The Cranford Public Library’s First Picture Book Palooza


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:


Laura Sassi


Me & Annie Silvestro


Ariel Bernstein


Diana Murray

Elizabeth Upton



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!


KidLit TV’s Live Stream Read Aloud

I’m a tad late to the party in posting about this AMAZING event hosted by KidLit TV, but better late than never.

March is National Reading Awareness Month and to celebrate KidLit TV invited authors and illustrators to read their picture books for their first Live Stream Read Aloud Marathon on Friday, March 3, 2017.

The Read Aloud received over 3,000 views and was featured in Publisher’s Weekly column, In Brief.

Below are a few photographic highlights:


Rocco Stanno and Katya Szewczuk


Cynthia Weill and Orel Protopopescu


Laurie Wallmark 


Roxie Munro, Barbara McClintock and Elizabeth Upton


Kat Yeh


Me, Laurie Wallmark and Orel Protopopescu


Roxie Munro and Carol Weston 


Julie Gribble 


Steve Light 


Selene Castrovilla


Me and Rosanne Kurstedt


Kelly Light


Susanna Reich

Katya Szewczuk and Laurie Wallmark 

That’s one scary witch! 


Erica Rand Silverman and David Weinstone 

Orel Protopopescu, Cynthia Weill and Susanna Reich 


Rosanne Kurstedt 


Laura Sassi 


The Reading Ninjas 


Ender, a super adorable Reading Ninja, reading Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.

 (This made my day!) 

A GINORMOUS THANK YOU to the amazing Julie Gribble, Erica Rand Silverman, Katya Szewczuk, Rocco Staino, and to everyone at KidLit TV who made this extraordinary celebration of reading so very special. Happy Reading!




The 2016 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference—The Best Conference Ever!


Every year the NJ SCBWI Annual Conference gets better and better. This year did not disappoint.

Here are some photographic highlights: 


Opening Keynote Speaker, David Wiesner


My amazing agent, Liza Fleissig, and my fellow Liza Royce Agency peeps! 

Yvonne Ventresca, Cathy Breisacher, Laurie Wallmark, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Erica George, Leslie Santamaria, me, and Liza Fleissig 


Diana Murray and me


Johanna Bilbo Staton, Yvonne Ventresca, and Cathy Breisacher 


Katey Howes


Lauri Meyers


Darlene Beck-Jacobson and Carole Lindstrom


Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth


Me and Cristina Ergunay (Mawrters in the house! Anassa kata!) 


Beth Ferry 


Julie Matysik and Yvonne Ventresca


Jacki Morris

Liza Fleissig, Keisha Senter, Kathy Temean, Carole Lindstrom, Leslie Santamaria, me, Karl Jones, Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Marlaina Cockcroft, and Linda Patterson Kujawski


Laura Sassi and Diana Murray 


Leeza Hernandez

Me and Katya Szewczuk


Tara Lazar 


Lori Degman 


Laurie Wallmark accepting the Crystal Kyte Award.


Julie Gribble 

IMG_1349 2

Tish Rabe


Jonathan Rockefeller 


Guy Olivieri and Charlotte Bennardo 


Closing Keynote Speaker, Suzy Ismail


Me and Suzy Ismail 

A very big THANK YOU to everyone who made this year’s conference so special. I’m already packing my bags for next year’s conference. I can’t wait!



A Special Treat: Laura Sassi at the Financier Patisserie

What could be better on a rainy day, not to mention more appropriate, than listening to Laura Sassi read her playful, rhyming tale of Noah in Goodnight, Ark, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company 2014), at the Financier Patisserie.



Laura’s super-adorable, pint-sized fans were thrilled when two stuffed skunks came out to greet them. They also enjoyed a craft project with animal stickers.




The Financier Patisserie, located at 35 Cedar Street in lower Manhattan, hosts children’s book events once a month. So, bring your kids for a fun read, craft, and then don’t forget to have lunch and dessert. We did and it was DE-LI-CIOUS! For more information regarding the Financier Patisserie’s events, please check out their Facebook page by clicking here. Bon Appetit!

laura sassi

Shameless Self-Promotion: My First Blog Interview


Me:  Today I am doing my first blog interview with the amazing Laura Sassi.

Random Blog Reader:  Excuse me, but will there be any giveaways?

