? I look up. I look up and keep dreaming. And when I’ve found joy again, I sit down to write.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star


The Introverted Child and Down Time

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I’ve been there quite a few times. We’re in the middle of a party, a grocery run, a restaurant, and my child starts hanging on me, dragging me by the arm. “Please, can we go?” she asks me with pleading eyes. She’s ready to be done. She’s been ready for 30 minutes and I’m still talking. She’s stuck with me in the middle of this crowded room and she’s about to have a nervous breakdown.

I remember being that child. In general, my extended family is more introverted than I am, but I still know what that it feels like to need introvert time. My clothes feel scratchy, uncomfortable. The noise pounds on my head. The expectations of the people around me to interact are pressing in on my brain, their well-meaning smiles and questions grating on my soul.  I feel trapped. Uncharacteristically, I grow cynical, just wanting to go away where it’s quiet and everyone will leave me alone. Then I feel guilty for not enjoying the people at this gathering. I want to cry. Suddenly, the Dare Devil thing of floating in a tank of water to sleep sounds absurdly appealing.

Introverts are recharged by being alone. Even when it looks like we’re energized by people for a short period of time, (cue mysterious music) things aren’t always what they seem. When the day is over and we crash in bedraggled heaps on our beds and stay there until we’re physically dragged off, the reality sinks in: every minute we spend with people is like two or three minutes of our mental and physical energy draining away.

Introverts are often the writers, artists, thinkers, and innovators in a society. We need space in the day for our thoughts… our deep feelings… our introspection (notice the common root word). An introverted child needs regular time away from other children and in most cases, quiet. A quiet space provides the freedom for introverted children to process, create. They can fill the space with whatever they want: art, poetry, songs, story-telling, observing, sleeping… or in the case of my math-breathing nephew, mentally solving fifteen to the sixth power.

An introverted child that doesn’t have a rest built into the day is like a car that leaks oil. Eventually the oil runs out and the car catches fire.

Or it just—

tat tat tat tat tat…

dies on site.

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What does it look like when an introverted child runs out of gas? I’m sure you can use your imagination, but suffice to say there is usually crying involved. Or fighting. Most children won’t hide in a room with their hands over their ears, but it’s been known to happen. Sometimes they just zone out, unable to engage anymore.

(Note: I’m not excusing inappropriate or disrespectful behavior, I’m simply pointing out one issue that can cause difficulty in an introverted child’s life.)

I have a friend whose children are mostly extroverted. They rush from place to place all week visiting friends and doing activities, while their one little introverted child gets dragged along with them, frowning and grumpy, barely staying awake. One day I saw her curled up in her Mama’s lap, ready to just be in a safe place for a few hours, away from all the noise and people. Her Mom asked me once what she should do to help her little girl participate more. “She doesn’t ever want to do anything!” she told me. Granted, there are medical reasons that children are lethargic, but in this situation the answer seemed fairly apparent. “Do you ever give her down time?” I asked her. “Ohhhh,” my friend replied, understanding, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

All children run out of steam sometimes. But the introverted ones, the dear little souls, seem to need extra care in this way and sometimes in addition to a loving response, they need a loving prevention plan.

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Prevention plans can look different for different children. A plan may be as basic as thirty minutes of “room time” right after school, or it could mean two full hours of swinging in the back yard while singing songs to the grass.

In our family, due to my own leanings as an introverted mama of six, a prevention plan means a daily rest time. For everyone. Even the extroverts. Because they live in a family with introverts and the introverts need them to be quiet and still. This need is especially timely at our house because there are people everywhere. All. The. Time. (Don’t get me wrong, I love them to tears!)

The argument could also be made that all children need some amount of down time. According to this Huffington Post Article, kids need to be bored sometimes. They need a time in the day just for playing and processing.

With the application of the smart phone (and tablet) as a calendar, tv, music player, social-interaction device, teacher, entertainer, gps, and pretty-much-anything-else-you-want-to-use-the-thing-for, it’s easy for a child to be screened up quite literally all day long with no mental down time. Add to that well-meaning extroverted parents that drag their introverted children from activity to activity all week long, and it’s understandable that some of these children have extremely low tanks.

My grandmother, raised on a farm surrounded by plenty of space, frequently said that children need to learn to be okay with their “little selves,” to be comfortable all on their own. This simple wisdom from her own mothering experience has endured in my heart since the first time she held my oldest daughter in her arms. That little baby girl was about as introverted as an infant can be and my grandmother understood her immediately.


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As an introverted child myself, I spent many an afternoon rest time on my bed. My adventures included playing cards with my stuffed toys, chasing floating dust particles, soaking up sunlight, telling stories, and singing once-in-a-lifetime vocal arrangements. These moments, as small as they seemed to the outside world, fostered a quietness in me— a quietness that is worth more than gold to the introvert’s heart.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Thomas

The restful moments of my childhood may not have been exciting to me at the time. (I remember trying to read the clock in the kitchen and running into my mom to see if rest time was over yet.) Still, the quiet places of my mind, the places used for thinking, storing up, creating, loving, were all developed under the tender love and wisdom of my mother, who understood that her children needed a daily rest time to thrive.

