Sunshine Maker

Sometimes I find it hard to write something on this little corner of the Internet. Not because I have nothing to say, in fact, quite the opposite. I have too many things to say. I write blog posts in my head all day long. Posts about the picture books I adore, posts about how to hook your kids on reading early, posts on writing, about parenting, about life in general. Sometimes I even think about writing about politics, at which point I give myself a little shake, and decide I really need to get more sleep and drink less coffee.

img_9616

The point is, that all day, while I’m writing those blog posts in my head, I’m also chasing these little tiny humans around who take up every spare minute of the day and have somehow wormed their way into the very fabric of who I am. I am mom. I am the kisser of boo boos and the one who holds their foreheads and, by some bizarre magic known only to mothers, knows if they have a fever or not.

img_2463

I read someone describe mothers once as the Sunshine Makers of their homes, and even though I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it, the words have become etched onto my heart.

I am the mother.

I am the Sunshine Maker.

If I start our day off with singing, and giggles, and funny dances, and extra kisses….it will be a good day. Even if there are toddler tantrums and spilled juice and play dough crumbs spread far and wide across my freshly vacuumed floor. It will be a good day.

Because I am the Sunshine Maker.

The moods of the two tiny people in my house, the general tone of their day, is on my shoulders. At least during the weekdays. During the weekend the Sunshine Maker role falls onto my husband’s shoulders as well, and I love sharing that with him.

A more commonplace way of putting it would be this. If mama ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy. Truth.

But gosh. Being a Sunshine Maker…it’s not so easy some days. Especially when you were up all night with a sick kid, or darn it, you’d just like to fold the laundry by yourself for two minutes!

But. Regardless of the lack of sleep, or how I feel, or what kind of stress I have at the moment…I am the Sunshine Maker.

img_0044

Someday my kids will be older, and I won’t have the power to control every aspect of their day. I won’t get to dictate where we play or if we leave the house or not, or what they eat for every single meal. And, knowing me, that relinquishing of power is going to be hard. Because even though this Sunshine Maker stuff is tough at times. It’s also the stuff that makes my heart pull a Grinch and swell a few sizes to large.

img_1107 img_1108 img_1111 img_1114

Being a parent can do that to you. These little tiny humans, learning to be functioning members of society, largely by trial and error, are the best things in the world.

img_9507

So all those blog posts that swirl in my head all day while I make lunches, and wipe noses, and pretend that I’m Kwazi the Octonaut…they never get written. I collapse at the end of the day, all sun shined out. Because making sunshine is bloody hard work. And sometimes I’m not as good at it as I would like to be. But luckily my two little people love me anyways. So friends, someday, when my kids are in school, or even when they are all grown up and forgetting to call me, I’ll have time to write those posts.

I’ll have time to tell you that my favorite picture book is this one, and that I will be giving it to everyone I know forever. I’ll have time to tell you that cuddling your babies, while they are still babies, and reading them book after book after book is one of the best things ever. That it will make them a reader. I’ll have time to tell you about this casserole that I make in bulk and freeze, and how it tastes like heaven in a bite mainly because it can be pulled out of the freezer and thrown directly into the oven without passing Go or Collecting 200 dollars. (Side note- I use Trader Joe’s brown rice in the casserole, and I add black beans and corn. Perfection.)

I’ll have time to write about my writing process, and how I don’t really have one. About how stories kind of churn around in my head and then I let them loose on paper. How writing still feels like a hobby, like something I should only be allowed to do once all my other chores are done, and how I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. And that I’m not sure I want it to.

I will tell you all that. And it will be witty, and charming, and funny, and loaded with pictures that weren’t taken on my Iphone. I’ll blog about how I finally took that sewing class I always wanted to take, or that trip, or about how my house is finally getting organized, and that all those projects I always wanted to do are now done. And then I’ll hit publish and send those blog posts into the great wide world, and I’ll look around my empty house. And I’ll probably cry a little. Because being a Sunshine Maker will have been the best thing I ever did with my life- even if I have shelves of books with the name Laura Martin on the binding.

Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t want to be remembered as an author. At least not by the two precious souls that call me mom. I want to be remembered as a Sunshine Maker. I want them to remember a mom with a smile on her face, who laughed, and made messes, and wasn’t perfect, but tried her best to be anyways. So. Good night friends. Go love on your little people for me. They don’t stay little long.

img_9528

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Are you busy making New Years Resolutions? Imagining a bright shiny new year where you will accomplish things, improve things, maintain things? I am. But then again, I’m a goals girl. A resolution maker. To be honest, I live for this stuff.

Every year I type out our family’s resolutions and post them on our peg board. (My husband participates because he loves me.) It’s always fun at the end of the year to pull that list down and see how things went.

