March 29, 2013


Last week found me in Fort Worth, TX doing a series of school visits.

My first host, Maggie, and I began the week by walking a lovely trail along the Trinity River.

We made a new friend along the way . . .

Mark and Maggie

Mark and Donna

Then the fun, er, work began the next day at Trinity Valley School . . .

I spoke to 7th and 8th graders in an auditorium, an eager group of creative writing students and 5th and 6th graders.

Donna with Trinity Valley Students

Alex, Donna and Anna

What a delightful day!

The next couple days I spent with Paula Tyler of the Fort Worth Library Foundation.  Paula is brilliant and gracious.  She advocates for young people in need in so many ways.  I learned much from her and her husband, Ron.

We visited SIX schools over two days.

The kids were amazing!  One group of eager young readers at Sellars Elementary gathered round while I spoke in the library from a rocking chair.  Afterward, they ran up for hugs and autographs, and one little girl timidly approached and said, "I made this for you last night . . ."

Books Bracelet, being modeled by son's friend, Mercedes

I wore that bracelet every day and showed it to the students at every school. 

The next day, we learned that these enthusiastic young book club members weren't the strongest readers in the school.  For the most part, they were the students who needed the most help with their reading skills.  Each of them read at least one of my books.  They had excellent questions and were wholly engaged.  What a testament to the power of a dedicated, creative, caring school librarian.  I'm talking to you, Ms. Johnson!  Your group of students were an author's dream!

At Wedgewood Sixth Grade School, the daughter of school librarian, Cheryll Falcone, created this amazing illustration of Hammy the Hamster from How to Survive Middle School.

Donna, Cheryll Falcone, Hammy the Hamster and Paula Tyler.

My last school visit was with the lovely ladies at the Young Women's Leadership Academy.  These serious, dedicated, smiling girls inspired me much more than I ever could have inspired them.  What a spectacular experience!  I wish I had a photo of the sea of enthusiastic young women in their red school shirts.   Several e-mailed me later to tell me of the books they were writing!

Between the school visits, Paula gave me a tour of Fort Worth.

We visited the Fort Worth Botanic Garden . . .

We visited the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.  Fabulous!

And we ate . . .

Grilled raviolis and spinach salad at Lili's

My only regret is that I didn't have a book to put in the hand of every eager student who asked after the presentation how s/he could get a book.  It's hard to see kids who are so excited about reading not have enough access to the books they want to read.

My host, Paula, said the Library Foundation would provide some copies to the school libraries that needed them.

I wished these kids could have their OWN books -- something I could never afford as a kid.

It made me grateful for organizations like Kids in Need -- Books in Deed, created by Julianna Baggott and David Scott.  These wonderful folks will be providing a book for EVERY student at my upcoming visit to a Title I school in Palm Beach County next month. 

I'm thankful I said "YES" when invited to Fort Worth last year.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in Texas, my gracious hosts and the wonderful librarians, educators and children I had the great pleasure to meet.  

March 26, 2013


 Thanks for celebrating the Week of Giving!

As you know, a total of $425 was donated to First Book!

And a box of new, award-winning books were donated to my childhood library -- the Northeast Regional Library in Philadelphia!

Now it's time to announce the winners of THE BIG GIVEAWAY!

EACH of the three winners will receive the following prizes:

  • 3 signed copies of OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN
  • 30 signed bookmarks
  • $30 to spend at the bookstore of your choice 
Congratulations to the following randomly selected winners:  
 1. JENNIFER, whose comment was:  "Hooray for First Book! Thank you and the others who donated to such a worthy cause! And hooray for OLIVIA BEAN!"

2.  JULIE.STEPHENSON, whose comment was:  "How perfect. Olivia Bean is on my never-ending Titlewave "wishlist." Thank you for this opportunity. I am sharing with all my ELA teacher friends."

3.  JESSICA, whose comment was:  "I emailed three teacher friends! Can't wait to Skype!"

If you are a winner, please contact me at dgep (at) hotmail (dot) comI'll need your mailing address to send the prizes.

Thanks so much for participating in The Week of Giving! 

March 15, 2013


We're celebrating OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN'S paperback release this week by GIVING!

Today, we're giving away not one, not two, but THREE prize packages!

There will be signed bookmarks

There will be autographed books

There will be cash to buy books!!!

But first . . .

A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in our last blog post and voted for which children's literacy organization should receive a $200 donation.

