Sunday, January 25, 2015


The Reading Fire: Kindling A Love for Books
February 20, 2015
Sandia Resort Conference Center
Albuquerque, NM
Pre-Conference Session is

This fun and informative pre-conference session will begin with a 45 minute presentation by superstar librarian, Teri Lesesne, professor of library science at Sam Houston University, who will discuss a variety of titles and what makes them good selections for struggling readers. I recently finished reading her book - MAKING THE MATCH - THE RIGHT BOOK FOR THE RIGHT READER AT THE RIGHT TIME. It was fabulous!

The evening will continue with a 45 minute panel of local authors, each with a special connection to dyslexia. Each author will discuss dyslexia as it relates to her work. 

Kersten Hamilton, author of the GOBLIN WAR series, has struggled with dyslexia most of her life, but went on to become a highly successful author. Caroline Starr Rose's debut novel, MAY B., features a protagonist with dyslexia. (see the author interviews below). My novel, TAKE ME THERE, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, features a male protagonist who cannot read or write but who dreams of being a poet. The evening will end with an author book signing. 

This event is FREE but please reserve a spot by calling 505-255-8234. Leave your name, the number in your party, and mention you will be attending the pre-conference event. Students are welcome to attend and CEUs will be provided for professionals who have signed up for the entire conference.

If you are interested in attending the Saturday portion of the conference as well, there is a fee so REGISTER HERE FOR THE FULL CONFERENCE - THE DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 13, 2015 AND THERE WILL BE NO REGISTRATION ONSITE. This year we are hosting a special student conference running simultaneously. I will be leading a session in the morning on digital storytelling with Megan Shanley, an occupational therapist with dyslexia. (See her interview below).

For more information about the conference, visit

Two of this year's conference presenters, Kersten Hamilton and Megan Shanley,
have struggled with Dyslexia. A great way to get your students interested in the special student conference would be to read them these inspiring stories. I shared Kersten's interview to high school reading classes and was amazed by the avid response. Kids connect to people who have faced challenges similar to theirs. They are the true heroes because they set real life examples of how to overcome challenges.


An Author with Dyslexia Speaks - Interview with 2015 Conference Presenter Kersten Hamilton
"When everything is hard, you learn to persevere."
Hamilton has written numerous titles from picture books to fantasy novels including the Goblin Wars series. She dropped out of high school due, in large part, to a significant reading disability, but went on to become a highly successful professional author. 

Characters with Dyslexia - Interview with Author Caroline Starr Rose 2015 Conference Presenter 
Caroline is former classroom teacher and the author of the middle grade verse novel May B. 
What Inspired you to choose a girl with dyslexia as your Main Character? In order for a book to work, an author must not give their characters what they want (at least not straight away), but must make them face their fears and weaknesses. Without these things, there is no change. Without change, there is no story. (read more)

A Therapist Speaks Out - What It's Like to be Dyslexic - Interview with 2015 Conference Presenter Megan Shanley
Megan Shanley struggled with reading all through school, but didn't know she had dyslexia until she was evaluated at the age of sixteen. She went on to college and became an occupational therapist. She now works as an Assistive Technology Practitioner on the Universal Design Team at APS as well as at Southwest Neuropsychology and Behavioral Health, where she helps match struggling learners with technology to assist them with reading and writing. (Read More)

Friday, November 21, 2014


Belly dancing, baklava, and books!!!

Friday, November 21 was the book launch at Bookworks in Albuquerque, NM for FORBIDDEN by my good friend Kimberley Griffiths Little.

The evening started with a belly dancing demonstration. Then everyone in the audience was invited to get up and learn some belly dancing moves.  It was quite a workout and now I know how to do snake arms!

Kimberley has been working on FORBIDDEN for ten years. I remember the story from its early beginnings when we frequently brainstormed plot ideas together. Although she has published many middle grade novels, this is her debut young adult novel, and it's part of a trilogy.