One of the reasons that I do this every year is that I know the power of goal making. Case in point right here, this quote.

9bd49fa9de199a5a9ea4c1e1331f0bfc

It’s the reason I finally got my butt in gear about getting a book published. I decided that if I was going to get one published, I wanted to get it done before I turned 30/had kids. I added GET A BOOK PUBLISHED onto my New Years Resolutions list back on New Years 2009. And because my dream suddenly had a deadline, I started taking tangible steps towards making it a reality.

But, I will admit, that GET A BOOK PUBLISHED, got put on my resolutions list for MANY years, before I had the satisfaction of crossing it off my list in 2014. Some resolutions just take longer than a year, but remember….

900cc5e2f4130e117d30c88eee4bf597

So this year, I thought I’d post my resolutions, at least my book related ones, here to keep me honest.

dscn2596

Laura Martin’s Author Resolutions

  • Write a NEW book (Something fresh…brand new…probably without dinosaurs!)
  • Post to the Blog more regularly (I’m erratic at best…down right sketchy at worst about posting to this thing.)
  • Branch outside of Indiana with book promotion efforts (I’ve visited primarily Indiana schools and participated in Indiana events, but this year it’s time to visit some new places! Anyone have any suggestions where to start?)
  • Get a New Book Deal (With Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood coming out in May 2017, the Edge of Extinction series is wrapped up…for now at least. But my goal is to get another book in the publishing pipeline this year. Cross your fingers, say a prayer, and wish me luck.)
  • Keep my office organized (Ha. This may be the most difficult. I am messy, and unorganized, and I bought a desk with NO STORAGE. It is essentially a glorified table. It looks nice, but where is a girl supposed to store her dinosaurs?!)
  • Dedicate a ½ hour every day to JUST writing…not book promotion, not blogging, not returning emails, just back to my roots writing. (This is one I’m looking forward to the most. My ‘writing time’ these days is usually more –‘book maintenance’ time. I need to start turning off my phone, disconnecting the internet, and opening up the imagination floodgates to see what happens.)
  • -Less Social Media/Internet distractions. I think social media is wonderful, but I also think that I pick up my phone to check the time and put it down a half hour later not sure where that time just went… It needs to stop.)

So there is my list. Sent out into the great wide web, and I think it will help keep me honest. I’ll post back at the end of 2017 to let you all know how I did.

On a more serious note, I wanted to take a quick moment to THANK all of you. This year was a big year for me. It was the year my very first book landed on bookshelves, and I am beyond thankful for every single person who read it.

IMG_2723

A story is not a story until it finds a reader, and I am not lying when I say that I have the very best readers.

You guys wrote reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, you showed up at book signings, you invited me to your schools, you instagramed, facebooked, and requested that your library buy my book. I just wanted to stay a huge thank you for all of that.

It was noticed.
It was appreciated.
And it means more to me than you will ever know.

As a writer, you pour so much of yourself into your book. I don’t want to be dramatic and say it’s like having another child, but it’s close. The words are chipped bit by bit from that something inside of you that makes you, you, and then you send those fragile little words out into the great big world and hope for the best. Thank you for being kind to my words. For diving whole-heartedly into the world of dinosaurs with Sky and her friends.

Thank you.

Really.

I hope all of you have a wonderful 2017 where all your resolutions and goals are met, and where you live big and dream bigger.

Happy New Years everyone!

Code Name Flood-Cover Reveal

So.

First an apology. I’ve been sitting on this cover reveal for, you know, forever. Or at least it seems like that. I was given the go-ahead to reveal away a few weeks ago, and then it sat on my to-do list getting stagnant. Not as stagnant as the leftovers in the back of my fridge I keep giving the stink eye, but close. And then Amazon beat me to it and took all the wind out of my sails. Which, as I already explained, I completely deserved. Oh well. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen and do the reveal here anyways. Shall we?

SO! Book TWO! The questions will be answered, and you will finally find out WHAT IS IN LAKE MICHIGAN!

Sorry for the cliff hanger ending on book one guys, really and truly. In my defense, when my book was sold to HarperCollins, it was sold as a two book deal, which meant I took my original manuscript and cut it in half to make two books. Well, not really in half. More like 70/30.  Either way. I had to make the middle of a book FEEL like an ending, or at least a little bit like an ending so there would be enough excitement left over for book two. It was hard. I’m not sure I did such a great job of it. BUT. Guys. Bear with me, because book two is good. Really good.

However.

I’m biased.

So clearly my judgement can’t be trusted. I’ll let you decide. Deal?

I detailed how the cover for book one evolved here. And I thought it would be nice to do something similar for book two.

Once again the amazing Eric Deschamps was tapped to do the cover design as well as the interior illustrations. (Spoiler-The interior illustrations are gooooooood.)

