Part Method, Part Madness: Luring in a Good Idea


Love these reminders, so well-expressed. I appreciate the tenderness with which Mylisa Larsen holds herself and her ideas.

Originally posted on EMU's Debuts:


“Where do you get your ideas?”

 Man, I hate that question. Not because I’m jealously guarding writerly secrets. Not because I haven’t thought about it. A lot. Just because when I try to answer that question honestly, I babble.

Here’s the thing. Ideas are strange creatures. I know they’re out there. I see them out of the corner of my eye. But it might be in the grocery store. Or in the woods. Or looking at me from the window of a passing bus. Ideas don’t seem to have an established, identifiable habitat. Or habits. Sometimes they’re out wandering at 2 AM. Sometimes they refuse to show up at all until sleep needs have been lavishly met. They eat chocolate. No, grapefruit. Spicy fish?

It’s a puzzle. I can’t give a satisfying, tidy answer. But here are a few things that work for me.

Show up at your desk. And…

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Gender Equality and Picture Books


Is your three-year old son asking for a tutu? Is your daughter wondering why all the Master Wu only picked boys to become the Ninja who save the Lego world of Ninjago? Do you gag when you cruise the color-coded toy aisles of Target? Read this!

Originally posted on ThinkBannedThoughts Blog:

I got a tweet from a friend last week that lit all kinds of lightbulbs in my head.

It was a simple – but very rare – tweet.

teaching equality for boys

Reading for Gender Equality. A novel concept ;)

So many thoughts hit my head all at once.

The loudest was that this was the first time I’d ever been asked that by someone with a son, or sons.

I get asked all the time to recommend books to parents of daughters in order to promote the ideal of gender equality. But I hardly ever hear from parents of sons, asking how they can teach gender equality.

It filled my heart – because that is where it starts, with parents. And if we’re only teaching girls how to be equal, we’re missing half the equation!

Then I thought of this amazing blog post by male author, Robert J. Bennett about the first time…

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Shelf Awareness


This is a great intro to the blog Shelf Awareness–for readers and book professionals–from The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh. Check them both out!

Originally posted on The Librarian Who Doesn't Say "Shhh":

You may have noticed that I recently added a button to the right sidebar of my blog offering giveaways from Shelf Awareness, but I realize that I didn’t take the time to explain what the button it about. Or what Shelf Awareness even is!

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 5.19.05 PM

Shelf Awareness is one of my favorite little discoveries as a blogger. It’s a newsletter sent out to readers and book professionals (there are two versions). I subscribe to the book professionals newsletter, which comes to my inbox Monday-Friday. Wonder how I keep on top of new releases and bookish news? Often I get that information from Shelf Awareness. I’ve been a subscriber for about a year.

One of my favorite things about Shelf Awareness is the ads in the newsletter. These often offer previews of upcoming titles, and sometimes even chances to win ARCs. I’ve actually collected quite a few of my ARCs through the…

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…and the Water Taketh Away

St. Vrain River at peace, © amomnextdoor, 2013

St. Vrain River at peace, © amomnextdoor, 2013

You never think it will happen to your family. And then it does.

Last Thursday, my 65-year old mom and 86-year old grandma were evacuated by bucket loader from their riverside home in Lyons, CO. Sirens began sounding from the town at 2 a.m. that morning, but on the far side of the river my mom and grandma could hear nothing over the roaring river. They slept through the early calls for evacuation.

At 5:30 a.m. the housekeeper called, awakening my mother. The house was already surrounded by water, the river lapping at the underside of the porches. Several calls to 911 later, they were still in the house. Since the water had not yet entered, no plans for evacuation were made. A bit later the head of a local construction company called to check on them. Soon after, the head of the Department of Publics work arrived with his bucket loader. With the help of three water rescue workers, they lifted my grandmother into the muddy bucket of that machine. By that time the water was already up to the doorknob of my grandfather’s old shop. With the cell phone tower down, it was hours before we heard from my mother that they were safe. Many people are still missing. Many families have still not heard from their loved ones.

By Friday the flooding had gotten so bad that the entire town of approximately 2,000 people–the place where I spent all my summers growing up–had to be evacuated.

My mom and grandma spent one night in the evacuation center at Lyons Elementary School,

English: I took photo with Canon camera in Lyo...

where my grandfather taught for many years, and another day and night at LifeBridge Church in Longmont, before they were ready to move again. Now safely situated with my brother and sister-in-law, they wait.

The town of Lyons is working hard to restore power, sewage and water to its residents. Meanwhile, displaced townsfolk wait in lines for limited passes to get back to their properties: to assess the damage, gather their valuables, and leave without flushing a single toilet for fear of overloading Lyons’ tenuous system. Not even yet enough time to grieve.

On Friday, more than a week of weather after the initial flooding, my mom and brother will finally get to see what mark the river has left on the home my grandparents built, the home that brought my entire family together in the summers, for homemade ice cream and river tubing, horseshoes and dominoes and stories around the kitchen table.

I don’t usually blog about the news, but this time the news really hit home.

If you want to help, please look into the donation campaigns below. Please consider posting links to your other social media. This beautiful town and its residents will need all the help they can get to rebuild.

Main Street, Lyons, CO.  © amomnextdoor, 2011

Main Street, Lyons, CO. © amomnextdoor, 2011

DONATE HERE to the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief, part of the Boulder Community Foundation. Click the green Donate Now button and be sure to designate Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief from the drop-down menu to direct your donation to the town and people of Lyons.

