Training event #2: Reconnect with your inner child– play!

A funny thing happened this week. My friend Caroline Carlson posted 22 Awesome Fisher-Price Little People Playsets You Wish You Still Had from BuzzFeed.  I tweeted it on, and since then I’ve gotten more retweets and shares on Facebook than ever. Jo Knowles and Tami Wight shared my link on Facebook and have had tons of comments. A neighbor from my childhood got in on the cyber conversation too. Why? These toys allow us to time travel to a place without deadlines, or carpools, or grown-up responsibilities. A place when all that we cared about was:

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We used to have time to get down on the floor and imagine. We were encouraged to value story, to construct, to explore relationships, to appreciate the awesomeness of simple machines. (Remember how the helicopter blades would turn in the airport and the cars would  be dumped from elevator onto the twirly ramp in the garage?)

The zoo.. that’s a rare one. I used to set up a whole village and decorate it for Christmas and have them all visit each other
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Ah man! I had the Airport #1 (but with a helicopter/helipad & a baggage carousel!!), the School House (we used to try to make our Weeble Wobbles fit on the playground equipment to no avail), and the Yellow Family House…. Sigh.
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Many of us can’t or won’t let them go.

I’m only a little bit embarrassed to say I loved these so much that they show up in my dreams.
-Facebook Comment

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And why should we?! We should play on a daily basis. For some of us that still means getting on the floor and building with blocks, playing with dolls, and costuming ourselves as monsters or queens. But for many of us (at least people who read this blog), it’s about playing with words, honoring the power of story, and embodying our characters. Have you played today? If you followed the link to the BuzzFeed photos and remembered these toys fondly, try to write a poem about it. I’d love for people to paste their poems, or a link to them (Your blog) in the comments below!


Training event #1. Listen to Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco read his poetry.

On Monday I found out that I’d be an authlete in the Think Kid Think March Madness Poetry Tournament. I announced that I’d be posting about my training for said tournament. See original post. 

Training event #1. Listen to an amazing poet read his work.

Tuesday evening I attended the reading of Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poet extraordinaire. Mr. Blanco read at Merrill Theater in Portland, Maine in front of a huge audience. I’d say a packed house but there were a few seats left in the upper balconies. Check it out.


Mr. Blanco’s poetry was accessible, musical, and evocative. His reading techinque allowed me to close my eyes and imagine the words on the page, the line breaks, and how they enhanced the meaning and emotion of the poem. So, yes, I am a poetry nerd but more important, there was a whole room, nay, an auditorium full of poetry nerds, and artists, and other writers, and lovers of the same. One incredible, and incredibly wonderful community all gathered together to say, “Poetry is important to us. We value you, Richard Blanco, and the work you do.”

At the end of my evening, as I walked to my car, I happen to run into the poet himself. I introduced myself and complimented him on the reading. He was warm, and encouraging, and meeting him made a great night even better.  Training was never so joyful as it was tonight.

Watch Richard Blanco read the 2013 Inaugural Poem: One Today

March Madness Poetry 2013

You know what yesterday was, right?

NO! Not the Oscars. It was selection Sunday for Ed DeCaria’s, Think Kid Think, March Madness Poetry Tournament 2013. If you missed the big reveal video here it is. If you don’t want to wait around until minute 7:00, allow me to cut to the chase. I’m in!!!

OMG, I’m in with poets like Julie Larios, Laura Purdie Salas, Stephen Cahill, Jim Hill, Marileta Robinson, Greg Pincus… What if I blow it in the first round? What if I can’t get my poem in on time? I feel a little like those sweaty, bleeding chefs on CHOPPED trying desperately to “elevate” their ingredients, and consider presentation while the host yells “Ten, nine, eight….” Breathe deeply, Anna.

Truly, this tournament comes at just the right time for me. I have magazine queries out with editors, pages out with agents… it’s nice to get one piece of good news. I hope you’ll all take a moment to go to Think Kid Think, enter your email in box on the right sidebar, and click “subscribe.” You’ll get a confirmation email. Click through and you’ll be in on all the March Madness Poetry Action for 2013. Ed will be posting almost daily leading up to the first word reveals to authletes on March 11th and the first voting soon after.

