Showing posts from 2008

Middle Kid Stuff

I found this video clip where Dave Catrow talks about being an editorial cartoonist. It's kind of fun to see him live on video. I'm obviously thrilled to have him illustrating THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES.

To view the clip, click here.

Yesterday my sister was giving me a hard time about writing a "middle child" book when I'm an oldest child. Well, let's just say that being the oldest child put me in the position of hearing all the middle-kid complaints, so I know them well. And, being a mother of seven means I've got five middle kids of my own. But hey, I HAVE written an "oldest kid" manuscript which is currently being evaluated by an editor, and I would love to write a "youngest child" story as well. We'll see if I get lucky enough to see them in print.


I was excited to learn that COOL DADDY RAT has been chosen as a 2008 “Blue Ribbon” Book by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It was one of twelve picture books chosen for the year. Click HERE to see the web page with the announcement.

My editor at Putnam emailed me four pages of full-color illustrations by David Catrow for MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. They are fantastic. He’s very talented, and I’m so lucky to be connected to his great talent.

I also received my official contract from Scholastic for SKELETON CAT. However, last week I learned that my editor (the one who acquired the manuscript and was so enthusiastic about it) is leaving to work for Hyperion. She’s not taking the manuscript with her; she’s leaving it with a different editor at Scholastic. So I’m waiting to hear from the new editor, and these transitions are always a bit scary. As an author you hope that a new editor will love it as much as the previous one did, and will have a similar vision. I’m conf…

Unwrapped Gifts

I’ve had a weird “blog writers block” going on. There’s so much to write about, I don’t know where to begin. It’s kind of like the state of the laundry in my house. Where do I start? I guess the answer is, somewhere, anywhere.

Snow is back. Once again we’re slipping and sliding on the roads, scraping windshields, and finding that our van has slid down the driveway and is blocking the street. Winter. Yet, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a quiet stillness at night that is so nice. I took some photos of my kids, all dressed up to play in the snow. My sons built an ice slide and used a cardboard box to surf down it. There are icicles on my back window.

The children are MORE than ready for Christmas, but I am not. This is a wonderful holiday but a huge undertaking for a mom of seven. So many gifts to wrap. So many cards to send. So many cookies to bake. I ordered quite a few gifts on Ebay several weeks ago that still haven’t arrived. A little scary, but I’m ha…

Life is Good; I Want My Junior Mints

Last Wednesday night I went to a hockey game with my husband. I’m not exactly a sports fanatic, but it was pretty fun. I really enjoyed watching the goalies do their thing. They come out onto the ice and do this weird chopping action with their legs to rough-up the ice around them. Then they keep their eye on the puck at all times—moving a bit like transformer robots. They’re very focused. The other players seem to shimmy on and off the ice in a dance, some leaving the rink and others replacing them in a constant ebb and flow. Our team was the Grizzlies, and they were playing—get this—the Salmon Kings. So every time we scored, there was a live action shot of an enormous grizzly shaking a wiggling salmon in his teeth. That, and the loud blast of a train horn. Cool.

Now let me back up just a bit. In order to park at the stadium we needed to pay a five dollar parking fee, and I almost never carry cash on me. So we turned around and lost our place in line, driving through town to find an …

A Fun Surprise...

My editor just forwarded me four color sketches by David Catrow for our upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. I am ecstatic. I laughed out loud at almost every picture; the humor he creates is terrific. Middle-kid Lee's got the blues and it really shows. Wish I could show you here, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to. When (if) I get a thumbs-up, I'll give you a sneak peek.

SCBWI Inside Children's Publishing Conference

Today I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators "Inside Children's Publishing" Conference. I and three other new authors talked about our paths to getting published and the marketing strategies we are currently using.

Last night I attended a dessert reception at the Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake City. A bunch of us SCBWI members shmoozed, talked, and generally got aquainted with each other. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of my former life in New York City...being surrounded by art and creative-thinkers on a dark night, with jazz playing soulfully in the background, accompanied by the ambient sounds of city traffic. I met some hopeful writers and illustrators, and it was a pleasure to talk to them.

I will be doing a story-time and book signing at the Layton Barnes and Noble next Saturday, November 22nd. I would love to see you there!

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Okay, for my 99th post, I decided to impart some wisdom. This is vital, urgent, life-and-death information. Well, not really, but it's still good stuff. Anyway, it seems like every year we have a fruit fly invasion, and finally, this year, I figured out an effective way to get rid of them. I'd heard all about fruit traps in a mason jar, leaving the windows open, vinegar and soap in a bowl, and yadda yadda. Nothing did the trick before. But I've got a better way.

What you need:

1. Something fruity to attact the flies to the same area.

2. A shop vac.

Heh heh. Yes, just use one of those high-powered super-suction shop vacs. Once the flies are concentrated around the fruit, stir them up so they start to swarm, and begin sucking away. The suction power is just too strong and they all disappear right out of the air. It took me about two minutes to eliminate them all--and I haven't seen once since.

