Friday, December 28, 2012

Mr. McFeely... the early years.

Was I the only one who always thought Mr. McFeely was a truly odd name for a children's TV show character? In tribute...

Friday, September 14, 2012

FREE teleconference with Marion Dane Bauer!

Hi followers of Stone Stoop! Before I begin today’s guest blog post, I’d like to give a big thank you to Kim Norman for allowing me to share with you today.

I am an aspiring children’s book author who, just like you, is a follower of this blog, so I’m so tremendously excited to be a part of it today.

So back to the post…if you are, or ever have been, an aspiring children’s book author, then like me, you’ve had times when you’ve either been closed out of great conferences, had to travel great distances to hear from experts in the field, or spent a lot of money on fees and travel.

I was a frustrated, but very motivated, aspiring children’s book author, who decided to do something about it. Having been an aspiring children’s book author for a very long time (on and off for 12 years – children, career changes, etc. etc.) and having made the decision to finally devote my free time and career to doing what I really loved (writing for children), I needed education and training from the best, experienced children’s book authors available. So in an effort to help other aspiring, frustrated, and motivated aspiring children’s book authors (and myself), I began Writing for Children Live.

Writing for Children Live is a website where you can learn from the best experts in the field of writing childrens' books, from the comfort of your own home, through FREE, LIVE teleconference calls and webinars. No fees, no travel. You can listen in on your phone or via your computer. If for some reason you can't make the call or webinar at the time and date it is scheduled for, there is no need to worry. A replay of the call/webinar will be made available for your convenience FREE for 24 hours following the live call. So no getting closed out, either.

If you miss the replay of your favorite, author, agent or publisher, or if you heard the call, but wish you could hear it again, and again, for all of the great information and tips, all calls will be made available to purchase on an MP3 download (after the 24 hour free replay). All webinars will also be available to purchase, so that you can watch it as many times as you want to.

My favorite quote from the movie Field of Dreams is “If you build it, they will come.” So when I decided to start Writing for Children Live, I thought that if this website was meant to be, the speakers will come. You can imagine the THRILL I had when the first author to submit a proposal to speak on Writing for Children Live was the one and only, Newbery Honor Award Winner for her book On My Honor, Marion Dane Bauer!

I can’t wait to host Marion Dane Bauer’s teleconference call and webinar in September and am so tremendously excited about hosting all of the other great authors that are coming this fall: YA author Angela Morrison, YA author Susan Shaw, nonfiction author John Micklos, Jr. and YA Author K. M. Walton. Even more great authors are coming this Winter and Spring (you won’t want to miss my interview on writing coming this spring with Gail Carson Levine!!!) Kim Norman, herself, may be doing a presentation this Spring as well!!!

To get notified of how you can access upcoming author presentations, visit

Now, just in case you were wondering…I have managed to get a professional book published for librarians and teachers, called Once Upon a Sign, but am still waiting for that book contract to come in for a children’s book. I continue to get rejection letters, but am starting to get a few sentence response in my rejection letter instead of just the “form” letter, so I figure I’m getting closer.

I look forward to helping each other to achieve our writing and publishing goals together through Writing for Children Live!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My creative room -- mostly done!

Here it is!

A few notes:

It also serves as a guestroom, (will happen at MOST once a year), but that's the reason for the old brass bed. My sister made the lovely quilt, but I need to get some decent linens.

Cubbie shelf is also second-hand. Paid about 20 bucks. It was unfinished when I bought it. Looked like it had been knocked together by a handyman who needed to store some tools. Baskets came from the dollar store, a buck-apiece. They fit perfectly!

You can get a better view and explanation of the twig valance by clicking here on an earlier post.

Frame was FREE. I think it came with our house and has been in the attic for 20 years. Dreadful old painting (print) came out. (Maybe I'll repurpose THAT, too.) I hot-glued the frame with bunches of stuff that are all about me: old earrings, a belt I wore in a show, items from late loved ones. Inside the frame I've displayed some old books I enjoyed reading to my kids when they were little. (The books were old when I bought them 2nd hand.)

 This is a pin that belonged to my late grandmother. (The back of the pin is broken.) My grandmother had carefully written the names of the stones on a note inside the box. I thought that was so sweet that the whole thing deserved to be saved. The rick rack is also hers as well as the skeleton keys. The cuff link was my grandfather's.

I removed the closet door and replaced it with an easy-to-move curtain. Fabric came from my  grandmother's sewing closet. Used the same fabric to strategically cover the chair, which I got for 10 dollars at the thrift store.
 This was a coffee table I bought for 5 bucks years ago, for my son to put his gaming TV on. Now the hole for the missing drawer (which was always missing) is perfect for storing poster boards. The squares are heavy tiles that lift out. I painted the backs, in case I change my mind and want to go back to their original color, which was faux stone in neutral tones.

I bought cool old purses and hung them as extra storage. One is holding a clamp light with a broken clamp.
 The vase holds 50-year-old yardsticks, among other things. ("See the NEW '62 CHEVROLET!" Ha!) I bought the vase 2nd-hand and painted it to match the room. Luckily, it was a rough textured ceramic that took the paint well.
 And, of course, old suitcases are also serving as storage. The bottom one was my mother-in-law's in the 40s, and the one in the middle (with the white handle) was my mother's in the 50s.
"Yarn bombed" the old office chair (given to me by a friend) with yarn and rick-rack that belonged to my late grandmother. I like the old wood of the chair and didn't want to paint it.

