The Most Wonderful Present!

"Some one gave me a wonderful present/something I needed and yet never knew/so start the whistling and clapping cause under the wrapping was you!!!!!" --from the Jermome Lawrence Musical, Mame, based on the book "Auntie Mame" by Patrick Dennis

Twenty eight years ago today, July 28, 1983, at 12:35 pm in the afternoon, I received that most wonderful present:  Alexis Rose. Today we celebrate her!

And what better way to celebrate that with a memory...just one, I promise. And since this is what Lexi calls her "golden birthday" since she is turning 28 on the 28th, a "golden" combination, I'll share a memory that's pure gold:

"Rosie" as we called Alexis (because she was rosie pink and joyful), was not much of a talker. On her 2nd Christmas, Grandma Mary gave Lexi a Madame Alexander doll with brown hair and eyes that looked "just like her."  As 2 year olds faced with a mound of colorful wrapped gifts do, Lexi  unwrapped the doll and tossed her aside to reach for another gift. The doll let out a "Whaaaaah!" Lexi looked down, scooped up the doll and that was it. From then on Whiney Baby  was Lexi's baby

People often ask writers what inspires a story.  No surprise that the inspiration for every scene in my newest picture book came from memories of Lexi as a baby and growing up. What is suprising, and amazing, and incredible is that without ever talking with me, or seeing a photo of Lexi, David Walker so beautifully captured the little her in the illustrations for this book.

Happy Birthday, Alexis Rose. No matter how big you get, or how smart you get, or how oooooold you get, you will always be my baby!

Wednesday, Work Day?

A writer friend of mine maintains an office in a strip center near her Texas home. She has a lovely home with no small children or other obvious distractions to keep her from writing. In my mind I could never justify the expense. Why pay for an office, have to get dressed and leave home to work,  when it is so much easier to sit in your comfy home in cozy jammies and write?

So far this week this week ( a designated "writing-only week") the ice maker  and 2 air conditioners have had unscheduled repairs, one rat caught, touch-up painters arrived brushes in hand, the Blue Air filters were serviced, the local duty free shop manager stopped by asking for advice on her brochure,  and Sani, the gal who helps our house keeper, Rusnati, had a scare with cancer in her breast (that, thankfully, turned out fine.)

--And it’s only Wednesday...

Anyone know of a nice office space for rent?





Stuck in Writerly Discontent...HERE COMES THE SUN

You know how sometimes, suddenly, on the bleakest day...or week....or month, the sun break through? Writing-wise, I've been having one of those months. Now, when it should be spring and my writer's heart should be abuzz with springish ideas: birds, flowers, brand new picture books... it's still dark, dreary winter. It's been a long long long winter of  writerly discontent. And I was sick and tired of it--

Then came the sun!

That warm, bright golden ray of sunshine came in the form of a note from Robyn Conley, Book Doctor,  writer, friend, savant.

I might have mentioned (in a whinny, sniveling sentence or two) that I was being a writing slug. And, Dr. Robyn came through with exactly the prescription I needed.

"Have you ever heard Jodi Thomas' talk about the seasons for writers?  When we're in the 'winters,' she says, we're to read more of what we love and fall into infatuation with words and phrasings again.  Before long our desire to pen prose just as wonderful is irresistible and we're dancing in the spring time of tappeting, tappeting, tappeting across the keyboard."

And then, she tossed in the title of an " inspirational/prompt-filled writing book.... It's been out since 1999, but is available on Amazon.  Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg."

That's all I'm sharing--cause I've got a reading prescription to fill--besides if you want the Book Doctor's help curing what's ailing you, give her a call!


Picture Book Writers--Do You Dare

I just received word (from one of my favorite blogs: Writing On The Sidewalk) that NaPiBoWriWee, National Picture Book Writing Week spearheaded by Paula Yoo begins today, Sunday, May 1st. and I'm inspired and challenged to put pen to paper. I'm going to spend the next week playing with picture book stories. Be Warned: Every memory of every childhood/childlike moment is possible fodder. Anyway, the Royal Wedding is over so what else have I/you/we got to do?

Sunday begins  National Picture Book Writing Week, NaPiBoWriWee for short. The goal is to write 7 picture books in 7 days.

Here are the basic rules:

1. Midnight May 1st to 11:59 p.m. May 7th: Write 7 separate and complete picture books.

2. You are NOT allowed to write the same picture book in 7 variations. Each book must be complete and separate.

3. No minimum word count, just be sure that each book must has a clear beginning, middle and end.

4. You are allowed to brainstorm and research book topics before May 1st. Outlines are acceptable. First draft writing is NOT. Do NOT write your books before May 1st – only brainstorming, taking notes, and outlining are allowed.

