Crystal City Lights is Finally Here

On April 15, I got to hold my book in my hands for the first time. It’s taken over five years to write, edit, re-write, and publish Crystal City Lights! Keep this in mind if you think you’d like to be a writer when you grow up.  It may take a long time for your ideas to grow into that book you have in mind. Just don’t give up!

Here are some pictures of the third, fourth, and fifth graders from Coweta County who didn’t give up! They wrote, edited, and typed their great American hero stories, and now they’re published authors!

You can click on the book to find out more about it!

Here are the authors! (Except for Yates…he had a baseball tournament!)

This picture was taken at the book launch party for Crystal City Lights. The Great American Heroes authors signed books for all their fans. We sold out of  books in 20 minutes! Yes, if you were late for the party, you missed your chance! (Although you can click on the picture to order a copy of the book!)


Here are more pictures from the party. I hope you enjoy them!

That’s me, ready to sign lots of books!

Even though there were tornadoes nearby, lots of people came to help us celebrate!

We had authentic 1943 toys for the kids to play with. Silly Putty was the most popular!

Here’s a picture of the young authors signing their book for a fan!

Popular foods of the 1940′s were served. Corn dogs anyone?

Pictured here are some of the items I bring with me when I do a school presentation. Did you know the first Batman movie came out in 1943?

More food! It was great! Wish you could have been here!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures! Your parents can order a copy of Crystal City Lights by going to Blue Marlin Publications, or just click on the book cover above.

Have a great week!

“Great American Hero” Authors!

 The brand new published authors are:

Anneslei Lillard, Glanton Elem.

Emery Faircloth, Elm St. Elem.

Sydney Marriaga, Elm St. Elem.

Sarah Dean, Elm St. Elem.

Abby Collins, Canongate Elem.

Riece Green, Jefferson Pkwy Elem.

Jim Salisbury, Brooks Elem.

Yates Kelleher, Brooks Elem.

Garrett Curbow, Brooks Elem.

Shyann Flores, Thomas Crossroads Elem.


The essays I received were really wonderful. I’m very proud of these writers and their excellent book! I will present the books to the writers and their teachers at my book release party on April 28. Several of the school principals told me they would be attending the party, too!

If you’d like to read more about “Great American Heroes”, just click on the cover above. However, if you’d like to order one, you’ll have to have your parent’s help. It’s also available on Kindle for all you e-book readers out there!

Coming next week: A special preview of my new book, Crystal City Lights!

Would you like to win a free copy?

Leave a comment in the box below. Comments should be about the book cover. What do you think is happening in the picture?

Along with your comment, leave your name and school. On May 24, I’ll draw one name out of a hat, and that person gets the free book!

Ten Days to Go!

The deadline for your stories is quickly approaching! Just 10 days to go!


Are you wondering if you’re writing is good? I found this little checklist on-line at the Education Portal. How does your story measure up?

Want to know if you’re writing is ‘good?’ Here’s a quick checklist for when you edit. If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you’re going to do fine.

  1. All of my ideas are interesting and worth talking about.
  2. My examples are specific, and none of them are distracting. (All my sentences support my topic.)
  3. It is clear to the reader what the purpose of my writing is, and they can follow the purpose from beginning to end.
  4. My writing is well-organized and doesn’t take random detours.
  5. My writing has an identifiable voice that doesn’t change.
  6. The work is free of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Now, you might be wondering what those blue words in #5 mean. What in the world is an identifiable voice?

No, no, no! Not THAT kind of voice!

Click here to watch a video all about developing your WRITER’S voice!

In conclusion, you must have a conclusion! It’s the last paragraph and it’s really important, like the icing on the cake or the cherry on top! Click here to learn about writing a concluding paragraph. Remember, I must receive your story by March 29, 2013. (Check out my last post for the other requirements.) I’m looking forward to publishing YOUR story in my book!

Great American Heroes!

A Very Special Announcement for Coweta County Schools!

To celebrate the release of my new book, Crystal City Lights, I am sponsoring a writing contest for all third, fourth, and fifth graders in Coweta County. The theme is

Great American Heroes!

WHO: This contest is open to all Coweta County students enrolled in grades 3 through 5.

CATEGORIES: There will be up to FIVE winners selected from each grade.

PRIZE: Each winner will become a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! The winning stories will be published together in a book, Great American Heroes, by White Pelican Press. The winning writer and their teacher will each receive a copy of the book. Additional copies will be available upon request. (Winning authors will not receive any monetary compensation for their stories.)


