Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Get the Drama Out of Your Life - And Into Your Writing

The sky knows it's Wednesday...

Outside my morning window, black clouds churn and thrash fat raindrops everywhere.  Every few seconds, snapping flashes of white pierce the scene, followed by growls that shake from sky to ground in angry tantrums.  The rattle reaches all the way to my coffee mug, causing the spoon to clink against the rim.

It's dramatic.

And don't we all love drama?

Nature's dramatic shows, maybe.  But personal drama?  Some of us thrive off that, too. Today's guest author is one who understands best how to use the drama in our lives to thicken the clouds of our story's plot and craft a manuscript that will sell. 

With this dramatic spirit, I enthusiastically welcome today's inspirational, creative, unique, and experimental author/illustrator with a drum roll........


...Mira Reisberg, PhD
(ba dooom-boom-ching!)

Dramarama: Different Ways to Play with Plot
By Mira Reisberg, PhD

As most of you reading this know, the world of children’s book publishing has gotten more and more competitive. So what can you do to increase your chances of being published?

One of the things I encourage my students to do is to get the drama out of their lives and into their writing. This means using compelling language, memorable characters, and a well-crafted plot. Even concept books and biographies benefit from these 3 elements. Today we’re going to mostly focus on plot.

One way of crafting a satisfying plot is to start with a great hook which presents a powerful problem or conflict, followed by a series of events describing why it’s a problem, then a series of unsuccessful attempts at solving the problem until we reach the big climax where the protagonist (or main character) solves the problem ending with some positive outcomes from solving the problem and/or a sweet twist at the end.

Deborah Hopkinson’s Book, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: a Tall Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) begins with:

Now there’s an old tale of two boys who got themselves into more trouble than bear cubs in a candy store I like it so well, I’ve asked my friend John to help out by drawing some pictures. All stories have a time and place, and this one’s no different, It happened on the other side of yesterday, before computers or cars, in the year 1816. This green Kentucky Valley is our place. Don’t you feel like sticking your toes into that rushing water? That’s Knob Creek.

Right off the bat we know there’s going to be trouble. We know this is no ordinary story because of the way the author addresses the reader directly engaging us with questions and letting us know about her relationship with the illustrator whose hand we see painting the fabulous landscape complete with the green hills of Kentucky, Lincoln’s log cabin, the rushing creek and one boy headed to visit the other. Normally, we’d hear and see some different examples of trouble the boys get into, but in this book we spend the next few pages getting to know the two friends before the adventure begins. Of course Abe’s little known friend saves him with much ensuing drama and compelling text like: “Uh-oh. I’m afraid this isn’t much better. Look – Abe’s in trouble from the very start. His stomach feels queasy. His head’s all awhir. He gets halfway. He’s stuck.” Notice how short and choppy these sentences are as they move us right along?

The author ends it writing: “We could end our tale here, two happy friends in the sunshine long ago. But I expect you want to know what happens next,” before launching into more language and imagistic play showing and messing with our ideas about the consequences of Abe’s friend saving him. This story has both a brilliantly crafted and original plot and very compelling language.
In Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales, our story begins with:

 When Grandma Beetle woke at dawn, she heard a knock at the door. And, Oh my, waiting outside she found Señor Calavera. Señor Calavera tipped his hat. What a skinny gentleman! With a pass of his hand he signaled to Grandma Beetle. It was time for her to come along with him.

Here we have very different language choices or “tone of voice.” Yuyi crafts short sentences as well but these roll along in an almost “sing songy” voice. We see Grandma Beetle greeting a dapper skeleton (Señor Calavera AKA Death). Grandma Beetle looks nowhere near ready to die and go with Señor Calavera, and there’s our problem. Little by little, page by page, she outwits Señor Calavera with a series of progressively larger things she needs to do in “Just a Minute” as the story counts up to the number 10. Grandma Beetle outwits and exhausts poor old Señor Calavera closing the story with a lovely twist at the end. Grandma Beetle announces she is ready, “But, oh my, where was Señor Calavera? Grandma Beetle found only a note.” We turn the page to read Señor Calavera’s note “Dear Grandma Beetle, your birthday party was a scream! I had fun like never before. I wouldn’t miss your next birthday party for anything in the world. You can count on that. Sincerely Yours, Señor Calavera.”