5. You are NOT allowed to write a single word of your draft until midnight May 1st.

6. There is NO minimum word count required.

7. If you plan to blog about your NaPiBoWriWee journey, please include a link to:

8. Please comment on the soon-to-debut NaPiBoWriWee WordPress blog or email Paula at paula at paulayoo dot com and she will include your name in the prize drawing. Several winners will be chosen from random. Winners will receive an autographed copy of Paula’s books “SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY” (Lee & Low Books 2009)  and “SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY” (Lee & Low ’05), along with items from the NapiBoWriWee Store and a couple of surprise autographed book prizes from special guest authors!

9.  This is NOT a writing contest. Think ofNaPiBoWriWee as a writing support group where we can cheer each other on. So please do NOT send Paula your manuscripts.

10. If you plan on attending the national Society of Children Book Writers & Illustrators ( conference in August, let Paula know and she’ll arrange for an informal gathering during the conference so you can meet in person and celebrate NaPiBoWriWee!

For more information about prizes, tips and tricks for NaPiBoWriWee be sure to check out the official site. So warm up those computers and get in touch with your inner child because this is truly a challenge.

It's Re-Birthday: Plant something!

Earth Day is April 22nd. The brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin), Earth Day was designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for Earth’s environment. It began as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is now recognized as "teach Earth day" celebrated in many countries every year. "According to Senator Nelson, the moniker "Earth Day" was "an obvious and logical name" suggested by "a number of people" in the fall of 1969, including, he writes, both "a friend of mine who had been in the field of public relations" and "a New York advertising executive," Julian Koenig. April 22 was Koenig's birthday and according to Nelson, as "Earth Day" rhymed with "birthday," the idea came to him easily.” (

Julian Koenig, one of the most infamous Madison Avenue Mad Men, was inducted into The copywriters Hall of Fame in 1966. According to research uncovered by my son, Max, Koenig was the ad guy responsible for the rhyming Burma Shave signs posted on the road and painted onto barns that once ran along Route 66, entertaining travelers while spouting the virtues of a nice, close Burma Shave. These early, amusing, ads have since been replaced by not-so amusing, definitely not scenic billboards--roadside trash. (To think, Earth Day's daddy started the trend.)

So, because April 22nd happened to be Koenig’s birthday, and “earth day rhymes with birthday” and April 22nd became officially known as Earth Day. And maybe because everyone present was imbibing heavily (as, according to the TV series, Mad Men did in those days), and caught up as they were in the excitement of it all, no one bothered to check if April 22nd was already taken. It was taken… April 22nd is, and has been since 1875, National Arbor Day in the United States.

Arbor Day was the brainchild of J. Sterling Morton, ex-Governor of Nebraska. After noticing how the forests were being chopped down, Morton decided to do something about it, so he declared a “Tree Planting Holiday.” He, like my daughter Lexi, like Koenig, must have been of the mind that birthday’s should be holidays because he had also chosen his own birthday, April 22nd, for Arbor Day. That first Arbor Day was held in Nebraska on April 22, 1872.

Arbor Day was traditionally considered a “school childrens' holiday” because it was primarily observed in schools. Students wrote poems, drew pictures, sang tree songs and….planted trees. Fancy that! Arbor Day is held all over the world at different times of the year, depending when the best tree planting time is in that region. If you’d like to read more about Arbor Day check out my book: Arbor Day, Children’s Press, 2003. (Move over, Julian, I can be a Mad Woman.)

After a time, because we Americans love to standardize our holidays, National Arbor Day was moved to the last Friday in April. And then along came Earth Day and, as often happens in our modern world, Arbor Day: a simple, quiet holiday dedicated to gentler pursuits: songs, drawings, poems, gardening, has been usurped by the more commercial, more political, Earth Day.

Today, on April 22nd, 2010, in honor of the 135 anniversary of National Arbor Day and the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day I’d like to propose a change:

Let’s go back to the source of both Arbor Day and Earth Day. Whether they were aware of it or not, J. Sterling Morton and Julian Koenig were onto something: April 22nd is a day for new beginnings. So I propose we change the name of the holiday to Re-Birthday!

Happy Re-Birthday! Revive, Replenish, Restore: Plant Something!


Hurrah for TLA

TLA, the Texas Library Association Annual Conference (April 12-15th this year) was a book-lover's candy store. All manner of publishers exhibited their new, award-winning and forthcoming books, e-books, audio-books and everything related. For childrens lit folks it's like a huge 3-day party...


Jamie Lee Curtis gave the welcome address on Tuesday morning. She signed books for an hour afterwards...250 people waited in line to get her autograph. I would have gladly stood in for her. If only she'd let me know, I would have worn my red neckerchief, too.

So many Texas authors are coming into their own. It's great fun to see them signing in the author's area--with lines of fans waiting!


Two of my VCFA classmates Erin Moulton and Sherry Shahan (both Unreliable Narrators) had new books this season. The arrival of Erin's debut novel, FLUTTER about sisters, adventure and their quest for a miracle is especially thrilling as I had read an earlier draft of the book...I sort of feel like a proud auntie. I read my hot-off-the-press copy on the plane and have only one complaint: IT ENDED...

