Look What Arrived in the Mail!

I could not be more excited to receive and share advance reader copies for No Peacocks! And first thing this morning, I stopped by The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine and A.C.T. to drop off these long awaited copies.

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The gorgeous flowers are from the AWESOME Barr family! Thank you!

While on the grounds, I couldn’t help but notice Phil, Jim, and Harry’s fancy new coop.

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Unfortunately for me, it was a one-peacock day. I saw either Jim or Harry or Harry or Jim.

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I can’t tell you which peacock is which, but supposedly ALL the children know which one is Jim and which one is Harry.

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

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Three Weeks, Three Days! (Who’s Counting?)

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Sincere apologies for having been M.I.A. from the blog for a while. But this time I have a real excuse. I am three weeks and three days post brain surgery. Sure, life throws you lemons and curve balls, but for me, this was a cannon ball.

May 5th started out like any other Saturday. Wake up to hungry dogs climbing all over me, complaining that breakfast is late. Feed dogs. Walk dogs. Return home, feed son, and then take son to science day at Rockefeller Institute. Come home. Nap. Work. My son’s best friend arrives for a sleepover. Feed boys. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Walk dogs. Let spouse put boys to bed. Crawl into bed and fight for a spot on the bed that hasn’t been claimed by a dog, and drift off to sleep.

This is where the story changes. At around 12:30 am, I’m woken up by an E.M.T.

“Can you walk?” I hear him say.

“What?” I said.

“Ma’am, can you walk? The gurney will not fit through the doorway.”

“Huh?”

“Honey, you had a seizure.” I hear my spouse say.

“Huh?”

“Hold on to me!” says one E.M.T.

As I walk toward the foyer of my apartment, I pass my son’s room. I see my son and his best friend standing back in the room. Eventually, I’m helped onto the gurney.

Before leaving the apartment, I see my son’s best friend’s dad and I hear my son yell, “I love you mom.”

Minutes later I’m wheeled into an ambulance and headed to Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital. When we arrive at the hospital, my husband is holding my hand and telling everyone, including me, what happened. I don’t have any recollection of the seizure.

“Yes, her eyeballs were in the back of her head. She was unresponsive when I yelled her name, and foaming at the mouth.”

My husband says all these words to the MDs before I’m wheeled off for scans and tests.

By morning, I see a neuro-surgeon and his team.

“You have a brain tumor.”

“I have a brain tumor.” Pause. Process. Rinse and repeat.

The surgeon pulls up a machine with a picture of a brain. Apparently, this is my brain. It’s a 2.3 cm meningioma tumor. It needs to come out. It caused my seizure.

I make the call to my twin sister. I hear a lot of:

“What?!? Are you sure? I’m on my way.”

And once my twin sister knows, the entire universe knows. She’s not good at keeping secrets. Not that this was a secret. I do a quick post on Facebook to let everyone else know (she’s not on Facebook), and more important, to let them know if I’m late on something I have a good excuse. If I have a brain tumor, it might as well be useful for something. Right?

And this is part that was unexpected. An outpouring of sweet, encouraging notes from everyone I’ve ever known. Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grade school friends. High school buddies. College and law school classmates. Former bosses and colleagues. Authors. Illustrators. Teachers. Librarians. Editors. My amazing agents. And students. Adorable letters from students to get well soon. Talk about medicine for the soul!

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On May 17th, my husband and I went to Mt. Sinai West Hospital for my surgery. My twin met us at the hospital. I wore my Bryn Mawr College hat and sweatshirt like a protective coat of armor. Nobody messes with a Mawrter. Surgery lasted eight and ½ hours I’m told. I woke up in the Neuro-ICU disoriented and swollen. I could hear one of the nurse’s saying:

“We need to clean her up. She’s got a relative waiting to see her.”

I couldn’t help but wonder how much of a mess was I that I needed to be cleaned up. And then my twin sister walked in: I took one look at her face, and I knew.

Recovery has been slow. Very slow. At first I thought I could steam roll through recovery but while attending the NJ SCBWI Annual Conference two weeks post surgery (my favorite conference ever!), I accidentally walked head first into a wall. Lesson learned regarding slowing down and am extremely grateful that the only injury I suffered was a bit of embarrassment and a bruised head. (I normally do a blog post about my favorite conference but this year my hands were too shaky and 99% of the photos I took were blurry.)

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Three weeks, three days post surgery I feel like the luckiest person in the world. My tumor is benign. Who’s afraid of a couple of cannon balls? No sweat! Bring it on.