FORBIDDEN starts in 1759 B.C. with a belly dancing scene celebrating sixteen-year-old Jayden's betrothal to a young man named Horeb. It's not a good match because Horeb ends up having a violent disposition and a dark past. After a terrible tragedy, Jayden's family gets separated from the rest of their group and must make it to the Summer Lands on their own. That's when Jayden meets Kadesh, a dark and handsome stranger, and begins a forbidden romance.

Jayden's family is from the lineage of Ishmael. A little Bible history-- Ishmael was the first son of Abraham by his wife Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar. Ishmael had twelve sons who were later known as the Twelve Princes. His half brother Isaac had two sons. One of Isaac's sons, Jacob, had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Jayden and her family are descendants of one of the twelve princes of Ishmael.

Dancing figures prominently throughout the book. Every important occasion and life event is marked with dancing in the Bedouin culture of this era. The book is similar in many ways to THE RED TENT. Kimberley did extensive research which included a trip to the Middle East. Below is a photo of some of the souvenirs she brought back.

Congratulations Kim!  I'm glad you're part of my writer's journey.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos

Today was Dia de los Muertos and these are my photos from the 22nd annual Marigold Parade in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM. Marigolds are the flower of the dead and they were decorating everything from hub caps to dog collars.

Dia de los Muertos is a much bigger holiday than Halloween in places with a strong Hispanic influence like Albuquerque, NM. In Mexico it's a National Holiday.

The festivities start with All Hallowed's Eve on October 31, followed by All  Saints Day on November 1,  and All Souls Day (or Day of the Dead) on November 2. For interesting insights on the differences between the three dates check out this article.

The hood of the car below is decorated with an altar honoring dead family members.

The parade ended at the Westside Park and Community Center where vendors set up tents and food trucks lined the parking lot. There were two stages for performers and more altars inside the Community Center to honor the departed.

These type of experiences are part of what makes me glad I live in such an interesting and diverse city.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SCBWI Handsprings 2014

On 10/25/14 the New Mexico Branch of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) held our 2014 conference in Albuquerque. Our faculty included the following: Julie Bliven - an editor with Charlesbridge, Patti Ann Harris - an art director for Scholastic, Liza Baker - an editor at Scholastic, and agent Sara Megibow.

Liza Baker and Patti Ann Harris recently moved from Little Brown to Scholastic. Although they spoke very fondly of their experiences at LB, they were excited to be working in a new department at Scholastic focusing on books for kids ages birth to 5. They have worked closely together for the last eighteen years and even referred to each other as Sony and Cher. They will oversee the Cartwheel and Orchard imprints and are looking for books with playful language that invites young children into the book experience.

Liza Baker did a breakout session on Perennial Themes in Board Books and Picture Books which included a discussion on holidays and bedtime stories among many other topics. She  strongly suggested taking ideas and combing them and gave the example of Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Say I'M MAD? Yolen artfully combines the theme of dinosaurs with the need to give kids a vehicle to talk about their emotions.

Julie Blivens conducted a breakout session on Voice in Middle Grade Fiction. She looked at several Newbery winners and the characteristics she saw in those books. In discussing how voice should illuminate a central theme, she suggested that authors ask themselves, "What is the idea I want readers to have linger with them after they close the book."

Other highlights of the conference was a Children's Book Trivia game on Friday night along with a book launch by local authors with new titles. Saturday included a First Pages Critique where the professional panel gave feedback on first pages submitted by several conference attendees.

Thanks to our Regional Advisory, Linda Tripp, our Assistant Regional Advisory, Caroline Starr Rose, and all of the volunteers who helped make this conference possible. It was another great Handsprings Event. I can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ALWAYS OCTOBER with Bruce Coville

left to right (Jen McVeity, Chris Eboch, Bruce Coville, Millie Little, Carolee Dean  (me), and Kimberley Griffiths Little)
October first I had dinner with Bruce Coville, Jen McVeity, and a host of SCBWI friends. It was the perfect start to October, one of my all time favorite months. We then followed Bruce to Bookworks on Rio Grande where he was promoting his new book, Always October, the world where monsters come from.  Bruce said he always wanted to write the perfect book to read on Halloween and now he believes he's done it.

"October is the month when magic stalks the world. The light comes in sideways," said Bruce. "October is the best of all possible months, when it seems anything can happen."

