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by Judy Bradbury

Thanks, Tara, for inviting me to your blog space to offer a few tips on writing chapter books! I’m honored to be here.

A bit of background: THE CAYUGA ISLAND KIDS is chapter books series is contemporary fiction featuring five diverse friends who embark on backyard adventures, solve mysteries, and grow as a result of their experiences. The kids are resourceful, kind-hearted “fact detectives” who use their varied interests, their smarts, kindness, and humor to overcome hurdles and solve problems. Above all, these are kids who value friendship and community. The stories feature history, community service, respect for the environment, brainstorming, teamwork, misinformation, disinformation, and the importance of gathering all the facts—from more than one source—when tackling a problem, seeking a solution, and before landing on an opinion or drawing a conclusion.

The first book in the series, THE MYSTERY OF THE BARKING BRANCHES AND THE SUNKEN SHIP, is based on real events involving a found cannonball believed to be from the Griffon, a treasure ship that sank somewhere in the Great Lakes in 1679 on the return from its maiden voyage. The ship has never been recovered, though over a million dollars has been spent trying. There’s even a Discovery Channel episode about it. When I first read a newspaper story about a cannonball found in a backyard on Cayuga Island, I was immediately intrigued. After all, the ship was built on the residential island a few miles upstream from Niagara Falls where I grew up. Heck, the street I lived on was Griffon Avenue. It was named after the ship!

I knew I wanted to write a children’s book centered on the found cannonball. But it took months to land on the genre and the format.

  • Nonfiction or fiction?
  • Historical or contemporary?
  • Which format: picture book, chapter book, or middle grade?

Eventually, I formed the idea for a contemporary fiction story based on the true events. I chose to write a chapter book because the topic and the level of detail I wanted to include seemed best suited for the age and interest level of the chapter book audience, and the characteristics of the chapter book format.

Chapter books are vital stepping stones for newly independent readers. Smaller in cover size than picture books, they look and feel more grown up. But they are slimmer than middle grade novels so as not to intimidate or overwhelm the young reader. Building confidence in growing readers is a critical aspect of a successful chapter book.

Targeting 6-10 year-olds, chapter books span from easy first readers that are generally 48-64 pages with a couple of words per page, to more involved stories (80-130 pages) that naturally lead growing readers to middle grade novels. THE CAYUGA ISLAND KIDS chapter books intended for 7-10 year-olds fall into this upper range. For the purposes of our discussion, those are the level of chapter books I’ll offer writing tips for here.

Key elements form the bedrock to writing a winning chapter book—one that will cement an interest in reading and lead to a lifelong love of books:

  • Short sentences and brief chapters—less text density than middle grade books. More white space keeps the reader turning pages, which reinforces a feeling of success in reading.
  • Limited cast of characters; introduce few sub-plots and minor characters
  • Fast-paced plots with minimal narration and plenty of action keep readers engaged
  • Appropriate grade level reading vocabulary
  • Age-level interests and experiences
  • Well-placed and well-spaced illustrations aid comprehension and keep interest high

If you are interested in trying your hand at writing a chapter book, begin by reading widely in the format, particularly in the genre of your intended book. Read new releases as well as classics. Become familiar with grade-level reading vocabulary for the age range your book targets. Check reading level using a readability measure, such as Lexile levels. Is it within range? Young readers’ listening, speaking, and reading vocabularies vary, with their reading vocabulary being the least developed, and thus the biggest challenge—to the reader and the writer. Introduce new vocabulary or tougher, multisyllabic words by using the word in context, or providing a definition within the text, either within the sentence, or immediately before or after. Repeat new and unfamiliar words to foster recognition. The more often a word is encountered in print, the more comfortable the reader becomes with it. Reinforce unfamiliar words with illustrations details.

Illustrations in the best of picture books expand and enrich the text—and often offer a parallel story line. However, this isn’t the goal of illustrations in chapter books. Here, pictures are meant to support comprehension. Usually chapter books feature partial page or spot illustrations with occasional full-page art; black-and-white pen and ink drawings are common.