Once again, we have a great hook (and characters – anyone know of another picture book for young kids with death as a main character?). Yuyi has created a well-crafted plot with progressively bigger obstacles or stakes that usually the protagonist (here Grandma Beetle) overcomes. But, in this case, Grandma Beetle actually creates the obstacles for Señor Calavera to stall him. Yuyi provides a satisfying ending followed by a twist at the end showing that the story isn’t totally over – Señor Calavera will be back next year and how will Grandma Beetle outwit him then? Besides providing a wildly imaginative counting book, the story also teaches about Mexican cultural traditions.

My last example, Dog Breath: The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis by Dav Pilkey, author/ illustrator of the Captain Underpants books, follows a much more traditional approach to plot. It starts off with our problem:

 “There once was a dog names Hally, who lived with the Tosis family. Hally Tosis was a very good dog but she had a big problem.” 

We see the Tosis family all holding their noses, green breath coming out of Hally’s happy smile. The “voice” in this is deadpan but punny. It’s really clear there’s a problem but we have to turn the page to find out more. Pilkey then proceeds to show page after page of why Hally’s breath is a problem – wallpaper curling, goldfish dying, a skunk avoiding Hally. The final straw comes when Hally’s breath makes Grandma Tosis keel over. Mr. and Mrs. Tosis decide Hally has to go.

Now Pilkey sets up a series of progressively more hilarious examples (with tons of puns) where the kids keep trying to save Hally until Hally finally saves herself bringing fame and fortune to the family who decide to keep her after all. In the final twist, we turn the page to see the Tosis family all wearing clothes pins on their noses with one last corny pun, “Because life without Hally Tosis just wouldn’t make scents”

This super fun book presents a classic approach to plot – beginning with a problem or conflict (the hook) examples of why it’s a problem, obstacles the hero (main character/protagonist) has to overcome to solve the problem, the climax where the hero solves the problem, a winding down showing positive consequences from solving the problem (fame and fortune) and a twist at the end.
I hope this article has been helpful. As you can see, I love teaching. Do come visit me at the Picture Book Academy or my website where you can see free teaching picture book reviews and learn more about my work.

Yours in creativity – Mira

Mira's Book Covers and Select Pages

Mira Reisberg PhD is a passionate picture book creator, editor, teacher, mentor, and art  director. She wrote her 370 page dissertation on children’s picture books and has taught children’s literature courses at universities and colleges throughout the U.S.

Mira’s own award-winning books have sold over 600,000 copies while her students have sold well over a million copies of their books. Mira especially enjoys helping others create luscious language, compelling plots, and juicy characters while looking for curriculum connections, and core underlying themes or subtexts.

Mira is available for private consultations at or join her radical writing e-course starting August 27th at the Picture Book Academy

Join Miranda Paul, who is taking Mira's eCourse beginning August 27th! Space is limited!

Comments are open (but submissions are closed)!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Writing Ride & Rate Your Story - testimonial from Donna Martin, RYS Fan

After spending all weekend at WHISPERING WOODS, an intimate writing retreat led by Rate Your Story Judge Jill Esbaum and children's author Linda Skeers,  I've returned with a 'ready to revise' mentality.  It's the same mentality that many authors often express after receiving a free critique rating from Rate your Story -- and it's a mentality anyone who wants to be published must be able to launch themselves into (over and over and over and...well, you get the point).

When we revise, we often wonder (draft after draft) if we're truly making our manuscripts better, and ultimately publishable.  For some, having Rate Your Story confirm or deny that suspicion is an irreplaceable service (at RYS, you can send revisions of the same story up to three times).  Today's post is by one of the many writers who feel that way.

Please welcome, Donna Martin!

 Thank you RATE YOUR STORY! 
 By Donna Martin

Beginner writers like to think they know what they are doing. But they don’t. It takes knowing the rules of the writing world to create something which has a chance of becoming published, and novice writers simply don’t know where to start. I know, because I was once one myself.