Your story must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be about a real American person who you believe is a hero. People from history or present day are acceptable. Your hero does not have to be famous! (No Superman, Batman, Incredible Hulk, or Wonder Woman stories, please.)
  • It must explain why you believe this person is a hero.
  • It must be be no more than 1,000 words.
  • It must have a great title!
  • It must be typed and edited. A parent or teacher may help with the editing and typing, but the words must be yours!
  • It must be submitted by March 29, 2013.


All stories will be judged according to the following standards:

  • How well does this story fit the theme, Great American Heroes? (40 percent)
  • Does this writer use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation? (30 percent)
  • Is this story interesting? Does it make the reader want to learn more about this hero? (30 percent)


Please submit your story as a Word document attached to an email. Be sure to write Great American Heroes in the subject line!

Send it to this email address: [email protected]

Include the following information in the body of your email:

  • Your Name
  • The Title of your story
  • Your Grade
  • Your School
  • Your Teacher’s Name and her School Email Address
  • If you do not want to send your entry in an email,  you may send it to this address:   White Pelican Press, 132 Marcella Ave., Sharpsburg, GA. 30277


Winners will be notified by an email sent to their teacher’s school email account. Winners will be announced on or before April 30, 2013.

Now, read on to get some ideas about heroes. Maybe the writing activities will help you get started on a winning story! Who knows? Maybe by April, YOU could be a published author!


When I say the word hero, what do you think of?

Superman? Batman? Wonder Woman? Your teacher? Your dad?

Quick! Get a piece of paper, and write the names of five people who pop into your head when you think of heroes. What do all your heroes have in common?

Here are just a few of my heroes. Some are famous, some aren’t so famous. Which faces do you recognize? To me, they’re all heroes!


There are so many more heroes I could name! Police officers, teachers, mothers, fathers, volunteers who work in the community to help build houses or feed the hungry….the list goes on and on!

So, what makes a person a hero? Superpowers? A cape? A secret identity? A can of spinach?

Try a little brainstorming. Look at the webs two writers completed before they wrote essays about heroes. What qualities do you agree with? What would you change?


Make a web of your own, listing some of these characteristics and some of your own.

Here’s a top 10 Character Trait List!


10 Significant Characteristics of a Hero

Bravery: “You can’t be brave if you’ve had only
wonderful things happen to you.” ~ Mary Tyler More: This is the most
important characteristic of a hero. You have to be brave to stand up and fight.

Courage: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to
continue that counts” ~ Winston Churchill: You need the courage to fight a
situation no matter how bad it is. Heroes have the fear of losing but they also
have the courage to drive away that fear.

Determination: “The difference between the impossible and possible lies in
a man’s determination.” ~ Tommy Lasorda: When you have the determination
to fight something, no matter how weak you are, you will win.

Dedication: “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small
voice’ within me.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi: Dedication in a task pays off

Endurance: “Don’t pray for lighter burdens, but for stronger backs.”
~ Unknown: If you are strong enough to face failure, nothing can stop you from
achieving your goal.

Perseverance: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang
on.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt: When you are persistent, you are bound to be
victorious eventually.

Valor: “Where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest
valor to dare to live.” ~ Thomas Brown Sr: To be bold enough to stand
against the wrong when no one can show true heroism.

Selflessness: “Without selfless service, no one ever receives the fruits
of their rewards.” ~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib: You have to be selfless in
your life to be remembered as a hero.

Sacrifice: “Those things that are precious are saved only by
sacrifice.” ~ David Kenyon Webster: It is very difficult to make
sacrifices but a true hero sacrifices without hesitating.

Humility: “To become truly great, one has to stand with the people, not
above them.” ~ Charles de Montesquieu. You shouldn’t have airs about
yourself but be down to earth and humble.

Who has been a hero in your life? Write a story about them. If you’d like, send it to me. I’d love to read it!

I want to end this blog with a quote by another one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt.

We  gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really  stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we  cannot.


Have a great week!

From the Heart

It’s the time of year when you see red and pink hearts everywhere! In the grocery store, in the drug store, and in the card shops, pink and red are definitely the colors of the season. If you walk by a florist’s shop, you’ll see lots of red roses and heart-shaped balloons. So, what’s going on? Why, February 14th is almost here, and that means:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here’s a little article all about the history of Valentine’s Day. Pretty interesting! Read to find out why we celebrate this day! Click on the calendar to visit the site.