Engaging, high-interest topics, accessible language, and visual appeal are essential. Chapter book plots center on experiential knowledge and curiosity about the world around us. Friendships, family, school, and growing independence are common themes for chapter books. Humor is always appreciated, from gentle wittiness to raucous roll-on-the-floor hijinks. Children in this age group are curious, accepting, eager, and willing to be engaged. As they explore and embark on adventures in their own corner of the world, they are eager to broaden understanding of the larger world and acquire knowledge, tools, and skills. Book 2 in the Cayuga Island Kids series, THE ADVENTURE OF THE BIG FISH BY THE SMALL CREEK, focuses on a community project for recycling. The kids come to realize that though we are each just one person, together we can make a big difference. It recently was awarded the Ben Franklin Silver Award for Young Reader Fiction, 8-12.

Don’t underestimate the 7-10 year-old reader. In Book 3 of the Cayuga Island Kids series, released just a couple of weeks ago, misinformation and disinformation are introduced through events that take place in the story. These are big words, big concepts. But they are also a big part of our world today. THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS centers on the importance of getting all the facts and not just a fraction of the truth before forming on an opinion or drawing a conclusion. Readers encounter flour bugs, missing glitter pens, wonky websites, a Little Free Library, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

Finding meaningful, accessible, and entertaining ways to approach important concepts and mindsets is both a challenge and a reward for the chapter book author hoping to provide a sturdy bridge for the young independent reader’s journey to becoming a lifelong reader.

Thank you for the tips, Judy! I know plenty of PB writers who would like to try the challenge of writing Chapter Books.

And blog readers, you can win a copy of Book 3 in the Cayuga Island Kids collection, THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS!

Just leave a comment below about what you’ve learned about writing CBs. A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!


Photo by Peter Scumaci

Judy Bradbury is an award-winning author and literacy educator who has taught students from preschool through college. Judy’s children’s books include the Cayuga Island Kids chapter book series and the Christopher Counts! picture book series. Judy is also the author of a number of resources for educators and host of the popular Children’s Book Corner blog featuring interviews with authors and illustrators and suggestions for using their books to enhance curriculum while boosting social-emotional learning. For more information, visit Judy’s website. Connect with Judy on Instagram @judy_bradbury; Twitter @JudyBWrites; and LinkedIn.

by Chiêu Anh Urban

What better way to celebrate a book birthday than with a creative, passionate and supportive book-loving community. Thank you Tara for hosting this book launch, with 123 ZOOM zooming into the world. Hooray!

Want to hear a secret?  I’m not “into” cars and planes, like my husband, per se. My girly girls’ childhoods were dazzled with princesses, unicorns, fairies and pretty colors like purple and pink. It’s surprising to me that this is my second concept book featuring modes of transportation. Interestingly, what I do enjoy is drawing them.

The truth is, I’m very art-driven and I focus on design and format first when brainstorming ideas. My goal was to develop a playful, interactive book for exploring numbers and counting. So why planes, motorcycles, and ships? They can fly, swim and zoom at amazing speeds, make loud, interesting sounds, and be bright and colorful. That was the inspiration I needed to dive into a format where little ones can adventure into their imagination and become powerful vehicles that journey through water, land, and sky. Number characters represent the scenes, from the deep sea to the big galaxy. How I present the art is key; highlighting different perspectives of the same vehicles in aerial and front views.

Where’s the novelty—the interactive features?  This was the road maze that led to many dummies and production challenges. It’s been quite the journey, as novelty books go. I appreciate every speed bump, detour, and success along the way. My original idea consisted of cut-out vehicles on tracks that slide along the numbers, to encourage tracing and writing. This ultimately was cost prohibitive. I had to rethink the concept, and design a novelty that offered a similar experience, but was cost effective and inviting to touch. There was turbulence along the way, but also guidance and support from my amazing editor and agent. 123 ZOOM evolved with each spread featuring die-cut scooped out numerals and glossy, slick paths down the middle for tracing numbers, and discovering the many things-that-go. The dummy page pictured here was a work-in-progress, but the idea was to convey the novelty elements. There’s a seek-and-find element of surprise towards the end of the book, designed to encourage little ones to count backwards.

Its companion book, ABC ROAR, releases this July.  This hands-on novelty introduces the alphabet and animals in their habitats.  Thank you for letting me share my process and 123 ZOOM’s book birthday with you.

Enjoy a virtual no calorie treat and cheers to all ideas taking off!

Blog readers, to celebrate her book launch, Chiêu is giving away a copy of 123 ZOOM!

Comment once below to enter.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


Chiêu Anh Urban is an author/illustrator, and format designer who specializes in developing interactive, playful books that provide fun learning and exploration for the youngest readers.