I made all the foolish, amateur mistakes in my work when I started writing “professionally” in January of 2011. I had been writing for more than 40 years, but kept it hidden from everyone, even friends and family, until a series of dreams forced me to face the realization writing was in my blood to stay. I began to write every day and bought every book on writing I could find.

I participated in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) challenge in October of 2011 and ended up with 45 ideas, but had no clue where to go from there. Then I read about Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 in 2012 where I was challenged to turn those ideas into actual manuscripts. But even then I wasn’t sure what to do with my completed stories. I wasn’t part of any critique groups (something ALL writers should be involved in) and had no publishing connections where I could seek expert advice on improving my writing skills. I was free floating and it was frustrating to me. I knew I had the desire to succeed but desperately needed guidance.

 One day I stumbled across a website talking about being able to submit picture book stories to professional authors and others in the publishing business for feedback. Rate Your Story was the first group I had come across to provide a rating score tied to the strength of the story while giving pointers on how to improve as a writer, and it was a FREE service. I gave it a try and submitted a story. That first story rated a 5 out of 10 and the judge’s advice gave me insight on how to finally start tightening my writing skills.

I continued to submit stories and each time the judge’s feedback gave me valuable tips on areas I could improve. Then one day I received my rating on my latest PB submission. It was a TWO! While I was ecstatic, the perfectionist in me wanted the ONE rating which indicates my story is ready to send out into the world to find a home. I had never really thought of resubmitting my work before but once again I used the judge’s advice to sharpen my story and crossed my fingers as I resubmitted. My final rating? Not one but two ONE ratings from two different judges!

I will always be grateful for the wonderful support and advice I receive from the professionals at Rate Your Story. Not every piece of advice makes sense the first time I read it. The first time I was told my story wasn’t “child centric” enough, I had to Google the word to find out what the judge had meant. Sometimes I receive a suggestion, which might alter my story in a way I wouldn’t feel comfortable with doing. While the advice is free and comes from a professional who cares about my growth as a writer, in the end the story is MY creation and I have to own the decision where it may lead me. I’m just glad Rate Your Story is along for the journey for I am certain the ride would not be the same without them!

Donna L Martin has spent many years hanging out with her cat, Tommy, and perfecting the worlds of her imagination. She writes engaging children's books, middle grade adventures, and young adult novels. When Donna is not training for her Master Fifth Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo or helping run her martial arts school in Tennessee, she is working on her latest writing project. Donna is an active member of SCBWI Midsouth and participates in a variety of online writing communities including 12 X 12 in 2012, PiBoIdMo, WANAtribe, and Children's Book Hub Facebook groups. You can connect with Donna through her website (, her blog ON THE WRITE TRACK (, Linkedin page (, Facebook page (!/Donasdays) or through email at donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com.

Comments are open!  And don't forget to join us on Wednesday for a guest post from Mira Reisberg!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CRITIQUES FOR CONTROL ENTHUSIASTS - Guest Post by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

It's Wednesday!!

Our next guest is lively, hilarious, and -- quite frankly -- more open, honest, and accepting of faults and mistakes than many of us.  She's taken a few slips, and encourages others to share theirs every week on her blog.  With the week I've had, this is the perfect writer to welcome to Rate Your Story.

And here she is:


(FYI before we get to Elizabeth's lovely article - Rate Your Story is CLOSED to submissions.  Don't worry if you are one of the several people who had a banana peel moment and forgot to check the submission guidelines before hitting SEND...I won't tell.  But we'll reopen after Aug. 8.

By Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

I’m a go-getter. I like to get ‘er done.

In order to get things done, I usually like to work on my own. This way I have complete control as the sole overseer, the jefe, the boss. Some may say I am a control freak enthusiast. Sometimes, this approach works wonderfully. Other times not so much. Writing, I have learned, while it may seem like a solitary experience, is ultimately done best with the help of others.  But I didn’t always know this.

Learning to critique or be critiqued is a process. It takes time.  There are several stages of this learning curve that I have taken upon myself to link to eggs. Why eggs? High in protein, eggs are what I ate for breakfast. And they were tasty. 


Each person has their own writing style which ultimately leads to how they critique. On the receiving end, often you submit your work of pure and simple genius for critique only to get a flood of conflicting advice on how to improve your story. Ack! Enter Scrambled Egg Brain.