Similar to book one, I was told by the brilliant Powers-That-Be what scene they’d like to see on the cover. I whole heartedly agreed with their choice, but as soon as they mentioned the scene, I knew how I wanted the cover to look.

I wanted it to look like this.

mpw-18721

Image from here. 

(Those of you who know me well will know how hilarious this is since I’ve refused to watch the movie the entire way through. Every time it’s on TV I watch until the shark shows up. Then I peace out. Because-I’m a big chicken. The End.)

There is something wonderfully terrifying about this image isn’t there? I love the fact that you get to see what is below the water and above the water.

So the first sketch we got back from Eric looked like this.

unknown-2

It was GREAT. But, just like with the cover for book one, I had a few things I wanted tweaked. Thankfully, Eric is a patient man.

The first was the Kronosauraus in the foreground. You’ll meet him in book two. So will Sky and her friends. That’s all I’m saying. BUT the problem was that his profile looked a little too similar to the Spinosaurus profile from the cover of book one. Totally my fault. I apparently have a thing for toothy, crocodile-like dinosaurs. (Although, if we’re being accurate the Kronosaurus is NOT a dinosaur. It’s a pre-historic marine reptile. But if you want to call it a swimming dinosaur, we can still be friends.)

unnamedunknown-2

This was an easy tweak, and Eric just rotated the big guy so his fins were clearly visible. The other issue was our long-necked friend the Elasmosaurus. I was worried that in the original sketch his neck was a bit to bendy ala LochNess Monster.

_45195878_-9

Image found here. 

Research has shown that while the Elasmosaurus was a fierce predator thanks to that neck, he couldn’t bend it like a swan.

Here was our next sketch.

eoe-book2-sketches-round3

MUCH BETTER! My only remaining issue was with Sky. I don’t know why, but it didn’t look like her. So I made poor Eric mess around with her body placement. Arm up. Arm down.  Poor girl was doing the hokey pokey there for a bit. (I mentioned Eric was awesome right? And so very very patient. Bless him.)

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-05-10-pm

Then I asked him to work on her face. Don’t ask me why, but it just didn’t look like Sky, something about the eyebrows? Her hair? I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Thankfully Eric send me lots of options and I was able to pick one that felt a bit more like Sky.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-25-01-pm

SO. Drumroll please!  Here is the FINAL Cover for Book two.

codenameflood-hc-c

If you had told me ten years ago that I would think a book with sea monsters on the cover was beautiful, I would have told you that you were crazy. But, remember this friends, when we achieve a life-long dream, it might not look the way we thought it would. Life is surprising that way.

I think they look nice together. Don’t you?

unnamedcodenameflood-hc-c

I have huge prints of them hung over the desk in my office. And someday, when I clean all the paperwork, dog collars, random kid toys, pens, expired coupons, and clutter off my desk…I’ll post a picture to show you. But, since I’m kind of an atrocious housekeeper (I wasn’t kidding about the moldering leftovers in the back of the fridge)…I wouldn’t hold your breath on it.

Here is the fun part. I have a few ARC copies of Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood sitting here, and I’d love to give one away! Want to win it? Here’s how you enter.

Post something about this giveaway OR about Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan on social media. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram…I’m not picky, but I love creativity! Copy and Paste the link to your post in the comments either here or on my Facebook account. BOOM you are entered! I’ll announce the winner next week Friday!  Good Luck!

emancipatemovement-org

Here. There. And Everywhere.

Hello everyone!

img_8287

This post is long long looooong over due, so please forgive me for too many pictures and lots of random things all jammed into one post. That’s just how I roll these days.

I’ve been all over the place recently promoting Edge of Extinction and loving every minute of it. There have been school visits, book fairs, conferences, and author signings. It’s been a whirlwind. Recently one of my contacts at Barnes and Noble who has been facilitating some of my school pre-orders said they now just referred to me as “The Hardest Working Author.” I took a screen shot of the email and sent it to my parents. Because, no matter how old you are, you still need to show your good grades to mom and dad. Apparently.