Chiêu’s novelty titles include 123 ZOOM and ABC ROAR (2022) with Little Simon/S&S, and board book series ILLUSIONS IN ART (2023) with Candlewick Press. She is the creator of Color Wonder Hooray for Spring!, Color Wonder Winter is Here!, Quiet as a Mouse: And Other Animal Idioms, Away We Go! and Raindrops. Chiêu holds a BFA in Communications Art and Design.  Visit her website at ChieuUrban.com to learn more about her children’s books, follow her on Facebook, Twitter @ChieuAnhUrban and Instagram @chieu.anh.urban.

by Shannon Stocker

Mega thanks to my mentor and friend, Tara Lazar, for hosting the cover reveal of my upcoming non-fiction picture book, LISTEN: HOW EVEYLN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (April 12, 2022, from Dial Books).

About three years ago, after listening to an SCBWI speaker talk about the importance of writing what you know and the #OwnVoices movement, I felt moved to write a book about a musician who’d overcome something huge. A musician who’d beaten the odds, defying the expectations of the world around them.

I, myself, am a pianist, a guitarist, and a vocalist. Music has fed my soul since the day I was born. But I also spent two years in a wheelchair due to a chronic illness called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. For seven years, I fought for my life. Countless physicians told me I would not survive, my condition would not improve, I would never have children, and that my husband should put me in permanent care. Countless people gave up on me, insisting I should accept my fate.

But my husband never gave up on me. And, more importantly, I never gave up on me.

Shortly after that conference, I started doing Google searches for potential subjects. The very first person who popped up was Evelyn Glennie. She is the first person to ever have a full-time career as a solo percussionist. She’s won two Grammy Awards, and been knighted by the Queen of England. And she is deaf.

I continued looking for other potential artists, thinking Evelyn would be too big, too famous, too difficult to reach, but her story kept calling me back. It felt like home. So finally, on February 9, 2019, I wrote to her team to ask if she might have an interest in speaking with me about a potential non-fiction picture book. Only two days later, they replied in the affirmative.

Within a month, Evelyn and I had our first Skype. Although she had a translator attend, Evelyn’s lip-reading abilities and speech made communication simple and clear (she lost her hearing as an older child). Not only was she talented, determined, and kind, but she was also one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. Her story poured from my fingers like the most familiar piano concerto, and within two months it was written, revised, and had its first offer for publication.

Shortly after the book sold to Dial, my editor wrote to tell me Devon Holzwarth would be illustrating. It took me all of three seconds to fall in love with Devon’s work, which I often describe as “music on the page.” I contacted Devon, who currently lives in Germany, and she told me that Evelyn was scheduled to play in the “September Special” classical music event close to her home only two days later! I wrote to Evelyn, who provided Devon with tickets and later met her during a break at the concert.

The entire process felt magical.

At this time, LISTEN will also be published by Penguin UK, and I just recently learned that it’s been selected by the Junior Library Guild as a book club pick. I’m immensely proud to have been a part of this book’s creation. I’m grateful to Evelyn for trusting me with her story. I’m grateful to my agent Allison for seeing something in me beyond this story. I’m grateful to Jess, my brilliant editor, for her insights. And I’m grateful to Devon…who gave my words life and emotion beyond anything I could’ve dreamed.

How beautiful, Shannon! I love the movement of the music depicted in florals, streaming from the drum. It’s lovely; congratulations!

LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION will be published by Dial on April 12, 2022.

Shannon is giving away a non-rhyming picture book critique in celebration. Leave one comment below and a random winner will be selected next week. Good luck!


Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released in 2019, her nonfiction PB bio about Evelyn Glennie comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Visit Shannon at shannonstocker.comFacebook, or follow her on Twitter @iwriteforkidz and Instagram @iwriteforkidz.

I have always loved novelty books—they are proof that big things come in small packages! With their brief yet powerful words, adorable pictures, and clever format, they are the book equivalent of a “fun size” candy bar. I’ve even tried to write a couple, but who knows if they’ll ever be published? I’m no Salina Yoon!

Today, author Terry Pierce tells us about her newest novelty book, illustrated by Suzy Ultman, and how it came to be.

Terry, I’ve often heard it’s extremely difficult to get a novelty book deal if you’re an author-only (and not an author-illustrator). Please tell us now that’s bunkum!

