Author: Bernice Seward

I'm an incurable optimist with a particular fondness for stories where the "little duck" wins in the end. I'm an avid reader, writer, photographer and adventurer.

Free Christmas Coloring Page

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This is an illustration I did for a Christmas coloring book. It was fun to read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2 and to imagine what transpired around the time Jesus was born. I don’t think I’d ever realized how long the trip was that Mary and Joseph took until I worked on this project–they traveled 80 to 90 miles to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem!

A trip of 80 to 90 miles is nothing for us with our current forms of transportation, but for Mary and Joseph–who may or may not have had a donkey to help with transport–it was quite an undertaking. Especially since baby Jesus was due anytime. Having had four children of my own, I can’t imagine making a trip like that in the last few weeks of pregnancy!

Anyway, I wanted to take a moment to say Merry Christmas, and to give you a little gift. If you click on the image above, you can download a free coloring page for Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Very Truly Yours, Bernice

New! Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word Story Early Readers

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The first three books in a new series, the Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word Story Series, are now available as Kindle books. These books break reading down into bite-size chunks that a young reader or a struggling reader can handle without feeling overwhelmed.

The Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word Story Series introduces readers to the 40 “service words” on the Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word List. There will be a total of 14 stories. Ten stories introduce new words and the other four stories reinforce words the reader has already learned.

Each book in this series introduces four sight words, tells a story that includes each sight word at least three times, and then reinforces the learning through review activities.

In designing these books, care has been taken to help readers by:

  • Limiting the learning focus to four words, well within the bounds of short-term memory retention
  • Introducing the sight words at the beginning to familiarize the reader with these focal words
  • Utilizing a short, simple story that provides the accomplishment of reading a complete story
  • Including review activities to help reinforce the story and the sight words
  • Using limited vocabulary
  • Using repetition
  • Using large text in an easy-to-read font
  • Using consistent placement of text to alleviate confusion for where to continue the story on successive pages

The remaining titles in this series will release in Fall 2016 and Winter 2016/2017. You can find a complete list of the books in the Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word Story Series, including the Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Words introduced in each, on the Early Reader Page.

To preview and/or purchase any of these books, please click on the images at the top of this screen, or on the icons below:

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How to Tell if YOU are a Flip-Happy Page Turner

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Have YOU ignored Marvin T. Fendersnatch’s warnings to NOT turn the pages in Do NOT Turn This Page?

If so, you will have noticed this little page, page 41, where Marvin declares that he gives up and he calls you–the illustrious reader–a “flip-happy page turner.”

“But what,” you might ask, “IS a flip-happy page turner? And how would a person know whether or not he or she was one?”

These are very good questions. They are such good questions, in fact, that I conducted a preliminary investigation into the matter.

After a good deal of research, I uncovered a number of characteristics common to persons of the “flip-happy page turner” variety. Said characteristics have been assembled into a short, painless quiz called The Official Flip-Happy Page Turner Quiz.

If you are the curious and adventurous sort, or if you dare to turn pages in a book when a purportedly fictional character warns you NOT to, then this quiz is for you.

Ready? Here’s the quiz:

Official Flip Happy Page Turner Quiz

That was super duper easy, right?

And I for one am glad to have that mystery cleared up–and to have a brand new certificate to hang on my wall:-)

 

 

Five Fascinating Facts about the Moon


While working on a new picture book about a boy, a dragon, and a trip to the moon, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about what it would be like to actually be on the surface of the moon.

For example, is there water on the moon? Does the moon have an atmosphere? What do moon rocks look like? What would happen if a boy threw a rock on the moon? How hot and cold does it get there? Does the moon spin on an axis? If a boy weighed 60 pounds on Earth, what would he weigh on the moon? What is the distance between the Earth and the moon, and how far does it take light to travel that distance? (There are lots of other questions scattered through various pages of story planning, some of which are currently top secret, so I can only share the questions listed above at this juncture.)

 

In my quest for answers, I’ve uncovered a lot of interesting tidbits of information.

 

Here are five of the exciting facts I’ve discovered:

  1. According to NASA, there are significant ice deposits at the north and south poles of the moon. (Are you thinking what I’m thinking–that Galactic Santa has an outpost at the moon’s north pole? This is totally NOT applicable to the story I’m writing right now, but I won’t rule out the possibility for a future story!) The lunar soil also contains a minimal amount of water molecules. Why is water important for my story? If there is water, then there is the possibility of breaking up the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, thus providing a way for a character to survive on the moon.
  2. The moon has an atmosphere. It is very minimal, and is called a surface boundary exosphere. (If you tell somebody that fact, they may be quite impressed by your knowledge. Just say, “By the way, did you know that the moon has a surface boundary exosphere?”). The atmosphere is not very dense–in fact, it’s considered a vacuum–but that’s still a fun fact to know.
  3. What is the temperature on the moon? Extremely hot or extremely cold! Around the equatorial region, it varies from 224 Degrees Fahrenheit during the day to -298 Degrees Fahrenheit at night. And in the perma shadow region’s craters at the south pole, the temperatures get below -397 Degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrrr!!!!!
  4. What would a boy who weighed 60 pounds on earth weigh on the moon? About 10 pounds, since gravity is about 6 times stronger on Earth than on the moon. You can check out www.Exploratorium.edu if you want to see what YOU would weigh on our moon or on a number of other galactic bodies.
  5. What would it be like to walk on the moon? According to Harrison Schmitt, it “felt like walking on a giant’s trampoline.” If you check out this WhyFiles interview, you can read Mr. Schmitt’s whole, awesome description.

