Events · Ramblings

My Experience at the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I greatly appreciate all purchases you make using these links. Thank you!)

Last year I learned a lot at the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference, and I was excited when it was announced that there would be another nonfiction conference this year: Adventures in Nonfiction Part II.

Adventures in Nonfiction Part 2

The conference featured Senior Editor Carolyn Yoder and authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul. To prepare for the conference, I read multiple nonfiction books (and fiction books) written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul.

The night before the conference, I had the opportunity to go out to dinner with some other conference attendees/authors including Miranda Paul. It was a wonderful experience being able to speak with authors from Wisconsin, Illinios, Minnesota, and Iowa whom I had never met before.

Preconference Dinner

During the conference, I had the pleasure of introducing authors Miranda Paul and Jacqueline Briggs Martin before listening to their presentations.

I came home with a lot of information, multiple pages of notes in a notebook, and a few handouts. I was also really excited to purchase a signed copy of the book Adventures to School: Real Life Journeys of Students from Around the World for my daughters who don’t have quite the adventure getting to school as some of these kids since they are homeschooled!

Adventures to School

It is amazing how much research and work goes into creating books! Miranda and her husband Baptiste Paul worked on Adventures to School together. She mentioned they had an entire room devoted to the research of this book with pictures and notes taped to the walls for each of the countries listed. They had to talk to a lot of people, listen to interviews, find translations, do online research, and more to accurately portray the characters listed in the book.

Even though Adventures to School states “the scenarios in this book are composites and the narrators’ voices are fictionalized…”, it is classified as nonfiction by the Library of Congress. This is actually something Miranda Paul discussed at the conference – how books are classified as nonfiction or fiction.

If you look at the copyright page and it says “juvenile literature”, then it has a nonfiction classification. If it says “juvenile fiction”, then it has been classified as fiction. Interestingly, some libraries don’t follow this classification, and the same book may be located in different areas in different libraries.

At the end of the conference, we had a draw name raffle for attendees to win books written by authors who were present and gracious enough to offer their published books as prizes. There was also an illustrator who graciously gave an illustration of hers as a prize.

SCBWI Conference Book Prizes

The prize books included:

All of the conference attendees had their names placed in a box for a chance to win one of the autographed books. And I won…

I Am Farmer

I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon, which is another book Miranda Paul worked on with her husband, Baptiste Paul. The two of them actually travelled to Cameroon while doing research for this book!

During the conference, Miranda Paul showed us a great video about Farmer Tantoh that was filmed in Cameroon. You can also watch Meet Farmer Tantoh: Grassroots Environmentalist from Cameroon. Make sure to watch the video all the way to the end for a little chuckle. It’s amazing what Farmer Tantoh has been able to accomplish, and it is wonderful that Baptiste and Miranda Paul took the time to find the truth and write the story.

Here are some more things discussed at the conference by our speakers, who did an outstanding job:

  • what to include in a cover letter
  • bibliographies
  • examples of unique takes on famous subjects or topics
  • differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources
  • contacting experts in a field
  • page counts
  • making sure the world is relevant to the character in the story
  • how long it may take for manuscripts to become books
  • different types of nonfiction books
  • how books are classified by Library of Congress
  • format, structure, and style of nonfiction books
  • nonfiction books should not be boring
  • learning how to put our own manuscripts into categories
  • writing multiple versions of the same manuscript until it sounds right
  • self-editing tips
  • back matter
  • age of audience and their developmental milestones
  • hook and hold interest
  • comparable titles
  • who is responsible for cost of research (most of the time, it’s the author)
  • keeping records of sources
  • using all five senses in a book
  • creating a pitch for your manuscript
  • telling the story you are passionate about
  • places to find accurate information
  • how to research
  • having a through-line to your story
  • points of view in nonfiction
  • beginnings of nonfiction
  • biographies

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go to this nonfiction conference. It gave me some ideas for a manuscript I am currently working on that is technically fiction but has a lot of educational components to it, so I am going to do some additional research, write a bibliography, and create some back matter for it.

What are you doing to learn more about a particular topic?

Events · Ramblings

When a Book Purchase Has a Story

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I greatly appreciate all purchases you make using these links. Thank you!)

Recently I wrote about my daughters’ little business selling some homemade items. My husband and I offered to pay for my daughters to sell at the local farmers’ market five times this year as a Christmas gift. As a result, I have had the opportunity to accompany my daughters and sell my books Jobs of a Preschooler and Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles at the market.

I really enjoy talking to the people who walk through the market. Some are just passing through the area. Others are in town visiting family. Some have lived in the area for their entire lives and regularly go to the market.

