Monday, April 4, 2016

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I am a teacher. That keeps me busy, especially during the week. I have a wonderful family. They keep me happily busy at home. I am an author. That keeps me busy during some of my free time and family time. But being a blogger...sometimes I find myself staring at a blank page with a flashing cursor. Why is it so much easier to write a book that a short blog? I think I may have the answer.

I think that blogging is much more personal and you are opening yourself up to a world of strangers. Sharing experiences and advice can be therapeutic for both the writer and the audience. Agree or not, expressing ourselves is the beginning of creativity.

So, in short, read and share blogs that you enjoy. Encourage and support those who write. Remember...they are sharing a piece of themselves with you!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Creative Storytelling Ideas

Does your child like to play games? How about you?

Sometimes finding quality time to spend with your family can seem like a daunting task. As parents, we try to make what little time we have as meaningful as possible. Playing games with each other can create valuable memories.

One activity you could do with your children of any age involves storytelling. To begin, someone must start the story with "Once upon a time...." and then finish the sentence. Each person takes a turn adding onto the story with another sentence. You can make this last as long or as short as you would like. Each person could take only one turn or the story could go for awhile. After the story has come to a conclusion, the last person says "...and they lived happily every after." The predetermined opening and closing helps to bring a clear beginning and ending to the story.

Story elements can also be taught through this activity, if you wish. You can talk about the main characters, the setting, problems and solutions, and the order of events that took place once the story has been told.

Creativity is a plus! Focus on making the story interesting and crazy, yet still make sense. Once your family gets the hang of the game, I suggest documenting it! What do I mean? Well, maybe the story could be filmed or recorded. If you do this, then there are some great ways to take it to the next level. Using the video, your family could create your own book based on the story. Each member could help with writing the text, drawing illustrations, or developing the book cover. Home made versions of your stories are sweet reminders of the time you share together. For those who would like a more professional version, the final product can be made into a bound book with the help of many popular websites. What a great gift for your extended family for any holiday!

Another fun follow-up activity would be to act out the story in costume! Working together to create wardrobes, props, and sets would make memories to last a lifetime. Don't forget to film the final production. This, too, would be a wonderful gift idea.

Are you camera shy? No worries! Creating a puppet show with hand-made puppets is an adorable alternative to being in front of the camera. Each family member can create their own characters using socks, oven mitts, or just a piece of cloth.

Feeling extra creative? Turn it into a song with instrument! (The instruments can even be homemade.)

If any of you decide to try one of these ideas mentioned above, please share them with us. We would love to see what fun your household has been up to.

"Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it's produced the most extraordinary results in human culture."   -Ken Robinson

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How Do I Encourage my Child to Write?

Have you ever heard I HATE TO WRITE from your child?

For many of us, writing a shopping list is about the extent of our writing. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to us when our children find it difficult to complete writing assignments in school. But how can we help?

I can remember when my daughter was in elementary school and the stress her and her classmates had was heavy. They had to write a story that included specific details, a clear outline, and little to no grammatical errors, all within a 60 minute time frame. As a tinkering author at the time, I could feel their pain. I knew what it was like to struggle over even some of the most minute details and not able to move past that to finish it. Perfection is an author's worse enemy. I had to stop re-reading my work because I would never be content and want to constantly change it. When I saw students with similar dilemmas I could understand what they were feeling.

Here are some strategies that I both teach and use to help writing be more fun and less stressful.

1.  Come Up With A Plan: Writing is like taking a road trip. You need a plan for getting from point A to Point B, and with writing, it is more fun to take the scenic route! The only way you are going to make it to you destination is to have an outline of how you will start your story and how you will get to the end. Like taking a road trip, if you don't know what or where your destination is, you will never arrive. Writing always has a purpose, whether it is to share information with others, persuade people to think or act the way you believe they should, to express emotions with others, or to merely entertain the world around us. Knowing the purpose of your writing is important when planning it out. There are many graphic organizers on the internet, such as webs, that can help your young authors create an outline to "plan their trip" accordingly.

2. Just Write What You Are Thinking: I always tell students that it's better to have something down on paper than nothing at all. Every author has to have a starting place. In order to begin your journey you must...begin. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, especially when you first begin. No one is perfect and it's not supposed to be perfect! Which leads me to my last point...

3. Don't Be Afraid To Edit: I know I said that one of the worst things an author can do is constantly read and alter their work. However, some editing is necessary to make your writing better. You can only edit when you have something to edit. The editing process can be one of the most rewarding steps to writing because your story has truly come to life. Adding and changing adjectives is one of the best ways to see drastic improvement quickly. I strongly encourage students to learn how to use a Thesaurus. It is a great tool that helps students with varying and acquiring new words into their vocabulary. You will not only see a difference in their writing, but also their day to day language.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you cheer on your children through school and beyond. And with anything, the more you practice, the better you get.

If you have any words of encouragement or writing tips you would like to share, please comment below.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Book Trailer is Out!

Here is a simple 15 second teaser video about Extraordinary Annie

I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider liking and commenting on the video.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Annie Hanging Out at Bamboozle Tea Lounge

Today I am at Bamboozle Tea Lounge in Tampa for my first out of town book signing event. The cafe is cozy and the people are very friendly. Because it is surrounded by apartments, I've also been able to enjoy watching people walking their dogs.

Everything still seems surreal as I sit at my table, talking with customers. I love having the opportunity to meet new people and share my inspiration for writing Extraordinary Annie. I can't wait until my next event!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My First Official Signing Event

Today was my first book signing event and it just so happened to be only a few minutes away from home. My family and friends had a wonderful time at D'Lites Emporium in Gainesville, FL. They were great hosts and would highly recommend them if you are in the area. They have the best low calorie soft serve ice cream around!
The day was beautiful outside! We had lots of people coming in and out of the store. I even got to read my book twice to a few of the most adorable kids! Today really showed me how blessed I am to have supportive family members who work as hard as I do to help this dream come true. Not only that, but how I am also blessed with friends who take time out of their schedules to come visit and support me too. Today was a good day.

So, with my first solo event under wraps I am now looking toward to the next one, which is scheduled for May in Tampa, FL. This has been an exciting ride thus far, but I know this is just the beginning. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Free Worksheets for Extraordinary Annie

Now that my book is available at a variety of websites, I would like to share a few lesson ideas and worksheets with my fellow elementary school teachers.

The first, and most obvious lesson, focuses on antonyms. Within the book, Extraordinary Annie, some differences are apparent while others can be found within the pictures. The two look different, act different, dress different...need I say more? If you click the link below you will find a worksheet for students to complete, only focusing on the antonyms found in the story.

Worksheet: Antonym Graphic Organizer

Along with being opposites, the girls do have some similarities. Students can read the story and not only find an abundance of opposites, but also find similarities when comparing and contrasting Annie and her best friend, Zoe. The perfect graphic organizer for this is a Venn Diagram. If you click below you will find a customized Venn Diagram worksheet that can be used with individual students, small groups, or even as a class activity together.

Worksheet: Venn Diagram

A great discussion idea can focus on friendship. Do friends have to be alike to get along? What if everyone was the same? How are the same as your best friend? How are you different? Is it a good thing or a bad thing and why? This allows students to see that differences make us all extraordinary!

These are just a few ways my book can be used in the classroom. As you read and use Extraordinary Annie, please share your ideas of using it in your classroom or with your students here in the comments. You can also share suggestions personally with me by email. And don't forget...make each day extraordinary!