 

I don’t know if I’m the hardest working author, but I do know that I am willing to do everything in my power to make my book a success. Plus, I find all of this author stuff to be incredibly fun and exciting (and only a little terrifying.)

img_9298

I’ve been to several school’s recently, and I decided that author visits are a lot like grandparent visits. I get to come in, get everyone pumped and excited about reading and writing, and then I get to leave and not do any of the heavy lifting.

img_9276

And while this has been fun, it has also been a little sad because I miss teaching in a heart-aching, think about it all the time, kind of way.

img_9294 img_9332 img_9120

An especially bittersweet author visit happened when I visited the middle school where I taught for six years. I got so many hugs from my old friends, and the halls were so familiar, but I was no longer an integral part of the school. That was hard. But it was also wonderful to be back, even if it was only for a day.

img_7829

img_7832

I’ve learned a lot already about what goes into a successful visit, and a lot of it depends on the prep work that happens before I even step in the building. If the media specialist and staff has worked to pump the kids up about the author visit, pushed book preorders, discussed Edge of Extinction, or better yet, used it as a read aloud the visit ROCKS. If they haven’t done any of those things, the visit is still good, but it doesn’t make the same impact on the kids.   It’s like seeing an Elvis concert without knowing anything about Elvis. The concert is still fun, but the impact isn’t there. (I’m not just using that analogy because in that scenario I get to be Elvis…although, if you have a choice, always be Elvis.)

Case in Point. Sunnyside Intermediate School in Lafayette Indiana hosted me recently, and the media specialists there went ABOVE and BEYOND.img_8713

They made me a tree from The Oaks.

img_8701

MADE IT. Tree house and everything.

They had dinosaur pumpkins.

img_8710

Bulletin boards.

img_8693

Dinosaur Bookmarks for sale. (I bought two!)

img_8688

And a whole shelf dedicated to JUST dinosaur books.

img_8695

They even hosted a lunch for a few of the students which included homemade dinosaur cookies, Edge of Extinction trail mix, and Jurassic Park coloring books.

img_8716 img_8715 img_8719

Like I said. Above and beyond.

But one of the coolest things I saw there wasn’t even dinosaur related. The school principal, get this, MOVED his office into the middle of the hallway. When you walk into his school, the first thing you see is the principal’s desk. Right out in the open. EVERY principal should do this. It is brilliant. So brilliant I asked to take his picture. And he let me.

img_8720

I also broke up those school visits by attending my first ever Books By the Banks. The author’s reception was on Friday night and the actual event was on Saturday in Cincinnati.   I decided to make the drive from Indianapolis both days rather than get a hotel for a few reasons, the primary one being that those hours in the car sounded like a mini vacation. Just me. My coffee. And a handful of good audiobooks. Heaven I tell you.

img_8292

The entire event was great. Friday nights author’s reception was held in this BEAUTIFUL old library in downtown Cincinnati.

img_8296 img_8295

It was nearly impossible to find, and even though I gave myself an HOUR of wiggle room time, I was still  a half hour late. AND I only made it because some very kind parking garage owners allowed me to play my Damsel in Distress card and park in a closed lot. Bless them. In my defense. The distressed part was very very real. Ugh.  It was all worth it though because I got to meet the one and only  Chris Grabenstein. He is a fabulous author, and he graciously allowed me to pick his brain on all things middle grade.

img_8301

I also got to chat with Greg Leitich Smith, and if you are looking for another great dinosaur book to read after you finish Edge of Extinction, you should check out his books!

The next day, I walked into the conference center for the actual event and saw all the tables set up for authors.

img_8300

I’d never seen so many authors in one place before. I tried to play it cool. I’m positive I didn’t succeed.

img_8302

img_8320

I decided right then and there that someday, I wanted to do this event again, but I wanted to be one of the authors with a gigantic banner.

img_8298

Aren’t they neat! #authorgoals.

I was seated next to Janet S. Johnson.

img_8318

Her book The Last Great Adventure of the PB& J Society just came out a little before mine did, and I really enjoyed chatting with her all day. I bought a copyto put on the shelf for my kiddos some day. They will have so many signed books as a by product of this author adventure. Lucky kids.

Anyways.

Besides Books By The Banks, I also talked to the Indiana State Reading Association.

img_8022 img_8029 img_8030

And spoke to a group of teachers a the CEA convention.  (Christian Educators Association)

img_8409

(This simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I saw a lot of my old teachers at the event, and terrifying because it was my first time talking to other teachers.) It went well though, and I got great feedback.

1. Laura is a great presenter. She gives good ideas to teachers with her hand out. If she had more time we’d have more ideas for writing.
2. Being a third grade teacher, I wasn’t sure how useful this session would be, but I learned a lot. Great resources and ideas.
3. This session gave me the motivation to spend more time getting the kids to think and write outside the box.
4. I learned that great writing comes from students who listen, not just read.
5. She offered great ideas, very usable tips.
6. Inspirational
7. Laura has so many great ideas about writing! I love that our speaker was a teacher and is now an author. I will use the “point of view” activity in my classroom and add more listening to stories with my current read aloud.
8. I enjoyed learning how to think about both reading in a new way, and how it can be more beneficial to students.
9. This session made me think about teaching writing in a new way. She had many great ideas and insights.