It’s nice when people buy my books, but I take even more pleasure in listening to the reasons why people buy my books.

Jobs of a Preschooler has been purchased by preschool teachers, people who know preschool teachers, and parents and grandparents of children who will be starting preschool soon or who are currently in preschool.

Jobs of a Preschooler book

Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles has been purchased by many people for children and adults. Apparently it makes a great gag gift, which is quite entertaining to me. A lot of people have told me they are buying it for their adult child or spouse who loves pickles.

Other purchases have touched my heart and make me feel so excited to be a part of someone’s learning process. One lady purchased Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles for a reluctant reader who loves pickles. A speech pathologist purchased it for the repetition of the word pickles. Another parent purchased it for her child who was going to speech therapy and was told to try sour foods such as pickles to get his mouth moving.

Quite a few teachers have also bought Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles to further their discussion during their plant unit. Not only can they read the book, but the students can also put together the order of how to make pickles using the free printable that goes along with the book.

Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles book cover

Thank you to anyone who has purchased one (or both) of my books, and thank you to those of you who have shared your story with me.

Other people’s stories are one of the reasons I plan to continue writing stories. I would love to hear from you if you have purchased one (or both) of my books about the reason you made the purchase.

May you have a wonderful day!




Events · Ramblings

Another Upcoming Conference

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) offers multiple conferences throughout the year in various states. This year, I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction conference and the SCBWI Grow Your Picture Book conference. Both of these conferences took place in Iowa.

Another SCBWI Iowa conference will be taking place in just a couple of months on October 6th, 2018 in West Des Moines, Iowa. It is entitled Change the World with Words.

Save the World With Words SCBWI Conference

You can find more information about the conference here on the SCBWI’s website. Just so you know, the early bird pricing ends on August 30th.

Have you enjoyed any conferences?

Events · Ramblings

17 Books to Prepare for Upcoming Conference

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I greatly appreciate all purchases you make using these links. Thank you!)

I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI Iowa Adventures in Nonfiction Conference earlier this year, which I really enjoyed. I read multiple nonfiction children’s books written and/or published by the speakers before attending the conference. Obviously, this is not a requirement, but it made me feel more prepared and gave me an idea of the various writing styles of the speakers.

Well, I have been busy doing some preconference research again in preparation for the SCBWI Iowa Grow Your Picture Book Garden Conference, which is already less than a week away! More information about the upcoming conference can be found on the SCBWI Iowa’s website here.

To prepare, I went to my local library and checked out all the fiction children’s books I could find written by the speakers. I was disappointed I didn’t find Chicken Wants a Nap by Tracy Marchini at my local library, but I did enjoy reading through Tracy Marchini’s blog posts on her website. I even signed up for The Quacktory.

Below is a list of the books written by the upcoming speakers I was able to check out and enjoy from the library.

I added a short summary of each of the books below their cover and title for you to have a little more information. Unfortunately, my summaries aren’t nearly as creative or interesting as the descriptions you will find listed within each of the books. For that reason, I have added links to Amazon for each of the books where you can read their descriptions and reviews.

Just so you know, these are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you if you choose to click on them and make a purchase. With that being said, you may be able to find them at your local library to read for free.

I dare you to read all of these books without laughing out loud at least once!

Fiction Children’s Books by Jill Esbaum 

How to Grow a Dinosaur

An older dinosaur sibling learns all about welcoming a new baby dinosaur to the family. Baby dino eats, burps, sleeps, and even poops, but she needs help learning how to do a variety of activities such as playing peek-a-boo and roaring.

If a T.Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party

This book will help you be prepared in the event a T. Rex decides to show up at your birthday party. A T. Rex may not be very good at some of the games such as water balloon toss and swinging at a pinata thanks to those little arms, but he does do a great job creating a mess and scaring away some guests.

I am Cow, Hear Me Moo! 

Nadine is a fearless cow, or so she tells her friends. She even offers to prove it, which leads to some unexpected adventures through the woods. Is she really as fearless as she claims to be?

I Hatched!

A baby killdeer hatches and discovers its new surroundings while learning more about itself. It runs, examines itself in a pond, sings, admires its feathers, attempts to get lunch, and plans to teach its newly hatched sister all it had learned on its first day in the world.

Elwood Bigfoot Wanted: Birdie Friends!

Elwood Bigfoot does many things alone, but he wants to be friends with the birdies. He attempts to befriend the birdies, but he does not have any success no matter how hard he tries. Being a large creature can be scary for little birdies. Finally Elwood Bigfoot and the birdies become friends, and he is no longer alone.

