Looking for writing advice!

writing advice

Lucy has all the answers!

Where’s Lucy Van Pelt when you need her?

I am in the middle of writing my third unpublished novel and I need help!

I’m a little behind. I went away for five days and that slowed me down. Now that I’m back home, I think I can do it. That’s the good part, but…

I’ve encountered some of the same problems this time as in the past. Have these things ever happened to you?

  • Where’s the plot? Now is the time for my characters to actually do something and I’m feeling a little pressure.
  • I worry that it’s a little boring.
  • Once I get my characters moving, I also worry that the plot will be too crazy.

Tonight I’m going to go for a run and try to figure it all out. Then I’ll sleep on it and see what happens tomorrow…

Are you a fiction writer? Have you written a novel? What are your pitfalls? How do you solve your writing problems? What keeps you motivated?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig

pete's a pizza

Pete’s a Pizza
by William Steig

Here’s another fun picture book to read to your toddlers and pre-schoolers. We loved reading it at our house because it inevitably led to some silly pizza-making with the kids.

Pete’s in a bad mood because it’s raining and he can’t go outside to play ball with the guys. So his parents decide to cheer him up by making him into a pizza. With a solemn face, Pete goes along with the game and lets his mother and father knead him into a pizza crust and add the tomatoes and cheese (really checkers and pieces of paper). There’s a lot of tickling and giggling in the process, and when the pizza’s ready to slice, Pete runs away and is captured and hugged, just in time to see that the sun has come out.

Steig’s illustrations in this book are wonderful.  They seem simple but they are not – the low-key expressions on Pete’s and his parents’ faces really convey the gentle and playful mood of the story.  That’s something a parent can appreciate while reading along!

Pete and his parents are having fun!

Pete and his parents are having fun!

Once you read this to your kids, they will want to be made into their own pizzas. And the fun will go on at your own house long after Pete has found his friends!

William Steig

William Steig

William Steig (1907 – 2003) was an American cartoonist, writer and illustrator and was a well-known cartoonist for The New Yorker, creating over 2,600 drawings and 117 covers for the magazine. He began writing children’s books later in his career and, in 1969, received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. His picture book Shrek! was the inspiration for the popular movie series of the same name. Steig received many awards and honors during his long career. His books for children include Dominic; The Real Thief; The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book; Amos & Boris, a National Book Award finalist; and Abel’s Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books. Pete’s a Pizza was published in 1998.

Thanks to MacMillan Publishing and Wikipedia for providing information about William Steig.



“Pizza making” was always a fun game at our house. What kinds of games do you play with your kids when you need to be inside? Do you have any special children’s books that your kids like to act out?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Calendarbears, by Kathleen and Michael Hague

calendarbears cov

Calendarbears: A Book of Months
by Kathleen Hague
Illustrated by Michael Hague


Some books have rhymes that stay with you long after your children have grown. Calendarbears is a picture book with many rhymes that are now attached to my memories of small children and a cozy place on the couch.

It’s the kind of book you can read over and over because, while the rhymes are simple, each one teaches something and evokes a certain mood about the month it describes. The colorful illustrations are full of the kind of details young kids like to linger over.

We had certain favorites, including the July page with this terrific picture:

Such a grown-up name for this little guy!

Who wouldn’t want to dance with a sparkler?

And I particularly like how the author chose the name Stanton for this rhyme – such a grown-up name for a little boy bear!

Stanton loves
the Fourth of July;
fireworks burst
and light up the sky.

Children’s books have come and gone at our house. Calendarbears was published in 1997 and was one of our favorites. We checked it out at the library many, many times. I checked it out again today and enjoyed the rush of memories!

Kathleen and Michael Hague


Kathleen Hague is an American author of children’s books, including the best-selling picture book, Alphabears. Michael Hague is an American illustrator and writer of mostly children’s fantasy books. He has illustrated many books, including The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, and The Wizard of Oz. They both attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Books by Kathleen and Michael Hague

Alphabears: An ABC Book
Bear Hugs
Calendarbears: A Book of Months
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
Good Night, Fairies
Numbears: A Counting Book
Out of the Nursery, into the Night
Ten Little Bears: A Counting Rhyme
The Man Who Kept House
The Legend of the Veery Bird

Check out Michael Hague’s website for a look at some of his amazing illustrations!