I also got to go to a store completely dedicated to chocolate. Winning!

img_8411

And I signed books and talked at the Indiana Library Federation’s Conference where I got to meet Mike Mullin. This was a big hairy deal since I LOVE his books, and I’ve been spending lots of time recently combing through his blog archive which is FULL of awesome author advice.

img_9374 img_9376 img_9379

I also had to put Halloween costumes together for my little tribe of people. In past years, I copped out and just bought costumes. But I decided that this year was the year that I MADE costumes. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I feel like it is some kind of Mom right of passage thing because my mom used to make my costumes, but whatever it is. I was doing it. Darn it.

Picture me in my basement with the sewing machine I kind of know how to use, attempting to cobble together outfits. There may haven been some tears and unsavory language involved. Also. Netflix. But everything turned out all right, even if things were a bit dodgy there in the middle.

img_8910

Pictured you will see Wendy, Tinkerbelle, and Peter Pan. Oh, and Peter Pan’s shadow. That’s my darling husband, and the only picture that will probably ever surface of him here on the blog. He prefers to be mysterious like that. He’s really cute though. Scouts honor.

On top of all that that, November is also DINOVEMBER. Have you heard of it? It’s like Elf on the Shelf meets dinosaurs. The people who started it all now have a children’s book out called What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night. 

So naturally, my favorite author props decided to get in on the action.

img_9161 img_9148

img_9153

img_9201

Didn’t you know that lunch tastes better when dinosaurs packs it? Fact.

img_9360

Also- on a side note. I don’t recommend your dinosaurs get into the dog toys. There may have been some dinosaur casualties during this dinovember. I may or may not have run after my bulldogs yelling things like GIVE BACK MY T.REX. Because that’s normal.

img_9155

My kids are going to have this interesting childhood peppered with dinosaurs thanks to this book.

img_8010

Nothing to see here.

img_9366

Just a girl. Holding her T. Rex. Asking him to love her. (Quick-name that movie reference!)

In the middle of all the dinovember, halloween costume, author visits, conference craziness…I also received the galley pages for Edge of Extinction- Code Name Flood. It’s now available for pre-order!!!!!

img_8129

I quickly got these edited and sent back to HarperCollins, and the advanced reading copies landed on my doorstep a few days ago. I’m working on a post with the cover reveal. Hopefully later this week! Whoop Whoop!

To cap off this whirlwind of visits, I’m also talking at the Zionsville Public Library tonight to celebrate dinovember! So if you are local, come check it out! Free pizza!

img_8674

I know this post is random and jumbled, but that’s how life has been recently so it’s fitting. Here’s hoping you all have a lovely November. Or Dinovember if you happen to being taking part in the fun.

 

A Book Baby Shower…

So…books are kind of my thing. Just in case you’re new around here.

img_6474

But it occurred to me recently that it might be fun to share some of the details from my book themed baby shower from back in the day. Let me repeat, back in the day. I’m not pregnant again. Everyone clear on that? I’m looking at you mom.

Moving on.

This shower was thrown for me almost three years ago by my fabulous best friend and her mom.dscn0058

Although, I feel like we might need a new category for people like Penny and Allison. They are family. In every possible way that it matters. But in many ways, they are better than family. Because we CHOSE each other.

00000047 00000046

There was never an obligation to spend holidays with them, but we did it every year.  (By the way…my talented best friend just started a food blog…and it’s GOOD! Check it out here!)

My daughter London and Allison’s daughter Mackenzie are third generation best friends. dsc01257And yes, they are only toddlers…but they WILL BE BEST FRIENDS. Whether they like it or not darn it.

Anyways.

The theme for my shower was a surprise. I had no idea what they were cooking up, but I knew it was going to be good. My mom calls Penny her “Martha Stewart Friend” and she means that in the best possible non-jail time way.

dscn0047

The shower was hosted at my parent’s lake house (the same house where we had my book launch.) This house, this lake, is where my heart is happy, so it makes sense that the BIG moments of my life have been celebrated here. I wanted to get married here but was talked out of it. A little part of me is still sad I allowed myself to be persuaded.

dscn0080

The theme of the shower…was books…and it was above and beyond any shower I’ve ever attended.

dscn0172

Everything was themed with a book.

dscn0039

They even made a Giving Tree for me to sit under to open gifts. That’s commitment to a theme people.

dscn0042

Chocolate chip cookie mix in mason jars were the party favor and, of course, they went along with If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.

dscn0036The Very Hungry Caterpillar presided over the food table, and made an appearance on the desert table as well.

dscn0046

Meatball Appetizers- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Candy on the Desert Table- Bernstein Bears and Too Much Junkfood

Pasta-Strega Nona

Chicken Salad- Chicken Little

We even had Green Eggs and Ham!