Don't you just love the randomness of my blog?

I Vote for Heat Miser

Well, now that winter is nearly upon us, I thought I'd share a classic song from my childhood. It was so catchy and fun that it stuck with me. I think songs like this one influenced my picture book writing a whole bunch.

All the best to you,

Kristyn Crow, President
Snow Haters Club of America

Ten Reasons to Have an Author Visit Your Child's School

Having an author come to visit your child’s school is a wonderful thing. Here are ten reasons why:

1. When the school shows enthusiasm for an upcoming author visit, the students take the cue that books must be important. A buzz of excitement is created. Kids are then motivated to read that author's books in preparation for the visit.

2. When they meet an author, children discover that he/she is a real person, not just a name on a book cover. They then feel a more personal, human connection with books.

3. With advance notice, most authors in their presentations can address particular topics that highlight a school's individual literacy curriculum or program. For example, the "The Six Traits of Writing," or a literacy theme. This unites the teachers with the author in a common message.

4. The author visit is a break from the routine, a "surprise," a "celebration," a "special guest," and FUN associated with reading, rather than work.

5. …

The Trouble with Writing a Picture Book Manuscript in Verse

Yesterday I presented at a writer’s conference with Rick Walton in Salt Lake City. Rick and I discussed topics such as what makes a good picture book, picture book structure, how to market your manuscript, etc. Participants got to pass out a manuscript to the group and get a thorough critique.

I remember one particular manuscript vividly, because the writing style was somewhat similar to my own. There was rhythm, rhyme, and word play. Every line of text was filled with internal rhymes that made the reader do a vocal fox trot. Fun. The trouble was that the story itself had some problems. It was a bit too complex for a picture book and needed editing. Maybe a whole lot of editing. But if she whittled away the complex stuff and stuck with her silly, core story, she might just have a fabulous chance with it.

Yet I heaved a sigh for this writer.

A heavy sigh.

That’s because verse can be so terribly tricky to write in the first place. In order to make the sweeping changes we were s…

Ten Things...

Ten things that make me happy:

1. Reading a good book.
2. Hugging my kids, or watching them perform.
3. Admiring the colorful autumn trees.
4. Writing a story that somebody else likes.
5. Being loved unconditionally by someone I can trust.
6. Chocolate.
7. Talking to extended family on the phone.
8. The first snowfall.
9. The last snowfall.
10. Disneyland - The Indiana Jones Ride.

That's Why I'm Easy (Like Sunday Mornin')

What can I say? I'm a proud mom. Here are two of my sons, rehearsing for a talent show. There's a lot of music in our house. Sunday mornings are never easy, and this one was particularly hard. So the song is a bit ironic.

The Orem Barnes and Noble signing last Friday night was fun. It's always great seeing fellow authors/illustrators like Sharlee Glenn (who I got to share a "zone" with) and Nathan Hale, Julie Olsen, Guy Francis, and Rick Walton, who didn't stay for the signing but met us for dinner.

I've got a good number of school visits lined up for the next eight months. Should be fun.

To be a Flourisher...

Alright, so I read this article on about longevity, and it gave ten signs that you will live longer than you might think. Most of the signs had to do with health…the foods you eat, how much exercise you get, etc. But then there was one sign of longevity which said, “You’re a flourisher.” Hmmm. A flourisher? I hadn’t heard that word used quite like that before. The article quoted Corey Keyes, Ph.D., who said, "We should strive to flourish, to find meaning in our lives." A flourisher is someone who lives life to the fullest, but with a purpose. A flourisher becomes passionate about using his/her own gifts and talents to make the world a better place.

I know in my first marriage I wasn’t a flourisher. My life was all about hitching a ride on someone else’s back…someone whose life dreams I assumed were more important than my own. With that mindset, I believed I was put on this earth to service him and to take care of the kids and to support him in his career. M…


I have to admit, I'm haunted by the car accident that killed my stepdaughters' mother and little sister. I keep hearing the horrific sound of crushing glass and metal in my head, even though I wasn’t there that awful night.

I imagine myself in the driver’s seat and wonder what she saw and felt in those final moments. The sheer unfairness of the whole thing bothers me. By what forces in the universe is one person allowed to live when another must die? Is every second I’m still here, alive and breathing, a moment stolen from her? Surely she would have wanted to live, to watch her two little ones and her older daughters marry and have children of their own. She would have wanted to be at their weddings, graduations, and the births of their children. Why were those opportunities taken from her, for no apparent reason? I don’t feel worthy of such grand entitlements, especially when they were rightfully hers.

It’s a sobering thought that a person can be driving home one evenin…

I Need a Job, So I Wanna Be a Paperback Writer

The Beatles knew all about writers. (Shut off my music player on the right margin before playing this clip.)

I used to be soooo jealous of my younger sister, Michele, because there was a Beatles song with her name in the title. And there was FRENCH in the song. And it was a LOVE song. Life isn't fair.


