Friday, February 19, 2010

Me? A middle grade author?

"There was no one around. No one would know. If I cut, maybe it would release the pain he has caused me. Maybe it would heal my broken heart."

"His eyes were pale, pained hopeless and his Manson t shirt was torn down the center and stitched back together with dozens of safety pins. Was this the state of his soul? Held together by something sharp and painful? His eyebrow twitched, he spit at my feet and turned and walked away. This was the boy I loved."

"My ten biggest fears are not unlike most teens. They're pretty normal, I guess. But most girls my age don't walk down a dark, narrow path toward each one and stare it in the face and say ---. Sigh. But, neither do I. And that will be my downfall. My certain death."

"Do it," she said as she shoved the pipe in my face. Everything I was prepared to say in this situation, everything that was right dispersed like the fingers of smoke burning my eyes. I took it. I sucked in its poison. It felt ugly inside my lungs. I could feel it clawing to get out. But right now this was the only thing in my life I had control of so I held it."

This is me now. Michelle.

My entire life has been spent reaching out to others. Growing up, I was the Dear Abby of my graduating class. My parents invited friends of mine and my sister's to live with us when they had no where to turn. I was a high school art teacher right out of college who took one special student (a foster child) under her wing and helped her through what we both thought would be the most harrowing experience of violence and disappointment she would have to go through. Only to find out years later, it was a good thing we kept in touch because even as an adult she needed me again. And again. Even though there are only 10 years that separate us, she remains my unofficial first child.

And my years as a foster mom will be burned in my brain forever. Especially the words I once heard from a case worker, "Well, that's the group home for those kids no one wants. You know, the ones between 10 and 13." (insert stabbing pain)

Currently, I teach a 5th and 6th grade program at our church, preparing kids to make wise choices to give them the best shot at life and I also teach an after school art club at our local middle school.

So, why do I write these ideas and chapters down for Young Adult and Middle Grade books but continue to pursue the picture book market?

When editors tell me that my voice is unique and real but my manuscripts are too deep, why does that light bulb not click on?

I just read a post on Molly O'Neill's blog. Molly is an editor at HarperCollins and apparently she and I share the same life's mission, the same burning desire to make a difference in the lives of the lost.

Thank you, Molly. Now, excuse me while I head to that MG Word Doc that is now calling my name.

(So, my faithful may have just witnessed a turning point... a big one)

Those of you who have children in the 'tween/teen range, please speak your piece. Tell me what you are thinking right now.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


I grew up having a fresh air "sister" who came to my house every summer and before our 3rd child was born, we invited a Fresh Air "son" into our home for two summers in a row. These memories are ones I will never forget! And my children still refer to Shamare as their Fresh Air brother! That was 4 years ago and every now and then he calls to let us know how he is doing. "We made s'mores and hot dogs over the fire. I've never cooked outside before!" Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends. The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes. Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program. What do Fresh Air children enjoy? Playing in the backyard Laughing in the sunshine Catching fireflies Riding bicycles Learning to swim Running barefoot through the grass Gazing at the stars on moonlit nights Building sandcastles Making new friends Simple pleasures of life away from the inner-city For more information CLICK HERE or call (800) 367-0003.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just me and my macchiato...