Do you have a favorite children’s book?  Why is it special to you?

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Book Club Mom Update

Here are three things that are keeping me very busy this summer:


I'm busy feeding teenage boys!

I’m busy feeding teenage boys!

I'm trying to write a novel.

I’m trying to write a novel.

And I'm reading a book about a young novelist!

And I’m reading a book about a young novelist!

I’m a busy Book Club Mom this summer. Besides reading a lot, my main role of being a Mom always goes into high gear during the summer. When everyone is home, there’s always a lot to do and a great deal of schedule juggling. I think feeding hungry teenage boys (do I even need to say they’re hungry…all the time?) is a full-time job in itself!

In addition to all this, I’m trying to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty-one days. That’s a little over 1600 words a day. Today is Day Six and I’ve kept on schedule by getting up super-early in the morning and writing before anyone is awake. I don’t ever expect to see it published, but it’s my third try and I think I’m doing a better job this year. Besides that, it’s lots of fun!

I’m also reading Youngblood Hawke, by Herman Wouk. If you don’t know that book, you should read it. It’s a very entertaining story about a young novelist who makes it big in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. The plot and characters are terrific and Wouk based his main character on the real novelist, Thomas Wolfe. I’m having a great time reading all about novel-writing and publishing while trying to write my own!

Are you a published fiction writer? Are you trying to get published? Have you written short stories or novels? What is your writing style? Are you an early bird, like me or do you write late at night? What do you do to get the words flowing?

Let’s start a discussion – I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

make way for ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings
Written and illustrated
by Robert McCloskey

Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1941
Rating: *****

I’m not sure when we first started checking this book out at the library, but it quickly became another one of my favorites. It’s a simple story about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who settle in Boston to raise a family. Mrs. Mallard causes quite a stir when she leads her eight ducklings through the streets of Boston, across town to meet Mr. Mallard on the pond in the Public Garden!

This is a wonderful picture book for little children and for young elementary school kids. The illustrations are great, and they complement McCloskey’s warm and humorous story. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard aptly name their cute ducklings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and, of course, Quack and the way they scamper through the pages will make you smile.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the book, but they’re all great!


How cute!

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941 and received the Caldecott Medal in the same year. Despite the years, I think the appeal of this book is timeless.

Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey (1914-2003)

Robert McCloskey was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. He was the first person to be awarded the Caldecott Medal twice, once in 1941 for Make Way for Ducklings, and also in 1957 for Time of Wonder.

McCloskey was born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. Before becoming an artist, he had a great many interests. He studied music and played the piano, harmonica, drums and oboe. He loved mechanics and electronics and spent a lot of time as a child inventing different gadgets, including elaborate lightings for the family Christmas tree. He discovered art in high school and won a scholarship at the Vesper George School of Design in Boston. McCloskey also studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York. McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight of his own books, and illustrated twelve additional children’s books.

He married Peggy Durand, daughter of the children’s author, Ruth Sawyer. They settled in upstate New York and spent summers in Maine and raised two daughters.

Books by Robert McCloskey:

Lentil (1940)
Make Way for Ducklings (1941) Caldecott Medal
Homer Price (1943)
Blueberries for Sal (1948) Caldecott Honor
Centerburg Tales (1951)
One Morning in Maine (1952) Caldecott Honor
Time of Wonder (1957) Caldecott Medal
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man (1963)
Thanks to Wikipedia and the The New York Times for this information!

And thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish, by Nancy Dingman Watson

Tommy's Mommy's Fish

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish
by Nancy Dingman Watson
Illustrated by Thomas Aldren Wingman Watson

Rating: *****

Like many mothers with young children, the local library was regular stop in our rotation of daytime activities. Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish caught our attention on one of those trips. It was on display and there was something that pulled us to this book. It had a great cover picture of a young boy on the beach, holding a fishing rod, dog at his side.