17th - I'll be signing books at the Orem Barnes and Noble from 7:00 p.m. until closing. Come say hello.

24th - I'll be at the Layton Barnes and Noble with twelve other authors, from 5:00 p.m. until late. Would love to see you there.

25th - I'll be putting on a picture book workshop with Rick Walton, to help fund our book for kids with juvenile diabetes.

30th - E.G. King Elementary's "Spooky Literacy Night." (Layton, Utah.) I'll be there to present and sign books from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., with authors/illustrators Mike Knudson, Will Terry, and Nathan Hale. Come check out what goofy costume I end up wearing.

Thursday Tidbits and the LAYTON AUTHORPALOOZA

It’s interesting to be working with three different publishers. It seems like there’s always something different going on with each one. Right now I’m sending some receipts to Putnam for the postcards I ordered, and I’m waiting for a disk with digital images from Harper, so I can read Bedtime at the Swamp on the big screen when I visit schools. Scholastic just contacted me, welcoming me aboard, which was great fun. I cannot WAIT to see who they select as illustrator for that book. (No, I don’t get to choose. They did ask for my suggestions, which is a huge compliment. But they have final say.) I did make a couple of recommendations, and we’ll see what happens.

I am helping to set up an “Authorpalooza” at the Layton, Utah Barnes and Noble. It should be fun…I always worry that there will be a snag and somebody’s books won’t arrive on time or something. Hopefully all will go well. But there will be (so far) THIRTEEN authors there, signing their books. YA GOTTA COME! The da…

A Mother's Letter

When my mother died I used to wish that a letter would arrive mysteriously one day in the mailbox. It would have no return address, and would say all the things I needed to hear for reassurance. Now that my stepdaughters have lost their mother so tragically, I want to fulfill that wish for them.

My Dear Babies,

Your stepmother Kris is writing this letter for me only because I cannot. There is so much that I need you to know and understand, and mothers have a deeply spiritual connection. So I hope you will understand if my words must come through her. Otherwise, I am silenced.

I did not mean for this to happen. This was not my choice. I did not ever choose to leave you while you're still so young. Sometimes in this life we are forever changed by the poor choices of others. You are my babies, and will always be. My death doesn't change this. I have loved you from the first moment I knew you were growing within me and will always love you, forever, without end. I have enj…

A Tragic Event

A phone call can change your life. Yesterday I got two.

The first one came in the afternoon, a cause for celebration because I had sold a manuscript I'd worked on for a very long time.

The second phone call came at 1:00 in the morning. It was the grandmother of my two step-daughters, letting me know that their pregnant mother and two-year-old baby sister had just been killed in a head-on collision. Their mother was killed instantly, but the toddler survived for one hour. My husband got out of bed and came hurrying down the hall when he heard the sound of my voice. He knew something terrible had happened. When I told him his former wife and her daughter had been killed, he fell to his knees and sobbed. The two of us spent the rest of the night awake, surviving bouts of crying and holding each other. My husband knew that when morning came, he'd have to tell his daughters their mother, baby sister, and unborn brother had all died. How does a father do this? How does he break their …

From Beneath the Graveyard Mist...Comes....

My agent called today to let me know that Scholastic had made an offer to purchase my picture book manuscript, THE SKELETON CAT! I am incredibly happy!

They've even got an illustrator in mind. He's someone who has done a lot of work for them. However, my agent is suggesting another one. (I didn't know agents could suggest illustrators. Interesting.) I'll let you know when that has been decided. Now, THIS is strange, but they actually were asking my opinion about an illustrator. Wow. That's new. Usually I'm informed after the fact. Most people are surprised to learn how little say we authors have in the art portion of the book.

From what I hear, my agent is currently negotiating audio rights and other stuff. I don't know about all that. I'm just glad she handles this contractual things so I don't have to.

So who is the Skeleton Cat?

THE SKELETON CAT has already lived out his nine lives, and gets ONE more chance (now as a skeleton) to final…

Bedtime at the Swamp Review: School Library Journal

I just received the review for Bedtime at the Swamp from School Library Journal. Very cool! Thought I'd share:

CROW, Kristyn. Bedtime at the Swamp. illus. by Macky Pamintuan. unpaged. HarperCollins. Aug. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-083951-2; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-083952-9. LC number unavailable.

PreS-Gr 1–In this swampy tale set “’neath the fat gold moon,” a boy describes what he repeatedly hears: “Splish splash, rumba-rumba, bim bam BOOM!” With shaking hands and a pounding heart, he races through the “sludgy slime” with the mysterious creature at his heels before taking refuge in the branches of a willow tree. The boy’s siblings come to retrieve him, followed by two cousins, but all end up high in the tree out of reach of the monster. Then just within arm’s grasp of their dreaded adversary, the boy’s mother calls for everyone to return; she understands all too well a kid’s playful imagination and orders everyone, including “the monster,” to get home and take a bath before…

BREAKING DAWN - What's the Deal?