Oh, Tara, I wish I could tell you that’s bunkum, but I honestly have to say that LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS (as a novelty book) was an extremely happy accident. It began as a picture book, strangely, born out of politics. After the 2016 national election, I was so saddened at the civil discourse in our country. People just weren’t being nice, in my opinion, so I found myself wanting to write about something up-lifting. Perhaps to lift my own spirits, but I wanted to create a book that would make children feel better about the world.

I decided to write a picture book about love, but wanted to make it super kid-friendly, so I used animals as the focus. For weeks, I poured over images of animals showing affection, which certainly filled my heart (and time—oh boy, what a rabbit hole it is to seek adorable animal photos online!). When I saw a photo of a mother and baby giraffe looking at each other, I had my opening line:

Nose to nose or gaze to gaze,
Love can come in many ways.

I worked on the manuscript (writing-revising-incorporating feedback from my critique group) for about three months. During that time, I realized it leaned more toward being a board book due to the sparse text and simple concept. When it was ready, I sent it to my agent, hoping she would love it as much as I did.

She held it for a few weeks before submitting it to a round of editors. Lucky for us, Chronicle Books expressed interest five days later. And it was my brilliant editor Ariel Richardson who envisioned it as a novelty book! Of course, I was thrilled! I’d always wanted to publish a novelty book, but as you wisely noted, it’s not easy for an author-only to sell one (I came close once, but ultimately it was a pass).

So was it your editor’s idea to do the felt flaps, uncovering the sweet surprises? How did that concept come together?

The initial idea was to publish it as a novelty book with various moving parts (flaps, tabs, etc.) but soon into the process, Ariel let me know they wanted to use felt flaps exclusively. She was excited about some gorgeous felt samples they’d found that were both beautifully colored and durable (to withstand the tugs and manipulations of small hands). When she emailed me the sample color palettes, I absolutely agreed!

Once we knew it would be a lift-a-flap book, it was then time for the amazing Suzy Ultman to start the rough sketches, which included possible flap placement. Suzy is such a talent for drawing “all things tiny” as I like to say, and she did a great job of incorporating the text into those sweet surprises under the flaps.

Did this concept change any of your text? Were animals brought in or moved out to make optimal use of the flaps?

We did make some slight changes to the text but not to adapt to the flap concept. Suzy was so creative in how she implemented the flap idea—some flaps were body parts (an elephant’s ear, a swan’s wing), others were part of their design (a heart-spotted giraffe has a felt heart that lifts, for example) that I didn’t need to change the text and one even became a leaf.

Where we did make some minor changes were to the types of animals. I wrote the line, “Enclosed in tender, toothy jaws” based on a photo of an alligator carrying her baby in her mouth. It was SO cool! But no matter how Suzy drew it, it looked like the mom was eating her baby! Yikes! We discussed other animals and decided pandas would work better since they have kid-appeal and do in fact, carry their babies in their mouths.

Another line I changed was, “Through soothing songs that mama sings” (originally featuring belugas) to “Through lively songs that mama sings” because Ariel thought it would work better visually to feature a full-spread pond scene with the raccoon and swan on the left, and frogs on the right.

One of my favorite flap ideas was with the final page. Originally, we were going to have speech bubble flaps, but it didn’t quite work out spatially because we really wanted to show a diverse cast of humans on the final spread. We opted for one speech bubble flap instead. Ariel had asked me to think of possible phrases and the first one that came to mind was how I always sign my first board book (Mama Loves You So), “You are loved!” The team agreed it was a great message to end the reading/snuggling/bonding experience, and with the neon pink flap over it, well, it’s perfect!

Terry, this book is sweet and adorable. Congratulations and thanks for talking about its creation!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS!

Just leave one (not many) comment below.

A random winner will be chosen soon!

Good luck!


With twenty-five published books, Terry Pierce has experienced the joys of being a writer in many ways. She has a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an international A.M.I. teaching diploma. Terry was a pre-primary Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow my dream of writing for children (what she calls, “the best mid-life crisis ever!”). She’s been writing since 1999, with her work appearing in magazines and the children’s book market. She has an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She also teaches online children’s writing courses for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at terrypiercebooks.com.

by Hallee Adelman

During quarantine, we’ve seen people connect and celebrate using song. Neighbors harmonize from their windows for front line workers. Friends croon from cars for drive-by birthdays. Families play “Name that Tune” via Zoom.

