Monday, September 18, 2017

new release: The Great Railroad Race

RL 4th-6th grade
Hello Readers!
     I'm happy to announce new editions of The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West, Utah Territory 1868.
     Originally published in Scholastic's Dear America series, it's now available in paperback and on Kindle:
     As the daughter of a newspaper reporter, fourteen-year-old Libby keeps a diary account of the exciting events surrounding her during the building of the railroad in the West in 1868.
     I had a blast researching this momentous time in American history and exploring Promontory Summit Utah with our teenage sons. With the Wasatch Mountains in the background, it was a thrill to witness a reenactment: the chugging-chugging of Locomotive No. 119, its smokestack billowing steam and its shrill whistle as it met nose-to-nose with Jupiter. Years earlier I had lived in Salt Lake City blocks from Brigham Young's house and other spots featured in this story. Being able to see and touch historic sites has always enriched my imagination, and made writing so much fun.
    And for fans of Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express, I wove in scenes with Jimmy, Nahanee and their "little surprise." I hope you enjoy these new editions!

Monday, July 10, 2017

neighborhood library

Poppy loves our library
Boise's Library! at Cole & Ustick received a Gold LEED certification for its green features and sustainable design. "Flowing" river rock and xeri-scape gives it a beautiful Idaho feel. And here's Poppy, super excited about the electric vehicle charging station.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mother's Day


A pretty day to plant a Mother's Day hydrangea with Poppy (garden supervisor) and my friend Savannah.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

our new gardener

Poppy, aka Captain Judy Muffinhead
It's a beautiful spring day in Boise.

After a brief inspection of the perimeter, our yard supervisor took to the shade. Her folded front paw indicates she's thinking about things.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

buddy, the neighborhood McCaw

Buddy could live to be 80 years
On my walk this afternoon, I made a new friend. Buddy is a Catalina McCaw, 19 years old with a vocabulary of more than 75 words. He loves Cheetos, burgers and ice cream, and to watch football and golf on the 55" TV in his room. From Sesame Street he learned his colors and how to count.

He's afraid of spiders and snakes. When he was watching the nature channel and saw an anaconda, he shrieked, "Help me! Help me!"

This is why I carry a pen and notebook in my pocket.

Monday, April 24, 2017

SCBWI authors in Boise

1st, a peek at headlines
Tess Hilmo and I with fellow book lovers

An enthusiastic audience of readers and writers, and panel of authors met last Friday at Rediscovered Books, in downtown Boise. Owner Laura DeLaney hosted with great questions, sharing her own passion about children's literature. The evening was part of the conference at Boise State University, sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

With Amy Allgeyer, Neysa Jensen, Tess Hart Hilmo, Leslie Patricelli, Wendy McClure, Elisabeth McKettal Gloria Skurzynski Alane Ferguson Sarah Tregay

Bookstore owner, Laura DeLaney, describes her love of children's literature

Thursday, April 6, 2017

sidewalk wisdom

During a lovely walk downtown Boise yesterday afternoon, I came upon this chalked message on 9th Street:

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. -- Indian saying"

Friday, March 24, 2017

family emergency = plea for health care

In the emergency room six months ago, my husband and I learned he had suffered an "R-Triple A": Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. His first response: "I want a second opinion." The surgeon shook his head. "Buddy, you don't have time for a second opinion. You're going to die in thirty minutes. If you have surgery you might survive, but there's only a 5% chance." 
I'm writing this today for three reasons:
1 -- The insidious debate about health care in the United States. What Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proposes is scurrilous. Millions of Americans will be forced to chose between seeing a doctor and putting food on the table. People will die.
2 -- In the ER that dreadful night, my husband asked for a second opinion because he worried this medical emergency would bankrupt our family. I foolishly had driven him to the hospital instead of calling 911. Ambulances are expensive.
3 -- I recently found my ER notes, jotted in between calls and texts with our sons, and questions to the medical staff. I'd begun a list of stuff used, to double-check against our future bill, having experienced double charges in past care: "...nausea meds, painkillers, IV, barf bag, cotton swabs, urine container, "robe", blood tests..." 
      Looking back I see a frantic couple married 35 years, terrified of losing each other but more so, terrified of the financial hit. We are fortunate and grateful. A skilled surgeon, Dr. Christopher Alessi, saved my husband's life.
     Short of having a single-payer health care system, we need the ACA to be improved and expanded, not repealed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ada, the neighborhood elk, her bittersweet story

Idaho cares about wildlife. I love this bittersweet story.

Feb. 27, behind Boise Co-Op
From Sitka Koloski re Ada the elderly elk:
"Ada was blocking traffic so the BPD were trying to feed her and give her water and she drank once but couldn't hold it down or leave the road so they sent traffic around her waiting for F&G to come assess. She was bleeding out both ends and went down on her own and was just at the end of her life so F&G put her down to end her suffering at this irreversible point where her digestive system shut down and they took her to the foothills since not diseased. Feeding her clearly just eased her final days. All positive and caring."
Boise Northend, Fort Street

Thursday, March 16, 2017

letter from an immigrant 5th grader

Kids who love to read are a breath of fresh air in these turbulent times. This fan letter from a fifth grader arrived yesterday and really touched me. She created art on both sides of the envelope and on her two pages. Then she wrote, "I've only been in America for half a year. I left my family in China, I am here with my mom." In the margin she drew a sad face with tears. Oh gosh. I wonder about her story.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

hope is in our youth

At the Idaho State Capitol, listening to senators debate SCR 108, which called for a Constitutional Convention -- thankfully it was defeated 24-11. I was inspired to see students from 3rd grade to 12th learning about our democratic process. My hope is in our youth.

civics lesson
Idaho Senate floor
at the Capitol with my buddy Tracy Olson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

mem fox, new revolutionary

Mem Fox described her experience with LAX custom agents last week. Her finally comment resonates: “I wasn’t pulled out of the line because I was a revolutionary. But now I am.”