So, I’ve heard that BREAKING DAWN is a huge disappointment. Hate groups. Death threats. "Return 'em, don't burn 'em." Why? Is it the quality of the writing, or what happens to the characters, or both, that have people's nostrils smoking?

If you hated the book, I’d like to know why. I haven’t read it yet, so I’m assuming with the negativity there must be a SERIOUSLY un-happily ever after for Edward and Bella. Give it to me straight.

Or if you L-O-V-E-D it, what do you think all the fuss is about?

Summer's OOOoooo-VER

We had a great summer, and our Disneyland trip was a definite highlight. We had two days and an overnight at the Staybridge suites. It was fabulous. We went on every ride, and many rides we went on multiple times. The Indiana Jones ride, for example...we probably went on that ride nine or ten times, no joke. We loved checking out California Adventure and really enjoyed the Soarin' over California ride. Here are some fun pictures--notice how I'm strategically absent. School starts Monday. Too bad, so sad.

The SKETCHES arrived! Hooray!

Last week I was thrilled to receive David Catrow's sketches for our upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. He is incredibly talented, and I'm very excited for this book. The sketch above (remember these are rough, to get the layout correct, etc.) made me laugh out loud. Our hero, Lee, is mad that his older brother can order from the adult menu and his sister gets a meal with a kiddie toy. (As you can see, she's shot him in the forehead with it.) Mom and Dad are still ordering at Jack in the Bun. What fun!

I also found out that one of my manuscripts has now been moved to an acquisitions meeting, which means it may be close to a sale. I'm crossing my fingers so hard, they're blue.

My kids are all home from their summer visits with their other parents. We're back to a full house. Noise. It's a great thing.

David Catrow Sketches

Today I’m just like a little kid on Christmas eve...or a little kid standing in line at Disneyland. That’s because I’m about to get my first glimpse of David Catrow’s sketches for my upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. My editor says the sample sketches should arrive Fed Ex today. Holy cow. Talk about exciting. Keep watching my blog, and maybe, just maybe I’ll give you a sneak peek.

Baby Mine, Don't You Cry

Today my five-year-old daughter started to cry, and said, “Mom, I don’t ever want to have babies, ever.”

And I said, “Why do you say that?”

“Because it hurts you. They have to cut your tummy with a knife. And that hurts a whole lot. I just don’t want to.”

I was speechless for a moment. Where had she heard about tummies being “cut?” I decided she’d probably seen one of these birthing television shows on A & E or something. It seems like childbirth is everywhere on T.V. these days.

“Well, honey, not all mommies have their tummies cut. And there’s medicine that makes it so it doesn’t hurt. Anyway, you don’t have to worry about that for a very long time.”

“Yeah,” she whined, “and then if I did have babies, you’d be old like a grandma and then you’d probably die. Just like your mom died when she was a grandma. And I don’t want you to die. So I don’t ever want to have babies. Never EVER!”

She tossed herself onto my bed in a heap, crying dramatically. I stroked her hair. I though…

Torture Chamber

In case anybody was wondering, the business of writing picture books can be sheer torture. Torture I tell you, torture! It’s mostly the waiting that drives me insane. Since early February I’ve had a manuscript with two publishers—and each had given me good hope—but I’ve yet to hear anything from either one. Not a yes, not a no. Six months of waiting. It’s agonizing. I wait a few weeks, until I’m practically biting off my fingertips and then I finally cave in and write my agent. She’ll give me reassurances but no final word (if she doesn’t have one she can’t give it).

So we wait. Sometimes my agent makes a very polite inquiry with the editor who took the manuscript, and we might hear a tidbit or two about who’s currently looking at it and what the picture book sales “climate” is. But nothing about the final decision. I end-up waiting several more weeks, until we’re brave enough to make another inquiry. Sheeeesh. Meanwhile I write new stuff, filter it through my critique gr…

From the Secret Files of a Nutty Mother, Episode 1

Tonight I walked through a pitch-black park by a stream, and put a tablecloth on a picnic table. Then I set out a vase with flowers, lit two candles, put out four Ben and Jerry’s ice creams with spoons, and waited. I waited for the signal. It didn’t come.

I started to hear noises. You know, scary noises like rustling in the bushes, whistling, and footsteps. Where was the blasted signal? Darkness makes me nervous. And with the candles lit, my eyes could see absolutely nothing beyond ten feet of me. More sounds. Noises. Somebody breathing? I paced around a little, tempted to just leave. This was beyond the call of duty as a mother. I mean, please. Covert operations in the woods on a dark night? I’m too old for this.

Finally, the signal. A text jingle. I read the code letter. “D.” That’s all the text said. It meant “we’re standing by the duck pond.”

I texted my response. “A.” That meant, “I’m at the first location we chose. Plan A.” You see, we had to pick two lo…

Releases, Reprints, and Realities

I walked into Deseret Book the other day, and there was BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, staring me in the face. Hey, that was unexpected but very cool! So if you’re looking for a copy, try Deseret. It’s curious to me because they never carried COOL DADDY RAT. Not sure how these decisions are made.