Your kind comments and generosity inspired me!

Kimmy T is sending boxes of new, award-winning books to my childhood library -- The Northeast Regional Library.

Thank you, Kimmy T!

Imagine my purple banana seat bicycle with the basket for books parked in front.

S.R., a teacher at a Title I school, matched my donation!  Thank you, S.R.!!!

Paul Grecian, photographer and friend, added $25 to the total.  Thanks, Paul!

That means the organization with the most votes will receive $425.00!!!

* Drum-roll, please. *

After totaling votes from blog comments, we had a tie.  Fortunately, one person wasn't able to post a comment and sent her vote via e-mail, which broke the tie.

So, the recipient of the $425 donation will be . . .

Their programs provide access to new books for children in need.

Now, onto the BIG GIVEAWAY . . .

THREE prize packages will be given away!

Each prize package consists of:
  • 3 signed copies of OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN
  • 30 signed bookmarks
  • $30 to spend at the bookstore of your choice 
To enter this random drawing, tell 3 friends about the giveaway and leave a comment below.

That's it!

Winners will be announced on the blog Tuesday, March 26th, after I get back from a week of school visits in Fort Worth, Texas.

What are you waiting for?
  • Share this opportunity with 3 friends!
  • Leave a comment.
  • Check back March 26th to see if you've won. 

March 12, 2013


Join the celebration as OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN comes out in paperback!

Available at your local bookseller and online.

We're celebrating all week by GIVING!!!

Growing up, my favorite book was . . .

I never owned a copy until I was an adult, because we couldn't afford to buy books when I was a kid.  I'd borrow it from the Northeast Regional Library of Philadelphia again and again.

That's why I'm so excited that OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN is now available in paperback!  It means this fun story of a determined girl to accept her family and reach her dream against all odds will get into more young hands.

If you're thinking of buying a copy, won't you consider donating it to a young reader, a local elementary or middle school, a public library, a children's hospital or a children's literacy organization?

If you want to make a bigger impact, how about providing a copy for every 4th, 5th or 6th grade student at a Title I school?  (Bonus good karma if you support your local indie bookseller with your purchase.)

Image from:

Thank you in advance for your support!

Now, it's my turn to GIVE!

Because I'm passionate about opportunities to get kids reading, I will donate $200.00 to a children's literacy-based organization.   

YOU will choose which one gets the cash . . .

1.  RIF -- Reading is Fundamental.  RIF's highest priority is reaching under-served children from birth to age 8.

2.  FIRST BOOK -- Their programs provide access to new books for children in need.

3.  REACH OUT AND READ --  Promotes early literacy through books given out by thousands of pediatricians in all 50 states.

4.  IF I CAN READ, I CAN DO ANYTHING --  A national reading club for Native American children.

5.  THE READING CONNECTION -- Dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk children and families by helping them create literacy-rich environments and motivation for reading. 

6.  KIDS NEED TO READ -- Provides inspiring books to underfunded schools, libraries, and literacy programs across the United States, especially those serving disadvantaged children.

PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE for one of these six organizations in the comments section.  (The organization with the most votes will get the $200.00.)

And drop by Friday, when a BIG GIVEAWAY will be announced!!!

Amazing Addendum:  Within an hour of this blog post, an educator from a Title I school in Orlando, who understands firsthand how important it is to get books into kids' hands, decided to match the $200 donation to one of these six organizations.  So vote, people.  Vote!  (Thank you S.R. for your generosity.  You inspire me . . . and made me cry a little.)

March 7, 2013


It was my pleasure to participate in World Read Aloud Day 2013.

This initiative to increase global literacy and celebrate the power of words and stories to change worlds is the creation of Pam Allyn at LITWORLD -- a non-profit literacy organization, fostering resilience, hope and joy through the power of story.

Thanks to author extraordinaire, Kate Messner, who helps facilitate authors to read aloud to classrooms all over the world via Skype to celebrate this special day.

Thanks to Kate, I connected with amazing school librarian Mr. Schu a few years ago.  Check out the video on his blog post about World Read Aloud Day.  (There are books being given away at the end of his post.)

In keeping with tradition, I wore my bunny slippers while traveling around the country to classrooms in Maine, Iowa, Illinois and Texas.

Here's a photo of my first visit with the kids in Ohio, who created this FUNTASTIC video invitation for me . . .

Alas, a snow day cancelled school.  Deb Tyo, thanks for the apt photo.