Sherry's novel in verse PURPLE DAZE , set during 1968 Vietnam tumultuous times, eluded me. I'll have to order my copy. Just as well, maybe as my bags were stuffed full.


Cynthia Leitich Smith's signing line would around and down and up the aisle--fans couldn't wait to get their paws on Blessed!

Not to be outdone, the Texas chapters of SCBWI hosted a booth to promote children's authors and illustrators.

The booth served as a magnate for all of us--a perfect meet and greet spot. SCBWI-Austin went all out to create a welcoming booth!

So now, with my creative and social batteries charged--and my suitcases overstuffed with books--I'm on my way home to Jakarta. I have a lot of work to do before next year. Before hand Jamie Lee Curtis and I need to have a little chat. We need to work at coordinating our outfits time someone mistakes me for her I'll say "yes". I wonder: does anyone ever ask her if she is me?


Nesting-Just A Little Bit

Knickknacks, doodads, mementos, comforts…baggage. Call it what you will, we all have it. Some, like me, have more of it than most. I’m notorious for toting around extra baggage. (Yes, Doc, and all that may imply.)  If you doubt it, consider this, I’ve just returned home (after, in my defense, what anyone would call a lengthy trip) with 2 checked duffels, 2 checked boxes, 2 carry-ons and my huge purse. (Of course I had to pay for extra baggage.) And the first thing I did when I arrived home was wander around looking at all my stuff. A few weeks ago, I had occasion to experience a few days of life without stuff. We finally took possession of our new home in Westhampton Beach. A home that although we had to chip off a large part of our rock for, we have not seen for more than 1 hour, tops, in the 6 months it took us to buy. A home for which, although we will now doll out monthly payments, we don’t expect to see for at least 6 more months.

Since I was in the neighborhood and homeless for a week, I decided to mosey out to Westhampton Beach and get a feel for the place. Wander around the grounds at leisure. Snoop in the attic and cupboards. Try out the plumbing. In short, to assert squatter’s right. So, I tossed my baggage into the back of a rental car and headed down from New York.

My friend, Katie drove with me.

On the way, we stopped at Target to power shop--stock up on necessaries: aka  "stuff". Curtis and I had bought a bed from the previous owner. Katie and I bought stuff - bedding, towels, a lamp, picnic dishes and breakfast food -  to go with it.

William Morris is credited with having said “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Add "comfy" to that list. And with regards to packing, substitute “luggage” for “homes.”

Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, this adage can be stretch to justify about anything.

A few days into the week, after Katie had gone, all alone in that big empty house with the wind blowing outside and rain coming down sideways, I was struck with a bone-deep need for something sweet. I rummaged around inside my baggage and finally unearthed a Cup of Gold from the Dollar Store. Who knows how old, torn, crumpled wrapper, lint, and all, it looked more like a cow pie than a treat. But dang if that nutty chocolate mallow-centered cup wasn’t beautiful and useful.

That’s the thing of it: you can never be sure that something won’t come in handy someday…


2 Lies, 1 Truth, and a Dare from an April Fool

2 Lies and I Truth: 1.  It’s bright and sunny in NYC today

2.  I’m watching Kathie Lee and Hoda

3.  I’m working on a brilliant new story so don’t bother me

Truth and confession: I’m watching Kathie Lee and Hoda. My defense is the 2 lies. When I planned this trip to NYC, I fully expected spring to have sprung, instead it’s grey, cold, and …. Anyway, and it’s really not my fault that I’m watching morning TV. I’d never turn it on myself…honest. It’s Lexi’s fault. She left the TV on when she went to work and I am now hooked into morning shows. Morning TV is not really the time suck some say it is, either. It’s informative. So far I’ve watched Prince William and his grannie, the Queen, tour his Sea Rescue Station; learned there are only 28 days to the Royal Wedding and that William is not planning to wear a ring; watched 3 “spring” recipes being prepared—poached sea bass, tomato basil pasta and strawberry shortcake (which woke my tummy and sent me looking for food, which led to my finding the new jar of organic peanut butter, which I stirred during the next 30 minutes of programing-thus making productive use of my TV time) ; and watched a teen boy invite girl to the prom by whooing her with this sure-fire entreatment: “Um, yeah, Brit-Crystal-Tiff, get down here.”

As is so often the case, in the midst of all the fun and foolishness, I heard something that just might make the difference. Hoda and Kathie Lee dubbed this: Try-day Friday.

Try Day Friday. It has a nice ring to it. It got my pea brain humming. Got me searching for the remote control. Got me to put down the spoon and pick up my laptop.

Why not set Friday aside as a day to Try? Try something new. Try something scary. Try—without worrying about being silly or stupid or foolish or wrong. And what better day to try something than April 1st, 2011, the officially designated day of foolishness.

Call me an April Fool, but…I’m designating this my first official Try-Day!

Join me…If you dare…