Yesterday my editor at HarperCollins emailed me, saying she was “very happy” to report that only one week after its release, BEDTIME is already into its first reprint! I guess that’s good news, as far as sales go.

Now everybody around these parts is getting ready for the release of BREAKING DAWN, by Stephenie Meyer. I can’t help but wonder what it must be like to be her. She’s got fame, fortune, and a movie in the works. This was a girl who graduated from BYU, a young LDS mom who loved to write. Did she ever imagine this? How has it affected her family? I’d love to talk to her, mom to mom, someday.

Baby Book Big Laughs

This Brian Regan clip made me laugh. His delivery is so great. Note 1: With this kind of supremely-basic baby book he's referring to, in real life the author is probably also the illustrator, so s/he created not only the text but the whole book concept. Either that, or a staff writer or editor chose very simple text for a specific type of baby book the publisher wanted to make. Note 2: To my (somewhat limited) knowledge, there is no millionaire out there whose claim to fortune was writing the text for board books at two words per page. Unless he owns the whole publishing house, too. Note 3: Owls absolutely do say "hoot." You just have to listen really, really, really hard, at night, in a forest surrounding a dark medieval castle.


"Then OUT of the darkness stomped my dear old MA! She burst through the cattails and she cried, 'AHA! I've been tryin' to get you children home to bed, and I find you a-hidin' in this tree instead!"

(If you haven't read "Bedtime at the Swamp" you won't get that.) Anyway, we went camping this week and slept in a tent by a number of enormous ponds, where dragonflies darted around and frogs croaked, catfish slurped, and cattails grew. Kinda swampy.

It was a fun getaway from everything...and kinda strange to only have one child in my charge instead of seven. Although, my youngest daughter can be quite the drama queen at times. Five kids in one.


Hangin' Out Wid Da Peeps

This is the cool crowd of authors (and one editor) I got to hang out with at the "Writing for Charity" conference at the Salt Lake City Library. (Thanks, Shannon, for letting me copy this photo from your site.)

Front row from left: Kimberly Heuston, Shannon Hale, Chris Schoebinger, Brandon Mull.

Middle row from left: Ann Cannon, Me, Sydney Salter, Becky Hickox, Anne Bowen, Laura Hickman, Mette Harrison, Ann Dee Ellis and baby-to-be.

Top row from left: Scott Francine, Wendy Toliver, Mike Knudson, Tracy Hickman.

So I went to Barnes and Noble today, to look for Bedtime at the Swamp. Wasn't there. On their computers, it still says "Not Available, Pre-Order," which means they don't even have it at their warehouse yet. Hmmm. So much for these release dates. I've learned they don't mean a whole heckuva lot. That's okay, though, because when B&N realized I was the author of the book they made arrangements for a story time/book signing. Fun!

The Provo Lib…

This Widget will Self-Destruct in One Hour

I remember it was about three weeks before Christmas, 2005, and I was sitting in my living room decorating the tree, when the telephone rang. It was a long distance number--looked like California--but I wasn’t sure.


It was my agent, with her distinctive voice that I knew about as well as Charlie’s Angels know the voice of their boss. (Like the angels, I still have no face to put with the voice.) “Merry Christmas,” she said, and I thanked her…thinking she was just making a friendly call. But then again, she’s far too busy for friendly calls. “I just sold Bedtime at the Swamp to HarperCollins,” she said, and told me the amount of the advance. I was absolutely stunned. “That’s wonderful!” I said, my voice cracking with emotion. “Oh my gosh…that’s just wonderful! Thank you! Thank you so much!” I heard her voice respond with a bit of emotion, too. Afterwards I came into the kitchen, crying, and hung up the phone. My husband hadn’t heard my conversation and immediately felt fear—that…

Writing For Charity a Wheelin' Success!

Today was the writing for charity conference at the Salt Lake City Library. It was great! There were about 100 people in attendance. We started out sitting together as authors for a panel discussion where Shannon Hale guided us in some questions about writing, getting published, and dealing with writer’s block. Then we broke into workshop sessions based on our particular writing genre. It was fun hearing the conference attendees read their manuscripts and giving each other feedback. I had a touching moment where I read a manuscript written by a young girl—I’m guessing she was twelve or thirteen. Her manuscript was quite good, especially considering her age. She had these beautiful eager eyes and I could feel her dreams of being an author beaming through. It reminded me of the dreams I had as a young girl. Oh how I hoped I would be published! Her mother was right beside her, supporting her in every way. I will be very surprised if she doesn’t have all her wishes come true.

Today’s confe…

Writing for Charity - THIS Saturday!

THIS Saturday, come hang out with a whole bunch of children's book authors!