I think I have ADD... Yesterday I had a babysitter for the whole day - 6 hours alone! WOW! That rarely happens but I decided it was time, so I called 1-800-watch-my-4-year-old! Any guesses where I went? Anyone? Anyone? Beuler? BARNES & NOBLE, BABY! I took my notebooks, writing assignments, pens and pencils, no laptop...too many distractions. I had grandiose ideas, I would research the children's book market, check out and make note of the publishers of children's books that are similar in style to mine and finish a 600 word story to submit to a writing course I am taking. Simple enough in 6 hours. Right? That's where my suspected ADD comes in... It all started when a skinny woman sat alone at the table to my left. Apparently, she had molten lava in her cup. She used every face muscle to slurp the 4,000 degree matter through her lips at the speed of light AND louder than a jet engine. It may have been easier on her now disfigured tongue to have the hot espresso pumped into her veins. Certainly would have been more enjoyable for me! Good Lord! Can you NOT hear yourself?! O.K. Focus, Shel. Highlights Magazine. Fiction stories. Now, I am hungry. And if I eat, I will be thirsty. I head to the counter. "One cranberry orange scone and a Venti Non-fat Iced Carmel Macchiato, please." Of course, it is 5 degrees outside and I am drinking icy espresso but my oral fixation causes me to crave a straw when I need to concentrate. I set out my little picnic on the cafe table that is smaller than my lap and open my notebook to get to work. "Yeah, the cop said he should be OK. He blew a 1.5 on the breathalizer but it was his first D.U.I." I look up at the barista with a piercing in her lip and wonder if her mom has met this boy. How could a mother not get a drunken vibe from the probably-pierced boy who shows up on her doorstep each and every day? I have nothing against piercings...I am an artist, remember? I have had my share of them. But, driving drunk? NO TOLERANCE! "Get a handle on yourself. Has it been this long since you tried to concentrate? Um. Yep." Cripes, now I am holding a conversation in my head...with myself. As I flipped through my notebook looking for the page I had started my assignment on I found the list of Good Will donations that my husband needed last night to finish our taxes. Crap. It's not itemized. I should get this out of the way before I dive head-long into this project. "Wooo hooo, weeee hoooo..." my cell phone ring is The Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani and now everyone for a 3 mile radius knows. One of my best friends is unexpectedly free for lunch and she is just minutes away, headed for I wanna join her? Um. Yep. An hour and a 1/2 of a turkey/artichoke panini later, I cop a squat back at B&N but this time in the children's section at one of those teeny picnic tables. Time to really work on my story. It is a quiet day in the back of the store - no story time. I gaze around at the big "coolest books" wall... Pinkalicious - have it. Purplelicious - got it. The Kissing Hand - yep. The Mitten - have it. You Are Special - got it. Guess How Much I Love You - yep. The new Fancy Nancy - ooooo not yet...maybe today. Gotta read it. Now. JEEPERS, girl...FOCUS! I would be bonkers if I were the mom of me right now. If I were the kid and was having THIS much trouble staying on task...I would beat me! I get a page or two written and I am on a roll...totally INTO my work...almost forgot where I was. Yeah. Notice I said, "almost." Enter little-freckled-demon. This sweet little boy was probably cute but I couldn't see past his raspy voice. And it was LOUD LOUD LOUD. This little man called to his mom every 1.5 seconds in a voice only a trucker could love. It was not only scratchy but he had apparently swallowed a bag of marshmallows and every single one of them was stuck mid-way down his esophagus. He had a word, too. You know how little kids get attached to certain words and they find a way to use it in every sentence. Yeah. His word was "busted." Everything in the Barnes & Noble children's department was evidently "BUSTED!" (I wish I could have a sound byte right here so you could hear my impression of this cherub) "MOMMA! THESE TRAINS ARE BUSTED! THOMAS IS BUSTED!" "HEY, MA. LOOK, A BUSTED WEASLE!" (I kid you not!) "BUSTED SPIDERMAN! MOM! BUSTED SPIDERMAN!! BUSTED SPIDERMAAAAAN!" "LOOKA MOMMA, LOOK! WHY THESE COAL CARS BUSTED?!" "A BUSTED SCOOBY-DOO BOOK, MOMMA! SCOOBY IS BUSTED, MOMMA!" "HEY MOMMA, EVERYTHING IN THE $%^&*# STORE IS BUSTED!!!!" (ok, just kidding on that one! But that would have been hysterical!) He left with a full blown tantrum just minutes after he "busted" everything at the train table. I looked at my phone and I had about 10 minutes before I had to go... Where did those 6 hours go?? BUSTED! Dang. So, here I sit blogging instead of completing my assignment. Once again, I am distracted. Peace.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Meet Sarah.

You may find her on a BOOKSHELF NEAR YOU in the near future!

I have a lot of exciting info to share over the next few months so STAY TUNED!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Check out JUST JEN....

Hey Moms! I was just contacted by to do a review of one of their products! My daughter is anxiously awaiting her CHEER T! So, coming soon is that review - complete with pics so keep checking back!

And, as luck would have it JustJen was featured on the TODAY SHOW this week!

CLICK HERE to watch the Valentine's Day ideas from JustJen on the TODAY SHOW! Valentine's shipping is still guaranteed so get your orders out there!

Keep checking back (subscribe if you never wanna miss a beat) to see the fun CHEER GEAR from JustJen! The winter cheer season is here and the fall one is coming before you know it!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Virtual Art Classes for Kids Offered NOW!!


So, I have had so many people ask me about giving art lessons to their kids or to supply creative ideas for their family, their scout troop or organization and I LOVE the idea...I just don't have the space in my house to make a mess.

So, I am instituting an online version of my art instruction. Something you will not get ANYWHERE else!

I introduce.....

The KIC2K Program

The KIC2K Program is a program that has Kids Impacting their Community through Creativity and Kindness.