In this special story, Tommy lives with his family on the ocean beach and he wants to give his mother a birthday present, all from him. His older brother and sisters are busy making their own gifts for their mother. Cammie is making a bayberry candle, Caitlin is making beach-plum jelly and Peter is cutting a pile of locust logs to fit the fireplace. They let him help. “You can help me, and we can give it to her together,” Caitlin offers. Cammie and Peter make similar offers, but Tommy says no, “I wanted it to be a present all from me,” he tells us.

Tommy is determined to give his mother something special and decides to catch her a fish, “And it isn’t going to be any little old sand dabber or a funny-looking thing like a goosefish or a sea robin. It’s going to be a STRIPED BASS.”

Tommy stands at the surf with his pole and waits. Gulls pass, the sunlight fades, the moon makes a “bright golden path over the water.” Tommy knows that patience is best when he finally hooks a big fat silver bass, but who will win the battle in the surf?

My kids loved this picture of the fish. The artwork in this book is terrific!

tommy's fish

Little boys love pictures that are a little bit scary!

I love this book for a couple reasons. First, the story is just plain nice. I love family stories with dynamics between brothers and sisters. I love how these kids aren’t buying their mother anything, they are thinking of things to make, things that she will like. The second thing I like is the hard-to-explain, but very real way the book makes me feel, especially when Tommy faces the big fish. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I love Tommy’s narration of this moment.

So if you’re looking for a nice “old-school” kind of book, with a warm family feel, check this out, even if there aren’t any little ones around!

Nancy Dingman Watson

Nancy Dingman Watson


Nancy Dingman Watson (1933-2001) was an American author of more than 25 children’s books, novels and poetry books, including Blueberries Lavender, When Is Tomorrow and Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish, which was illustrated by her son and re-released in 1996.

Ms. Watson was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. She attended Wheaton College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College. She married Aldren Watson in 1941 and made a home in Putney, Vermont where she spent thirty years raising eight children. In the sixties, Ms. Watson wrote for the column “One Woman’s View.” She was a two-time finalist in the Allen Ginsburg poetry competition, and wrote an award-winning musical, Princess! Later in her life, she sailed across the Atlantic with her second husband, Dutch sailor Fokke Van Bekkum, in their 32-foot sailboat.

I was sorry to discover that Ms. Watson had died in a car accident in Truro, Massachusetts, the setting of this story. This was most certainly a special place for her.

I found this information on the following website: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=102900293

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Summertime Reading – Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

This is my all-time favorite book!

This is my all-time favorite book!

Youngblood Hawke
by Herman Wouk

In case you don’t know this, Youngblood Hawke is my all-time, number-one favorite book…ever. Maybe you have read The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance or Marjorie Morningstar. I’ve read a few of these too, and he’s written many more. At nearly 100 years old, Wouk is still writing! His latest book, The Lawgiver, was pubished in 2012.

Herman Wouk Still writing!

Herman Wouk
Still writing!

Youngblood Hawke is about the rise and fall of a fictional American novelist. It’s set in New York in the 1940s and 1950s and has a great cast of characters and plotlines. Wouk based the book on the life of the real novelist, Thomas Wolfe. It was published at the beginning of the summer of 1961 and my mother tells me she read this on the beach when I was a baby.

I’m not at the beach right now, but in the spirit of summer, I’m going to re-read this favorite!

Here’s a list of Wouk’s work, taken from his website, cited below:

Bibliography (Fiction and Non-Fiction)
The Lawgiver (2012)
The Language God Talks (2010)
A Hole in Texas (2004)
The Will to Live on: The Resurgence of Jewish Heritage (2000)
The Glory (1994)
The Hope (1993)
Inside, Outside (1985)
War and Remembrance (1978)
The Winds of War (1971)
The Lomokome Papers (1968)
Don’t Stop the Carnival (1965)
Youngblood Hawke (1961)
This is My God: The Jewish Way of Life (1959, revised ed. 1973)
Slattery’s Hurricane (1956)
Marjorie Morningstar (1955)
The Caine Mutiny (1951)
City Boy: The Adventures of Herbie Bookbinder (1948)
Aurora Dawn (1947)

Film & Television
War and Remembrance (1988)
The Winds of War (1983)
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Don’t Stop The Carnival (music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett)
Nature’s Way
The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
The Traitor

You can read Wouk’s biography on his website: http://www.hermanwouk.net/biography.html

Here are two additional links:

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