Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


In the world of children's literature, I am thankful for...

  1. Creative minds.
  2. Past and current authors who have set and raised the standards.
  3. Editors and publishers who keep acquiring new books in an uncertain economy.
  4. The inventor of the bookcase.
  5. Independent bookstores whose inventories are not dictated by a central office.
  6. Librarians who help to spread the love of the written word.
  7. Teachers who instill the skill and love of reading in their students.
  8. Story characters who make good friends you can count on.
  9. My fellow spuds who come together from our far-flung homes to share thoughts on books and the writing process.
  10. My five grandchildren who love books.
(and 11. A husband who cooks!)


Día de Acción de Gracias

What a wonderful day to be blogging!
My main thanks go to having a daughter alive. A few months ago Juliana phoned me to say that she thought she would be calling with good news but not anymore. She'd had a miscarriage. Sad, but not the end of the world, except that two weeks later she began having an awful pain. This is a lady who didn't say "Ay" when delivering Conor. It was worrisome to hear her complaining now. Her hormones indicated she was still pregnant, but the fetus wasn't in her uterus. One of thirty-three thousand ladies have a baby in a tube and another in a Fallopian tube. So, the doctors discarded that possibility. One day the pain stopped. Juliana was feeling fine, but the hormones didn't go down as much as expected. When her white blood cells went down, worried about an infection, the doctors decided to operate. They found a ruptured Fallopian tube. The fetus had made kind of a cork that saved my daughter from a hemorrhage. Today she's doing well. Her other tube is good. And I am super thankful for having this brave woman in my life.
My father's ninetieth birthday was on November 8. My sister took him to Connecticut and I flew from Oregon to meet him at the airport. When he saw me instead of seeing my sister, he thought that the pilots had made a mistake and had flown him to Portland. We had unforgettable days celebrating with him.
My writing thanks go to my papas calientes, writing group, editors, educators, students, colleagues, writers, READERS, and the inspiration that comes from above.
May you have a peaceful, healthy and loving day.



As a writer, I have many reasons to give thanks this year: my past books, a current project which has caught the interest of an editor, new picture books on the horizon for 2010 and 2011.

But at the moment I am especially thankful for the work I get to do with elementary school children. I just finished a week of working with seven classes of fourth graders as a visiting author. I guided the students through the stages of creating a book, from writing a first draft to making revisions to drawing illustrations. I shared with them both past and current writing projects of mine. We talked about the joys, and frustrations, of writing.

Being able to visit each classroom multiple times allowed the students and me to make a strong connection. By the end of the week they were showing me books they had created at home and giving me illustrations they had sketched in their free time. What a delight it was for me to walk into a classroom and have the students cheer, or to receive a thank you letter saying "I never realized how much I liked writing until you came to our class."

As schools continue to tighten their financial belts even more and money for outside speakers becomes harder to find, I am thankful that I am still asked into the classroom. These experiences are rewarding to me on many levels, and for that I am extremely grateful.


Right now

I’m an anticipator. I worried much of this last year that my husband would lose his job. I felt sad when our daughter began high school this fall, knowing how little time remains for her to be with us. I was scared recently when my mother suffered a mini-stroke. Perhaps these emotions jumpstart needed actions or prepare me for what may come, but nonetheless they stir me into a state of disequilibrium. More than ever I need to break things down and live moment by moment. This very day my husband is employed, our daughter is here, my mother is alive, and I am grateful!

As a freelancer, I struggle to contribute half to our financial mix. The last two years have been particularly tough ones in the publishing industry. Still, there was an “up” side to the economic downturn. With fewer assignments I had more time to develop personal projects. For years I claimed to be too busy to nurture my own ideas. This fall marked the realization of a lifelong dream with my debut as an author in The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan. It’s been two years since I had a book out, so my greatest hope was that this new one would put me back in circulation, give me the chance to keep going. Right away an editor I adore offered me an illustration contract. Two other personal author/illustrator projects may be close to acquisition! I have a comfortable amount of design and art direction work to hold me steady. Generally I have established a better balance in my work life between assignments and ideas I want to develop. I am grateful.

We lived in New York for 18 years. I am often nostalgic for that time. I miss the sense of community I had there, miss feeling part of the publishing world. But looking backward, just like looking forward keeps me from recognizing what is in front of me now. If I examine this moment I am reminded that I know many local colleagues in children’s books and have begun some rich friendships. I rely on these peers to help me critique my work and for an exchange of ideas. Our group blog has shown me that I can experience community independent of location—we do mash, don’t we spuds? I am grateful.


Some Thanks to Give...

As Thanksgiving nears, it's time for the Potatoes to take stock of all the writing things we are thankful for. My list is long.

1. I'm thankful that, once again, I did not quit writing, although I threaten to every year...

2. I'm thankful for my agent, my editor and their role in my latest book deal with Feiwel and Friends that will keep me writing and see my novel The Raft make it to book shelves. ( And I will be thankful at this time, next year, when that book is done and I'm hard at work on the second book of the contract. Um, so I guess I will also be thankful when I figure out what that book will be.)

3. I'm thankful that my second novel is finished, almost ready to be released. The Gardener is out in galley form after a long journey. ( And I must thank fellow potato Mark, who gave me valuable feedback on an early draft.)

4. To show my thanks, I'm holding a giveaway of a shiny new ARC of The Gardener over on my personal blog http://latteya.livejournal.com/ The release date isn't until June, 2010, so you can be among the first to read it. Go, visit, win!

5. And finally, I'm thankful for my fellow Potatoes and the wisdom they impart in every post. I constantly learn from them, it has been so fun to learn more about each individual and celebrate their various successes, and I'm just thankful we have this forum to share our writing journeys.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!




My all time favorite writing exercise is titled Revelation. It is simple and it is complex. It can be used individually or in a workshop or therapeutic setting. I have used it personally to understand my characters issues in more depth, and found that many times it led to entire chapters I didn't know existed before beginnning the exercise. When used in a workshop or therapeutic setting, I begin by asking my audience to write down a secret they have never shared before on a small piece of paper. If they can't think of a secret, they have the freedom to make one up. This is all anonymous.

After finding their secret, and writing it down, they fold up the secret, and I pick them up in a big pottery bowl. After a bit of a display of tossing and mixing the secrets, I walk around the room and let each participant choose a secret (it cannot be their own). Then, the writers are asked to tell the story of the secret they have chosen.

It is a effective jumpstart into a story because it begins with a secret, and a secret many times implies shame which carries enormous emotion and tension. After writing their secret's story, the participants read and share what they have written. Many times in this process, the secret owner is greatly moved, and drawn in compassion toward the writer who adopted their secret; other times the stories elicit belly laughs from all involved.

I've used this with professional writers, writers-in-process (I hope we all are.), college students, high school students, and middle grade students. Most recently, I incorporated the exercise into a narrative therapy "Word" group at the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young adults.