Tom’s Tweet

Tom the cat thinks he sees a treat in the grass, but he decides the little bird is too small to eat. Thus begins Tom’s adventure of trying to rescue the poor little creature, much to the dismay of the little bird’s protective momma. Doesn’t the momma know a cat must carry a bird in its mouth while climbing a tree?

Teeny Tiny Toady

Teeny watches helplessly as her momma is caught and placed in a bucket by a young human boy. She hops, flops, plops, and slops as fast as she can to tell her big brothers the news. They go to rescue mom but also end up in trouble. Teeny realizes even though she is a tiny toad, she doesn’t need to be big or muscular to come up with a great idea to rescue her entire family.

Fiction Children’s books by Tammi Sauer

Chicken Dance 

Marge and Lola are two chickens determined to win the barnyard talent show which offers the coveted grand prize of tickets to Elvis Poultry. Unfortunately, Marge and Lola don’t know what their talent should be. That doesn’t stop them from trying and failing many not-so-well thought out ideas. Finally, they decide they will have to “wing it” at the talent show. Thankfully, they are not too “chicken” to “bawk and roll” onstage. Even though they don’t officially win the talent show, they earn something even better.

Mr. Duck Means Business 

Mr. Duck enjoys a schedule and his time alone. He gets bothered when all the other barn animals want to jump, splash, and be noisy in his peaceful pond. After a while, though, he realizes being alone all the time can get really lonely. Schedules are good but so is time spent having fun with friends.

Princess in Training 

Princess Viola is not like all the other princesses. She splashes, karate-chops, and skateboards, but that is not how a proper princess should act. Princess Viola enters Camp Princess to learn proper princess etiquette. Being prim and proper doesn’t seem to work for Princess Viola, and she worries she is a “royal failure”. That is until her skills come in handy and save the day.

I Love Cake! 

Moose and his friends love cake. Unfortunately, Moose loves cake so much he eats it all by himself without sharing. This, of course, does not make his friends happy especially since the cake was a birthday cake for a friend (not him). Will Moose be able to restore his friendship with his cake-loving friends?

Your Alien

What would you do if an alien landed in your yard? You would want to keep him, wouldn’t you? This would lead to some fun adventures (after you tell your parents, of course) along with a few messes. Once you are all tucked in to bed with your little alien, you will realize he is homesick. Thankfully, you are brilliant (just like your lights), and you are able to get his parent’s attention for an “out of this world” family reunion.

Me Want Pet!

Cave boy really wants a pet. No matter how hard he tries to find the perfect pet, there is always some excuse for him to not be able to keep it. That is until all of his past attempts prove worthy of being a part of the family.

Ginny Louise and the School Showdown

Truman Elementary has a bunch of troublemakers who wreak havoc on the school. They are destructive critters who do not know what to do when little Ginny Louise becomes a new student. She is nothing like them. She doesn’t scowl or growl. She paints, sings, learns, and hears things in her own way. Her kindness and actions turn the bad bunch into a pretty good bunch of students and friends.


A young boy claims to be a fierce dragon, but a couple of real dragons inform him he isn’t really a scary dragon. They even go as far as to say he is “really cute”, which makes the young boy upset. He wants to be toothy, fierce, and fire-breathing. The dragons comfort him by telling him all of the things he is able do. Unfortunately, the dragons realize all of those things are things they can’t do because they are dragons, which makes them upset. Thankfully, the boy is able to figure out some activities all three of them can do together as more than just a boy and two dragons.

Fiction Children’s Books by Charlotte Gunnufson


Halloween Hustle

A rhyming story of a clumsy skeleton dancing the Halloween Hustle as he travels to a Halloween party. He is joined by all the other monsters along the way. The skeleton’s clumsiness leads to many falls, repairs, and a new friend.

Prince and Pirate

Prince and Pirate are two fish completely content in their own fishbowls until “the dreadful journey”. They are plopped into the same fishtank. Prince and Pirate each have their own lingo, and they don’t get along with each other at all. That is until a dogfish enters the tank.

Reading through all of these books made me even more excited for the upcoming conference. These ladies are all very talented and creative. I am really looking forward to learning something from each of them.

Have you ever been to a writing conference? If so, what is one tip you learned?


Events · Ramblings · Writing Appearances

25 Books About Grandparents

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I greatly appreciate all purchases you make using these links. Thank you!)

I have been attending monthly author meetings for quite a few months now. I recently also started going to a monthly picture book meeting where a different topic concerning picture books is discussed each month.