And that's IT!... well, except for those linens, and maybe a scatter rug to cover a colorful spot on the rug that looks like it may have been greasy Halloween makeup. (This was my son's childhood room.)

Now here's to great creativity in my new creative room!

Kim Norman

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Creative room... coming along!

Here's my "creative room"... so far. (Former room of younger son who moved downstairs.)

Yes, that's a limb from one of our pecan trees, salvaged after that recent windstorm. A coat of turquoise paint to match the lime/turquoise colors in the room.

Curtain is a skirt I got from the 2nd hand store. Cut it off and hot glued the heck out of it. (I hate sewing. I'm convinced that if glue guns had been around in the 18th century, Betsy Ross would surely have used one to make that flag.) Tabs holding the curtain to the limb: "designer" duct tape.

Yup. Duct tape.

Have I mentioned that I hate sewing?

Kim Norman

Friday, June 08, 2012

A pleasant ramble with illustrator Terri Murphy

Kim: Congratulations, Terri, on illustrating another spectacular picture book.  Tell us a bit about ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING
Terri: Thank you Kim.  It’s a story written by author Kelly Bennett about a highly imaginative boy, Zane, who “rambles” by finding the extraordinary in everyday objects.  His creative declarations and repurposed treasures cause him to be the subject of ridicule among his neighborhood friends, but undaunted, he perseveres. One by one, the kids come over to his way of seeing the world, and together, they build something fantastic.
Kim: What did you find interesting or challenging about illustrating this story?
Terri:  The author, Kelly Bennett, knows how to write a story that suggests, then leaves a lot of room for an illustrator’s interpretation.  She purposefully never states where all the rambling in ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING takes place. It stretches across several days, so I was able to set it in an inner-city neighborhood, and let the gang venture out from backyards to front stoops, to the zoo, the beach and to an empty lot in all their adventures.
Kim:  I love that you chose to set this in the inner city.  What contributed to this decision?
Terri:  Part of it was that I grew up in the inner city, in a very diverse low-income neighborhood in Chicago. We didn’t have gaming systems to keep us occupied (our games came in cardboard boxes), so we spent a lot of time outdoors playing and pretending.  I also felt it was important to give a nod to all those kids who don’t live in the idyllic countryside featured in so many picture books and to the creative impulses that beckon them.
Kim:  At first Zane’s friends don’t get him.  They make fun of him and his treasures.  Can you tell us a bit about how you decided to show this visually? 
Terri:  Sure.  I immediately saw the conflict here as thinking outside the box vs. thinking inside the box.  To show this, all of Zane’s wild imaginings are full-color, double spreads, full bleed.  When he brings his treasures back to the group and is shunned, those are small boxed illustrations, all the color has been removed, except for Zane and his pet chameleon, who manage to hold on to a tint.
Kim:  Oh yes, the chameleon!  What a great choice for a pet, and once again, it doesn’t appear in text, only in pictures.  Why a chameleon?
Terri:  A lot my time in creating a picture book is spent thinking, and what-if’ing.  I asked, “What if Zane had a pet?”  In researching other popular kids' gangs, Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts,” Scooby Doo, the black-and-white “Our Gang” movies...there was always a pet to help express emotion, usually a dog.  But Zane wouldn’t have a dog...he’d have a chameleon! In the illustrations, the chameleon changes color to the child who expresses the most imaginative thought...usually Zane, but later, the other kids start playing along. 
Kim:  Any last thoughts on Rambling... and are you available for school visits?
Terri:  Yes, Kim, I’m available. I already kicked off the school tour with a fun visit to an inner-city Chicago magnet school dedicated to arts appreciation. Could there have been a better fit? And my last thought on Rambling.... the author and I ask the reader to play along on the last page of the book, to use their imagination and guess at what is shown.  That’s how we ramble!

ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING can be purchased at
To see more illustrations from Terri, visit
To enter in a drawing for an original illustration from the book during its blog tour, visit here for instructions:

Read my own review of One Day I Went Rambling HERE, on my author blog.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Backyard Umbrellas

What to do when you have a backyard that's as shady as mine? (Meaning grass refuses to grow and lovely "dry riverbed" landscaping isn't in the budget.) Improvise!

So this was our Memorial Day project. First task, clear out the trash, leftover lumber and weeds. Next, excavate lovely stones that had sunk into the earth and become overgrown.

Next, buy lots of three for $10 clearance hanging baskets of impatiens. Also $5 Dollar General umbrellas. Wedge the umbrellas between the slats of the fence.

Use OTHER trash in the backyard, too:
Old futon frame goes on top of the ugly shed to create horizontal bars for hanging baskets.
Old bamboo "video game" chair frame goes on top of THOSE like a goofy little hat. We'll call it "for architectural interest." Also provides another spot to hang a spider plant spending its summer outdoors.

Move some pots from the front yard. Rearrange rocks. Rearrange pots.

Rearrange rocks and pots AGAIN.

And, voila! A much prettier view from the hot tub than we had 3 days ago.

Kim Norman