Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An AMAZING Opportunity for Readers and Writers in Utah!

Readers and Writers….SAVE THE DATE!

August 21, 2010
The Waterford School
1700 East 9550 South
Sandy, UT 84093

The Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU)





Help us put books in the hands of underprivileged kids in Utah!

DAYTIME WRITING WORKSHOP: (Pre-register by August 15 $60/Walk-in $70)
Love writing? Spend a fabulous day with award-winning Utah authors! Get hands-on writing advice and move your manuscript closer to publication! Author panel, critiques, and book signings. Lunch provided.
(For adults and children 12 and older.)

EVENING EXTRAVAGANZA: (Pre-register by Aug. 15- $10/Walk-in $15, Family price $25) Book-Lover but not a writer? Or, just looking for a fabulous night out? Come to an evening extravaganza with entertainment by singer Nancy Hanson, The Divine Comedy troupe, a celebrity author panel, and a raffle with prizes that will astound you! (Adults and children over 12.)

COMBINED PACKAGE:($65 Pre-registration by August 15 price)
Love BOTH reading and writing? Attend the workshop , followed by the evening event! Have an experience you won’t forget, and all in the name of literacy! Remember, your purchase benefits Utah kids!



Or mail a check to:

CLAU - Writing for Charity [Make checks out to CLAU]
P.O. Box 614
Layton, Utah 84041

Please include the following information: Names of all participants and whether they will attend the workshop or evening event, or both, and contact information including your address and a telephone number.

Can't wait to see you there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adventures in Authordom

Being an author can sometimes bring about strange adventures. For example, a week ago I found myself in Beryl, Utah.

Yep. Beryl.

I hadn’t heard of it either. But a school librarian contacted me several weeks prior and asked if I’d do a school visit there. Beryl? I looked it up. That’s FIVE hours away. Whoa.

There were a million reasons to say no. Reasons like: I’ve got seven kids and mounting laundry, gas is expensive, and ten hours on the road would be horrendous. I told the school I’d need my travel expenses covered. Fine, they said. And, I’d have to charge them additional fees for the assemblies. Fine, they said. And…I’d need a screen, microphone, and a projector wired with sound….fine, fine, fine. I clicked on a map on my laptop and showed my husband. “Should I go to Beryl?” I asked.


“Beryl, Utah.”

“Barrel like a barrel of monkeys?”

“I’m not sure. But it’s five hours away, in the middle of nowhere.”

He leaned over and squinted at the map. “Yeah, you should do it.”

“I should?”

“Those kids probably don’t get too many author visits way out there.”

The kids. He had a point.

I replied to the school and said yes, I’d be there. I marked it on my calendar, figuring I’d deal with all the details later. There was a sense of both adventure and dread in committing to it.

Ten days later, I got an email from a little girl in Beryl. She had found my email on my website. To protect her privacy, I’ll call her Melissa. “You’re coming to my school,” she wrote. “I can’t wait to meet you! I’m a writer, too. I write stories and poetry. I’m ten years old.” She attached some writing samples and went on to tell me all the difficulties she’d been having with crafting her work. She wanted advice. She sounded like someone at least twenty years old. I read Melissa’s writing samples, and was astonished. This was either an adult playing a trick or a truly gifted child.

Intrigued, I wrote back. I complimented her writing and talked about the realities of revision. I applauded her for seeking feedback at such an early age. She responded that I had given her so much hope and…could I stay at her house when I came to Beryl?

This made me smile. But no, certainly not. That would be….errr… inappropriate. Right?

Melissa emailed pictures of her home, their guest room, and random snapshots of her mother and brothers. She pleaded with me. “My mother says there isn’t a hotel anywhere near here except one motel that’s really scummy.” So I did a map quest on hotels in the area. She was right.

“Should I stay with this little girl in Beryl?” I asked my husband, giving him the details.

“That seems a little unusual.”

“I know.”

“Have you asked her parents?”

“Not yet.”

“Better do that.”

I wrote to her mother, and she replied that they would love to have me stay in their home. Cooking was her passion, she wrote, and they enjoyed hosting guests. I looked again at the picture of the guest room—it was roomy and immaculate, with a huge bed and down comforter. I thought it maybe it would be nice to have people familiar with the area take me in, rather than stay in a motel.