It’s no wonder; singing happens to release stress. As a former teacher, I often sang with students before tests or to reinforce tough topics. According to Julia Layton of How Stuff Works, singing lets out endorphins that help people feel good. When an individual sings in front of others, there is often an added benefit: improved confidence.

So what does all this singing have to do with books? More and more, picture book and other authors are writing Book Songs for students that accompany their printed work. Megan & Jorge Lacera worked with Annie Birdd Music for their super-fun Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies song, Dawn Prochovnic wrote lyrics for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, Kwame Alexander shared “Kwame & Randy’s” MixTape 52, and Josh Funk created catchy tunes for his Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast books. I’ve also written songs related to my picture book My Quiet Ship, and also my latest Albert Whitman book, Way Past Mad. I felt lucky to record these songs with Leo Gade and Elizabeth Christman, amazing student singers from the Philly Boys and Girls Choirs.

I began using the instrumentals of my Book Songs as intros for a “Stuck at Home” video series that I started during quarantine to inspire kids/classrooms to create and connect in simple ways. In Video #7, the 76ers Sixth Man, a Philadelphia super fan, shared his idea: write and sing a song for someone you love.

EUREKA! That video led to a fun collaboration: the 76ers Sixth Man and Way Past Books are now kicking off the first annual Book Song Challenge!

With the school year coming to an end, our students, teachers and librarians have not only read a lot of books, but have also been under a lot of stress (#understatement).

For the contest, students are challenged to create their own Book Song about their favorite book this year. Hopefully, kids can feel good and confident as we celebrate books AND the end of the year for our hard-working students, teachers, and librarians.

Three winners will receive a $76 book gift card for themselves and a $1000 book gift card that will be sent to their school or library. These gift cards will be fulfilled by awesome indie bookseller, Children’s Book World.

As an author who writes small books about big feelings, it’s hard not to consider how kids and school professionals are feeling right now. I’m looking forward to piloting this challenge this year with the 76ers Sixth Man and growing it together as a community where we can share books, book songs, and celebrate the most important thing we have: our future.


Hallee Adelman is the author of My Quiet Ship (2018), Way Past Mad (2020), Way Past Worried (coming Fall 2020), and two additional Way Past titles (2021). With a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Learning Technologies, Adelman has taught university and elementary students, having been nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award on multiple occasions. She loves sharing writing tips with educators, children, teens and writers. She is married with two children and two dogs. Random facts: Adelman also produces documentary films. She keeps sour gummies in her desk drawer. She is currently engineering a giant leprechaun trap thanks to Tara Lazar’s most recent book!

When I was a kid, creative writing was a way for me to finally be in charge.

Kids are always being told what to do—by their parents, their teachers and other adults. But when they’re writing a story, they can make anything happen!

Creativity is not only good for story writing, it’s good for the brain.

I’ll let Susan tell you more…

Our family homeschooled for a decade, ten pretty magical years, and when our now-adult daughter reached out to me for suggestions for her friends who suddenly found themselves homeschooling, I realized that the important things to learn were not subjects, but skills. And the single most important skill is to think creatively, to generate questions and ideas. Tara Lazar’s Storystorm has been, by far, the best source I know for teaching the brain that skill. You know that feeling at the end of a class, when the lecturer asks “Are there any questions?”—and your brain suddenly goes blank? Storystorm changes that. It sounds impossible, that reading a blog post and writing down an idea a day can change the brain, but it works. Enjoy, and wonder on.

Susan Wroble
susanwroble.com

Thank you, Susan.

And now, here are blog posts about creativity and generating story ideas. Enjoy!

I will be adding to this list throughout the next few days, as others suggest articles I should highlight.

Also, try my lists:

Have fun and be creative!

 

I was planning to announce the Storystorm Grand Prize Winners today, but I was unable to get to it. This gives you more time to polish your ideas, though! I’m posting this so no one thinks they missed it! The Grand Prize will be announced later this week instead. So as Willy Wonka says…

 

Registration for Storystorm 2020 is now closed.

You can still join in the fun if you’re not registered, but you won’t be eligible for prizes.

Read the daily posts and jot down an idea! That’s all there is to it!

Have fun creating!

Every year when STORYSTORM rolls around, I struggle to find a theme for the registration post…so I go looking for good GIFs.

OK, I think Modern Family wins this year. It’s my family’s favorite show, so why not?