You name it-they had a book that went along with it.

dscn0051

It was like children’s book heaven.

dscn0061

We ate in the dining room where tiny book garlands floated above us and the tables were decorated with baby pictures of my husband and I.

dscn0064 dscn0077 dscn0074

Guests signed their name and wrote messages in a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go.

dscn0030

And of course, everyone was asked to bring a book to give to baby Martin.

dscn0164

It was fun to look back at these pictures for a few reasons. The first being…I was so clueless. I was about eight months pregnant here, and I had NO IDEA WHAT WAS COMING. You cannot prepare for being a parent, not really.

I read gobs of books about babies, I’d nannied for multiple summers, I taught kids every day…but I had NO idea how exhausting, time-consuming, all encompassing, and wonderful kids would be. Clue. Less.

The second reason is that these books, the ones decorating the tables and piled around me in pictures are now committed to my memory. My daughter, and now my son, and I have read them hundreds of times. The words in those books have been etched onto our hearts.

dscn0159

Books make the BEST gifts. Period.

My daughter received so many wonderful things that day, but most of them have already been outgrown and now live in  large plastic bins in my basement. It’s sad really. But what isn’t sad are the books that we read Every. Single. Day.

dscn0087 dscn0094

The books I will save and not let my kids take with them when they grow up and move out so that I have something to  read to my grandkids.

My mom did this.

img_4245

She has a cabinet of books she saved from my childhood. I’m not allowed to steal them. I’ve tried.

img_4246

But opening those books from my childhood is like opening a memory. I remember who I was when I had those books read to me, and now I get to see my daughter discover the stories that shaped me into the person I am today. I’m not lying when I say that books are magic.

So there you go, feel free to share on Pinterest in case someone else is hunting for the perfect baby shower theme for a book-loving friend. I even got all snazzy and made a graphic for it…because my over-achiever gene made me.

book-themed-baby-shower

And on a final note about baby showers, and this goes for bridal showers too. While the gifts (especially books) are wonderful and appreciated and generous…for me…that’s not what made my bridal and baby showers SO special.

dscn0072

And I always try to tell this to any bride or mom-to-be when they are gearing up for their own shower. THIS, I tell them, THIS is one of the only times when ALL your people will gather around you.

dscn0153Your tribe will come together for a shower… relatives and high school friends and college friends and work friends, and neighborhood friends.dscn0146 This will never happen again. (Well, it will…but it’s called your funeral, and odds are you won’t be able to enjoy it overly much.)

dscn0065

This is where your aunts will share the stories of their own weddings and babies, and gasp over the new generation’s stories because “MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!” Where traditions are explained and handed down, where family secrets might get shared over too many glasses of wine.

dscn0168THIS is the special time. The wedding is great too, but in many ways, the shower is better. And for this reason, I am so sad that my time of showers has come to an end. Because while I still get to see my tribe…they are scattered. They will never congregate in the same place again. At least not while I’m alive to see it.

So now, I just live vicariously through other people’s showers, and I post about mine on this little corner of the internet. I hope you enjoyed it.

So Let’s Talk About Reading…Shall We?

I’m passionate about reading.

img_6962

I get fired up when I talk about books.

img_6968

This is my thing.

img_6958

And I’ve embraced it with my whole heart.

 

img_6973This deep-seated love of books was given to me for a reason.

img_6971

This I firmly believe.img_6939

I also firmly believe that I make the WEIRDEST faces when I talk. Do I just look ridiculous all the time?

For a long time I thought this passion was given to me so that I could teach from a very real place about reading. As an English teacher I had my students embark an a forty book reading quest at the beginning of each year thanks to the fabulous book by Donalyn Miller called The Book Whisperer.

519lHx-UOzL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_

The program was fabulous, and it worked not because Donalyn Miller gave fabulous instructions for how to implement it (although she did). It worked because I BELIEVED in it. My kids knew that I LOVED books, that the books I recommended to them, I’d read myself. I was a believer in the transformative power of books, and it gave them permission to be one too.

dscn0377

 

dscn0378

Some kids thought I was nuts. Some parents thought I was nuttier, but gosh guys, my kids READ and some of them, not all, but some, became readers the year that they spent in my classroom.

img_0350

And that was big stuff guys! Because kids who read…who enjoy reading…are going to be more successful than the kid who doesn’t. And that was the key to the way I taught. I wanted my kids, (and yes, I called them my kids, because for that hour every day they WERE mine) to read because they enjoyed it. NOT because they could successfully trace the plot on some chart or tell me what a character’s motivation was.

img_0355

And I hope to return to the classroom someday soon, but until then, I’ve been able to put that passion into writing books and recently, talking about books in front of kids again.

img_6979

School visits are HUGE for middle grade authors like myself. Our readers aren’t on social media, they aren’t reading book blogs or following people on instagram that post beautiful pictures of books. They are at school, and I have loved being able to talk to and work with kids again. I think being an author is a lot like being a grandparent. I think all the kids are fabulous, they can do no wrong in my book. I get to talk to them, interact with them, get them excited, and then I leave and don’t have to grade any homework. It’s a beautiful thing.

img_6972

Another beautiful thing has begun landing in my inbox, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. These two came just this week…

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-46-02-pm

 

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-45-45-pm

I read both of these, grinned from ear to ear, turned to my husband and said “My people are finding me!”