I accepted their invitation.

And so I found myself in the strange predicament of driving alone one afternoon on a long stretch of highway to Beryl, Utah, intending to lodge with strangers. After four hours on the I-15, I was traveling east, eating raspberries from a bag and listening to The Lovely Bones on audiobook. I passed through a tiny town, a few sparse houses, then farmland, then nothing. There were only hills, trees, and a stunning sky that hung so low you could almost reach up and grab a fistful. I started to wonder, with this surreal sky, if Beryl was a fictional city in a fable. There was no sign of life for miles in any direction. People lived out here?

Feeling like an explorer, I stopped to take pictures, then continued down the road, finally discovering a few signs of humanity. A couple of houses became visible, some abandoned. Then, a little school appeared on the corner. It was quiet--closed for the day. I stopped to read the name. Yes, it was the school that requested me. Who attended this school, and where did these children live? There were several busses parked alongside it. Ahhhh. I decided these kids were bussed from the hidden crevices of Beryl. I passed the school, driving along a tree-lined road with little white igloos. Upon closer inspection, each one contained a baby calf.

As I approached a white house surrounded by trees, three young children ran toward me, waving. They could have been my own nephews and niece. I rolled down my window. “Are you Kristyn Crow?” They cried.

“That’s me.”

“We live right here!”

I parked and got out. I marveled at what it must be like to live with so much open air and freedom. A fourteen-year-old boy approached with a smirk. “We don’t get famous people around here too often. Can I help you with your bags?”

Famous people? Me? What a laugh.

I gave Melissa a big hug on the front lawn, recognizing her immediately even though we’d never met. It was like finding a lost family member. She wore a wide smile, two thick ponytails , and clothes that looked like they’d visited many trees, streams, and patches of tall green grass.

Inside her house was the noise of a lively family, where several kids in diapers ran happily. There was the laughter and chatter of Melissa’s parents, uncle, and a good friend, who were all staying in the house. They welcomed me. We shook hands. We talked. It all seemed easy. Then Melissa got out some of her poetry. I read it aloud, to the amusement of everyone in the house. Poems about rain, families, jail, vegetables--all very humorous. I was fed a lemon tart with cream and berries. And there was the strange sensation of having traveled back in time, even though this house was well-equipped with big screen televisions and computers.

We all became better acquainted. “Did you tell anyone at school I was staying at your house?” I asked Melissa.

“Yes,” she said, “But they wouldn’t believe me.”

I stayed overnight in their family guest room, thoroughly spoiled by the specialness of it. There were chocolates placed here and there, my own adjoining bathroom, and windows that overlooked the land on two sides. As I dozed off to sleep, I thought, whatever this experience is…it was supposed to happen. There was just something oddly familiar about it, like I'd already seen this movie before, and now I was playing it out in the flesh.

The next morning I slept in, knowing the children in the house would already be at school. I left a gift in Melissa’s room – a copy of the art from my book COOL DADDY RAT, pre-bound. Her mother fed me a breakfast that would top any five-star hotel. I thanked her, and headed to the school for my assemblies. As usual, I met with the administrators first and then set-up my PowerPoint. Soon the children filed into the gym. In my presentations I tell the kids a little about me and what I do as an author. Then I read my books, talk about how picture books are made, and have the kids play rhythm instruments along with BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. At this assembly I was sure to tell the whole crowd I had stayed at Melissa's house, and how wonderful it was. It made her smile.

Afterwards, I signed copies of my books for kids who bought them. I noticed Melissa wasn’t one of them. Another girl asked her, as they filed out of the gym, “Did you get some of her books?” Melissa shook her head no, a disappointed look on her face.

Oh no, this would never do.

After I had packed up my equipment and loaded my car, I signed three copies of my books with a special inscription, and drove back to Melissa’s house. I knocked on her door, and she answered, surprised. “I wanted to give you a copy of my books,” I said. I put them in her hands, and I’ll never forget the look of glee on her face. “And Melissa, I want you to know you are VERY talented. You can write to me ANY time and share your work with me. I mean it. I want us to keep in touch for a long time.“ She nodded her head, and we hugged. Then she ran off into the back yard with the books, her little siblings following.

