Trouble Comes to Myrtle’s Beach

Myrtle’s afternoon plans are ruined when trouble, in the form of Rufus, arrives at her beach. Although Myrtle was hoping for a relaxing afternoon, Rufus is bound to have other ideas!

This illustration was created with pastels on paper, then finished digitally. 

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 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.


Writing Backwards–Starting at the End to Find the Beginning


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!


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 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,


How Many Blog Posts Would a Blog Poster Post if a Blog Poster Would Post Posts?

stop photo

In looking back over my blog thus far, it seems a little, well, boring. Mostly just “newsy” updates on writing projects.


I want to blog more, but there are so many rules to follow to do a blog “right.” And for me to learn to write according to those rules would take time, and would siphon time and energy from the fun, creative playground that words and stories are supposed to be.

I love to write. I love to share things I’ve learned that may help other writers (or others with dreams they are following or want to follow). There are times I want to post a “dear diary” entry, or share about something that’s worked for me–or hasn’t worked for me–in writing. There are times I want to be spontaneous and share a fun little “ditty,” or artwork or a photograph. Or a scene in a story I’m working on. But I haven’t because most of it doesn’t fit in the parameters of what a blog “should” be.

So this is what I have decided. For blogging to work, I have to do it my way. Yes, I hope that it provides value for anyone who wants to stop by and read it. But in the end, this blog is my blog and I’m writing it for myself as much as anything or anyone else.

I CAN promise three things: posts on my blog will be varied, real, and erratic. That’s the story of my life on a daily basis, so I guess it makes sense for my blog posts to be a reflection of reality.

So, how many blog posts would a blog poster post if a blog poster would post posts? Check back in with me next year, and let’s find out!


How Long Did it Take to Publish The Very Hungry Duck?


One of the questions people like to ask is, “How long did it take to write and publish your book?” In this episode of Beyond the Written Page, I share how long it took to write, illustrate, and publish The Very Hungry Duck

Believe it or not, I find this a hard question to answer. In the video, I share the length of time in months. But it’s hard to “quantify” that time, because when I’m in the middle of a project, I don’t think in terms of hours and minutes. I focus in on the project, and get so caught up in it that I lose track of time (and of other responsibilities I should be taking care of).

And each project is different, so each book I work on will have a different answer. The story/rhyme for The Very Hungry Duck came together very quickly. (In fact, I tell you exactly HOW quickly in the video–be sure to watch it 🙂 )

But very few stories fall into place that way. Most of them require more time for the story line or the right wording to come together. 

That’s one of the things I love about stories, and about writing them. Each one has a unique “story” behind how it comes together.

I hope you enjoy learning a little bit about the story behind The Very Hungry Duck. And if you have any questions, please post it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

The Very Hungry Duck, Second Edition!

I received the first order of books last night for the second edition of The Very Hungry Duck! I have been so involved with the final details for this book, as well as for my OTHER new book (called Do NOT Turn This Page), that I haven’t shared much about the project with you yet.

So, be sure to watch the above video, then read on to find out more about Duck’s new look!


1. Why a second edition?

I’ve wanted to make a hardcover edition of The Very Hungry Duck so that Duck can find a home in libraries, where she will be able to meet, entertain, and encourage children around the world! The biggest challenge with printing the first edition of the book was figuring out how to make the illustrations appear in printed form the way I intended them to.  I redid the original illustrations twice, then made changes to the digital files another couple of times to brighten the images.

I have learned so much about digital illustration, as well as picture book layout and design, during the last year that I decided to give Duck a “page lift,” as I like to call it.


2. What has changed in this second edition?

  • The color scheme changed dramatically. This helps distinguish the second edition from the first one.
  • Very little of the text changed in the story–just a word here and there to flow with changes to the page layout.
  • I redid all the illustrations digitally, though I incorporated the original character drawings.
  • This book is 32 pages. The original edition was 24 pages.
  • I included a number of new, fun illustrations.
  • I used a new font for the text, called Quicksand. I chose it because most of the letters look similar to letters that preschoolers and Kindergartners learn to recognize and write. This will help support parents, caregivers and educators as they teach children early reading and writing skills.


3. What is the release date?

The publication date was February 20, 2015. Physical copies of the book should now be available by request through local book stores as well as on my website, and at online retailers. The e-book is available at


4. Are there other books coming?

Oh, yes! I will be working on translating The Very Hungry Duck into other languages, starting with a Spanish translation. There are also at least three other stories planned for the Duck Tales series. I’m working out the final details in the story line for the second book in the series, which will feature Duck, her Auntie Duck, and a mischievous frog.

Also, in February I completed final edits to my first book for seven- to ten-year-old children, called Do NOT Turn This Page. It was published on February 19, 2015, and is available for purchase by request at local bookstores, at online retailers, or on my website.


5. What surprised me most when I saw the first printed copy?

The book looked so amazing, I almost cried. What surprised me most, though, was the color for the page backgrounds. The background colors I THOUGHT I chose were light purple, dark purple, and a tannish-brown (in addition to plain white). The actual printed colors (except for the plain white)  looked off-white, purple-gray, and a mustardy yellow-brown. Although the page colors still worked fine with the story, it was a good reminder that colors can be very different in print than they look on a back-lit computer screen.

If you’d like, you can purchase an autographed copy of The Very Hungry Duck on my book page.

If you have any questions, please let me know! I hope you enjoy Duck’s new look as much as I do!


Beyond the Written Page: Picture Books as Textbooks


Writers do a lot of reading! More often than not, the textbooks I learn the most from are picture books.

In this edition of Beyond the Written Page, sneak behind the scenes to find out about a project I’m working on, and a few of the picture book “textbooks” I draw inspiration and direction from.

Beyond the Written Page Introductory Video

Without further ado (and in the hopeful absence of additional technical difficulties), here is the first video for Beyond the Written Page!

You may notice  the presence of “ums” and “buts” and pauses and all sorts of imperfections in this video (and future ones).

When I decided to start this project, I knew that plenty of it would be NQP, or Not Quite Perfect. I’m okay with that. And I hope you are too. Because if I took myself or the project too seriously, I would never start it–nor would I ever get any writing done.

I made an error in the video that I DO want you to watch out for–I “quoted” an idiom incorrectly. The first person who catches my error and posts it (and the correct saying) in the comments below this blog post will win a free e-book from me!

In the video, I mentioned links to my website and to Facebook.  I learned AFTER I recorded the video that I couldn’t embed links in the description (as far as I know). My bad. However, if you’re reading this blog post, you know how to get to my website 🙂

And if you aren’t a Facebook fan of mine yet, shame on you! If you follow this link to my Facebook Fan Page, you can fix that oversight RIGHT NOW.

I can’t wait to see who catches my idiomatic mistake and wins a free e-book!