If you haven't registered yet, just show up and pay at the door. This is a fabulous opportunity for anyone interested in writing for children, and it's all for a good cause--The Wheelchair Project.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)
Event breakdown:
9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break out discussions in topic groups
11:30 - 1:00 -- Small group workshops


Realistic fiction: Mike Knudson, Sydney Salter, Anne Cannon
Picture Books: Kristyn Crow, Rebecca Hickox, Anne Bowen, Rick Walton
Fantasy: Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Tracy & Laura Hickman, Mette Harrison

First Bedtime at the Swamp Review

I was excited to find the Kirkus review today, and wanted to share:

"Sitting in the moonlit swamp with his West Highland white terrier, a boy hears, "Splish splash / rumba-rumba / bim bam BOOM!" and knows it's a swamp monster. He high-tails it up a willow, but his sister comes to tell him Ma wants him home for bedtime. When they hear the monster again, she joins him up the tree. Each time a relative arrives to fetch him home, they end up in the tree. Even the monster is frightened into joining them by the strange sound-and then Ma herself appears to march her brood off to bed. They all go "splish splash" in the bath, "rumba-rumba" with their toothbrushes, "bim bam" up the stairs and "BOOM!" into bed. Crow's rhythmic chant and rhymed text are nicely brought to life by Pamintuan's bright, swampy, expressive art, the clean lines and colors making the most of the absurd situation. Bedtime and monsters haven't gone toget…

Two Weeks 'till Bedtime at the Swamp!

I just looked at my countdown widget and I can't believe we're two weeks from the release of Bedtime at the Swamp. I remember when that widget showed hundreds of days. Time really flies! As far as I know, we still don't have an official review of the book. Reviewers must be incredibly busy. COOL DADDY was reviewed months before its release. It'll be hard to compete with the two stars that book received, but hopefully all will be very positive. I think Macky is incredibly talented.

At the ALA conference I made some contacts and am planning to do some local readings and signings this fall. I'd love to arrange some school visits, too. I'll post a schedule when I have one.

If you're interested in writing for children and want to meet with local authors to get tips, manuscript feedback, and all kinds of publishing advice, please sign up for the "Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale" event on the nineteenth of this month. It's not very expensive--and…

The Caldecott and Newbery Awards Banquet, 2008

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Caldecott and Newbery Awards banquet in Anaheim, California. It was an experience I’ll never forget. As you certainly know, this is the “Oscars” for children’s book writers. The participants were first wined and dined in a great ballroom and then the awards were officially presented.

Brian Selznik received the Caldecott Medal for his book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He explained that his intent was to use cinematic elements in a chapter book where pictures helped tell the story. He said that one of his inspirations was author Remy Charlip, whose book Fortunately, Unfortunately uses the power of page-turns as a tool to build suspense. Brian initially wanted to create one picture per chapter, but ended up with 300 pictures in a 500-page book. It's a unique work, and I can remember months ago that some people were questioning whether it really could be classified as a picture book at all. In the end, his ingenuity won over the Caldecot…

Lovin' California

Today I’m writing from inside the Desert Palms hotel in Anaheim, California. I’m sitting right now in the lobby, looking out from a sunny window at Katella Avenue by Disneyland. My family was with me earlier in the week, where we spent two days at the big “D” and California Adventure, and stayed overnight in the Staybridge Suites. We had an incredible time. Disneyland is immaculate, beautiful, and continues to upgrade its rides and entertainment while still holding on to the classics we all love. I’m a nutty Disney fan. Have you ever seen those commercials where the parents are there with their kids and suddenly they turn into kids, too? Yep, that’s me.

Anyway, we went on a ga-zillion rides, especially our favorites like Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space and Splash Mountains. We loved trying out the “Hollywood Tower of Terror” and “Soaring over California” from California Adventure. But the highlight of our trip was the fulfillment of one of my childhood dreams. We ate…

My First Bound Copy of Bedtime at the Swamp!

Yesterday I got my first bound copy of BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP in the mail! My publisher sent it--what a nice surprise. I think Macky did an amazing job on the illustrations. Last night, I got to read the story to a group of my nieces and nephews. My littlest red-headed niece kept saying, "Monster Bim Bam Boo! Monster Bim Bam Boo!" It was so cute. She also had memorized parts of COOL DADDY RAT, and she could predict when it was time to say, "ZOW" and "POW" and even tried a little scatting. There's nothing more fun than seeing a two-year-old scat. It was such a great time. That's the beauty of picture books--when they are read together, you can share an intense moment of bonding. You're in close proximity, sometimes as close as a snuggle or hug, pointing at observations, and sharing an experience together.

By the way, if you've purchased a copy of one of my books and would like it signed, contact me via email at

Skip to My Lou, My Editor

Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Skip to my lou my darling!

I'll get another one, prettier too.

I'll get another one, prettier too.
I'll get another one, prettier too.
Skip to my lou my darling!

(Wait...shouldn't that song be "Skip to the loo, my darling?" As in, skip to the bathroom? I mean, who is "Lou" anyway?)