Every year I think there is no way I can pull this off again.

And every year, it somehow comes together as if by magic!

It’s quite astounding, really.

I’m not a super-organized kind of person. In writing terms, I’m quite the pantser, although over the years I’ve become a deliberately procrastinating pantser. What does that even mean? I let my ideas marinate, simmer—maybe even fester—until I feel ready to write, until I have a pretty good idea of how it should all go down.

And then it works out, kind of like this:

So that’s what my process feels like, and I’ve come to trust it, bonks on the head and all.

So this STORYSTORM, I encourage you to not only create one new story idea a day, but I also challenge you to learn about your creative process. Knowing your process is an important part of this whole crazy world of writing for children. Honoring that process is what has worked for countless other writers.

(You’ll notice the process includes changing course—or changing sitcom families—when necessary.)

So hello and welcome to STORYSTORM 2020!

Three years ago I changed the name and month of my annual writing challenge, from Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to STORYSTORM. Why? Answer’s here.

Any writer interested in brainstorming new story ideas in January is invited to join the STORYSTORM challenge of 30 ideas in 31 days. Any genre, any style; student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author or professional.

How does STORYSTORM work? It’s simple…

  • Register.
  • Read daily posts.
  • Write down story ideas.
  • That’s pretty much it.

At the end of January if you have at least 30 new ideas, you can sign the STORYSTORM PLEDGE and be eligible for PRIZES.

So are you ready? Follow these steps:

  • Register ON THIS BLOG POST by signing your name ONCE in the comments below. Full name, nickname, whatever name you want to use for the entire event.
  • Teachers participating with a class can register under the teacher’s name.
  • Please leave ONE comment ONLY. Do not reply to say “hi” to a friend. Do not comment to fix a mistake. ONE COMMENT. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect.

Registering makes you eligible for prizes.

Visit this blog daily (taralazar.com) in January for inspirational essays by guest bloggers—professional authors, illustrators and experts in creativity.

Instead of visiting the blog directly, you can receive the daily posts via email by clicking the “Follow Tara’s Blog” button in the left column—look under my photo for it.

At the end of January, if you have at least 30 ideas, sign the STORYSTORM PLEDGE (to be posted on January 31) and qualify for prizes.

Prizes include agent feedback, signed books, original art, writerly gadgets and gizmos.

Remember, do not share your ideas publicly in January. They are YOURS. No need to prove that you have them at the end of the month. The pledge you will sign is on the honor system.

Are you in? Awesome. Pick up your Official Participant badge below and affix it to any social media account you wish. (Right click to save to your computer, then upload it anywhere.)

The final piece? Join the STORYSTORM Facebook discussion group. Everyone needs family!

(What??? I told you my process includes changing sitcom families when needed!)

The Facebook group is completely optional, but it remains a year-round source of writing information and support, mostly focused on picture books, I admit, because that is where this all began.

Registration will remain open through JANUARY 7TH.

What are you waiting for? Register and go celebrate! I’ll see you back here on New Year’s Day.

I had a little visit with Santa and whispered all of these goodies in his ear! I hope you find just what you want under the tree this year.

The Book Seat

Besides a book, this is the perfect writer’s companion. It’s a sturdy pillow with a ledge to cradle your most precious possessions.

Get it: thebookseat.com

Once Upon a Time Card Game

Fancy a fractured fairy tale? Well, this one will definitely crack you up.

Get it: atlas-games.com

Wacky Wavy Mini Tube Guy

I dunno ’bout you, but I like silly things on my writing desk to entertain me. Enter this panic at the disco.

Get it: urbanoutfitters.com

Margaret Atwood Masterclass

What can I say other than WOW!?

Get it: masterclass.com

The Writer’s Toolbox

Doing Storystorm this year? This will keep your creativity turned up to 11!

Get it: chroniclebooks.com

Hemingway Typewriter Pencil Cup

A few years back, I shared this typewriter coaster set. Here’s a matching desk accessory!

Get it: victoriantradingco.com

Typewriter Wrapping Paper

Speaking of typewriters…you may want to use this as wallpaper.

Get it: theliterarygiftcompany.com

Scrabble Tile Magnets

The game you know and love, now in fridge format.

Get it: wildandwolfshop.com

The Pilot’s Pen (Night Writer)

In the 80’s there was Knight Rider. Now in the teens, we get an upgrade to Night Writer.