That night, after my five-hour drive home, I got this email in my box:

Kristyn Crow

Sometimes the world makes me crazy,
I feel like my body wants to be lazy.
I can never seem to hold back this fear.
Then one at a time I shed a tear.
I feel sad and so alone.
But at the same time, 20 people are at my home.
A person once told me,
It's not what you say it's what you see.
You can be sad,
but something you may see makes you glad.
I've had that feeling before.
I've had it once more.
But when I met Kristyn Crow,
I didn't feel so low.
She brought me up like clouds in the sky.
She made me feel as though I could fly.
The world is changing all the time.
And sometimes, it's not just mine.
Everyone has their ups and downs.
Everyone has smiles and frowns.
I had the frown for a long long while.
Then Kristyn turned it to a smile.
I believed in myself more than ever.
A switch had been pushed, or even a lever.
All I knew is that I was someone new.
Someone I could grow into.
Now I give my complete thanks all to her.

[Not her real name.]

I cried. I sat there staring at my laptop and cried, making my husband and kids curious.

I cried because I'm just so grateful. I had the opportunity to maybe, just maybe touch the life of a little girl in Beryl. A little girl with hope, a little girl with talent. No matter what profession we may have in this life, I believe each of us is responsible for mentoring others. Perhaps I was blessed to have mentored one of the greatest authors of the next generation.

I mean, really, you never know.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Get Serious about your Picture Book Writing Career!

I am so happy to be part of the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop in June! If you sign up for my picture book class, here’s what you’ll get:

Picture Book Extravaganza – We’ll spend some time each day reading and analyzing some of the most fabulous picture books out there.

Instruction in topics ranging from writing a great read-aloud, to creating more action in your text, to finding an agent, to working with an editor, to making your manuscript irresistible.

A souvenir binder with art from one of my picture books.

Hand-outs that cover the most important aspects of picture book writing which you can refer to again and again.

A few surprise guests from the picture book world.

A thorough list of websites, agents, publishers that accept non-agented work, and other resources to help you in your publishing quest.

An honest, careful critique of your picture book manuscript and suggestions to make it the best it can possibly be.

Break-out sessions on all kinds of writing topics, by award-winning authors and illustrators.

Access to a reputable agent and editor.

Inspiration, conversation, motivation, and FUN! A HUGE boost to your writing career.

I hope to see you there!

Here’s the website:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Bedtime at the Swamp Video Montage

When I go to visit elementary schools, the students really love to play rhythm instruments along with the refrain in this book. Because there's a refrain, even reluctant readers, active learners, or very small children can join in by being the "echo." Kids can stomp, clap, and snap to the beat. They become active participants in the story, which can boost reading skills.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The (formerly at BYU) Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop

Hello picture book writers! I wanted to invite you to register for my picture book class in the June 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. This is an exciting opportunity for me, because nine years ago I came to this very conference as an unpublished writer--a housewife with a writing hobby. I had a dream of getting published but didn't know what to do about it. Because of the things I learned there and the connections I made, I have since sold manuscrips to Putnam, HarperCollins, Scholastic, and Albert Whitman. Now returning this year as a faculty member, I'm eager to pass along what I know. And let me assure you -- the conference is fabulous. You'll be blown away. It's not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. It was worth every penny I spent. So I invite you... register for my class and I'll do everything I possibly can to help you get closer to publication. If you're serious about your writing goals, or even if you just crave a week of stimulating conversation with people in the writing world, register!

Here is the link:
Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Plan A FABULOUS Literacy Night!

Creating enthusiasm for reading is one of the greatest things a school can do for its students. Well-planned Literacy Nights, where parents attend with their children, can boost that enthusiasm enormously. As a picture book author, I’ve had the opportunity to attend numerous literacy events at elementary schools. Some were a raging success, and others fizzled. I’ve paid close attention to what I feel worked and what didn’t. Without naming any particular schools, I thought I’d share my observations.