School was open in Maine, where I got to hang out with some very cool 7th graders.  In this photo by Abigail Luchies, I got a chance to see what the students saw.  (My view, of course, was very different.) 

Love that the boy in the back row has his copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid next to him.

From Maine, I traveled to Illinois To meet Todd HiIlmer and some of his 6th and 7th grade students.

These kids were adorable!

Mr. Hillmer and his gang, sharing lunch, stories and fun trivia questions.

 I stayed in Illinois for awhile because Mr. Schu was in the house.

A few of his students read touching introductions for World Read Aloud Day.  This young lady in blue quoted something from Sharon Creech's Love That Dog that may or may not have made me cry a little bit.  All his students were engaged and inquisitive and appreciative and I so wanted to be there in person to give them all hugs.  (One of the disadvantages of Skype visits.)

Two minutes after leaving Illinois, I was visiting with Shannon McClintock Miller's students in Iowa.  (One of the advantages of Skype visits.)

Can you guess what's missing from this photo?

Photo courtesy of Shannon McClintock Miller

The pot-bellied pig, of course!  He was scheduled to be part of World Read Aloud Day festivities, but was unable to walk through the snow.

Don't worry, they found another way to add a whole lot of fun and shake up the day. 

Van Meter School Celebrating World Read Aloud Day With a Little Harlem Shake!

Had only fifteen minutes to get all the way to Texas.  Luckily, Skype got me there in about two seconds . . . and didn't lose my luggage!

Hello, Jane Jergensen's 6th graders at Kerr Elementary School in Allen, Texas!

The group was much larger than could fit on one screen!

I had the great pleasure of visiting Kerr Elementary in Allen, Texas last year, during a school visit.  And I was equally impressed with these kids during our Skype visit.  You should have seen the long line of kids waiting to ask questions; and such good quality questions!

After having lots of laughs in Texas, I ended the day with two classes of adorable kindergarteners back in snowy Illinois.

Library Guy, Jeff McHugh, was fun, friendly and funny.  He told me that when I showed the kids my giant purple pen and told them purple was my favorite color, one of the kids said, "Wow.  Purple is my fourth favorite color."

Loved these kids!  We had a lot of fun reading Kelly DiPucchio's Zombie in Love.  Thanks, Mr. McHugh for sharing this awesome, engaged group with me!

World Read Aloud Day was a blast!  Can't wait till next year.  Won't you join in by reading aloud to children in your community or, via Skype, to children around the country . . . or the world?

March 4, 2013

Between Books

It feels great to finish writing a book.

Then it doesn't.

It's a strange letting go of a family that's taken residence in one's mind for months and welcoming a new one in.

Being in the midst of writing a novel is like being gainfully employed -- knowing what you're going to do each day.  Having purpose.

Finishing the novel is like being unemployed.  Laid off.  Thank you very much for your services.  There's the door.

I remember hearing Jodi Picoult say as soon as she finishes a book, she begins a new one.  That same day. 

I wish I could do that.  I can't.

After I've given all my energy to a book, I'm emotionally spent.  Empty.

The time between books is for refilling, for noticing stories and great character names and connections between things I care about.  It's time to let ideas light up my mind.  To take furious notes.  To read piles of books, hoping to be sparked by inspiration.

The time between books is for reconnecting with friends, taking long walks, spending time focusing on my family's needs, doing mundane jobs I've long neglected at home. 

But the time between books is sometimes uncomfortable. 

I want to be productive.  I want to write every day, but I'm not yet ready.  I have to fill the well, gather momentum and the willingness to lose myself in another family's story -- a family that will feel so real, I'll worry for them, lose sleep over them and root for them even though I know the odds are against them.

I'm more like Linda Sue Park, who finds herself trolling the want ads for teaching jobs when she's between books.

Writing days are hard sometimes.  Frustrating other times.  And sometimes they are smooth sailing with fat page counts.  Sometimes filled with exciting discoveries and heartbreaking happenings.  Sometimes they are slogging through the muck of a sluggish mind.  Other days, the fingers can't fly fast enough to keep up with the story. 

Writing days -- good, bad or ugly -- are where I belong, where I'm always headed.

The days spent writing are the ones I feel most at home with myself and with the world.

Postscript:  I wrote this post last night.  This afternoon, my agent called with brilliant revision suggestions for Death by Toilet Paper.  So, it looks like I'm happily employed again.  For now.