Wednesday, December 13, 2017


STEP ONE:  Invite her to your school.

When educators make time for an author visit, they send a strong signal that books are important. Last spring, Mrs. Stacia Kohlstedt asked if I would visit St. Mary's School in Richland Center, Wisconsin. I happily agreed. Meeting young readers always inspires me and reminds me why I do what I do.

STEP TWO:  Read her book prior to the visit.

All of the grades read my books. The students had excellent questions and comments about what they had read. The seventh graders did an entire study on Nature Girl. Their illustrated reports lined the hallway.

I was really impressed by their analysis of character, plot, and setting.

I loved seeing Trail Blaze Betty get the credit she deserves for guiding Megan's journey. (Look--there's her famous hat!)

STEP THREE:  Let her discuss topics she's passionate about.


Fiction is a powerful tool that enables us to view the world from someone else's perspective. In my books, I've been a boy with too much imagination, an African gray parrot, and a snotty girl who is transformed by hiking. In other people's books, I've been a runaway slave, a soldier, and a Syrian refugee. Whether you're a reader, a writer, or both, your life will be enriched by being inside someone who is different from you. 

STEP FOUR:  Invite her to lunch with a few of your students.

Pizza! Kids! Conversation about school and books and butterflies. St. Mary's is passionate about saving monarchs--which happens to be the theme for a book I'm currently writing.

Thank you, Mrs. Stacia Kohlstedt, St. Mary's teachers and students for a wonderful day, for sharing your ideas--and for helping me write my next book.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators knows the importance of school visits. That’s where the kids are! In a noisy world, teachers and librarians are often the best ones to connect readers to books.

Unfortunately, schools aren’t always able to host these visits. But at the Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association convention, the SCBWI booth was mobbed by educators entering a drawing for a FREE author visit. Nancy Washnieski, a 6th grade teacher from Washburn, Wisconsin, was the lucky winner of a visit and a bag of books by Wisconsin authors and illustrators.

By happy coincidence, Nancy had already bought a copy of my middle-grade novel NATURE GIRL to share with her students. So I got to make the trip from the coast of one great lake to another -- beyond the reach of the interstate, through the Chequamegon National Forest, past Mercer (the loon capitol of the world), to Washburn on the shore of Lake Superior.

I wasn't sure what kind of school I would find in a town of only 2000. (There are schools in New York City that have that many students!) But I knew we had the most important thing in common – we all loved books.

Nancy had been reading NATURE GIRL to her students. They enjoyed Megan’s adventures on the Appalachian Trail, even though they were shocked she didn’t know how to start a campfire. Unlike my heroine, these kids loved being in nature.

They had so many great questions about writing and the reasons for choices I had made. They shared their ideas for a project I’m just beginning – in which a kid from the country gets lost in the city. 

Thank you, Washburn School! I loved sharing my books with you. And thanks for the water bottle with your school's mascot Castle Guards. It came in very handy as I hiked along the spectacular coast of Lake Superior.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Meet Clint McCool

Zing, zong, zing! Brain flash! It's time for another Clint McCool Escapade.

Clint McCool's real name is Walter. But he had to give himself a new identity. Real life just isn't exciting enough for a kid with limitless imagination.

I had so much fun working on this character. It was great to imagine outrageous adventures with alligators and monsters instead of the serious issues my other characters had been grappling with.

As you can see from these covers, Jessika von Innerebner really brought Clint McCool and his exciting escapades to life.  Her illustrations appear throughout these chapter books.

Pre-order the first books of this series by  clicking this link. 

Creativity should be celebrated. New ideas should be encouraged. And yet Clint McCool does live in the real world where escapades have consequences. Octopus's arms will come off––if you yank on them. Jars of brains will break––if you drop them. Flooded streets are impossible to cross. Your best friend Marco will get mad––if you ruin his XL7 Ray Bender. Especially if you took it without his permission.

Things go wrong! That is unavoidable. But whenever Clint gets in trouble, he learns a lesson. His imagination finds a delightful way to fix the disaster. And he also sincerely apologizes. Because we should also use our powers of imagination to think about how it feels to be someone else.

That's how I love to use my brain.

Zing, zong, zing!