Ideas that Worked :

1. Cheap Dinner: Serve a free dinner at the school to start off the night – such as hotdogs and chips. The most recent literacy night I attended offered this cheap hotdog dinner on a first come, first-served basis. The response was overwhelming, and the school was packed. Food, especially food based on a literacy theme (see themes below) will draw more people to the event.

2. Attendance Prizes: Prior to the evening, announce that there will be prizes awarded for the classes with the most students who show up. Awards could include a brand-new book for their class library—or an ice cream sandwich party on a later date. That night, have the students sign in under their teacher’s name at the entrance.

3. Bring in an Author (or several): What better way to get kids enthused about reading than to invite an author to your school? An author can have a tremendous impact on students by demonstrating that books are written by real people. Even reluctant readers can connect with a book in a personal way when they meet the author. Authors can serve as mentors to students. A book signed by an author can be a powerful souvenir to encourage reading. To learn more about arranging an author visit, click here.
To book KRISTYN CROW for a school visit, click here.

4. Entertainment: Is there a local magician or band that could perform at your event? Perhaps they would donate the performance or reduce their fee for the cause of literacy. Make sure the entertainers somehow tie-in their act with books and reading.

5. Good Advertising: Send the students home with fliers well in advance, and make plenty of announcements. Set-up an automated call-out to the parents. Make a school-wide announcement timed just before the final bell on the day of the event…”Don’t forget…tonight is Literacy Night and it’s going to be SO FUN, tell your parents!”

6. Students Performing: A sure way to get parents to a literacy event is to have their children scheduled to perform that night. Could you create a mini-play based on a book the children have been reading? What about arranging a children’s choir to sing some songs that could start off the night?

7. Theme with Costumes: I’ve seen this done several ways and every time it drew an enormous crowd. One was “Spooky Literacy Night.” The school did a Halloween-themed event with trick-or-treating in the classrooms. Teachers who answered the doors were wearing costumes which went along with a particular book, and they took a moment to talk about it. Students wore costumes as well, and spooky music was playing. What a fun night! Another themed Literacy Night I attended was “Knight at the Museum.” The principal and teachers dressed as knights and fairytale characters, and held their event at a local children’s museum. You had to have a special ticket to attend, and the museum closed to the general public. It was a madhouse! Anytime a principal is willing to dress in costume for Literacy Night, kids will want to be there.

8. Writing Competition: Have students submit entries for a writing competition, to be judged by a visiting author or other volunteers. The prizes will be awarded at the literacy event. Entries could be stories or essays based on a theme.

9. Junior Author's Fair: Have students create their own "books" at their reading level. Teachers could spend time talking about the elements of a good story in the days or weeks leading up to the fair, by reading examples of good books to the class. Then have the children make their own books with or without illustrations. The finished pages could be put into binders with sheet protectors, or laminated, or put into folders. These books would only be worked on at school, and not taken home for homework. Then parents would be invited to the "Junior Author's Fair" where their child's book would be proudly displayed in an open-house setting, with goodies served. The children would be asked to read their story aloud to their parents.

10. Face-Painting, “Book Walks” and Games: Set-up a mini-carnival with activities at “stations.” Children could choose their own stations or rotate at certain times. Activities could include a coloring contest, book-mark making station, "write a letter to an author" station, puppet shows, storytelling, a reading station with headphones and books available, book-swap where kids bring books from home and swap with other kids, "fishing" for books, book-character charades, and a “book walk” where music is played and students win a book is always a hit.

11. Two-School Competition: I saw this work well for two principals who partnered up and created a competition between their schools. The school that met their reading goals first would be the winner, and the losing principal had to kiss a live pig. (Substitute your own consequence.) The students cheered with delight at this idea. Both principals had an assembly and “dared” each other at the beginning of the year, bringing the pig to the assembly. Then, the principals would occasionally visit each other’s schools to tease each other about their progress. The students were thrilled to watch the losing principal kiss a pig on Literacy Night. The loser wore big red plastic lips to kiss the pig. The students screamed with laughter, and both schools met their reading goals.

