Monthly Writing Goals

I work well setting overarching goals. I don’t do well with micro goals. If you work the same way you may want to download this chart I created.

Here is a PDF version to print and fill in.

And here is an RTF version that you can download, and then modify for your needs.

I hope this is helpful. Blessings!

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Love – Risky Business

My sweet friend, Donna Earnhardt, has written a thought-provoking post on her blog Word Wrangler – Word Nerd in Training. She’s a great picture book author (Being Frank), Co RA of SCBWI Carolinas, and a dear friend.

Click on the link to read her beautiful and soul-piercing words, please.

“Risky Business: the Currency of Love”

NF 2019 Picture Books

In 2020 I’ve read a few dozen “lists” of the best picture books of 2019. Instead of making my own list I decided to give you a peek into some of these 2019 picture books so you can decide for yourself. Whether you are looking for books that parents, children or teachers can enjoy look no further! Today I share my reactions to a few 2019 nonfiction picture books. Great information for teachers.

In March and April I’ll share more fiction books.

In January I posted about a few 2019 picture books here if you’d like to read those. Thanks!

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown was written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby. It was published by Balzar & Bray (of Harper Collins.) I like it. However, in my opinion, this is an illustrated book, not a true picture book. It has 40 pages of text and is for reading aloud to third graders and up, I think. It contains interesting details about Margaret Wise Brown’s life and definitely reiterates that the most important thing about her was that she wrote books.

Planting Stories-the Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré was written by Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Paola Escobar. Harper (of Harper Collins) published it. I LOVE the illustrations in the picture book—so colorful and detailed. And I like the book. It is about a little-known woman who immigrated to America from Puerto Rico and her amazing influence.

Magic Ramen-the Story of Momofuku Ando is a nonfiction picture book written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz. It was published by Little Bee Books. I like it. The text tells us why and how and when a little-know inventor developed the world-famous convenience food we call instant ramen. It was interesting. The illustrations are cute and clever. I also like that the story emphasizes Momofuku Ando’s persistence and determination. It also reminds me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Smile-How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry) was written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Ed Young. Candlewick Press published it. I like this picture book filled with interesting information about Charlie Chaplin. Details that older kids (third grade and up) will find interesting, too. The art is a bold portrayal of life in the early 1900s. It also throws us back into the look of silent films. But it contains more than information. It looks inside Charlie Chaplin and draws out the reasons behind his art and then tells us of his influence on entertainment and film that echoes into the present.

Imagination-A. D. Smith

The following link takes you to an inciteful blog post about imagination and play.

S. D. Smith is the author of The Green Ember Series, a bestselling middle-grade adventure saga. The Green Ember has reached hundreds of thousands of readers and spent time as the number one bestselling audiobook in the world on Audible. Smith’s stories are captivating readers across the globe who are hungry for “new stories with an old soul.” Enthusiastic families can’t get enough of these tales.

Vintage adventure. Moral imagination. Classic virtue. Finally, stories we all love. Just one more chapter, please!

Multicultural Children’s Books Day Jan 31

These book feature children of color and they are on the “lists” of the best picture books of 2019. Here is a peek into some of thesebeautiful 2019 picture books. Whether you are looking for books that parents, children or teachers can enjoy look no further! These are all delightful.

Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max is an adorable story about a little girl who wants to grow up to be an astronaut. And the end of the book holds a sweet surprise. I really liked this story of family and love.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry & Jessica Curry is an homage to Michelle Obama and her positive impact on a little girl of color named Parker. Parker sees a portrait of the former First Lady and is awestruck. The portrait inspires feelings of being a powerful and strong person for Parker. The illustrations are adorable. I like the book.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyongo is the story of a little girl “born the color of midnight” searching for her own identity. I won’t give away the story of how she learns to love the skin she is in, but I think this award-winning picture book can help many little girls learn to be happy the way God made them. The illustrations are gorgeous.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry is a picture book about family and love. The illustrations are cute. And the story is endearing about a daddy’s attempts to make a little girl feel special about her wild and frizzy hair. You’ll love it!

Honeysmoke is another award-winning picture book about a child’s search for her own identity. A little girl named Simone notices that her parents and friends are all of different colors for which they have a name. But Simone’s skin color is different from all of the others. She searches for a name for her color and ends up feeling special about who she is. I like this one, too!

Picture Books & the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s most checked-out books since its beginning in 1895. Is it surprising that several are picture books?

Click here.

Did you know that the New York Public Library has 92 branches?

What Is a Story?


Writing or telling a STORY is different from relaying an incident or event in several ways. For example:

I went to the grocery store yesterday. I drove there in my little Kia. I found a parking place on the very last row. It was good exercise getting into the store. I walked up and down the aisles searching for the items on my list. I found everything but the special brand of gluten-free flour I use.

