And that, folks, was some party!

Hi everyone,

My thanks to one and all who came by yesterday. It was some party. Don Barrett arrived shortly before 6:00 a.m. and we never looked back. When I went to bed, Jane Heitman Healy had come back by for a nightcap after putting in a long day and was visiting quietly with Janine Clark-Barry. Matt Forrest Esenwine recited a neat poem he wrote for the occasion and said his goodbyes. Carol Varsalona showed up with a cake still warm from the oven. Tina Hacker got there bleary-eyed from binge watching episodes of a favorite program and I remember Su Hutchens worrying about Sandy having to clean up. I tucked myself into bed with the murmur of friendly voices in the living room lulling me to sleep. Long after I dozed off Joy Acey showed up from Hawaii where, as she reminded anyone who was still up, it was much earlier where she lives now.

From Don’s arrival at 5:46 a.m. the 24th to Joy’s at 2:16 a.m. the 25th our party was visited 547 times by people in 12 countries. Not everyone stayed to chat but 130 guests left 170 comments. Meanwhile over on Facebook 78 people left 58 comments, so even though there were some duplicates we logged a total of 625 visits and 228 comments from party goers. I haven’t checked back to previous parties but I’m sure this was our biggest and best ever.

As we go about the coming weeks managing in our own ways to amuse ourselves in isolation, I hope yesterday’s break from the routine will be a pleasant memory for many. I know it will be for me.

Other ways of reaching kids?

Hi everyone,

With all the cancellations of children’s literature festivals, we might want to think about alternative ways to reach kids when they cannot attend an event in person. In 2007 I had written CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, and was looking for ways to introduce young people to the world of caves — Riverbluff Cave in Springfield specifically.

Thanks to my visionary friend, Annie Busch, who was then head of the Springfield-Greene County Library District, I was introduced to Bill Giddings, at MOREnet, the state’s provider of Internet connectivity to educational organizations. A collaboration was formed to get a fiber optic cable system run into the cave. It involved the cooperation of the library district, Ozarks Technical Community College, Missouri State University, Greene County Commission, the City of Springfield, and the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department.

The evening of the event Matt Forir, the paleontologist who led the explorations of Riverbluff Cave, was positioned inside the cave. These pictures show a group of us after spending eight hours in the cave. I moderated the program from an auditorium in The Library Center. Viewers could see and hear us both as we visited back and forth and Matt answered questions I passed along to him as they were emailed in.

That evening we had viewers in North Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota over 200 separate video-streaming connections. I’ve forgotten how many students were involved but it was a big number. As the library’s Community Relations Director Jeanne Duffey reported in her column afterward, “Students were able to ask questions and experience the excitement of getting as close as you can to being there without placing a foot in the fragile cave.”

Technology may have moved a few light years beyond what it was in 2007. So how now, when the chips are down, do we reach out to kids wherever they may be and involve them in fun activities like the one we had in 2007?

I have a feeling I’m about to get an education from some of you. So bring it on.

Let’s talk about you

Hi everyone,

(Photo by Nathan Papes, Springfield News-Leader)

Lately all I’ve done is talk about myself. Today let’s talk about you. What are you up to, writing-wise and otherwise. Please share with me how you are spending your time these days. Are you working on an article? A story? Reading anything you recommend? Painting? I know many of you are writers and/or illustrators. Others are librarians, teachers, parents/grandparents, and friends. Some of you are passionate about the causes you serve, the children you are raising, the trips you take, the pets you adore, the recipes you’ve tried, the awards you’ve received, questions you have.

So what’s up with you? I hope you’ll let me know.

New review from Booklist

Hi everyone,

Just in time to put a bow on it, Booklist has released its review of AFTER DARK. Here are some excerpts.

“Each of these poems, written in different styles and meters, profiles a nocturnal animal…. Full-page illustrations featuring shadowy palettes illuminate the words, which appear in a bright white font and pop against the dark backgrounds. Readers will glean a surprising amount of information about each subject, and a final section offers a few additional facts, such as dietary preferences, physical attributes, or details about life cycles. The poems make great read-alouds, and the content makes this suitable for STEAM applications.”

No reader reviews posted yet but I hope to see them start before long.

#15, last stop on my blog tour

Hi everyone,

Today is it, the final stop on my AFTER DARK tour. I finish in the good hands of Catherine Flynn on Reading to the Core at
To all my hosts, my heartfelt gratitude. Each of you has posted in a unique way about the book and my approach to writing it. Geographically you live in many parts of the country.
Kathy Temean: New Jersey
Carol Varsalona: New York
Jane Heitman Healy: South Dakota
Sylvia Vardell: Texas
Linda Baie: Colorado
Michelle Kogan: Illinois
Janice Scully: New York
Margaret Simon: Louisiana
Jena Benton: Alaska
Renée LaTulippe: Italy (Okay, so technically Italy isn’t a state.)
Linda Mitchell: Virginia
Matt Forest: New Hampshire
Yvona Fast: New York
Irene Latham: Alabama
Catherine Flynn: Connecticut
Others who supported the tour through social media
Heidi Mordhorst: Maryland
Jama Rattigan: Washington D.C.

So far winners of free copies of AFTER DARK are:
Jayne Hartnett: New Jersey
Susan Hutchens: Colorado
Midway Mo: Missouri
Kay Jernigan McGriff: Indiana
Rhonda Buss: Colorado
Kathy Mazurowski: Illinois
Lisa Billa: California
Other winners will be announced soon.

And to each of you who has patiently taken your time to visit the stops along the way and leave your comments, I’m deeply grateful. I say patient because this tour has had a lot of stops in it and has covered two weeks of almost daily posts. This has been my first effort to pull together a blog tour so I stand ready for your comments about the pros and cons as you have seen them. I’m not sure I’ll do another blog tour but, if I do, I hope to benefit from your thoughts. Thank you for everything.