Or, DONATE HERE for the indiegogo campaign started by Lyons H.S. graduates collecting funds on behalf of the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief.

Or consider putting one of these on the counter at work:

Photo by Jen La Follette/Ross Lehmkuhler

Photo by Jen La Follette/Ross Lehmkuhler

Related articles

30 + Summer Activities for the Kids


© amomnextdoor, 2013

Summer’s over, but some great ideas are eternal. Besides, here in the CA Bay Area, we have a solid month of summer weather left. I had to reblog this post, just to have it handy for easy reference. You’ll find my own ideas for keeping little ones engaged with their world in my post, Spring Break Blues.

Originally posted on What the Mom:

I grew up on the West coast where going to camp is not prevalent like it is on the East Coast. Summer as a kid meant hanging out outside exploring and swimming. Now that it’s not the 70’s I have to be a little more creative on how we spend our time. We like to use the summer for time to get away from the hectic schedule of school and activities. However, it’s not a free for all.

Parent’s required activities (If the kids say they are bored they are required to do something from this list in addition to the daily requirements):

1. Older kids have to complete a large summer project. Our 11 year old is going to write a book this summer, our 8 year old is learning to play guitar, and our 5 year old is working on reading.
2. They all have 2 Kumon workbooks…

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Welcome to 2nd Grade

© amomnextdoor, 2013

© amomnextdoor, 2013

Agent 006 (age…6) brought home this second grade humor a few days ago, and already his sister, the Birthday Girl (still age three), has worn it out. From today:

BG: Do that look down thing!

006: (big, reluctant sigh) Ooookaaay. Look under there!

BG: (who is supposed to say, “Under where?” Get it? The joke already happened, and you missed it) Look up!

006: Oh, brother, I hate this joke!

BG: It’s just for fun!

006: (dramatically) I’m too old for this!


006: Mom, how do you spell “eye-cup”?

When Rejection is a Good Thing

English: Rejection

English: Rejection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been two years since I looked up from nursing my youngest, and realized that soon it would be time to figure out what I was going to do next. On the best of days, I can do about 80% of the stay-at-home parent thing—for the other 20%, everybody had better clear out of my way. We’ve managed fine by finessing our weekly schedule; I get just enough time away to maintain my sanity in this rewarding and challenging role of “mom.” But in four years, both my kids would be in elementary school. The time for me to find something else to do with myself was imminent. Dedicating my education and intelligence to ever more perfect stacks of laundry could not be my destiny.

So two years ago I made a decision. Instead of:

  1. figuring out what I wanted to do next,
  2. updating my training,
  3. getting a job, and
  4. learning to do a new job,

I would instead put all that time and energy into learning how to make money doing what I really love—writing.

There, I’ve said it. My naked ambition is on the table. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start asking you for money (although I don’t promise that I never will). I want to learn how to take the writing I do from the pages of my notebook to the pages in readers’ hands.

So there it is. After a lifetime of writing, I’ve finally owned up to what I am and what I want to be: a writer. A paid writer. The “paid” part is important. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no interest in the money apart from this: if my writing brings in an income—any income—it justifies my time away from making school lunches and monitoring the bandaid supply.

Decision made, done deal, right? You know the answer to that. But I will say this, the last two years I’ve spent dedicated to this new future I’ve chosen are starting to pay off. I haven’t signed with my dream agent, no book deals, nothing like that. But the firsts are starting to pile up, and that feels good:

  1. First conversation (followed by many more since) in which I feel like my Fictional Husband (FH) understands that I really am a writer, and what that means for us.
  2. First time attending the Book Passage Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (2012), now an annual event in my writing life.
  3. First time joining a writing group of strangers (Temescal Writers, my inspiration and my home).
  4. First solo writing retreat (look for a separate post, coming soon).
  5. First manuscript complete (closely followed by several more).
  6. First time submitting a manuscript to an agent.
  7. First time attending my regional meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and best of all

My response to this first rejection—a form email from an agency that I greatly admire and was certainly a long shot—might surprise you. Rather than feeling deflated or discouraged, what I felt was…initiated. I am now doing what I want to be doing: writing and working toward publication, with more or less success, depending on my expectations and time frame. I felt liberated. They don’t want it? I am free to find the person who does. I felt excited. Who will get the next shot at collaborating with me on the making of this book?

Being rejected means that I was considered. And that’s a huge accomplishment in my writing life to date. I can live with that, for now.

This article is part of the Writer’s Passage series, chronicling the journey of one writer into the rabbit hole of children’s book publishing.


Related Articles:

Facing the Inevitable Rejection Letter

Magic Apple for Teachers

DSC_0007Yesterday my son, Agent 006, got this letter in the mail from his soon-to-be-second grade teacher. It included Magic Confetti,DSC_0011 to help him sleep well on the night before school.

Thanks, Mrs. J! My son is not the only person who will be starting school totally confident that he has the best teacher in the whole wide world. I slept like Mama Bear in her cave last night.

So here’s a special wish for all teachers today–may your first day of school be promising and fun! Thank you for all that you have already done for the families and children you lead deeper into a learned life. You are truly appreciated.

Kids Reach For Confetti

Kids Reach For Confetti (Photo credit: librarianjill)

This article is part of amomnextdoor’s Magic Apple series: sharing ideas for magic moments with kids.