12. Turn your school into HOGWARTS! I just attended a literacy event where a school transformed itself into Hogwarts...the wizard school from the Harry Potter series!   All the teachers and administration were dressed as wizards.  Classrooms were transformed into "potion-making" (students made a homemade version of flubber), "story-telling" (visiting authors did dramatic readings--I read "Skeleton Cat" with rhythm instruments) "chess-playing" where kids learned to play chess, "physics" where kids did funny science experiments, and one special booth had wizards giving children their own individual wand (made from spraypainted chopsticks with beads and how to make wands with chopsticks) which was a huge hit.  Kids could wear costumes or come as "muggles" (regular folks) with their whole families.  A cotton candy machine, hot dogs, ice cream, Harry Potter music piped down the halls...some "mist" blowing was amazing!

What Didn’t Work:

1. Unfortunate Timing: Scheduling the literacy night on a Friday before a long weekend, when many people were planning to leave town, left one school with a disappointing turn-out despite having news media coverage for their event. A weeknight may work better than a Friday night, because many adults make weekend plans. Make sure there isn’t a conflicting event in town, like a local high school championship football game.

2. Poor Advertising: Young children need frequent reminders, and a fun or unusual gimmick (like the ones above) to make the upcoming occasion stick in their minds. Create an attention-grabber from the theme ideas below. Make “Countdown to Literacy Night” posters, and prominently display them. Be enthusiastic about your event, and the students will be too.

3. Atmosphere too Serious and Instructional: Remember the goal is to get kids excited about reading. Plan something lively. If parents and students are suspicious that Literacy Night won’t be much more than a lecture and a glass of punch, you won’t get a good showing. Create a super-fun association with books. Reading is a BLAST!

4. Event is Parent-Focused rather than Child-Focused: I've known a few schools that planned the event primarily around the adults, with lectures, classes, break-out sessions, etc. Meanwhile, the students roamed around in separate activity rooms, or tagged along, bored, with their parents. While I certainly understand the desire to get moms and dads more involved in their children's literacy, it's my personal opinion that making the event parent-focused misses the point. Rather than separate parents and children, create opportunities for them to interact together, with reading stations, literacy-building games, child-performances parents can watch, etc. Give a few short, useful pointers to the parents at these activities, not hour-long lectures where parents and children are separated.

Literacy Night Theme Ideas:

1. Get Jazzed About Reading
2. The Magic of Books
3. Reading ROCKS! (Rock and Roll, or Pet Rocks as Book Characters)
4. Once Upon a Page
5. Wild About Books (Jungle, Where the Wild Things Are)
6. Bookworm Bash (Gummy Worms)
7. We (heart) Books – Valentines Day
8. Spring into Reading!
9. Chill Out with a Good Book (Winter or Ice Cream)
10. Fall into a Good Book!
11. Reading is an Adventure
12. Leap into Literacy!
13. Love-A-Book
14. Book Bonanza (Western)
15. Reading is a BLAST!
16. Book-Mania
17. Blast into Reading
18. Books Ahoy!
19. Explore New Worlds – Read!
20. Books Spark Imagination
21. Imagine Yourself in a Book
22. Books EnLIGHTen Us [Lighthouse, Sparkling lights]
23. Be a STAR--Read!
24. Meet a Hero--Read!
25. Travel through Time—Read!
26. Dig into a Good Book!
27. We SCARE about Books! (Halloween)
28. Get Absorbed—Read! (SpongeBob)
29. Books Build Brains
30. Escape into a Good Book
31. Got Books?
32. Go Bananas Over Books!
33. Dive into Reading! (Water Sports, Under Water Creatures)
34. A Book will Lift Your Spirits! (Balloons)
35. The Sky’s the Limit with Books! (Balloons or Kites)
36. (We’re) Bubbly about Books
37. Find Hidden Treasures – Read a Book!
38. Thanks to Books! (Thanksgiving)
39. A Book is a Door to A New World
40. A Book is a Journey
41. Going BATTY over Books! (Halloween)
42. Reading ROCKETS our Imagination
43. Reading is COOL at our SCHOOL
44. Read and Succeed
45. Book Extravaganza
46. Books-Around-The Clock Sock-Hop
47. Book-a-Thon
48. Pop into Literacy Night! (Soda POP, Popcorn, Balloon Popping Games)
49. School Days Book Craze
50. Book and Pajama-Rama (Wear PJs to school,etc.)
51. Books Give us Wings
52. Read –Around-the-World (Books/Foods About Different Countries)
53. I Feel the Need to Read
54. Books and Cooks (Kids bake their own goodies and bring to the event - name the treat after a book title "Harry Potter's Disappearing Brownies)
55. Children's Reader Theater (Classes do skits, plays, or operas based on books.)
56. Ye OLDE BOOK TRADING POST (Western Theme - Kids bring a book from home to trade with other kids.)
57. Literacy Luau (Hawaiian or Beach Theme)
58. Books-n-Breakfast Bash (Kids come on a Saturday Morning for doughnuts and storytelling.)
59. Reading is an Ocean of Discovery/Fun [Hanging fish, streamers, underwater scenes]
60. Books take the Cake! [Cake walk, book walk, cake auction, cake decorating contest, etc.]
61. Book Bingo Bash
62. Books are EGG-cellent! [Egg hunt w/prize tickets for books, "Book Bunny" egg decorating]
63. Get down and "BOOKY" [Disco ball w/lights, DJ, Dancing, Books line the hallways]
64. Authorpalooza [Invite several local authors to come and visit with students.]