As parents, we’re constantly trying to meet the needs of our children. Even though we know it’s not possible to meet every single need of a particular child, we keep trying and pray that where we fall short, the God who called them into light will fill the empty spaces with Himself. 

I wrote this post to share with parents what may seem foreign to some: if it’s in your power to do so, give your young introvert some down time. Some day, when they’re writing their new math theorem, discovering what the universe is made of, or bursting with picture book ideas, they’ll thank you for the space you gave them to be themselves.


Curious about how I use my down time? Enjoy the rest of my website and watch for upcoming picture book updates!

Fun List Mondays

What Are Three Reasons You Like Learning (And One Reason You Don’t)?

Fun List Monday, August 27

I love the sense of freedom I get after learning something new. After learning to ride a bike, suddenly I could ride to school and to my grandmother’s house. Learning academically has been the same way for me. Suddenly I’m excited about books and articles that didn’t make sense before! How about you? What do you like about learning?

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Write a list with me! Every Monday I will post a fun list. Fill out your list and enjoy it by yourself, share it on my Facebook page, in the comments or on Twitter (with the hashtag #FunListMondays). Not convinced? Read about how lists encourage better writing here.

Like this activity? See other Fun List Mondays here.

Furry Thursday

Furry Thursday, No. 9

Can you guess the animal based on the clues?
Smash up science and English parts of speech together with this guessing game!

adjectives: odd, furry, aquatic, poisonous, shy, perplexing, fascinating, sonic
verbs: waddle, swim, dive
nouns: burrow, bill, beaver tail, hodgepodge
biomes: aquatic

Think you know which animal?
Click here for the answer!

Simplified definitions:
Adjective: a describing word, placed before a noun (or pronoun)
a person, place, thing, or idea
an action word
the type of environment where living things make their homes, a habitat (ex: desert, rainforest, tundra)
eats both plants and meat

Furry Thursday chipmunk

Freewrite Wednesday

Freewrite Wednesday: President or Dessert?

Ready to free your writing? Let’s do a freewrite together!

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Would you rather be the president of The United States of America (and choose your cabinet) but never eat dessert, or not be the president and eat as much dessert as you want?

Help to get you started:
Why did you make your choice? If you chose to be president, what would you do with your new position? How would life change for you? If you chose dessert, why did you choose to not be president?  Which desserts would you eat?

Set your timer for 10 minutes and write, write, write!
Have an especially meaningful freewrite? Share it in the comments or on my Facebook page.

About Freewrites: A freewrite is exactly what it sounds like: free! Use a freewrite to practice channeling thoughts from your mind to the paper. Never done a freewrite? Learn more in my Guide to Freewriting 

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Tuesday! August 21

Hello! Welcome to Poetry Tuesday: the day we dip (or dive) into the lovely world of poetry!

Each Tuesday from June 19 to August 21, 2018, I’ll share a Poetry Activity, a Poem Study, plus an Advanced Poetry Lesson. Feel free to enjoy one, two, or all three of these fun resources! (Click on the title links)

Poetry Activity (for kids, adults, and everyone in between): Concrete (Shape) Poem

Poem Study Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Activity: Concrete Poetry

Hello! Welcome to Poetry Tuesday: the day we dip (or dive) into the lovely world of poetry!

Interested in poetry?
Write a concrete (shape) poem in this activity for kids, adults, and everyone in-between.

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A. Introduction to Concrete Poems

Concrete poems are a special kind of poetry in which the words themselves make a shape! It’s fun, it looks neat, and most importantly, it makes the poem come alive to the reader in a unique way.

Here’s an old example of a concrete poem. It was written by George Herbert, who lived from 1593 to 1633 in Europe. If you turn it sideways, it looks like two sets of Angel Wings! 

Angel Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poore:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

At the top of the page is a poem that I wrote when I was putting together this activity. It was inspired by a recent mouse incident we had in our basement!

See how it looks like a mouse? Sometimes you have to turn the paper to read all the way around a concrete poem!

B. Writing a concrete poem
Your turn!

1. Pick a simple shape. You can pick your own shape or print out one of these templates:
butterfly (advanced)
paw print (advanced)

2. Write a poem about your shape on a separate piece of paper. Even though my poem rhymed, yours absolutely doesn’t need to. Just write words to describe your shape. 

3. Write your poem around the shape!

4. Would you like your concrete poem to be only words and no drawing marks? Here’s a mini-tutorial to help:
a. Trace your shape with a dark marker
b. Place a clean piece of white paper on top of your shape so the shape shows through
c. Write your poem on the white paper, using the shape underneath as a guide

Pleased with your poem? Snap a picture of it and share it in the comments or post it on my

Facebook page so we can all read and enjoy them!

Hungry for more? Check out this week’s…

Poem Study Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2