These LED pens light up so you can write in the dark. (Remember to keep a notepad on your nightstand for those sleepy, brilliant ideas!)

Get it: amazon.com

Chapter One, The End Earrings

Little Gem Girl creates these earrings. You just have to fill in the middle.

Get it: etsy.com

Mark My Words Bookmarks

These comic/graphic novel-style bookmarks will be sure to get the word out that you love reading.

Get it: genuinefred.com

Tea Drops Sampler

Tea is my creative fuel…and this appears to be a genius new way of taking your tea to crit group.

Get it: uncommongoods.com

Ideal Bookshelf Art

Artist Jane Mount creates ideal bookshelf art from Shakespeare to contemporary favorites. See the entire collection…and read it, too!

Get it: uncommongoods.com

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus

While not necessarily for kidlit, this looks to be a creative kick in the keister.

Get it: indiebound.org

Children’s Book Week Posters

There’s an entire store filled with posters from every Children’s Book Week dating back to 1921!

Get it: cafepress.com

Rest My Sole Foot Rest Cushion

If you’ve got your BUTT IN CHAIR, you need to get your FEET ON REST. (Sorry, socks not included. But see below.)

Get it: amazon.com

Banned Books Socks

Keep those tootsies warm and cozy!

Get it: outofprint.com

Literary Temporary Tattoos

To tat or not to tat, that is the question. Don’t make a permanent decision.

Get it: chroniclebooks.com

Tara Lazar Books

Yeah, shameless plug.

Get it: taralazar.com/taras-books

You can also view my previous holiday gift guides for writers:

Happy Holidays, writing friends!

Please share you writerly gift picks in the comments!

Well, hey-hey-hey, we’ve got a couple new early reader friends here today!

Say hello to FRANK AND BEAN!

I’m eager to eat…er, I mean…MEET them, so I sat down with the fellas to have a frank conversation.

So Frank, you’re quite the solitary, secret fellow. What did you first think when Bean came along?

In three words: short, round, and jarring. Frankly, he’s a loud bean. 

Frank’s got a point there, Bean. Why are you so LOUD?

WHAT’S THAT? *banging on drum* WHY AM I SO PROUD? 

BECAUSE I’M A ONE-BEAN BAND. LISTEN TO THIS! *crashes cymbals* *toots horn* *bangs gong* 

Crash! Toot! Gooooooong!

Bean! She said loud, not proud. Why are you so loud?

 Me? Loud? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am exuberant. 

Well, we’ve got one quiet and one loud here. Does your friendship prove that opposites really do attract?

We’re different, but we’re the same in one way. We’re both like to use our imagination and be creative. I make up songs, but I have a hard time coming up with their words. Frank is a writer who keeps a Secret Notebook. What do you write in there, Frank? 

Bean, shhh! We can’t give away the end of our story. These people haven’t read it yet.

Oh. Right. HEY, FRANK! 

Bean, you don’t have to shout. I’m on the same page as you.

We forgot that we have something else in common too, Frank. We both like jelly donut holes. And Frank? I like you too. 

Aw. Thanks, Bean. 

Well, your story ends on an interesting note, guys. Do you want to give us a little hint about what may come next?

Sure! Our next adventure is about creativity too. But it’s about creativity in the kitchen. Or a food truck. Bean gets a big idea to compete in the forest’s food truck contest. 

Will we win, Frank?

I don’t know. The book isn’t done yet. But I bet we’ll have fun.

Me too. Because we totally rock! *crashes cymbals* *toots horn* 

Gooooooong!

Well, now I need a couple of Tylenol…extra strength…fast acting…

Let’s take a look at the WORLD PREMIERE BOOK TRAILER!

FRANK AND BEAN is an adorable new early reader series from author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Bob Kolar, published by Candlewick. There’s full-color delight on every page, perfect for kids who are moving beyond picture books but don’t want to leave the best part—THE PICTURES!!!—behind. These pals have a tiny bit of a rough (and loud) start to their friendship, but they realize their strengths complement each other in perfect harmony.

If you’d like to win a copy of FRANK AND BEAN, leave a comment about what makes friendship so special.

One winner will be randomly selected very soon, because Tara has a lot of giveaways for which she needs to pick winners. So she’ll do it all in one fell swoop!

Good luck!

To follow this tour, you don’t even need a VW minibus! (But that would be more fun.)

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My Books

Coming soon:


TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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