Finally, after asking several people and searching for fifteen minutes I found it.

I stood in line then paid for my items.

Then I put them in my car and drove home. Of course, I put everything away in the cupboards and fridge before I started baking.


Let’s take a look at the key elements of story for this event.

  1. There is a main character (me). But I don’t sound very interesting, do I? I didn’t show you anything about myself. Who I am. What I think. How I feel.
  2. I am going somewhere; that could be interpreted as a goal, I suppose. But I don’t show you why I’m going, or why it is important to me. Midway in the incident I tell you I searched for the gluten-free flour. But, again, there’s no motive behind it. There is no emotion attached to it. I don’t show you how much I want or need that flour, or why.
  3. There is a series of events. I do this, then this, then this. But a plot is more than a series of events.

*A plot is a series of events related by cause and effect. One thing leads to another, or, has an impact on another. Also, those events affect or change the main character.*

Have I shown the reader how driving, parking, entering, searching, finding, paying, driving home affected me? Changed me or my day?

4. This incident contains no emotional rise and fall—no dramatic arc. I just listed off the things I did on my trip to the store


Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I was baking a cake for my sister’s birthday and I had to have some flour. Gluten-free, of course. She can’t tolerate gluten. So, I grabbed my purse and hopped into my little Kia. Thank goodness I have a rear camera. I backed out of the driveway just as an SUV whizzed around the curb.

Whew! Thank goodness for brakes.

The store was packed so I had to park in the very last row. But, I have to admit, it was good exercise. Just cut into my time. That cake needed to be ready by 5:00.

I jogged up and down the aisles. Found the other stuff on my list with no problem but, where was that flour? I found the other gluten-free stuff. But I know from past mistakes that it has to be that one certain brand, or the cake could flop.

I asked for help. The guy said, “What’s gluten-free?” I found a lady putting away stock. She searched on her electronic thingy and said, “We don’t carry that brand.”

“Yes, you do. I’ve bought it here before!” I was getting a little stressed. I didn’t have time to go to another store.

Another customer overheard us. “Oh, I think I saw that at the end of a row. The package is blue, right?”


“It was over there. Aisle 6, I think.”

“Thank you!” I said and zoomed off. I circled aisle 6 like three times and didn’t see it. Then another clerk asked if he could help me. I explained the situation.

“Follow me,” he said. He walked two aisles over and bent down to the bottom shelf.

“Is this it?” He pulled a bag from way in the back of the shelf.

“Yes! Thank you!” I shouted as I gave that kid a hug.

“Uh…you’re welcomed.”

I dashed up to the check out, paid for my stuff, and drove home singing all the way. Oh, and watching out for SUVs whizzing around curves.

Way more interesting, right? Why? Let’s look at those four elements again.

  1. The main character is much more interesting. I show enough details that you can figure out a little about me and care about me.
  2. I have a mission—an urgent mission with a deadline.
  3. Things keep happening to block my mission. One thing leads to the next thing. Now you really care about that flour, don’t you?
  4. This STORY has emotion that rises and falls. The STORY is moving—going somewhere—but on a curvy, hilly road.

THIS is what makes a STORY.

2019 Picture Books

I’ve read a few dozen “lists” of the best picture books of 2019. Instead of making my own list I decided to give you a peek into some of these 2019 picture books so you can decide for yourself. Whether you are looking for books that parents, children or teachers can enjoy look no further!

I’ll share my thoughts on a few of these 2019 picture books today and then, on more of them in February and March. Next month – nonfiction picture books from 2019.

When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland was published by Random House. I like it. The art is super simple but poignant. The story personifies sadness and reassures young children by suggesting ways to cope with it. This book will open up doors for discussion.

Another by Christian Robinson was published by Atheneum. This is a highly acclaimed picture book, but I don’t like it. It is a wordless book which I usually have to read several times before I get the idea. However, I can’t find the point of Another except possibly that our perspective on things can change. Sorry.

Crab Cake-Turning the Tide Together was written by Andrea Tsurumi. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book is highly illustrated with sparse text. I like it, though I couldn’t see the theme until the last few pages. Then, POW! It hit me in the face.

Just Because was written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Candlewick Press published this picture book. The illustrations are highly black and white with occasional colors. I’m not sure whether I like it or not. A child asks dozens of “Why” questions at bedtime. Her father (I presume) doesn’t give a satisfactory answer to any of the questions until she asks why we sleep. Then the man’s answer is lovely and imaginative. But it doesn’t answer any of the other questions. I’m stuck in a mindset that thinks books should provide answers for children, not just questions.