Perhaps you feel the onset of the stages of grief. Feeling overwhelmed, you might throw a tantrum. You might mope on your couch for two days hugging a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  Or you may choose to get to work right away. Making every change that was recommended, you press the print button and voila! You read your new and improved masterpiece aloud:

Uzbuzz, purr qua da doo doo.

Huh? That isn’t your voice! That isn’t you! You are lost and confused. Your thoughts are all over the map! Scrambled Egg Brain is at its worst! Enter the next phase.


So you saved your original manuscript thank goodness, because now you are reconsidering all those changes you made. You look at the comments you were given originally and now you ask, is there a common denominator? Was there anything that was recommended repeatedly?  Was there something that made complete sense, that really seemed to resonate with you? Focus on those but, don’t run and make all of the adjustments at once. Just think about it for a while. Sit on that egg until it is ready to hatch… or until you’ve run out of Ben and Jerry’s.


Critiques can cause feelings of vulnerability or loss of control. But perhaps the hardest thing to swallow about critiques is that they represent change. Change to our original thought, to our baby, and that is SCARY. But ultimately, isn’t change good? After all, change is what we ask our main characters to do, right?  It’s how we learn and how we grow.

Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need, wrote about this very subject as it relates to a book’s characters. I saw a connection between the excerpt and critiques and really life in general, bad guys and all:

The measuring stick that tells us who succeeds and who doesn’t is seen in the ability to change. Good guys are those who willingly accept change and see it as a positive force. Bad guys are those who refuse to change, who will curl up and die in their own juices, unable to move out of the rut their lives represent. To succeed in life is to be able to transform. That’s why it’s the basis not only of good storytelling but also the world’s best-known religions. Change is good because it represents a re-birth, the promise of a fresh start.

So we have to get creative. We calm that Scrambled Egg Brain of ours, we unearth the egg we’ve been sittin’ on, we whip out a frying pan (preferably non-stick) and… make an omelet!   
The best thing about making an omelet is that YOU choose what goes in! How fancy is that? We control to what degree we want to change our masterpiece by leaving out or adding certain ingredients.  (Welcome back control! Oh, how we’ve missed you!)

There are always suggestions of course from top omelet mixers that have come before us. For example: It would be advised that you do not throw things like stinky socks into your concoction. Ewww…. But if you have a place on your palate for feet flavor, who is to say that it is wrong? There may be a good reason for it. Maybe you lack some kind of nutrient only provided by a dirty sock. Ultimately, only you know.

The goal is to produce some kind of firm but spongy goodness. In the end, you have to look at yourself and realize that no matter what kind of critique your receive or what reaction may spew out of you, you have some major huevos. (Literal Spanish translation = eggs. Colloquial translation, look it up.) You have put your best work out there to be analyzed and scrutinized. And for what? So that it stay the same? Remain a messy plate of scrambled eggs or worse yet, an uncooked egg? You want change and that indicates you want to succeed.

With practice, we will become expert omeleteers. But growth and expertise will only surface if we open our hearts and minds to change. And that means being less enthusiastic about control and more enthusiastic about learning from our mistakes.  

Eggciting stuff, huh?!

Elizabeth Stevens Omlor loves slipping on banana peels. She has at least one slip a day, physically or verbally.  Her passion is writing for children, although she has recently discovered she is a delusional rhymer. When she isn’t writing for little people, you can find her having kitchen dance parties with her husband and two children or drinking a large glass of milk. Yum. She loves milk. Especially when it’s in chocolate. She blogs about all of this on Banana Peelin’: The Ups and Downs of Becoming a Children’s Writer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rate Your Story is a Litmus Test for Aspiring Writers - Guest Post with Darshana Khiani

It's Writing Wednesday! 

Today, I am super excited...but first the bad news (well, bad for you, good for us).  Rate Your Story is now closed to submissions until August 8.  We're hosting and attending writing conferences.  So write and revise, then spit-shine and be ready for when we re-open.

Now, it's all good news from here on out.  And the voting results for our new logo are in!  By an overwhelming margin, you chose the Rate Your Story logo with the manuscript and feather pen.  The wonderfully talented Dana Atnip is working on finalizing it now.