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ada, the neighborhood elk

Yesterday morning I watched what I thought was a baby moose behind the Boise Co-Op, chewing the bushes at Dr. Bodily's dentist office. She was scruffy adorable. Seeing wildlife in town however, may become a joy of the past, with no more stewardship of our environment. The president's new puppet, Scott Pruitt, says eliminating the EPA "is justified" -- that Americans look at it "much like they look at the IRS." Words fail.

Fortunately for now, Idaho Fish & Game is on duty. They've been out to see her and have determined she is an older elk they call "Ada," but because of her age she can't be sedated and moved. Most likely she'll forage in the neighborhood and eventually make her way back to the foothills. The best thing is "to give her space until she's ready to leave on her own;" and especially NOT to feed her, so she won't become dependent on humans. Thank you, Idaho Fish & Game for checking on "Ada."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

boys who read

Josh, Joel and J.D. Frees, now college graduates
One summer day years ago, friends from Colorado drove through Idaho and stopped in Boise to visit us. During our lunch of BBQ'd hamburgers we somehow got on the subject of books so I showed the brothers to our shelves. After an hour the adults realized the house had grown quiet and the boys had vanished. We found them out front in the backseat of their van. Seeing them engrossed in reading warmed my heart then and does to this day. This photo [ABOVE] is still on our fridge; their books: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847. These brothers obviously kept reading and reading because they're now college graduates -- and happen to be married to lovely, smart women. I'm so delighted for them!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

mem fox

Mem Fox

My favorite children's book author from Australia, Mem Fox, doubts she'll ever visit our country again. On her way to Milwaukee to address a convention she and a room-full of travelers were detained at LAX for visa checks. She said the border agents acted as if they'd been given "turbocharged power" by the president's executive order. 

Afterward she said, "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness."

I am so ashamed of the White House puppet show.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

letter from U.S. Senator

I love receiving personal letters.

Especially from a United States Senator.

This one is from my Idaho representative, James Risch. I had written requesting a NO vote for Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary because of her zero time in public schools. He voted YES, however. Well, now that he and she will share time in Washington, D.C., perhaps she'll offer tips about how to actually read his letters before signing his name.

Oh wait! Idaho is 46th in the country in education, so maybe this is the best he can do.

Monday, February 13, 2017


When I heard that letters to Washington, D.C. go through anthrax screening and take longer to be read, I pulled out my stash of souvenir postcards, many of scenic Idaho, and bought a bunch of 34-cent stamps. Here goes!

Monday, January 30, 2017

getting off my duff

I am a daughter of American Revolutionary War soldiers. To honor their sacrifice and for the future of my children and grandchildren, I'm getting off my duff.

Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, said, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty."

So today some brand new friends and I visited our U.S. Senators, Mike Crapo and James Risch at their offices in Boise, Idaho. Urged a NO vote for Betsy DeVos as Education Sec'y, NO to immigration ban, and chatted up other issues. Sooooo much work ahead, but I'm psyched.
Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, closeup and indoor

Saturday, January 28, 2017

NEW study guides, Revolutionary War series

Hello Teachers and Parents!

I'm happy to announce new study guides for Hope's Revolutionary War Diaries #1-3: Five Smooth Stones, We Are Patriots, and When Freedom Comes. It was a lot of fun revisiting my research and travel to historic Philadelphia. I've included writing and drawing prompts, ideas for discussion, some activities, a recipe in each, and tidbits about myself. The free guides are on my website. I hope they're fun for you and your readers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Memoir update - Longhand: The Rise & Fall & Rise of My Career as a Children's Book Author

paperback and Kindle
A birthday gift when I turned seven was a diary, my first. Pink and palm-sized, it had a brass clasp and tiny keyhole so I could record secrets on the lined paper then lock 'em up. I hid the key in a shoe to keep out sibling spies.
     Thus began a lifelong habit of writing things down. My closet is filled with spiral notebooks, old calendars, moleskins, travel diaries, and thick leather journals. I've culled intimacies from these diaries alongside memories of writing for the Los Angeles Times and Scholastic: the rejections, heartbreak, joys, and beloved editors. My privileged career has been intertwined with motherhood, the richest adventure of all.
     The most common question readers ask is, "Where do you get your ideas?" so herein lie the answers. I hope these behind-the-scenes of book writing might inspire writers starting out and those who love the magic of words. Longhand: The Rise and Fall and Rise of My Career as a Children's Book Author.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NEW Prairie River study guides

our back yard at sunrise
This morning the thermometer in our back yard registered two degrees below zero. Frosty cold yet beautiful, I hurried outside (eeesh...gasp!) to snap the sunrise with my cellphone, then back inside to my desk. My happy news for the day is that study guides for the Prairie River series are now on my website.  I included writing and drawing prompts, a recipe, craft ideas, and suggestions for book talks. Oh, also a few secrets about myself and the creative process. So thank you to the many readers who suggested I do this. I hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

snowed in

getting some fresh air
Happy New Year! It's -8 degrees and sunny in Boise. We've been house-bound for three days because our neighborhood isn't plowed, but no worries! Good books, a good dog, fireplace and family nearby. And with all this time indoors I've been writing more study guides for my website. By popular request from teachers I've added The Legend Of Jimmy Spoon and Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express. Seriously, they're fun to write!
in the sunroom with Poppy