I am eternally grateful for the incredible doctors, nurses, family, and friends, who took care of me. And I would like to shout out a HUGE THANK YOU to EVERYONE for your encouraging words, sweet notes, prayers, and kind thoughts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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By rnewman504

Amelia Island Book Festival 2018

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I wrote this post while on the plane flying back to glorious Newark, New Jersey.

Something doesn’t seem right about leaving Amelia Island’s beautiful sandy beaches, not to mention the 70-80 degree weather, for the snow-covered, flu stricken east coast.

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I visited the island for the Amelia Island Book Festival. The festival also runs the Authors-in-Schools Program, whereby authors visit selected public schools and the festival purchases a book for each and every student through sales of ticketed events, generous donations, and sponsorship. This year the festival purchased over 11,000 books for students at 16 public schools across Nassau County.

I spent the day at Hilliard Elementary School speaking with second and third graders. The students had incredible questions, and I could hardly contain my glee when one student came up to me and asked if I was going to talk about figurative language.

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Hilliard Elementary Artwork (Love it!) 

One recurring question at 99% of my school visits is: how old are you? Not sure why this is so important, but I used to give the students the answer. Now I make them do the math. And this was one of the best parts of my visit to Hilliard: one of the second graders got the right answer. It was a first!

And speaking of age, the Amelia Island Book Festival happened to fall on my birthday this year. I could not think of a more wonderful way to celebrate it than with books and literary friends.

Here are a few photographic highlights:

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Check out the lovely birthday balloon from Nancy Viau! 

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And this was the most delicious chocolate cupcake!

Thank you Nancy Viau for making my birthday so special. 

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Nancy Viau 

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Evelyne Holingue, Jennifer Swanson and Heather Macht

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Eileen Meyer

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Linda Seymour Carr and me 

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Mike Maihack

I’d like to shout out a HUGE thank you to Danna Crump, librarian extraordinaire at Hilliard Elementary School for making me feel so welcome. Hilliard Elementary School is a very special place and I’m thrilled to have had a chance to visit with their students. I’d also like to thank the festival organizers, volunteers, and the terrific group of authors and illustrators that I met. I can hardly wait for next year’s festival.

 

Cover Reveal: No Peacocks!

I am thrilled beyond words to share the cover for No Peacocks! (Sky Pony Press) illustrated by the amazing Chris Ewald. Drum roll, please!

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No Peacocks! is a fictional feathered tale about the three real-life mischievous peacocks who reside on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Let me introduce you:

This is Phil.

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This is Jim or Harry.

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Or Harry or Jim.

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(I can’t tell the difference between Jim or Harry but if you ask any of the children, they all know which bird is which.)

For five years, my son attended The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine. And from the moment I saw the birds, I knew I wanted to write about them. There was just one problem. I needed a story. On one extremely fortunate day while I was attending a meeting for the school’s book fair, one of the school administrators came into the room asking if anyone had left a sandwich in a stroller because one of the peacocks ate it. And as soon as I heard that, I knew I had my story.

No Peacocks! is about Phil, Jim and Harry’s quest to taste the school’s very famous mac ‘n cheese. It’s a cheesy story of friendship and teamwork, with a mild sprinkling of criminal activity that’s perfect for influencing the impressionable minds of children ages 0 to 1000. It flies onto bookshelves September 2018.

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank my editor, Alison Weiss; my agents, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris-Dontzin; my writing teacher, Jill Davis; my writing group, Jacki Morris and Joanne French; my husband, Michael, who has probably read this story more times than he would have liked; my son, Noah, for the tremendous joy he brings my husband and me every day—even during homework; and anyone else who so much as sneezed on my manuscript.

No Peacocks! is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at your favorite independent bookstore.

 

 

 

Celebrating #WRAD18 @KidLit TV

 

A conversation between me and one of my favorite blog readers:

Me: My sincere apologies for being a little late to the party.

Blog reader: Didn’t World Read Aloud Day ’18 happen last week on February 1st?

Me: It did. I had the best of intentions of doing a blog post last week but I got a tad bogged down with rewrites. And then I found myself complaining about the rewrites that needed rewrites. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Blog reader: You are quite gifted in the complaining department.

Me: Thank you! Everyone needs a talent. In any event, in spite of my lateness, I had a blast celebrating World Read Aloud Day ’18 at KidLit TV and I wanted to shout out a HUGE THANK YOU to Julie GribbleRocco Staino, and the entire KidLit TV crew for making the day extra special. And if you want to know how very special that day was take a look at this:

Help make World Read Aloud Day an every day event!