When I was in elementary school (several decades ago), we didn’t sign the back of the cards we gave out. Instead, we hid our names in the picture on the front, making our friends really search for the identity of the person who gave the card. And, we didn’t use white paper bags to collect the cards on Valentine’s Day. Instead, we made Valentine boxes out of shoe boxes covered with white paper, hearts, fabric trim, and anything else we could find. Each class had a contest for the best design. The winner usually won a small box of candy like Conversation Hearts.

Have you ever wondered how people got started sending Valentine cards? In the USA, it started in a little town in Massachusetts by a woman named…well, see if you can find out! Click on the Valentine cards!

One of my favorite Valentine candies is Hershey kisses, but until I read this article didn’t know where the name “kisses” name came from. Here are three choices:

a. The little shape reminded people of lips puckered up for a kiss.

b. The machine that forms the candy makes a noise like a kiss.

c. Children at the Hershey School in Hershey, PA created the name.

Think you know? Click on the kiss to find out!


Here are some interesting statistics about Valentine’s Day. For example, how much do you think the average person spends on presents for the day? What is the most popular gift given on Valentine’s Day? Click on the roses to find out!

When I was a teacher, I enjoyed getting Valentine cards from my students, especially if they made them. Here’s a chance for you to make one for your favorite teacher!

The next site will help you make an email card for your teacher. Click on the picture below. Follow the directions at the site to make a Valentine postcard. You can write something sweet or something funny; it’s up to you! Email the card to the teacher of your choice and wait for the response. They’re going to love it!

Now, here’s a fun Valentine’s Day activity I think you’ll like. Click on the picture to play a game. I got to level three the first time I played. Think you can beat that? We’ll see!

I want to end this post with a quote from one of my heroes, Helen Keller. Click on her picture to learn about her amazing life.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

Have a wonderful day!

It’s All Write!

In January, teachers start thinking about those state writing tests you’ll be taking pretty soon. You may notice your teacher getting a little nervous when you forget to add punctuation to your sentences. Forget to capitalize the first letter of a proper noun? You may find yourself doing an entire page out of that dusty old language book just so your teacher knows you won’t make that mistake again!  Is she banging her head on the classroom wall? Well, somebody must have used their, they’re, and there incorrectly AGAIN! By the way, look what I got for Christmas!

(If you don’t understand my new shirt, you need to click on the picture. You’ll go to a site that will help you figure out how to use the words correctly.)

So, I thought it might be helpful (and maybe even FUN!) to give you a little writing practice this week. Let’s start with a review of the four types of writing. Unscramble the letters and match the word to its meaning.

SIXTYPORER         SUPEREVISA             TRIPESCIVED         ANATRIVE                

  • This type of writing creates a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing.
  • This type of writing includes just the facts!
  • This type of writing gives your opinion and tries to make the reader see things your way!
  • This type of writing tells a story!

Click here to see if you’re right!

Now it’s time to write your own story! (I promise you’ll love this site! It really is FUN!) Click on the image below. (The site has absolutely nothing to do with pirates. It just feels like a pirate kind of day!)

Write a really great story and ask your teacher if you can print it out. Create a picture to go with it!


Don’t forget to find something terrific to read! What’s the best book you’ve read lately? Write your answer in the comment section below!

Have a great week!

Charging into the new year!

Happy New Year!

My first blog of 2013 is pretty power-ful and should get you all wired for learning! Ready for me to switch off the electricity puns? But I get such a charge out of them!

 (Do you suppose she’s going to do this for the entire blog?)


Learn some current terms by clicking on the picture below! You’ll see words like conductor, insulator, attract, repel, circuit….(HINT: Study the terms and their definitions before you try the games. Space Race is especially shocking!)

Now that you’re familiar with some of the important vocabulary, let’s check out an important inventor whose electrical know-how lights up our lives every day!

What do you think Edison meant when he said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”?

Time for a little practice with electricity and circuits. This web site has lots of information, activities, and quizzes. Follow the directions you’ll see at the bottom right of each lesson. Click on the picture of the circuit to go to the site.

(Looks like someone is not too happy about the quiz part of this activity!)

Did she say quiz? Who has a quiz on their first blog of the new year? Come on! My brain is still operating on fruit cake and sugar plums! I can’t take a quiz!