Me:  Giveaways?  Ah, no.  I hadn’t thought about giveaways.  Should there be giveaways?

Random Blog Reader:  Of course!  A free car, free house, free vacation.  And snacks.

Me:  Snacks?  Really?

Random Blog Reader:  It’s hard work clicking a link.

Me:  What kind of snacks?

Random Blog Reader:  COOKIES!  But not just any kind.

Me:  What kind do you like?

Random Blog Reader:  Chocolate chip.

Me:  Anything else?

Random Blog Reader:  I don’t want to be any trouble.

Me:  Of course, you don’t.

Random Blog Reader:  But since you did ask, a glass of milk would be nice.

Me:  Here you go.


Random Blog Reader:  Thanks!  You didn’t make these cookies, did you?  I can always tell when they’re not homemade.     

Me:  Sorry, it’s the best that I could do on short notice.  So, are you ready to check out the link?

Random Blog Reader:  Need to do my finger exercises first.  One, heave.  Two, ho.  Breathe.  Relax.  Breathe.

Me:  I’m waiting.  Ready?

Random Blog Reader:  Ready!

Me:  Please click here for the link to Laura Sassi Tales.  Many thanks for reading and following.  Next time I’ll remember the giveaways!

Random Blog Reader:  And the cookies! 🙂

Laura Sassi, Spinning Tales in Prose and Rhyme


Today I am thrilled to interview poet, author, and blogger extraordinaire, Laura Sassi.

Laura’s poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications, including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun.  She has a passion for playing with words and rhyming, and her first picture book, Goodnight, Ark, a rhymer, is coming out in 2014 (Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Co.).  You can follow Laura at her wonderful blog, “Laura Sassi Tales: Celebrating Writing, Reading and Life.”  

Laura is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black Cockapoo, named Sophie.

Laura, thanks so much for doing this interview.

Let’s start at the beginning.  When did you start writing?  And how did you get started writing for children?

Thanks for having me, Robin.  I’ve been writing ever since I was a little girl.  One of my early stories, funnily enough, written at about age seven, was a retelling of Noah’s Ark.  My mother saved it for me and I recently unearthed it in a box of old school papers she sent me.  My spelling was atrocious, but I sure did have a goofy sense of humor!

After graduating with a Masters in Education, I jumped right into “grown up life” as an elementary school teacher and spent eight years teaching.  My favorite subject?  Language Arts.  I devoured children’s literature in those teaching years and started writing on the side for kids’ magazines.  That interest, however, didn’t really blossom until after my son was born.  Since I opted to stay at home, I suddenly found myself with wonderful, quiet built-in writing sessions—nap times!

After writing exclusively for the magazine market for several years, I decided to explore the picture book market.  I wrote my first picture book manuscript in 2007.  That one never sold, but I kept at it and finally in 2012 I sold my first picture book to Zonderkidz, a division of HarperCollins.

Can you tell us a little bit about your first picture book, Goodnight, Ark?  How did you decide to make it a rhymer?

Goodnight, Ark is a rollicking, yet ultimately soothing story about bedtime on Noah’s Ark. Two by two, scared by the escalating storm, various animals climb into Noah’s bed.  Noah must get them back to bed but how?  (You’ll have to read it yourself to discover the surprise solution.) Told in only 236 words, the short phrases and tight rhyme are really integral to the story.  Every word pushes the story forward and the alternating rhyming lines offer readers a riddle-like opportunity to guess which animals are going to bound up to bed next.

This month, I finally got thumbs-up from the publisher to announce who my illustrator is!  Here are three hints:  She’s British.  She’s a five time New York Times Best-Seller illustrator, and she’s always wanted to depict wild boars in a picture book.  Can you guess who it is?  Check your answer out at my blog.

I hear it’s very hard to sell a rhyming picture book.  Has this been your experience?  Do you have any advice for any want-to-be picture book rhymers?

My experience has been that selling rhyming picture books is challenging, but not impossible. My one big piece of advice is that if you choose to rhyme, you need to make sure that your meter is perfect and that your rhymes are fresh and unexpected.  You also need to assess your project to make sure that the rhyme enhances and is integral to the text.  The story must always come first.  Not all stories, in my opinion, work in rhyme.  That’s why I have a couple percolating that I know now will definitely NOT be rhymers.

