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The humidity whacks me in the face each time I step outside, so yeah, it’s August. Already.

Every summer I entertain grandiose plans to write outdoors while enjoying a picnic of luscious home-made ciabatta sandwiches and baked goods the likes of which would make The Barefoot Contessa swoon. I buy light, airy dresses, relish being barefoot in the cool grass and imagine the stack of manuscripts I will have completed, polished and prompting auction offers…

And then August smacks me upside the head. Already.

Nasty, vile August. Why do you curse me so?! You let my children out of camp teeming with bug bite scabs, force me to endure three-hour back-to-school lines at Staples, and leave my computer devoid of new manuscripts.

Well, at least someone is winning this month. Finally, a list of all the prize winners from recent giveaways!





Congratulations, everyone! I will be emailing you shortly.

Now, because I want everyone to be a winner in August, here are some excellent writing articles I’ve come across lately. All are worth a read!


And finally, one of my favorite books OF ALL TIME, although I discovered it only a couple years ago, is MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND by Matthew Dicks. Matthew offers a fabulous newsletter jam-packed with writing and storytelling tips. You can even win a storytelling consult with him. He is a multiple winner of Moth’s Story Slam and GrandSlam competitions. He posted an engaging TEDx talk recently about how to hone your story radar and even improve your life in the process. I encourage you to watch:


I hope this video makes your August better than mine!

by Dianne de Las Casas


Now what did you hear when you read that word? Whose voice was it? Was it your mom’s voice? Was it your grandmother’s voice? Was it your own voice hushing your children? So much of our world operates in onomatopoeic sounds: the chirping of the morning birds, the beeping of the garbage truck, the roaring of a car engine, the screeching of the school bus as it comes to a stop…

As a professional storyteller, I actually become better at telling my stories by listening. It is through this simple auditory observation that I find inspiration for my tales. As a picture book author, I become better at writing by thinking of my story in terms of sound. How will this tale reverberate when it is read out loud?

The sound of a baby’s “Wah! Wah!” became a turning point in a recent story I revised. The sing-songy refrains that I have become known for in my books work better when they are released from the page through the read-aloud. In Denise Fleming’s picture book, In the Tall Tall Grass, you hear, “Crunch, munch. Caterpillars lunch.” The sounds become actions. The actions become story.

Watch little boys as they play with trucks and cars. They zoom and they vroom. Listen to preschoolers and kindergarteners make sound effects. Go the playground and take note. You’ll hear the clap clap clap of the girls’ hand games and the thump thump thump of a boys’ basketball game. Even the swingset makes a whooshing sound as the swings take flight.

Today, listen to the noise around you. Write down the sounds, even making them up if there is no known word for what you hear. The kerchink kerchink kerchink of the dryer could lead to a new picture book idea (but don’t you hate it when your family leaves stuff in their pockets?! LOL).

Even if you like to write in the quiet, today is the day to make some noise. Perhaps you will hum, echo, thud, crash, jingle, swish, or clatter your way into a new story.

Listen up. What do you hear?

Dianne is generously giving away a signed copy of Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate to a lucky commenter. A winner will be randomly selected one week from today!

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author of 18 books, a professonal storyteller, and founder of the international literacy initiative, Picture Book Month. She tours worldwide presenting revved-up author visit/storytelling programs, lively educator/librarian training, fun workshops, and inspiring artist residencies. Her children’s books include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, and Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate. She is a founding member of November’s Picture Book Month. Visit her at and follow all the storytelling fun on Twitter @storyconnection.

Come visit a new website that lets kids spread their storytelling wings.

Storybird is “collaborative storytelling for family and friends.” When I first heard the tagline, I scratched my head. What is this all about? Then I got the beta tester invite. And I played on the site for hours. Days. My daughter begged, “Mommy, can we make another Storybird?”

So what is this high-flying new creature?

Storybird helps you create a tale with an intuitive book-like interface and a whimsical selection of artwork. (We’re not talking stick-figures here. These are high-quality images from some of the most talented “undiscovered” children’s illustrators today, like Irisz Agocs and Victoria Usova.)


Select an artist’s work to begin. A page appears in the center of the screen, surrounded by thumbnail images. Simply drag and drop an image onto a page, then write text to accompany the picture. Add as many pages as you like and you’ll soon have a bonafide book—one that looks professional, one that can be read online over and over again. You can choose to keep your Storybird private, or you can share it with the Storybird community. And they can read it online over and over again.

But the smartest feature of Storybird brings family and friends together. Is Grandma in Gary, Indiana? Cousin Kate in Kalamazoo? You can invite them to write a page in your story. Or two pages. There’s no limit…and what’s better, there’s no fee to join Storybird. According to CEO Mark Ury, “Making, sharing, and reading Storybirds online will always be free. Printing and premium services—when we introduce them later this year—will have a fee associated with them.”


Read this Storybird

(Uhh, Mark, could you please hurry up with that? My daughters want a copy of The Runaway Rabbit in their hands right away.)

Other planned features include the ability to: choose artwork based upon theme, upload your own images, and record your voice to accompany Storybirds. For those on the go, an iPhone app is coming, too.

What’s more, Storybird wants your ideas to improve and enhance the service. The site has only been live for 6 days, but educators in over 100 countries have already asked for a multi-user platform to help teach literacy skills in classrooms. Ury says his company is working on a teacher log-in that would enable students to work under that account without having to submit their information. Storybird be nimble, Storybird be quick.

And Storybird be popular! Some stats from their not-quite-a-week online:

  • 1,000 users in 100+ countries
  • 8,000 unique visits
  • 76,000 page views
  • 7-minute average visit
  • some Storybirds viewed 325+ times each

Families and teachers will see enormous benefits in Storybird, as will artists. Storybird creates a marketplace to share your work and develop a fan following. If you’re an aspiring children’s illustrator, I encourage you to sign up.

So what are you waiting for? Slide a kid onto your lap and flap your wings on over to Storybird. (Or, if you’re like me, you don’t even need a kid. The child inside you will have plenty of fun on her own!)

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