Share YOUR IDEAS AND GET A FREE SIGNED COPY OF MY BOOKS FOR YOUR LIBRARY! Help expand this Literacy Night idea list! Send more Literacy Night-theme ideas which aren't listed above (at least ten), or tell me about a literacy event that was a huge success. If I use your ideas in this blog, I'll send you one copy of COOL DADDY RAT, BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, or THE MIDDLE-CHILD BLUES (your choice).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to be the guest author for Jordan Ridge Elementary's Literacy Night. Jordan Ridge was one of 32 schools in the nation to be selected to receive a literacy grant from the National Council of PTA. So after my presentation, I was signing some books when a group of distinguished, wonderful women came my way. I was able to meet representatives from the National PTA!! They were absolutely delightful, energetic, funny, and fun. We posed for some pictures together at the signing table! I was so honored. I was also lucky to speak with members of the Utah Board of Education, who came to attend the event. There was an article about this in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Thanks to Jordan Ridge Elementary for inviting me to be part of this fabulous night! And a BIG congratulations to you all!

Monday, January 25, 2010


My agent just informed me that Albert Whitman & Company has made an offer on my manuscript, THE REALLY GROOVY STORY OF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE. We accepted it. This was a manuscript I had mentally "shelved" and had almost entirely wiped from my mind. How exciting that I'll get to see it in print! I've heard that Albert Whitman is a fabulous publishing house to work with and that they tend to keep their books in print for a long time. GROOOOOOVY!

I'm going to have a busy year. I've got a number of school visits set-up each month. I'll also be presenting at the UVU Forum on Children's Literature in March, and am on the faculty of the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop which will be held at the Waterford School this year in Sandy, Utah. This is very exciting for me, considering the fact that I came to that workshop in 2001 as an unpublished writer. Because of the advice I received and the connections I made, I was able to get an agent. Now five books later, I'm absolutely delighted to return as a faculty member. I hope to offer all the tips, techniques, advice, encouragement, and connections possible to move the students in my class closer to publication. And we're gonna have a LOT OF FUN! Trust me. Oh yeah, that's right. Uh-huh.

If you'd like to sign up for my class, I'd be thrilled to have you! The website is:

Check out the faculty bios and then go to "register." You'll find me in the "Picture Book Workshops" box, but you'll need to press the arrow on the drop down menu in the box to highlight my name.

The cost is expensive, I know. That's what I thought when I first signed up. But the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop is the vehicle I needed to get my work in front of the right people. And I know a number of other authors who are published today due to their attendance. This is a workshop that will put you amidst editors and agents, published authors, and many other writers. It's a jump start to your writing career. Of course there are no guarantees, but if you're serious about getting published, it will be worth EVERY PENNY you spend. It certainly was for me!

I hope to see you there.