This summer, the American Library Association conference came to Chicago. It was awwwwesome! The conference was full of my favorite people in the world--teachers and librarians--and I got to meet lots of them while signing copies of ELLIE ULTRA: AN EXTRA-ORDINARY GIRL.
Here's why these people are my faves: They teach kids how to read. They know reading is a power that will help kids be successful in school and beyond, and they do what it takes to build that power. Teachers might seek out the most innovative literacy strategies. Librarians might look for the latest engaging books to add to their collections. They might even travel to big cities like Chicago and get books at equally big conferences, just to give those books to their schools. And it's all to make kids stronger readers.
To the teachers and librarians I met at ALA 2017:
Thank you for giving kids the power to read. If you ever need a hand--bookmarks for your class, an encouraging letter from an author--please reach out. I would love to contribute to your super work.
Today we celebrate a very special hero, a hero whose courage, kindness, and strength live in us all.
Ellie Ultra fans, I have big news for YOU. Two more books in the series are flying your way in 2018. I'm so excited, my heart is fluttering faster than a turbo-powered butterfly!
Here are the details I can share...for now: One book is called Superhero for President, and inside, Ellie runs against her no-good archenemy in a topsy-turvy class election. In the other book, called Mighty Pet Sitter, Ellie's super skills are put to the test as she takes care of the new class pet. Both books are full of zoom-pop action and totally zany villains, with lots of surprises and fun. After all, they are about our extraordinary third grader!
More details--and even bigger news--coming soon!
Starting today, you can enter to win signed copies of ELLIE ULTRA #1 and #2. Mia from Pragmatic Mom is hosting a fantastic giveaway that will run for the next 18 days on her blog. The giveaway accompanies my top 10 list of diverse superhero books, which features stories and characters for all readers. Check out my list and enter the giveaway HERE.
Good luck, superhero fans!
Yesterday, I got to meet real superheroes. I visited Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago to appear on the hospital's TV show, "Storytime with Dot," where I talked about my personal inspiration behind ELLIE ULTRA. After, patients shared which superpower they would have. One patient called in from her hospital room to say she'd pick glitter power. That one sounded good to me too.
The show was special. It featured a host that has the awesome ability to light up a child's face. It had volunteers working behind the scenes, bringing patients, who were feeling well enough, to sit in studio and watch the live broadcast. And it had an entire staff tirelessly coordinating everything--from the stage set-up to the prizes to the emails and phone calls taking care of giveaways and guests--all to make patients smile.
Then there were the children. Real, honest-to-goodness superheroes with mighty parents and caregivers.
I was thankful, so very thankful, to meet them all.
My daughter is one of my inspirations behind my super-new series, ELLIE ULTRA. She is also a big fan of the third-grade superhero--so big, in fact, she wanted to dress up like Ellie for Halloween. All she needed was a costume...
Mom to the rescue!
To copy Ellie's outfit, I looked closely at the cover art of book #1: Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl. Here is our super girl on the cover:
Next, it was time to search for what I needed. Right away, I found the tights (with special help from the Cheshire Cat):
Ellie's tutu wasn't too hard to find either. I came across this company and picked a tutu in hot pink:
Finding a purple shirt with that awesome lightning bolt proved tougher. But, I improvised. I got this plain purple shirt, though stay tuned for how I managed the lightning bolt:
Finally, I found Ellie's most important accessory--her cape! I needed something plain and pink, so I decided this would work well:
I still had to add a lightning bolt to the purple shirt, not to mention Ellie's name across the back of the cape (check it out on p. 77 in An Extra-Ordinary Girl). To do that, my daughter and I took a trip to the fabric store. After buying some purple cloth, we cut out letters and a lightning bolt, and I stitched everything into place. Using fabric glue would've worked too. Ellie also wears a headband that matches her tutu, so I dug through my daughter's hair accessories and found a headband that matched pretty well.
Faster than it takes to bust a bad guy, we finished her Ellie Ultra costume:
Are you an Ellie Ultra fan? Ellie and I hope you have a SUPER Halloween!
Before I write a story, it rains in my brain. In other words, I brainstorm the story's details. The details fall like raindrops, eventually puddling into the parts that every story needs--the beginning, middle, and end.
To brainstorm, I'll ask myself questions like...
"What is the main character's problem?"
"How does the problem affect the main character/the main character's life?"
"How does the main character respond/react to the problem? What actions does he/she take?"
And, after answering lots of little questions like "Does the story take place over a day? A week?" or "Are there other characters who help the main character?" I'll finally ask...
"How does the main character solve the problem?"
Like rain feeds the earth, the answers to these questions feed my story. They are details I use to grow a plot and characters, and I let them fall until I know my story's beginning, middle, and end. Then it's time to dry off and start writing.
My book, THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN ILLINOIS, is bursting with gifts. They are all from the Prairie State. From her cousin Sam, Mia gets five golden deer, eleven boats a-sparkling, and even a chirpy red cardinal named Ruby. Not exactly what you'd find Christmas morning, are they?
The gifts are unusual, but they make Mia smile big. It's the same size smile I wore when I was picked to write the book. It was my chance to talk up my home state, so I filled the pages with mighty rivers, noble presidents, spooky ghosts, and brave explorers. I also found room for some sock monkeys. (I go wild for those plush primates. Oo-oo-oo-ah-ah!)
Not only did I write about my state's treasures, I got to meet a few too while promoting the book. Here I am with one from Rockford, Illinois--Rick Nielsen of the band, Cheap Trick. He was honored for creating a one-of-a-kind guitar exhibit at the Midway Village Museum:
Writing the book was a gift, one I'm glad to share with you. Join Mia and Sam as they swing by the state capital. Say hi to roadside giants on Route 66. And if you're hungry, stop to feast on a horseshoe sandwich. (It's not made of horseshoes, I promise!) It'll put a smile on your face. Like all gifts, cardinals in white oak trees can do that.
Like many families, ours is a creative bunch. I create stories. My girls create music, art, and much love for sports. And, when the hubby is not creating lesson plans, he's banging on his drum set and making enough sound to shake the display shelves. (Don't worry. The breakables are taped down.)
Oh, and our dog creates adorableness. Check out Wyatt in action:
If anyone's short on adorableness, let me know. I'll send Wyatt right over.
A creative home is a writer's paradise. It makes ideas pop and tickles our imagination and beckons (well, nags) us to write. It's wild and wonderful and what every writer needs to turn our words into a brand-new world. That way, we can share our stories, and best of all, create a reader too.
Today, the sun is out in Chicago. I see blue skies, feel a barely-there breeze. Spring has arrived! It means sandal weather is ahead. Ah, my toes can't wait to see the sun again!
It also means we're one day closer to the release of my FIRST ORIGINAL chapter book series:
...coming Fall 2016 from Capstone Young Readers!
Ellie is just...WOW. She is illustrated by the extraordinarily talented Jessika von Innerebner. Check out Jess' awesomeness here: http://www.jessvoni.com/. I will show you Ellie ASAP, but I have to wait for the publisher's signal since there's a time and place for everything, including sneak peeks.
Here's what I can reveal about Ellie: She is your ordinary, average third-grade superhero who fights bad guys and saves the day while dealing with the ins and outs of being a kid. Sure, it's tough busting super villains, but fitting in and making friends is equally hard. Can Ellie do it? I think so. She's a kid, and kids are SUPER!
Now to dig out those sandals...