It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly six years since I left the International Literacy Association to pursue my second “dream job” as a children’s book author and freelance writer/editor. I’ve found this new career exhilarating, challenging, and immensely rewarding. I’m up to 32 published books for children and young adults, with more on the way. I’ve found a niche doing elementary-level history and social studies titles for Capstone, an educational publisher. In 2016 I had books come out about the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Pennsylvania Colony, Explorers and Native Americans, People and Places of the Northeast Region of the U.S., and People and Places of the Southeast Region of the U.S. There are at least five other Capstone books in various stages of production, and I hope to write more in the year ahead.
This past year also marked the release of my second self-published book through my new First State Press imprint. I partnered with award-winning photographer Lisa Goodman to produce Beach Fun: Poems of Surf and Sand, a book designed to appeal to beach loves ages 4 to 84. Lisa and I made several trips to the beach to do signings at bookstores and events. We hope to make another big push before summer 2017.
I’ve also had an opportunity to do some interesting writing/editing work that takes advantage of my long background in literacy education. I do communications work for Read to Them, a nonprofit organization that builds family literacy and reading interest by getting all the elementary families from a school or school district reading and discussing the same children’s book at the same time. Hundreds of schools throughout the United States and Canada participate in One School, One Book and One District, One Book programs.
This past year, I reconnected with Sakil Malik, a former colleague from ILA who now heads the Global Reading Network. Since June, I’ve been editing their online newsletter, organizing blog posts, and doing a variety of other writing and editing assignments. The Global Reading Network specializes in providing information and support for early grade reading in developing countries. I’ve really enjoyed this work, too!
Working with Students
I love working with young students and sharing my writing with them. In 2016 I made multiple visits to Newark Charter Elementary School, talking to third graders about writing nonfiction and poetry. I also did visits or readings at John Bassett Moore Intermediate School in Smyrna, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, William Cooke Jr. Elementary School, and ASPIRA Academy in Delaware and at the Penn-Delco School District in Pennsylvania.
For 2017, I already have return visits scheduled at Newark Charter, along with day or evening programs at Newark Day Nursery and Wilmington Manor Elementary School. I am also in discussion with other schools, and I hope to add some more school visits over the course of the year.
“Counting” on Success
I’m really excited about a counting picture book I have coming out in September 2017. Titled One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count With Me, the book allows children to count along as leaves sprout on a tree in the spring and fall off in the fall. It concludes by showing new leaves once again budding on the tree the following spring. I am “counting” on the combination of counting and seasons making this book popular both in schools and homes.
One Leaf, Two Leaves will be published by Penguin. This is my first time with a “Big Five” publisher, and I’m thrilled. Specifically, the book is part of the prestigious Nancy Paulsen imprint. Nancy publishes authors and illustrators such as Jacqueline Woodson, Tomie de Paola, E. B. Lewis, and David Ezra Stein. The advance teaser for One Leaf, Two Leaves on the Penguin website says: “Count your way through the seasons!.… As little ones count leaves, look for animals, and enjoy the changing seasonal landscape, bouncy rhymes and bold illustrations make learning to count easy—corresponding numerals reinforcing the learning fun.”
The book is illustrated by Clive McFarland, a talented young artist from Northern Ireland. When Nancy showed me samples from his book A Bed for Bear, I could tell immediately that his style was perfect for One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count With Me. The preliminary sketches bowled me over, and the almost-finished book is stunning.
The book came to me in a flash during a writer’s retreat sponsored by the Highlights Foundation in the fall of 2014. As I watched the final two leaves hanging onto a tree branch, these lines popped into my head: “One leaf, two leaves on a tree. Three leaves, four leaves, count with me.” I literally ran back to my cabin, and by that evening I had the text roughed out. This marked one of the handful of times in my life when I truly felt the magic of the muse, and I feel truly blessed with the result.
Watch for further updates about One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count With Me in the months to come—along with other writing news. I think 2017 will be a banner year!