So, those are five of the fascinating facts I discovered about the moon. Plus, I just HAVE to add two other awesome facts because I can’t keep them to myself:

  1. Astronauts wear water-cooled underwear! Harrison Schmitt mentioned it in his WhyFiles interview, and I found more information (and pictures!) at NASA’s website. You learn something new and cool (catch the pun?) every day, eh?
  2. The International Space Station (ISS) is “falling around earth.” Earth’s gravity constantly pulls on it, but because the ISS travels at a whopping 17,500 miles per hour, it doesn’t crash to earth.

So, that’s a bit of the science lesson I’ve been getting this week:-)

The Gift of Reading for $1.00 or less!

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As a welcome to the new year–and because I LOVE to read and to share the gift of reading–all my books are $0.99 or less over at Amazon.com this week!

You can click on the images below to go to each book’s page and get your copies. Please spread the word so that as many people  can enjoy the books as possible 🙂

Happy reading,

Bernice

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The Story Behind HAVE YOU SEEN MY FROG? (and how you can get a free copy)

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Whenever that happens, you can be sure that I’m hiding away, working so hard on something that all my time and creativity are funneled toward that task.

And that task is now complete–hurrah!

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been working on the story for Duck’s second picture book. This story originated from a vivid memory an aunt (I love you,Auntie Jane!) has about a certain “frog incident” that occurred when I was too young to remember (or to know better, hopefully). Said incident involved a cup of coffee and a frog and you can guess who instigated the incident (or find out by watching the video above or by reading this blog post).

I’d worked on the story off and on, but the details didn’t “click” until this fall when I discovered what Duck’s problem REALLY was (I already knew what Auntie Duck’s problem was :-), but she wasn’t the main character). Now that the last details have been completed and the book is available (ask for HAVE YOU SEEN MY FROG? at your favorite bookstore or find it at Amazon.com here), I won’t be QUITE as quiet.

In fact, over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some of the behind-the-scenes stories that have been percolating (watch out, Auntie Duck!), some ways to use HAVE YOU SEEN MY FROG? to create teachable moments with children, and other goodies pertaining to the story.

Until December 31st, you can get a FREE copy of the e-book for HAVE YOU SEEN MY FROG? by clicking this link.

And you can download a free activity packet for the book here.

Enjoy!

Writing Backwards–Starting at the End to Find the Beginning

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Have you ever worked your way through a maze? You take your pencil and start at the beginning (or take your whole self in if it’s a corn maze), then search for an unimpeded path to reach the end.

If the maze is especially tricky, you backtrack MANY times along the way. And you peek at the map–or the answer key–if there is one.

Sometimes you have to start at the end to find the beginning.

That’s the way it was with my newest book, Have You Seen My Frog?, which comes out next month. The story originated from a vivid memory one of my aunts, Mary Jane Foss, has from ages back.

When I was young my family camped a lot. On one camping trip, I slipped a frog into Auntie Jane’s coffee cup when she wasn’t looking. She swallowed a big drink of coffee–frog and all! And, of course, that coffee and the frog came right back up!

I don’t remember putting the frog in her coffee cup. I won’t claim that I couldn’t have done it or that I didn’t do it, because I’ve always had a quirky sense of humor, but still. . . .

So, for Duck’s second book I knew I wanted to include Auntie Duck and “the frog incident.” The problem was, I had no clue what the story itself would be about.

Duck would be the main character, of course. But what was the story problem? What did Duck want, and what would hinder her from achieving her goal?

  1. Would Duck go to a pond with Auntie Duck and take her friend/pet Frog? Would Frog get lost and Duck had to find him?
  2. Would Duck go to the park with Auntie Duck, catch a little glimpse of Frog, then try to discover what the flash of green was?

Was this to be a book about something lost and found, or a book of discovery? And what would set it apart from all the other books about lost things or about discovering a new thing?

I had decided that I liked the idea of discovery better, but when I sat down to write the story, it was so hard to write!

“What’s up with this?” I asked myself.

I’d already written an outline and worked out most of the details, so it shouldn’t be this hard to write a 300-word story.

So I went down to a local pond for inspiration. While I was there, I realized why I was having trouble writing the story.