Which is incredibly cheesy, but so true. As a seventh grade teacher, my biggest challenge was getting kids who had incorrectly labeled themselves as someone who DIDN’T read to give books a chance. I am a firm believer that you just have to get the RIGHT book in a kids hand to turn them around. That’s all it takes, just one book. And to hear that MY BOOK was that book…well it doesn’t get much better than that. At least not in my world.

unnamed

Instilling a love of reading is so so important, a lesson I’ve taken to heart in my own home. One of my favorite things about being a parent as been introducing my daughter to books.

img_4648

Books are magical, and I am the gatekeeper of the magic right now.

img_0080

When my son takes a nap, we hurry into my husband’s big leather arm chair, grab a stack of books and a blanket, and read until he wakes up. I have a cup of coffee, she gets a sucker, and we “get all cozy” as she describes it. It’s my favorite time of the day.

img_6630

She will grow up associating reading with being cozy and loved. And this is a gift she will cherish for a lifetime. I know this, because my mom did it for me, and I will forever be grateful for it.

img_3285

I am who I am, because I was a reader first. Reading changes people at a core level, makes them into someone they wouldn’t have been without books. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t been a reader, but I certainly wouldn’t be doing this…

img_6945

Which is something that I absolutely love.

So go get “all cozy” and read with your kids today. Even if they are “too old” to be read to. Because, really, they aren’t.

That Missing Something…

The last six months have been a blur. I’m not sure if I should blame sleep deprivation for that or not, but I think I blinked and my tiny newborn turned into a hefty, almost-crawling 20 pounder. I’m truly stumped about how that happened so fast.IMG_5615

But in this blur of motherhood, which is equal parts wonderful, exhausting and magical, I felt like I was missing something. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

At first I thought it might have to do with books and reading. I used to consume around 7-10 books a WEEK pre-kids. Now I’m lucky to get through one or two, most of which is done via audiobooks. (God bless audiobooks. Amen.)

So I increased my efforts to read more, assuming that it was this part of my identity that made me feel like a puzzle missing a  key piece.

It didn’t help.

Books weren’t the missing puzzle piece.

For a little while I wondered if it was just a part of life, that when I assumed this role of “mom” I had to give up a little of what used to be “Laura” in order to squish everything in.

But this too, was false.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon podcasts that I finally realized what that missing puzzle piece was.

Learning.

I became a teacher in part because I LOVE learning things. School was one of my favorite places to be as a kid because I enjoyed listening to my teachers explain this complex and wonderful world we live in.

When I was a teacher myself, I often learned right along side my students as we forayed into different topics. Learning was as natural and daily as breathing.

However, ever since having kids I have essentially stopped learning.  Instead of studying and generating lesson plans, I recite the ABC’s and count to ten over and over again until my eyes cross.

Enter

podcast-logo

Seriously, where have these been all my life? They are like the perfect blend of audiobook and lessons all packed into bite size chunks that stream directly to my phone. And they make me so happy.

podcasts

I can listen to them while I fold laundry, clean up the kitchen at night after the kids are in bed, shower…you name it. And I am LEARNING again. I have things to talk about with my husband and friends besides what Elmo recently did on Sesame Street or how many blocks I helped make into a tower that day.

I guess in some ways it gave a little bit of “adult” life back to me.

So the first podcast I got brave enough to check out was this one.

YoungHouseLoveHasAPodcastJohnSherryPetersik450

John and Sherry  had a blog called Young House Love that I followed devotedly for years. And then, just like that, they stopped blogging. And it almost felt like losing a friend. So when they started a podcast,  I ventured into unknown territory.

To be honest, podcasts had always kind of confused me. What were they exactly? Some kind of talk-radio hybrid? Where did one find a podcast? Google? (Twitter still confuses me in this way.)

Thankfully John and Sherry put up a step-by-step idiot-proof guide for how to get started. Bless them.

I then ventured over to my cousin Kristen Sanders’ podcast, This Inspired Life. Something I’d been meaning to do FOREVER. Again loved it.

cropped-website-logo-2

She suggested that I check out The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast…and guys…I fell in love. Hard.

rar-banner-945

I’d had this experience a few other times in my life, both in my teaching career. And that was when I discovered the work of Nancy Atwell.