It's certainly a magical month in Albuquerque, New Mexico with our International Balloon Fiesta and the aroma of roasting green chiles in the air.

Bruce also talked about the newly released Amber Brown Horses Around and his friendship with the late Paula Danziger, creator of the Amber Brown series. He described how years ago they kept each other on track with their writing goals by calling and asking  if the other had finished their three pages for the day. Three pages was the goal. He was quick to say they didn't have to be good pages, they just had to exist.

Bruce was approached by the publisher, Putnam, to write the new Amber Brown book and decided the only way he could pull it off was if he worked on the project with Elizabeth Levy, another long time friend of Paula's.

Rather than reading from either of these books, Bruce performed a one-man reenactment from the first chapter of one of his earlier novels, The Monster's Ring. The audience at Bookworks was captivated by his storytelling skills. He said this is the way he opens all of his school visits.

Wow! What a treat for kids.

Bruce told us about a quote by author Paul O'Neill that he likes to keep on his wall for inspiration. "Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe with the second paragraph, then shove him against the wall and hold him there until the tag line."

Bruce ended the evening with a list of weird writing tips.

1.  Marry rich - For most of us, including Bruce, it was already too late for that tip, but he received the advice from Natalie Babbitt, author of Tuck Everlasting, so he thought it was worth sharing.
2.  Take acting lessons - The actor's tools are the writer's tools.  An actor's job is to enter a character and that is also the writer's job. Acting lessons are part of the reason Bruce is such a great storyteller.
3.  Take singing lessons- This trains you to use your voice properly so you don't strain it.
4.  Don't take yourself too seriously.  Take the art seriously, but not yourself.
5.  Scare yourself - You should always be working on the edge. If you get too comfortable doing what you're doing, you can become artistically dead.  No jump, no wings!

Bruce was accompanied to Albuquerque by Australian author, Jen McVeity, whose Seven Steps to Writing Success is transforming education in the Land Down Under.  They were meeting our former SCBWI regional advisor, Chris Eboch, for a hiking adventure in Southern New Mexico.

It was truly a magical October night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


As part of the Summer Author Blitz going on over at Book Boost PR I will be doing a Q&A over at BOOKS WITH A TOUCH OF ADVICE on Wednesday, July 23.

JESSICA COKER is the winner of the free book giveaway.  Jessica, please send your  mailing address to my Email so I can send you a book.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Kind of Writer Are You- Plotter or Plodder?

I've been told there are two types of writers, those who plot out every detail of their story before they begin, and those who plod along, letting their characters take them where they will. I believe I'm a hybrid of these two extremes.

What kind of writer are you?

A story is a journey. Therefore, to figure out what kind of writer you are, it might be helpful to consider how you travel when you are on a real life road trip. Ask yourself a few simple questions.

1. Are you the sort of person who makes plans weeks in advance, or do you tend to hop in your car on a whim and start driving, content with wherever the road takes you?

2. Do you make reservations with or without a cancellation option? If you book a hotel and pay for it ahead of time with no way to back out without losing all your money, you may be a Plotter. If you don't book the room until you are sitting in the parking lot looking at the Holiday Inn Express sign, you may be a Plodder. If you make reservations with a cancellation option, you are probably a hybrid.

3. How do you pack? Do you check the weather channel for the five day forecast of your destination city and then plan your clothing accordingly or do you toss a few essentials into a duffle bag and hope to buy whatever else you need when you arrive wherever you happen to land?

4.  Do you type out your entire itinerary and send it to family and friends ahead of time so they will always know where to find you or do you expect them to stay informed of your activities through your Facebook and Instagram posts?

There is no right or wrong way to plan a road trip and there is no right or wrong way to plan a story. It is helpful, though, to know what kind of writer you are and NOT try to squeeze yourself into the mold of what someone else says is the best way to navigate the writer's journey. 

If you do that, you may leave people confused when they see your Instagram pictures from the Disneyland Light Parade when the itinerary you sent them clearly states you were planning to spend the night at the KOA Campground in Bakersfield. Know thyself. Everything else leads to confusion.