The lightbulbs you see in the picture below have been passed down through generations of my family. According to my relatives, these are actual Edison lightbulbs, and are very, very old. How are these bulbs different from the ones we use everyday?

Click on the picture to visit a site that will teach you about energy, current, and lightbulbs!


Now, one more site to visit. Have you ever wondered what protons, neutrons, electrons and magnets have in common?

(Is she kidding? Proton, neutrons, and what -trons? She’s making this up, right? Is there going to be ANOTHER quiz?)

Click on the picture below to learn about electromagnets, in case you’re interested in being an electricity genius like the “Wizard of Menlo Park”! Edison would be proud of you! (If you decide to build an electromagnet, be sure to have an adult help you.)

So, that’s it! My first blog of the year 2013! I hope you weren’t too repelled by all the electricity talk. After all, some famous person once said, “Knowledge is power!” I hope you have a very powerful new year!

And, remember this great quote by Thomas Edison……

Oh, one more thing. Here’s a different way to keep a journal of 2013. I’ve already started my jar. What will you include in yours?

The Whole World Celebrates!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year! Are you counting down the days? I am! This post is all about the fascinating ways different people from countries all around the world celebrate the season. I know most of you study ‘Christmas Around the World’ every year, so I tried to find some unique customs you might not know about. See if you can match up the clue with its country of origin. Then, click on the map to see if you’re right! (Bet you can’t guess which one goes with the good ole’ USA!)

Please note, countries are not to scale. If they were, which country would be the largest? the smallest?

Now here are some customs from each nation listed above. Match up the country with its Christmas tradition. Click on the country’s map to see if you’re correct!

  • In this country, people greet each other by saying, “Nollag Shoma!” Children attach pillow cases to the end of their beds to hold all their Christmas toys.
  • Christmas cake made from sponge cake, strawberries, and whipped cream is a holiday favorite in this country. Also, the preferred meal on Christmas Day? Kentucky Fried Chicken!
  • The favorite food for this nation’s holiday feast is ‘il capitone’, a fancy name for eel! Bubba Natali brings Christmas gifts to good children.
  • It’s traditional in this country to hide an ornament shaped like a pickle on the Christmas tree. In one part of this country, people parade an ox through the streets. The ox is decorated with holly and ribbons.
  • People in this country make dolls called ‘prune people’ from prunes, figs, and walnuts. They’re supposed to bring good luck. Children leave their shoes outside, hoping that St. Nicholas will fill them with candy.
  • Christmas is celebrated on January 7 in this country. Great Frosty visits, and children listen to the legend of Babushka.
  • Beginning December 12 each year, the Jolasveinars (Christmas Boys) cause all kinds of trouble in this island nation. They snatch candles, slam doors, and get into mischief.
  • Most of this nation’s population is Buddhist, so Christmas is not a public holiday here. Children still go to school on December 25, but they might be treated to a classroom party featuring a visit from Santa.
  • Since this nation is south of the equator, December 25 falls during its summer. Santa travels from town to town on a fire engine. A traditional Christmas food in this nation is pavlova.
  • The traditional Christmas meal, called ‘wigilia’ is eaten after the entire family sees the first star in the evening. They have named the star, ‘Gwiazda’. The family members all eat an ‘oplatek’, a special kind of wafer. According to legend, an angel or Gwiazda leave presents for children beneath the Christmas tree.
  • Most of the people in this country are Buddhist, but they like to make beautiful paper lanterns to decorate their homes. Santa Claus goes by the name of Chen-dan-lao-ren in this populous nation.
  • In this nation, you can expect to see an advent wreath in every home. They celebrate St. Lucia Day. They believe St. Lucia had a halo, or she actually glowed!

Merry Christmas to all!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your trip around the world. Look back at the nations you studied today. What continents were not included in our travels?

If you have time, there are lots of fun activities on this web page produced by a school in Kent, United Kingdom. Check it out! (Click on the picture below!)

Read something terrific over Christmas break, and make sure you finish your story from last week so you can get it entered in the contest.

This is my last post for the year 2012! Have a very Merry Christmas, and I’ll be back in January, 2013!

In the comment box below, please tell me about your favorite holiday tradition. How does your family celebrate the holidays?

So There I Was…

“Let’s do this!”

As I visit schools and talk with students, I’ve  noticed a trend: lots and lots of kids want to know how they can get their stories published! If you’re one of those students, this blog is for YOU!