51BODHRLPRL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_

And Donolyn Miller.

519lHx-UOzL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_

Both of these ladies were TEACHING HOW I HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO TEACH. HOW I KNEW I SHOULD BE TEACHING! I bought every book they’d ever written, read them multiple times and applied it all right into my own classroom.

That’s how this felt. I’ve been binge listening to this podcast ever since. I’ve texted multiple friends and family members letting them know that YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS. I’m like the best unpaid advertising there ever was when I find something I like.

I went directly to Itunes and wrote a review. I made my mom listen to it on the way to a bridal shower this weekend. I filled my Amazon cart FULL of books they talked about, and I even sent Sarah Mackenzie (the mastermind behind this little chunk of brilliance) a copy of Edge of Extinction in case, my some minor miracle, she’s looking for an author for the podcast. (Fingers crossed!)

Go listen to it. Right now.

My favorite episodes so far are…

episode-44-index episode-43-index episode-33-index-graphic-1 episode-35-index-graphic1 episode-28-graphic-index2 19-1 22

But that’s only because I haven’t had a chance to listen to them all yet and have been jumping around picking and choosing topics at random.

So if you haven’t checked out podcasts yet. Do it. I’ve learned so so much, and that piece of my life, the learning piece, is no longer missing. I feel a bit more like myself again, and it’s a relief.

Because while I am enjoying being “mom”, I also really like just being Laura sometimes. IMG_6030

 

 

How cool is this?

Have you heard of the website Imagination Soup yet?

Blog-Imagination-Soup

It’s fabulous. Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, Melissa Taylor has her hand on the pulse of everything from book suggestions to the latest educational study or tip.  So imagine my excitement when a few weeks back I stumbled across this post on the best Adventure/Mystery books for kids and saw MY BOOK front and center. I could have probably died happy right there.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.42.06 AM

Instead, I wrote Melissa an email thanking her for featuring my book so prominently. As a new (relatively unknown) author, this kind of publicity is HUGE.

captivating-adventure-and-mystery-chapter-books

I mentioned in the email that I’d love to collaborate with her if she was ever interested.

And she was!

The following guest post was born!  Head on over to check it out!

Father and son in bed, reading book together

Another REALLY exiting thing happened recently as well. The AMAZING Brock Eastman contacted me.

Brock-Eastman.001-881x661

I’ll pause here to explain why this was such a big hairy deal.

Brock is not only a fellow author, but he is also affiliated with Focus on the Family, a institution I grew up with and still follow and admire, and get this…he helped produce the Adventures In Odyssey series once upon a time.

adventures_odyssey_pr

If you haven’t discovered Adventures in Odyssey…you are missing out. Odyssey was a BIG part of my childhood, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Whittaker.

Okay…nostalgic gush over…moving on.

Brock has his own series of middle grade books out, so it was REALLY amazing that he contacted me full of praise for mine.

8215238_orig

I re-read his kind email a few times before it all sunk in. He wanted to know if I would be interested in being interviewed for his website.

Yes.

Yes I would.

(Insert absurd little happy dance here.)

If you want to check it out, the interview can be found HERE.  I share a few never before revealed tidbits about Sky, Shawn, and Todd, but there are also some fun off the cuff questions about writing.

I didn’t think this could get much better.

I was wrong.

Brock also pulled some strings and Edge of Extinction is going to be featured in the September issue of Family Fiction Edge.

EDGE_AUG16-125x188(Many happy dances were danced when I heard this. The two year old joined in, as did the bulldogs…it was epic.)

So check back in soon, and I’ll link up to that as well!

Middle Grade Ninja…and a little presentation advice.

Hi Everyone!

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.48.44 PM

If you’re new around here (welcome) you might not know that I spent my pre-author years as a seventh grade language arts teacher.

I LOVED it.

Seriously.

I worked with some of the best people and middle school kids are some of my favorites. When I transitioned from teacher to author, I brought some of my teaching savey with me, and I shared some of that wisdom today over on Robert Kent’s AMAZING blog Middle Grade Ninja. 

Middle Grade Ninja

I used to stalk this blog religiously when I was in the querying trenches, and his agent interviews are priceless. (Also-fun fact. When I was stalking his blog I ACTUALLY LIVED IN THE SAME TOWN WITH HIM! I HAD NO IDEA!  MIND. BLOWN. )

Anyways, if you haven’t stumbled upon him yet on your own, you’re welcome.

IMG_3331

 

IMG_2726

Having taught my fair share of middle school kids, I like to think I know a thing or two about what to do…or more importantly…what NOT to do when presenting.  So pop on over to Middle Grade Ninja and check it out!  Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.23.26 PM