Speaking of challenge words, if you are a student or teacher your classroom can participate in the tournament by helping Ed to choose the words. He has all the info in Calling All Classrooms. Know a teacher? Pass it on.

And me? I’ll take all the support I can get. “Follow” this blog, and follow me on Twitter. Both buttons can be found in the right sidebar. I’ll post about my training in the days leading up to the start of the competition. 

A Winner for the Totally Awesome Teacher/Reader Guide Service! and 3 Tips for Online Give-aways

A super congratulations to Erin Hagar who won the Totally Awesome Teacher/Reader Guide. I happened to know that in addition to being a wonderful writer, Erin is also a wonderful educator. I look forward to working with her on a Guide to meet her needs!


THREE TIPS FOR RUNNING AN ONLINE GIVE-AWAY (or do what I say, not what I did.)

1. Tease.

By the time I unveiled my teacher/reader guide contest on February 7th, I had been thinking about it for weeks months. I had already worked diligently on a guide for Melanie Crowder’s, PARCHED so I’d have an example guide. I had developed the content for the information page and the downloadable PDF. I had researched Rafflecopter. Really, I had spent many hours on the project. Here’s the thing… no one else knew that I was spending hours on the project. I never dropped any clues or hints. Unless you have an amazing following, you need to get the support of those who already do. Ask them to drop teasers for you in the days leading up to the contest. Use your own social media to hype the contest and its benefits to possible entrants. Send an email to your most influential friends (research their following) asking them to use their social media as well.  Guest post on other well-known blogs to promote the contest and what you are giving away. That way, when you unveil the contest, people will be waiting for it… nay, chomping at the bit to enter.

2. Have well-defined and simple goals for the contest.

I knew my goals for the contest. I wanted people to learn about my new Teacher/Reader Guide service that is perfect for busy authors/illustrators who want focus on their creative work and leave the marketing and peripheral writing to another professional. I wanted to boost my Twitter following. I wanted to boost my blog following. In hindsight, this was too much for a mid-list blog contest. My most important goal was to inform people about the new service. I should have designed the contest with this focus. Ideally people would have shared the blog post with others and gotten something for themselves. If they commented with the link to their own social media post, it would have potentially boosted their traffic as well.

3. Make it easy for people to enter.

I’d seen Rafflecopter work really well on other blogs and was excited to use it. Here’s the thing. doesn’t support the Rafflecopter widget. That meant that in order to enter, people had to follow a link away from my blog post and then come back. IT IS RARE THAT PEOPLE WILL CLICK BACK.  If I’d had simpler goals, I wouldn’t have needed Rafflecopter at all. I’d rather have a single entry from many rather than multiple entries from the same person. A simpler procedure would have increased entries.

I hope this is helpful to others who are considering a contest. Tell me what you think below!

New Teacher/Reader Guide Service AND GIVEAWAY!

You’ve seen them before, the questions that show up at the back of a great novel and give you more insight into the author, the subject, or the craft of the book. The extension activities that teachers use to help plan lessons or meet COMMON CORE standards. Who writes these guides? I do, and I’d love it if you’d spread the word.

First, take a look at the new “Teacher & Reader Guides” page on Creative Chaos.

Next, click on the link below to enter the giveaway. Help me spread the word by commenting below, following me on twitter, tweeting about the giveaway, and following my blog. Each activity increases your chances of winning a free ($500 value) “Silver” level guide for your book. The prize is transferable to a writer/illustrator friend if you haven’t written or illustrated a book recently.

New England is expecting a big storm this weekend. Plenty of time to enter the raffle!

A Rafflecopter giveaway

Same Rafflecopter giveaway

Still a Rafflecopter giveaway


“You look happy!”

Panda brothers


Last night while Son #2 worked on his homework, I played with my new brush pen. You dip it in water or ink, turn the back end, and it sucks the liquid into a vial within the pen. Then just paint away. I was totally engrossed in creating these cuties when I startled to find Son #2 at my shoulder. “You look so happy!” he said.

Note to self: Draw more. Worry less.