This month, books about grandparents were discussed at the picture book meeting. Who says you have to wait until September to celebrate Grandparents Day?

To prepare for the meeting, I read 14 books (checked out from my local library) about grandparents. I really enjoyed some of them, but others weren’t quite my style. I know that everyone has their own preference of books, so I’ve decided to include all of the grandparent books I read with a brief description of each one. Some of them describe serious topics such as Alzheimer’s while others are rather silly or imaginative.

 Grandma Forgets by Paul Russell

I really liked this book about a granddaughter talking about how her grandma forgets things. Although the word “Alzheimer’s” is never mentioned, this book does portray the effects of Alzheimer’s. It also mentions grandma “lives with people who remember for her”, which seems like a pleasant way to discuss why a grandparent may have to move to a nursing home. Throughout the story, the granddaughter stays positive and helps create new memories with her grandma.

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd

A young boy named Oscar shares his adventures with his grandma. Even on days his grandma doesn’t feel like playing, they are still able to find some activities to do together. Oscar even helps his grandma wash dishes. Grandma starts to forget things, so she has to move to “be with people who know how to help her”. Oscar is nervous the first day he visits her at her new home (a nursing home), but he finds he is still able to have fun while visiting his grandma. The book talks about how Oscar’s grandma sometimes will shout at people or get confused, so Oscar creates a box of happy memories to look at with her.

There are a couple of pages at the end of the book that talk about dementia and what happens as people get older. It includes suggestions on what activities you can do with someone you love who has dementia.

Grandma and Me: A Kid’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Dementia by Beatrice Tauber Prior, Psy.D. & Mary Ann Drummond, RN

This book is a very long and detailed book about a grandma with Alzheimer’s. It talks about how the grandma may be sad or withdrawn at times, forgets current things, but can still remember some events from long ago. It talks about what Alzheimer’s is. It even goes in depth about what neurons are and how they are not working properly in a person with Alzheimer’s. It also discusses a few therapies or ways to help grandma. At the end of the book, even more information is provided for parents and caregivers to read about how to prepare a young child for the journey a family member may go through with Alzheimer’s.

What Can Your Grandma Do? by Anne Sawan and Sernur Isik

This book is about a class preparing to celebrate Grandparents Appreciation Week by inviting grandparents to come in and share a special talent. As each of the children in the class share what talents his or her grandparents have, one boy seems to think his grandma doesn’t have any special talent. Later, he realizes she does infact have a special  talent.

Every child in the book’s class has a grandparent, which may not be the case for all children in a classroom setting. A few of these grandparents even have quite active talents – ballet, salsa dancing, hula hooping, and slam dunking a basketball.

I Love My Grandma by Giles Andreae

This has simple one to two lines of text on each page, so it would be appropriate for a young child. Most of the text rhymes, but there are a few times when the words don’t such as mine and time, fun and mom, and tummy and funny. It talks about various activities a grandchild does with his grandmother.

Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney

Following the style of the Llama Llama series, this book shows a young llama grandchild who will be spending the night with his grandparents. He has a fun-filled day with his grandparents playing outside, riding a tractor, working in the garden, and more. Unfortunately, little llama has forgotten his fuzzy llama stuffed animal, which he thinks he needs to sleep. Grandpa comes to the rescue with his own special toy to share with little llama.

Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

A young girl looks through her grandma Mimi’s purse with her grandma Mimi. She finds all kinds of items such as lipstick, “smell-good”, hair pins, glasses, and more. As she pulls the items out, her grandma Mimi explains the significance of each of the items. The story ends with the girl finding a special gift at the bottom of the purse for her to keep.

40 Uses For a Grandpa by Harriet Ziefert

This book is a list of 40 uses for a grandpa with pictures to coincide with each numbered item. For example, the first page says: “1. play date”. The book ends with a page that says: “40. friend”.

I Really Want to See You Grandma by Taro Gomi

Very simple text (1-2 lines on each page) tells the story of a grandma and granddaughter who want to see each other, so they set out to visit each other at the same time. As a result of them both being gone at the same time, they keep missing each other. Eventually they meet under a tree, which they decide to use as a future meeting place.

Me Too, Grandma! by Jane Chapman

Grandma has a wonderful surprise for her little owl grandson, Ollie: a new baby cousin owl. Ollie sees that he is no longer the center of attention and becomes a little jealous of his new little cousin and quite sad thinking that his grandma no longer loves him with her whole heart. Grandma owl explains to Ollie that grandmas grow new love for each addition to the family, and no other baby could ever remove any of the love from little Ollie. At the end, Ollie realizes he can have fun with his little cousin, and he still has Grandma Owl’s love.