Next, another RYS user, Julie Rowan-Zoch volunteered her time and surprised me with this, a Writing Wednesday badge!  Apparently, she made the font!  I am a huge fan of fonts, so this is very special to me.  I hope you'll also share this badge by placing it on your blog and linking to our site.
Thanks for adding this to your site!

As if that weren't enough news, there's still the main reason for this post.  Our actual Writing Wednesday article!  I am very excited to welcome a seasoned Rate Your Story submitter and personal member of an online critique group of mine as today's guest poster.  She's got a great perspective on how to use this site in conjunction with other critiques and evaluations when you're stuck with a particular manuscript, or getting conflicting feedback. 

Without further ado, welcome pre-published author...

Darshana Khiani!

Rate Your Story – A Litmus Test
By Darshana Khiani
As writers, the one thing we often hear is that you NEED to be in a critique group. After all, one can only self-analyze their own work so much. I participate in two critique groups that have different levels of authors. I love the diversity because I get different criticisms and compliments. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be in a critique group with a Karma Wilson, Bonnie Becker, or Doreen Cronin - folks who have established themselves as picture book authors. If they were reading my story, what would their comments be – needs tightening, leave more space for illustrations, or needs more character depth? Maybe (I can dream) they’d say it was even brilliant. 

This is where Rate Your Story, RYS, comes in. They have established authors to review our submissions. I use them as my litmus test.

Litmus test - (n) a crucial and revealing test in which there is one decisive factor.

Whenever I really get stuck about something in my story and am not sure which way to go, I send it in to RYS. I rely upon the feedback to help me decide my next step.

The first story I ever written had gotten shredded at a round-table critique at SCBWI. I was told what I had written was NOT a picture book, but possibly an early reader. I was shocked as it had been already been critiqued by my writer’s group, who felt it had potential as a picture book. I shoved the story in a drawer for six months. When I heard about RYS during the winter, I sent in my story. I needed to know if it really wasn’t a picture book. I was expecting a nine or ten, that way I would know to stop working on it. Instead I got a seven, I was thrilled. Also the wonderful reviewer did line-edits showing me how to fix various aspects of the story. For that I am grateful.

A few months later, I circulated a second story through my critique groups. This time my fellow writers said it needed a little more “oomph” - more tension and character. I had a hard time accepting this since it was a concept book. So, I sent the story into RYS. This time I got a four. I was pleasantly surprised. However, there was a gotcha; the reviewer felt the story needed some more oomph too. AARGH!! That is how I felt for the first 24 hours; my poor husband can probably still remember me ranting. I thought “why does nobody get that this is a concept book. Why do they expect something else to be in it?” But after processing the comments from the critique group and RYS, I had my “A-ha” moment and added another layer, now making it a story-driven concept book.

What I have discovered about myself is that the hardest comments to hear are the ones that I need the most and sometimes I need to hear those comments from more than one source. I feel fortunate to have two wonderful critique groups and RYS to help me improve my craft.

You should consider using RYS as a litmus test on your next story.

Darshana Khiani works in high-tech by day and dreams of becoming a published author by night. Her favorite activity is browsing the picture book shelves of her local library searching for the next great story. Check out her book reviews at Flowering Minds, and keep up to date on the latest in the kidlit world by “Liking” her on FaceBook.

Comments are OPEN!  Hope to hear from you and we'll see you next week for another awesome Writing Wednesday article.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Secrets of the Rhyming Stars - Happy Independence Day!

I realize not all of you hail from the USA, but today it's all about stars and stripes here.  And we've got a guest post whose a star in her own right – of All-American rhyming picture books, that is!

But before we get to her post, I must remind you that you have a very limited time to perform your civic duty and VOTE for your favorite new Rate Your Story logo at last week's post.  (Ironically, one of the choices has stars.)

Without further ado, I "shine" the Writer Wednesday spotlight on...

Jill Esbaum!

by Jill Esbaum

    If you’ve ever watched wannabe stars try out for American Idol, you know that the majority enter the audition room with high hopes – only to exit tearfully a few minutes later. When it comes to exceptional singing voices, you’re either born with one or you’re not.