However, I found another picture book titles Just Because that was published in 2010. Rebecca Elliot wrote it. Lion Children’s Books published it. I loved it! It’s sweet and tender and says so much about love.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree was published by Sterling Children’s Books. Jamie L. B. Deenihan wrote the story. Lorraine Rocha illustrated it delightfully. Yes! I like it. This picture book is a warm and fuzzy story about family and love and gratitude. Share it generously with your kiddos, please.

Maria the Matador was written by Anne Lambelet and was published by Page Street Publishing. I like this little picture book a lot. Maria is one very determined little girl. That determination and her imaginative thinking enable her to accomplish something everyone else thought was impossible. It’s a great story for the little girls AND boys in your life.

Art and Children

Art Benefits Children Cognitively, Socially, and Physically

Thank you, Jean, for the opportunity to talk about how art benefits children.

Our creative and wise God has wonderfully made each child, weaving him or her into an intricate and connected whole. So not surprisingly, many studies show creative activities, such as art, music, and drama, help children do better in all subjects.

In this post I’ll…

  1. list benefits educators see from children’s participation in art.
  • share easy, fun ways you can enjoy art with children.
  • give you some helpful resources.

Benefits in cognitive, social, and physical development from art

  • Using crayons and scissors, and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  • Looking at artworks help children develop better observation skills.
  • Discussing artworks builds vocabulary and social skills.
  • Describing what they see in an artwork helps children learn to visualize, improving comprehension in reading.
  • Art activities help develop visual/spatial skills and how to understand and use visual information—important in learning to interpret photos, graphs, maps, etc.
  • When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  • Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.

Art activities to enjoy with children

  • Enjoy creating art with your child, using markers, scissors, paint, yarn, etc. Especially fun after looking at an artwork together.
  • Looking at paintings together improves cognitive and social skills. Ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Then have them to tell what else they see.
    • Invite children to tell what they think will happen next in a painting.
    • Enhance observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Help them see nuances of color such as blue greens, lime greens, etc.                  
  • Have them go on a scavenger hunt to find objects or shapes, colors, patterns, etc. in a painting.
  • Invite children to take an imaginary walk into a landscape, describing what they see, hear, smell, and touch as they travel from the foreground, through the middle ground, to the background.
  • Discuss how artists show sitters’ interests and personalities in portraits. Ask children what they’d put in their self-portraits.
  • Write similes and metaphors describing a painting’s sky, trees, buildings, etc.
  • Compare and contrast two similar paintings, such as two landscapes. Write comparing and contrasting compositions.


  • Art museums—many now have children’s guides. Keep visits short.
  • Online—large museums often have interactive sites.
  • Libraries—recent years have seen an explosion of art books for children.


Kathy loves to help children and adults understand great art and encourage them to enjoy creating their own great art! She is an educator, writer, and speaker, with many years’ experience in Christian schools, public schools, and homeschool as well as adult groups. She writes devotions for The Quiet Hour and other devotionals, as well as nonfiction articles for children’s magazines, such as Highlights. On her blog she explains how to look at great paintings, followed by a devotion to point children and adults to God. These are followed by a related art project to do with children.    


Anti-Resolution Revolution

Author and Teacher Julie Hedlund started her Anti-Resolution Revolution several years ago. I like the idea. We all know that New Year’s Resolutions never last. Read her post about it HERE.

In light of this I’m going to celebrate my 2019 successes. Here goes!

1. My first picture book was published in September by Little Lamb Books. YAY! And three more in that series are coming.

2. I survived eight weeks of school visits, a blog tour, daily social media and guest blogging for the new book God’s Blessings of Fall.

3. I wrote and submitted four articles to children’s magazines. None were bought, but I’ll keep trying.

4. I completed a 13 week Sunday school curriculum and was paid well for it.

5. I attended Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Learned a lot and made some great new friends. Also, God provided every penny of the cost through that job of writing the Sunday school curriculum.

6. I was able to share my trip to Write2Ignite with my 14 year old grandson. That was a great weekend for me.

7. I led picture book workshops at three conferences in 2019, and got positive feedback from all three.

8. I learned some valuable lessons in my spiritual life and made some life-changing decisions.

9. I moderated a Word Weavers Int’l online critique group without losing any friends in the group! Thank you, Lord.

10. I read five nonfiction books and was able to apply what I learned from them.

11. I learned a valuable lesson about plotting picture books and was able to apply it to some manuscripts.

12. I wrote six new picture book manuscripts. Don’t know whether or not they’ll succeed. I trashed one idea and am working on the other five.

13. I made a couple of great new writing relationships. Thank you, God.

So, what can you celebrate as a writer in 2019? Would you please share in the comments? Or do your own blog post and leave the link here in the comments? Thanks.

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