I’m teasing. But editors have lives just like everybody else—and sometimes they jump to a new publishing house, become the unfortunate victims of downsizing or mergers, decide to stay at home and parent kids, take up copper mining, or whatever. So occasionally authors who have worked with a particular editor for months or years get the news that he/she is no longer the contact on the book anymore. This can be very disheartening, and even a little scary. Sometimes editors take a book along with them to their new house so it suddenly has a new publisher, which has happened to some authors I kno…

Happy Fathers Day to Cool Dads Everywhere!

Happy Fathers Day to all you jazzy, fun-loving, scattin', tappin', snappin' Dads who'll dance in the city with your kids. Be sure to take them out to the places you work and play--and let them see you doing what you do best. Remember, you only stay "cool" for so long.

The Wheelchair Project -- Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale

I'm very excited to be involved in a terrific event this July, initiated by the one and only Shannon Hale, and involving some other amazing children's book authors. The following text is quoted from her blog:

This summer have unfettered access to professional children’s authors, all in the name of charity! Saturday, July 19, several local authors will host a Writing for Charity event in Salt Lake City, with all profits going to The Wheelchair Project. Come hear writers talk about their process, how to write for a young audience, storytelling tips, and the ins and outs of the publishing business. In addition, have your picture book text or first page of your novel (the most important page!) workshopped by professionals.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)

Event breakdown: 9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break ou…

Lights, Camera, Action: Why Picture Book Writers Should Think Like Screenwriters

I have this theory that picture book writers would probably make good screenwriters, and vice-versa. That’s because both the picture book writer and the screenwriter have to think in visual scenes. A screenwriter must always consider what the audience will see: who appears in the scene, what they're doing, what the setting is like, and how the camera is angled. On a smaller scale, the picture book writer must do the same, because the picture book is also a visual experience.

I received a manuscript to critique several years ago that comes to mind now. The writer had created an entire story with a grandfather lecturing his grandson as they sat in a living room. Hmmm. So… let’s think like a screenwriter for a moment and imagine that an audience is going to pay for a ticket and watch this manuscript portrayed as a film on the big screen. Would it be entertaining? An entire movie filmed with two people sitting on a couch?

To be fair, I suppose some fantastic director could possibly pull…


There’s an old Twilight Zone episode where this guy runs around and realizes to his horror that he’s all alone in a town. He runs into the movie theater, stores, and although there are signs of life, he can’t find a real human being anywhere. Frantically, he keeps searching. Yet all along, he’s actually hallucinating. He’s really strapped to probes in a pseudo-spaceship, being tested to see how long he can stand having no contact with people before he loses his mind.

This has been a weird weekend, and I can relate to this guy. I'm in a strange zone where nobody is returning my calls or emails, and I've even got two manuscripts being looked at seriously, but not a word yet from anyone. It's silent. So silent. Too silent. Tick, tick, tick. WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

Good for Chuckles

So I got an email alert for COOL DADDY RAT... from a certain book website... and it had all the particulars right (publisher, price, author, illustrator, ISBN #) and then gave this description of the book:

"Completely revised and updated, the Second Edition of this comprehensive text details the basic, in-office diagnostic and therapeutic procedures commonly performed in treating dogs, cats, and rabbits. Step-by-step instructions on restraint, anesthesia, surgical technique, and medical management are provided and include the whether to in addition to the why to and how to. The book discusses purposes of the procedures, indications, precautions, possible complications, equipment needed, and preparations. Superb line drawings of procedures explicitly demonstrate operational motions as well as pertinent anatomic relationships."

Hey! I didn't know I'd written a surgical manual for pets! I'd hate to see the surgical technique performed on some poor animal whose vet is …

Listening to Chimes

I’ve actually got a moment right now where the house is still and quiet. I can't hear children--only the noise of the aquarium humming (I didn’t realize it made that sound) and chimes playing outside in the blowing wind. This is a rare occasion—one that must be taken in with a deep, nourishing breath. There are times when the noise level is so great in my house, and the word “Mom” is repeated so many times in a five minute period that I’d like to run screaming down the street. For example, this morning we were getting ready for church and I could hardly think straight. One kid needed me to find him a belt, another couldn’t find his shoes, one daughter needed her hair fixed and two daughters needed a referee for their squabble because one said the other was—gasp--“staring” at her. One son needed insulin and another needed me to magically dry his just-washed undershirt in thirty seconds. Meanwhile, my husband was frustrated because he needed to create a typed sign-up list and the pr…

A (Seven Question) MEME in Times Square

Well, well, well. It appears I’ve been tagged. And since Bill at Literate Lives gave COOL DADDY RAT such a rockin’ review, I can’t resist joining the game. So here’s how it goes:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

So, let’s begin:

What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago my oldest son had just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age seven. It was a life-changing event for our family. It’s strange looking back on those days, since today my two sons with the disease are almost entirely independent in their care. But back then I was watching the clock and testing my boy’s blood sugar, filling syringes with insulin, and injecting hi…