    Similarly, some writers are blessed with an inborn sense of rhythm and rhyme, while others aren’t so fortunate. The good news is that writing skills, unlike dreadful singing voices, can be improved.

    The best rhyming picture books have certain things in common:  perfect rhythm, flawless rhyme, and an irresistible story. If your heart is set on writing in rhyme, the secret to wowing the editorial “judges” is mastering all three of these components.

    * The story’s rhythm pattern (meter) must be consistent – even if read by a hundred different people. It’s fine to use an alternating pattern if there is a reason for doing so – as a refrain, perhaps, or as a purposeful thud for comical effect – and if it doesn’t trip up the reader. Print a hard copy of your story, then mark stressed and unstressed beats to ensure consistency of meter. Have a friend read your manuscript aloud. If she stumbles or has to put an unnatural stress on a word (or syllable) in order to make the rhythm pattern work, you have revising to do. You can find an excellent rhythm primer, Writing Stories in Rhythm and Rhyme, on the website of author Dori Chaconas (

    * Match the meter to the story’s subject to help establish mood. If you’re writing a bedtime story, for example, you wouldn’t use the same exuberant, galloping meter you’d use for a story about a horse race. Read Lisa Wheeler’s rollicking western, Sixteen Cows.

    * Avoid near rhyme, and take into account regional pronunciation differences. In most of America, rain and again do not rhyme.

    * Use unexpected rhymes, rather than easy ones like made, sad, and glad. And always use proper syntax, rather than twisting lines for the sake of rhyme. Lines should read the way a person normally speaks.

    * Talk “up” to your readers, never down. It’s fine to introduce a complicated word now and then, especially if it’s fun to say. In my Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin’!, I used true-to-the-time words like geezers, galoots, rubberneckers, whippersnappers, spittoon.

    * So your rhythm is perfect. Your rhyme is flawless. That’s terrific, but if you’re writing a character-driven story (as opposed to a concept book), the same rules apply to rhyming stories as to those written in prose. Remember:

    * Know your plot. Before you begin, write a one-sentence synopsis of your story to help you stay focused. If you have trouble condensing your story to one sentence, look at the title pages of published picture books for examples.

    * Introduce conflict as soon as possible. Give your main character (MC) a goal to reach
or a problem to solve, then let him solve it himself.

    * Dive right into the action. The reader doesn’t need to know anything about the MC that doesn’t directly relate to his problem/goal.

    * Action should escalate, the MC’s problem should get worse, his goal more difficult to reach.      

    * Give your readers a satisfying conclusion. Better yet, leave them with an unexpected twist. By the end of a story, your MC should have grown or changed somehow.

    *Show; don’t tell. Reveal your story in a series of scenes.
    *Include dialogue. Hearing a character’s voice brings him (and the story) to life.

    * Weed out words/lines that don’t add anything new to the story. Every word of every line must move the story forward and convey a precise meaning.

    * Use specific verbs, vivid language, fresh similes and metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia.

    * Shoot for a low word count.

     * Avoid intrusive illustration notes in your manuscript. If an occasional illustration note is needed in order for the text to make sense, keep it brief.

    * Stay in the MC’s point of view. Whether you’re writing in first person point of view or third, your reader should experience the action through the MC’s senses.

    Have fun, and your reader will, too. Rhyming and Wacky go together like the Three Stooges and Cream Pies. Read Lori Degman’s 1 Zany Zoo.

    When it comes to crafting rhyming stories, practice really does make perfect. Besides tinkering with your own stories, examine a variety of published rhyming picture books. To get a feel for meter, read them aloud. Study their plot structure. Learn to recognize problem areas in
your own work. Embrace revision.

    And before you know it, you’ll be on the fast track to stardom.

Jill Esbaum is the author of eleven picture books with major publishers, including the award-winning Ste-e-e-e-amboat A-Comin'!, Estelle Takes a Bath, Stanza, and her latest, Tom's Tweet (illus. by Dan Santat). She is a former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and, in addition to critiquing picture book manuscripts privately, she is a longtime workshop facilitator at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival and co-hosts the annual Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop. Jill and her husband live on a family farm in eastern Iowa.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  Comments are open!  And don't forget to VOTE