Spring 2018 Mini-Conference at Bank Street

Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature

The Center for Children’s Literature at Bank Street is thrilled to announce:

A Celebration of Bilingual Books and Latinx Communities, March 3rd, 9:00 – 1:30 with keynote speaker Duncan Tonatiuh

Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive at W120th and Broadway, 14th Floor, Room 1402

A conference for English and Spanish Speaking librarians, elementary teachers, parents and caregivers who want to grow their repertoire and knowledge of these genres and better serve their communities.

 

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 Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is the author-illustrator of Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México (Abrams 2017) as well as other works. His books have received numerous awards including the Pura Belpré Medal.

Program Schedule

For Adults

Cost: $50.00

Register 

9:00 – 9:30

Registration, light breakfast and coffee

9:30 – 9:35

Welcome

Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature

Bank Street College of Education

9:35 – 9:45

Opening Remarks

Emma Otheguy, New York University

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By rnewman504

STORYSTORM 2018 Day 22: Robin Newman Has Food for Thought

Today is THE day! So excited to be participating in the incredible TARA LAZAR’s Storystorm. Grab a snack and hop on over to Tara’s! Happy writing everyone! xo

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

by Robin Newman

Psst, Storystorm reader! Are you hungry? I could use a snack. Got anything good in the fridge?

Food is a recurring theme in my books. Although writing about food has its consequences (last I checked it was about 10 pounds of carrot cake consequences), food is a wonderfully rich source of nourishment for a writer. You can steal it, share it, trade it, play with it, cook it, investigate it, idiomize it, dress it, accessorize it, travel to, for, or with it, procrastinate with it, eat it, digest it, and so on.

Food is also extremely flexible. It works equally well in fiction and nonfiction from board books to YA. It can be the conflict of your story where two squirrels are battling it out for the very last acorn on earth or be part of the setting in a brewing coffee shop romance.

By now, you…

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By rnewman504

STORYSTORM 2018 Registration is OPEN!

Thrilled to be blogging in January’s monthlong STORYSTORM! Thirty-one days of writing inspiration from authors and illustrators, prizes, and more! What a great way to start your writing year! Happy holidays!

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

What a glorious feeling!

It’s that time of the year again, when you will be showered with inspiration!

Story ideas are gonna rain down like cats and dogs! (And maybe some will be about cats and dogs!)

Last year I changed the name and month of my annual writing challenge, from Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to Storystorm. Why? Answer’s here.

Any writer interested in brainstorming new story ideas in January is invited to join. Any genre, any style; student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author or professional.

How does STORYSTORM work? It’s simple…

  • Register here by signing your name ONCE in the comments below. Teachers participating with a class can register under the teacher’s name.
  • Registering makes you eligible for prizes.
  • Visit this blog daily (right here at taralazar.com) in January for inspirational essays by guest bloggers—professional authors, illustrators and experts in creativity.

  • Instead of visiting the blog directly, you can…

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By rnewman504

The Cranford Public Library’s First Picture Book Palooza

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Yesterday The Cranford Public Library celebrated its first ever Picture Book Palooza. In a nutshell, it was DY-NO-MITE!

Here are a few photographic highlights:

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Laura Sassi

Robin&Annie

Me & Annie Silvestro

Ariel

Ariel Bernstein

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Diana Murray

Elizabeth Upton

Me

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I’d like to shout a huge THANK YOU to Lauren Antolino, librarian extraordinaire, Laura Sassi, the amazing volunteers, and to Anne Laird at The Town Book Store for making this incredible day a reality. And oh what an incredible day it was!

 

The Bank Street Writers Lab Receives a Carle Honor

Congratulations to Cynthia Weill and the Bank Street Writer’s Lab!

Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature

On Thursday, September 28th the Bank Street Writers Lab (BSWL) received a prestigious award from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA.

Each year, the Carle gives out four awards to individuals “whose creative vision and dedication are an inspiration to everyone who values picture books and their role in arts education and literacy.”

The BSWL received the Carle Honors Mentor Award which recognizes editors, designers, educators, librarians, scholars and others who champion picture books and picture book art.  The BSWL received the award “in recognition of its leadership and support of writers and artists throughout its long history.”

Members of the Bank Street Writers Lab were present at the gala event which took place at Gustavino’s in New York City. Also, present was the legendary author and founder of the museum, Eric Carle. The awards ceremony was moderated by Newbery award winning author, Jack Gantos. Other

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By rnewman504