Can you give us the inside scoop on some of your current projects?  What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I currently have several picture book projects and poems at various stages of development including one that’s just about ready to go out on sub.  I like to keep a little mystery surrounding my stories so I’m not going to say much about them except to say they’re short, humorous, and feature animal characters.  Current WIP animal protagonists include mice, goats, and even a fish.

As far as a typical writing day, I try to set aside two good hours per day to write and reflect and be creative.  I like to write in a notebook as well as on my laptop, both of which are very portable.  I often take my projects on the road, so to speak.  I’ve been spotted writing on park benches, while my kids play at the park.  I also have a favorite corner in the library where I sometimes write.  But my favorite writing spot is curled up in a chair, or at my little writer’s desk, with Sophie, our little black Cockapoo, snuggled close beside me.

How can your fans get a hold of you if they would like you to do a school visit?

Good question.  I actually realized that I didn’t really have a good way so you inspired me.  I now have a “Contact Form” on my blog.  Thanks, Robin!

Madeleine, my faithful, over-worked, ever-hungry, ill-mannered four-legged companion (and as you can see a trained killer!), would also like to ask Sophie a question.  What’s the squirrel situation like in your neck of the woods?  


Sophie:  Woof!  Woof!  Forget squirrels—I chase bunnies!  They’re fast hoppers and I haven’t caught up with one yet, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.


Lastly, do you have any advice for new writers? 

First, read as many books as you can in your preferred genre, noting what makes them work and what doesn’t.  Second, write daily and from the heart.  Don’t be afraid to play with words and try new styles and plot structures.  I’d also recommend finding a critique partner, or better yet, a small critique group.  The companionship of fellow writers is very encouraging and sustaining.  I value very highly the writing friends I have made over the years.

Laura, many thanks for doing this interview.  I cannot wait to get my first copies of Goodnight, Ark!  All the best and much success.  

You are so very welcome!  This has been loads of fun, and please, give Madeleine a virtual treat for me.

Will do, Laura!  And here are some treats for Sophie! 🙂


Hooked on Rainbow Loom®


My fellow blogger, Laura Sassi, posted during the summer about the buzz circulating around the Rainbow Loom®.  (Please click here to check out her wonderful post at Laura Sassi Tales.)  I am here to tell you that the buzz is still buzzing!

This has to be one of those IT items.  The kind of IT item that you wished you had thought to invest in way before it ever became an IT item.

Every kid in my son’s first grade class, and I mean EVERYONE, both the boys and the girls, is making bracelets and necklaces.

There’s the standard fishtail, the fancier starburst pattern, and of course, there’s the highly desirable hexafish 6-pin fishtail.  The latter is all the rage among the first graders.


Over the weekend, after spending hours reworking my bracelets, I mastered the starburst and hexafish 6-pin fishtail.  Applause please!  With many of these patterns if you make just one mistake, you have to start all over again, or face the possibility of unraveling.  (See the painstaking similarities to writing and rewriting?)


My son and I took turns on the hexafish 6-pin fishtail necklace that he wanted in blue and white.  Originally, he wanted to use the glow in the dark elastics, but we didn’t have enough, and the few that we had kept snapping.  (These glow in the dark elastics, I might add, are extremely rare.  On the black market, I bet you could get a pretty penny for these babies.  You didn’t hear it from me! :))


There are so many wonderful things about kids making these bracelets.  One is that it requires patience.  There’s a high probability that as you start doing the more complicated bracelets, you will make mistakes and have to start over again.  And again.  And again.  Then, there’s the fact that the kids are not tuned into electronics.  There’s one exception to this, and that’s watching the instructional videos.  And a good number of these videos are done by kids.  How cool is that?

After watching hours of Ashley and Rob’s instructional videos on how to make the starburst and the hexafish 6-pin fishtail, both my son and I feel like they’re practically family.  (On an aside, Ashley Steph’s instructional YouTube video, How to Make a Starburst Rainbow Loom® Bracelet, has been watched by 3,001,025 viewers.  Holy Cannoli, that’s a lot of viewers!) And of course, now my son wants to make a video too!

So, you may see us on the video scene soon.  But first, I think we’re going to attempt the waterfall wave bracelet.  Wish us luck!

p.s. Please click here for the official Rainbow Loom® website.