I found this terrific website, “Adventure Write”. The site is hosting a creative writing contest for kids under the age of 19. Here are the prizes:

1. Publication on!

2. $50 cash!

3. Certificate of Achievement!

You can go to the website to learn more about the contest, but here are the basics:

  • Your story must be less than 1500 words.
  • Your story must be submitted by December 31, 2012.
  • Your story must be edited. It will be judged on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

The first sentence of your story must start with:  So there I was…

Get started by clicking on the computer. It will link you to the site’s tutorial. Follow the directions to write a story.

Click here for the tutorial.

Next, I’ve added a graphic organizer to remind you of the elements of a short story and to help you get your ideas organized.   Click here: So there I was…

Now, let’s talk about content. The creators of the contest are very particular about what they will OR will not print. One of the suggestions says:

Stories must be tasteful and contain more mystery or suspense than gore.  Think Twilight Zone, Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock.

In other words, your story must be rated G or PG, no PG-13 or R! Don’t rely on bloody vampire battles, gory head-eating monsters, or vomit-spewing aliens. They want you to be creative and imaginative without all the gross stuff. And, they’d like for your story to teach a lesson about life. Whew, they’re really going to make you earn that $50!

Click on the poster to read the 2011 winning entry! Read the story carefully so you have a better understanding of what the judges want to read in a winning story. (In case you didn’t notice, the author is ten years old. See! You can do this!)

A leftover from last week’s blog! Click here to see Ethan’s winning story.

Your story must be submitted by December 31, 2012! If you want your teacher to help you edit, you need to get crackin’ (yes, I said,’crackin’) because Christmas break is write around the corner! Please note: The rules say that you may have help typing your story, but they must type what YOU’VE written! 

Next, click on the link below for the  entry form.

Guess I better get ‘crackin’!

Mail your entry to

Adventure Write Story Contest P.O. Box 872241 Wasilla AK 99687

Or, email it to this address: [email protected]

Good Luck!!! I hope to see lots of winners!

Teachers, I’ve included a link to a blog I submitted this week. If you have time (HA!), read it and leave me some comments. Did I forget to mention anything? Do you have pet peeves about author visits? Tell me so I can get the word out there!

Math Teachers: This is for you! I found this neat game for teaching GCF and LCM. I think your kids will like it! (But the music will probably make you nuts.)

And, finally, a big thank you to all the media specialists out there who work so hard to make learning an adventure!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

“Five Golden Rings, Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!”

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” has been a popular holiday song for hundreds of years. It was first published in Mirth Without Mischief, a 1780s children’s book. Researchers say it was used as a “memory or forfeit” game. The first child would say “a partridge in a pear tree”. The second child would have to say “two turtle doves AND a partridge in a pear tree.” The game would continue until somebody couldn’t remember everything on the list. That child would ‘forfeit’ something like a coin or a piece of candy.

Don’t quite remember all the words to the song? I had to look them up, too! Click on the five gold rings to see a short video of the song.

Click here to watch a video of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Every year, a newspaper reporter tries to figure out how much it would cost to buy all the items listed in the song. The number has gone up every year.  How much do you think it costs? (Here’s a hint: The most expensive item is the swan. Each one costs $1000!)  Click on the elf to read an article all about it.

$1000 for a swan? Wow

How do you think your Christmas list would compare to the one in the famous song? Let’s find out! Ask your teacher for the sheet I sent called “Christmas Shopping List”. Or click here to see the worksheet.
On the next page, you will see pictures and prices of the most popular toys of the 2012 Christmas season. Choose the toys that you would like to include in your own version of “Twelve Days”, and calculate the cost. (You might want to ask if you can use a calculator!) Have fun shopping! Try to keep your cost as low as possible. Santa has a budget, too, you know!

Click here to go shopping!

A special note from my publisher:

We are collecting new and gently used picture books and middle grade novels. We are giving these books to two wonderful teachers from the Lindenhurst, NY school district, Maria Bohrer and Erica Bohrer, who will be distributing the books directly to their students who lost their entire home libraries in Hurricane Sandy. Please mail your books or bookstore gift cards to us at the above address, and we will deliver your donations to these children in time for the holidays.  Thanks!

Just imagine losing all your books in a terrible storm like these families did! Please gather any books you’d like to donate and send them to some kids who will really enjoy them. What a great way to help someone during the holiday season!

Wouldn’t you love to climb this staircase? Me, too! Have a great week!