When a new addition is added to the family, children may feel the same emotions as little Ollie. It’s always comforting for them to know they are still loved and appreciated.

Skyfishing by Gideon Sterer

Grandpa moves from the country to live in the city with his granddaughter’s family. Grandpa really misses fishing, and his granddaughter wants to uplift her sad grandpa. The granddaughter decides to play pretend with her grandpa. Their imaginations lead them to capturing all kinds of city fish: laundry eels (laundry line), Capfish (hats), goldfish (gold necklaces), and more.

Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

A young boy spends time with his grandma who is originally from Puerto Rico and only knows Spanish, so he translates some things to her that she can’t read or understand. Some Spanish words are used throughout the book with English translations. The boy and his grandma go shopping, gather various ingredients, and spend quite a bit of time making pasteles. They later go to a museum together, where they learn about a man named Juan de Pareja they see in a painting.  At the end of the book, the grandson receives a special gift from his grandma.

How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

This is a silly how-to book from one grandchild to another. In the book, the child talks about what to do when grandpa arrives at the house, what snacks to enjoy, what to do on a walk, how to entertain and play, what to do during his naptime, how to wake him up, and how to say good-bye. There is quite a bit of humor throughout the book such as making sure to put sunscreen on grandpa – “especially the top of his head” with a picture of the grandchild dousing grandpa’s bald head with sunscreen.

How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan

Similar to How to Babysit a Grandpa, this book goes through the steps of how to babysit a grandma. The grandpa and grandson from How to Babysit a Grandpa make an appearance in a picture at the park in this book. The tips on babysitting a grandma are different from babysitting a grandpa, so there are still humorous (and sweet) results without repeated information.

In addition to the 14 books I had read ahead of time, other books about grandparents were also mentioned at the picture book meeting. Below are 11 of the books we looked through at the meeting, which brings the total to 25 books about grandparents.

Drawn Together by Minh Le 

A young boy and his grandfather speak different languages, so they struggle with communication. Through comic strip type illustrations, the grandfather and grandson learn to communicate by drawing. Most of the story is told through the illustrations, so there are very few words.

Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

A young boy builds a boat to honor his grandfather who had passed away. The grandson goes on a grand adventure on the boat. At the end, his mom wakes him up from his exciting dream.

A Fire Truck Named Red by Randall de Seve

A young boy wants a brand new fire truck, but his grandpa gives him a fire truck he had as a child instead. The child is disappointed, but his grandfather tells him of some grand adventures he and his fire truck had when he was young. The grandpa spruces up the fire truck for the young boy, and the grandson realizes that he and the fire truck will make a great team (even if it isn’t brand new).

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim

With many more pictures than words, this book shows two children on an imaginative search for their Halmoni (grandmother). They pass a hungry rabbit, goblins, a tiger, and a fox before finally reaching their Halmoni. Korean words are shown throughout the book with English translations at the end.

15 Things Not to Do with a Grandma by Margaret McAllister 

Fifteen random things to not do with a grandma such as “don’t hide an elephant in grandma’s bed” are given. Some things to do with a grandma are mentioned towards the end of the story.

My Grandpa by Marta Altes

A young grandchild bear talks about his grandpa bear getting older and forgetting things, but they still find things they can do together. It has very simple text with only one line on each page.

Rain by Sam Usher

A boy wants to go outside, but his grandpa keeps telling him no because it is raining. The rain finally stops, so the grandchild goes out to mail a letter with his grandpa. As they are outside, it begins to rain again resulting in some imaginative pictures. The grandpa and grandchild end the story with getting warm in the house.

In the Red Canoe by Leslie A. Davidson

A sweet rhyming book about a granddaughter spending time with her grandpa out on a canoe. They enjoy the scenery as they see beavers, fish, ducks, dragonflies, and more.

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson

An inquisitive granddaughter asks her grandma “Nokom” many questions while working together in a garden. Her grandma responds by telling her granddaughter about tough times she endured at a residential school she attended when she was a little girl.

Me and My Grandma! by Alison Ritchie 

A rhyming story about the different activities a grandma bear and her grandchild do together. Grandma bear can even do cartwheels down a hill! Grandma also gives bear hugs “to make everything right”.

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

A granddaughter asks her grandfather about his Cree language, but he can’t remember the words. The grandfather tells his granddaughter about the struggles he faced while growing up that stole the words from him. The granddaughter finds a book with the Cree language to give to her grandpa so he can remember the words.

Do you have a favorite book about grandparents that I didn’t include here?