In Memory of Abraham Lincoln

For some reason, our family has really been into Abraham Lincoln lately. I happened to watch this fantastic documentary on the History Channel about our sixteenth president and was so moved, I determined that my kids needed to watch it-- that every American needed to watch it. I mean, you can't really be an American and not know this tragic, powerful story from history. Right? Just call it one of my bizarre motherly crusades. So I bribed my kids with Hagen Daas and said if they watched the whole thing, we'd go out to ice cream. They moaned and groaned a bit, but the ice cream was a good lure. In no time they were absorbed. We've since had many spontaneous discussions about the great Abraham Lincoln, his assassination, and the hangings that resulted. So many interesting facts. For example, we often discuss the awful plight of Mary Surratt, hung for conspiracy to commit the President's murder based on evidence that was questionable at best. Just prior to her execution, s…


In my childhood there were fireflies. Magical flecks of illumination and wonder.

I would sit in the grass and watch them flit and fly, trying to guess when the next one would light up. I was a born dreamer--a child who constantly imagined. I talked to trees and named them, invented stories about the squirrels, and believed there was an invisible moat surrounding my back yard. I envisioned the hill by our house was the place the king of trolls spoke to his followers. And I dreamed about my future.

One of the gifts I’d like to give my children is the power to dream. I hope they see their future selves creating, dancing on a stage, designing, building, writing, researching, parenting, and doing what they desperately love. My desire is that they start to envision it now—whatever they hope for. Too many children today don’t know how to dream, or even believe they have permission to do it.

Every kid should know the joy of watching fireflies flit around the back yard on a summer night.

Westmore Elementary School is WAY Cool!

Last Thursday, I had a terrific experience. I got to do an author presentation for a whole bunch of fabulous fourth graders. When I first arrived at the school, I was standing in the hallway when a student approached me and said, "Hey, aren't you Kristyn Crow?" Then a few other kids said, "There she is!" I couldn't believe it. I mean, it's not often I'm recognized by strangers. The teachers had prepared their students for my visit by viewing my website together as a class on their big screens. So after receiving a warm welcome, I talked about how I became an author, what picture book authors do, and how picture books are made.

I also got to visit individual classes, where we invented identities for the "fat cat" in COOL DADDY RAT. Some of my favorite suggestions were that his name be "Toothpick Bob" and that he could be both a sumo wrestler and the president of a jell-o factory. Great, creative stuff. In one class we had enough ti…

The 28th Drawing Board

Sigh. BIG sigh. I am now starting my 28th version of a manuscript I’ve been working on for eighteen months. Yes, that’s right. This is a picture book manuscript for young kids, and it will be my 28th complete re-write of it. But I’m motivated, because it looks like there’s some serious interest in it. I won’t give you the details about the story at this point because it’s both on the chopping block and under the microscope. (Hey, neat--two clich├ęs in one sentence.) But imagine trying to reconstruct all the motivations of a certain character, and doing that within the confines of a precise rhyme scheme and meter. I’ve got to put every “at” “to” and “but” in the right place, and get all my stressed and unstressed syllables just right, saying what I need to say within a few beats per line. That’s the task at hand. My brain is a little bit fried.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Westmore Elementary School in Orem, Utah. Should be fun. You never know how these things will turn out, but I’m looking…


Here I am at today's "Authorpalooza" book signing at the Orem Barnes and Noble. (Thanks, Sara Zarr, for taking this picture.) Book signings are fun--I really enjoyed getting to know some of the other local authors I hadn't met before, especially Wendy Toliver, Sara Zarr, and Jessica Day George, whose brains I got to pick. I asked them, "How do you work past the middle of a novel when you're burned out?" And, "How long does it take you to finish a novel?" They wanted to know how long it takes me to finish a picture book manuscript. We had lunch together, about twelve of us, and that was nice. My family came in droves, and I really appreciated their support (even when mashed potatoes and beans were being discussed loudly at my table).

It's always a little humbling going to these things, because I'm a newbie, whose book just got released. But I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've been given to hang out with such intriguing peop…

I Just had the Coolest Dream...

When you’re an unpublished writer, you dream of your first book release.

You imagine walking into any random bookstore, and immediately a band begins to play. There are balloons everywhere you look. Confetti is flying. A crowd has gathered and the line winds around the perimeter of the store. Each person is clutching a copy of your book and salivating for you to sign it. The manager of the bookstore comes waltzing over and rolls out the red carpet. You’re offered a frothy drink with a little red umbrella. There are whisperings of …will there be a sequel? When will it be available? Can I order an advance copy?

No writers will admit they dream this, but we all do.

And here's the bad news. Only five out of every quintillion authors get to experience it.

So sometimes it's good to think about why we write. It's not really about achieving super-fame and fortune (or is it)? No. Don't we write because we hope to captivate, inspire, touch, terrify, transfix, enlighten, move, a…