I wasn’t excited about it. It left me feeling flat and uninspired.

I thought about some of the books I do get excited about. Like Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, Mo Willem’s Pigeon books, Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Exclamation Mark and I Wish You More, Herve Tullet’s Press Here, and Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo (just to name a few).

What is it that I love about these books? What piques my interest and makes me want to read them more than once, and to share them with other people?

Some of these books are humorous. Some have surprising, outlandish twists you wouldn’t expect. Some make you smile one moment and make you tear up the next.

And all of them have characters who are relatable.

So I thought: What if Duck’s story isn’t about looking for something? What if her story is about getting pointed in different directions when you’re looking for something?

And that provided the piece of the maze, the “aha moment,” to create the path from the end to the beginning of Have You Seen My Frog?.

Sometimes you have to start at the end to find the beginning.

But as Pete the Cat would say, “It’s all good.”

 

 

A Balancing Act: Beyond the Written Page Video Journal

Like a trapeze artist, a writer must strive to achieve the delicate balance which will carry her safely across the high wire to the other side. Breaks between show times provide an opportunity to assess what techniques and tricks are working well and what parts of the routine may need to be modified.

Join me in this first fall episode of Beyond the Written Page to see what I wrestled with on my first day in the office after a three month writing hiatus.

Welcome back!

–Bernice

Seven Simple Steps to Start Writing

A friend who is interested in writing recently asked how I got started as an author. I created a list of seven of the most important steps to start writing–and a few things to ignore for a while.

  1. Decide you want to write. I know this sounds silly, but it’s important. Decide that writing is truly what you want to do, then commit yourself to doing it—no matter what.
  2. Limit your other responsibilities. Writing takes time and consistency. Limiting your other responsibilities and involvements will help you carve out the time and energy to write.
  3. Find a place to write, and create a routine. Where are you comfortable writing? At a desk, at the kitchen table, on the couch? At a coffee shop? At the library? It may not have to be the same place every time (though that helps to begin with). The important thing is to find a place you can start writing and to begin a writing routine.
  4. Just write. Get a pencil and paper (or your computer), and start writing. The best place to start is where you are now. Do you have an idea of what you want to write? Or so many ideas you can’t focus on one? Or no ideas at all? Write it down! Are you working through fears or questions? Write those down and work through them. You have to start where you are to get to wherever you’ll end up in writing.
  5. Learn more about the craft of writing. If you know what type of writing you’re interested in—fiction, nonfiction, what genre(s), who your audience will be—start there. There are lots of great books about writing, many of which may be available at your local library. You can also search the web and find a myriad of resources for any subject or question you may have about writing. Some books I have found particularly helpful as a fiction writer are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writer’s Market (which comes out every year and has information on where to submit work for publication, as well as writing tips), and Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson (which is broken down into sections, making it easy to find answers to specific questions you may have).
  6. Join a writing critique group. This is one of the best things I did! The group provides encouragement, positive feedback and constructive criticism, and accountability to keep writing. You could ask a local librarian if they know of writing critique groups in the area, or ask other writers you may know.
  7. Read, read, read! Read books you love. Read classics. Read books that are like the book you want to write. Read books that are like books you think you may want to write. Read best-selling books from the publishersweekly.com website.

Writing isn’t easy, but it can be simple if you take it step by step. You’ll hear about plenty of other things to work on in writing—such as voice, platform, blogging, agents and editors, publishing and self-publishing, etc.—but don’t worry about any of those yet. They would distract you from where your focus needs to be at this point; and believe me, these first seven steps are plenty to begin with!

Best of luck on your writing journey,

Bernice

The Surprise Visitor

A hummingbird stopped by to visit this morning while I was watering the tomato plants in my garden.

It surprised me when she alighted on the top rung of the tomato cage. I had never met her before, and I wasn’t exactly being “still” as I hefted the watering can to douse the potted tomato plants.

And yet she came.

“Well, good morning.” I told her. “What brings you here today?”

She flicked out her long, thin yellow tongue.

“I don’t suppose the flowers on these plants provide you with any food, do they?” I asked.

She cocked her head to the side.

“You are a pretty little thing! And look at those dainty claws, holding on to the wire.”

She flicked her silken yellow tongue again.

“And what a pretty dappled chest you have! And a tinge of yellow like a scarf around your neck. Very nice.”

Her cream and brown chest moved so, so fast as her miniature heart thumped away.

“The smaller you are, the more quickly your heart beats. Isn’t that something? And if you have babies at home, I wonder how incredibly tiny and delicate they are.”

I admired her and talked to her for a little while longer. Our visit ended when she flitted away as quickly as she had arrived.

“Thank you for the visit!” I called after her.

And I continued about my own morning, a little lighter in step and brighter in countenance, thinking that perhaps I should buy a hummingbird feeder or two to hang on the back deck.