In this program children will learn about various styles of art while using their creativity to bless others. Students will complete projects that could be donated to local hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc. Your child will love the feeling of blessing someone with something hand made and from the heart. Instructions for coordinating a group project are included and can be requested as well. So, those of you who have a scout troop who would like to paint a mural at a playground, don't fret, I can help you pull it together.

Have an event your group of kids is throwing? A fundraiser your PTA needs to organize? Two special events planning options are included in the package.

I have a huge number of infamous children's book illustrators at my fingertips to have special programs and events virtually with your child. There is NO end to the possibilities of this program and how far it can reach!

You child can take as long as he/she likes to complete each project or put their nose to the grindstone and complete them in a timely fashion. Children can re-enroll as many times as they like to experience the same conscientious teaching with more projects that will inspire their hearts and encourage artistic growth.

All projects and correspondence will be done via the internet and much of the program can be tweaked specifically to your needs. This is the first time I am offering this in virtual form so those who opt to join me in this endeavor will have the benefit of helping to design the program to suit your needs.

I have a Bachelor's Degree in Art Education, a Master's in Elementary Education, 12+ years of teaching experience and a love for children that surpasses what I can put into words. Your child will learn, grow, give and bless! How awesome is that!

If you are interested in this program, please leave your email address in the comments and I will send you a more detailed list of projects and program pricing.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Middle School Confidential Book 3 What's Up with My Family?

Once again, Annie Fox has nailed it!

What's Up With My Family is an amazing addition to your home library. With chapters like, I'm Not a Little Kid Anymore, Fuel-ish Thinking, Things are Changing Around Here, That's So Unfair, Moods and Attitudes, When Someone is Gone, Struggling with Siblings and Let's Call a Truce, Annie leaves no stone unturned while giving tips and ideas for how to not only keep the peace but enjoy and appreciate the family you have been given.

The folks at FreeSpirit Publishing knew what they were doing when they signed this woman. Annie is single-handedly saving our youth. Yes, that sounds dramatic...but she is doing it! All you have to do is pick up Book 3 in her Middle School Confidential Series!

If you don't know Annie Fox, you need to go meet her HERE! She has a triptych-style website for teens, parents and educators...whichever you are you can click and start your head spinning with all she has to say. As a parent, there is NO better site to get informed and take action toward keeping your teen safe, well-informed and by your side in this journey that is not always as simple as The Beaver and Mrs. Cleaver made it out to be.

Want a quick peek into Annie's style and HOW she grabs teens where they are? Check this out!

Annie has a passion for middle school kids that parents wish EVERY adult who impacts their child's life would have. Annie is the teacher, the counsellor, the mentor I pray my kids find. But if your child is thrashing and reaching for straws and no teacher/counsellor stands out to you the way you had hoped they would, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL SERIES is a God send!

Check out BOOK ONE: Be Confident in Who You Are! Voted BEST TEEN BOOK by Radical

BOOK TWO: Real Friends vs. The Other Kind!

And BOOK THREE: What's Up With My Family?

My favorite part of Annie's books are the quotes from REAL kids that she has gathered over the years. These quotes aren't the sugar-coated, "Look at me, I made the best choice and it impacted my life for the better" quotes you read in some teen self-help books. She includes, real, raw quote from kids smack dab in the middle of the angst that plagues most teens.

"I speak my mind and don't like it when my family treats me unfairly. I get A's and help around the house. I have friends and I'm in two music programs. What do they want? I know running away is hard, but I'm afraid I will crack from this pressure." ~ C.J., 11

Well, I guess I have WAY more than ONE favorite thing about BOOK THREE in this series! There were so many "a ha" moments for me as a parent. The book is written FOR the kids but as I read it with my 12 year old, things like, "It's natural for the people who raise you to have some trouble getting out of the habit of treating you the way they did when you were younger."

WOOPS! That is where I am RIGHT NOW! My 11 and 12 year old are trying to spread their wings a little and until I read that sentence, I was looking at their requests as trying to keep up with their friends. You know the old blanket response, "Well, then, I guess just because Amy can have a cell phone/a facebook page/a web show, etc then I should just let you follow Amy's mom's rules? NOT HAPPENING!"

I have three amazing kids who follow rules, are respectful and "get it" when it comes to the things I say "no" about. But we were all teens, we know from OUR past experiences that that can change in a heartbeat! I LOVE that I have Annie's books on my books shelf for when that midnight conversation starts and I need some back up!

Head over to Annie's website and grab up these books! You WON'T BE SORRY! I promise!

Follow her on Twitter! @Annie_Fox

Friend her on FACEBOOK!