Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Indiana SCBWI Holiday Potluck

Kristi Valiant, our IN-SCBWI Regional Advisor, had a splendid idea that I hope becomes a yearly tradition. She suggested we throw holiday potluck parties for our members across the state. And this past Saturday, I had the pleasure of hosting the potluck for northern Indiana.

Some of us enjoying dinner

The marvelous evening was filled with enriching conversation among dedicated writers, a fantastic spread of tasty holiday fare, and a (rather polite) white elephant gift exchange that left me with an entertaining new fondue pot!

Thank you to all who came to this event and made it so magical.

Happy Holidays,
Katie M.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Katie's Friday Finds #5 and Peter Jacobi

My find for this Friday is a book I've known about for years. It was an instant hit when I read it to my fifth grade class and now my daughter loves it, too!

The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney; middle grade fiction
Birney took the ordinary and made it extraordinary by writing this novel about a class pet from the hamster's point of view. You see, Humphrey isn't an ordinary hamster. He's learned to read and uses his tiny notebook and pencil that are hidden behind his mirror to write. When the kids speak to him, he tries to squeak back, but they just can't understand 'hamster'. Not only is the book funny and full of adventure, which will keep a reader's attention, but Birney brings a unique voice to all the characters and tells their stories brilliantly. There are more books in the Humphrey series and I'm thrilled to revisit these books now that my daughter is reading them.

Zionsville Library

Last weekend I attended Indiana SCBWI's autograph party and luncheon event at the library in Zionsville, Indiana. We ate a boxed lunch and listened to Peter Jacobi speak about writing. The event was a few hours long, but I could have listened to him talk all day!

Here's what I loved about Peter's lecture; he was inspirational. There are so many conferences where you listen to a speaker and the talk is all doom and hard it is to write children's books, the state of the children's book market, and on and on. A serious writer knows all of this.

I found it refreshing to listen to a well-respected professional in the field tell us that we are warriors, brave, tolerating years of rejection as we hone our craft and still we don't give up. Thank you, Peter Jacobi, for understanding that we know the hardships of writing, and instead of dwelling on that, you gave us solid, useful information on the craft spoken from your heart, encouraging us to reach for excellence.

Here's a picture of our committee with Peter. I'm on the end, in blue jeans. Egads - I didn't plan to have my picture taken. Note to self; even if you're just attending an informal two hour event at a library, dress in slacks. Someone may want to take your picture.

IN-SCBWI Steering Committee and Peter Jacobi 

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Katie's Friday Finds #4; A Cookbook

I found this book several weeks ago and I love it so much I decided to put it on my Friday Finds list. This is not a children's book, nor is it a novel of any sort. It is a cookbook and it's a fabulous cookbook if you like to use a slow cooker!

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow; The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea
Five reasons I've fallen in love with this book:
1. The recipes are easy to make and adaptable.
2. There is a huge variety of meal choices and types.
3. The entire book has gluten free options for every meal.
4. The author gives her family's verdict on every meal in the book.
5. Every recipe I've made from the book so far tasted delicious!

If you use a slow cooker, give the recipes in this cookbook a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Katie's Friday Finds #3 and Autograph Party!

In case you don't follow my other blog (, you might wonder why I've missed a few Friday Finds lists. Last March my husband bought a $10 raffle ticket at a fundraiser and we won a trip here:

The week of the trip was in October and I had a packed month between writing, teaching, vacation prep, and general family living, so I wasn't great about updating the Friday Finds. However, I have two additions to the list...

The Ghost's Grave by Peg Kehret; middle grade novel
Oooohhhh, one of my all time favorite stories! With characters like crazy Aunt Ethel who shoots a bat in her kitchen, dead Aunt Florence who has returned as a peacock, and persistent Willie, the ghost who wants his leg bones back, this page turner keeps your attention the whole way through. Josh, the main character, makes the story come to life with his feelings and actions. This book is a thrilling read that shouldn't be missed!

 Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson; picture book
I adore this book so much that I can recite it word for word (with accompanying actions!). What I love most about this rhyming picture book is that the story isn't sacrificed for the rhyme. So often I'll run across that in a book and it drives me mad. Not here. This beautifully illustrated story showcases loyalty and friendship in a humorous way and makes you want to be a character on the new broom at the end of the story. If you haven't read this picture book, you and your kids are missing out.

House on Hackman's Hill update: 
My daughter loved this book so much (from Friday Finds list #2) that it inspired this year's Halloween costume. She went as Anubis, Egyptian God of the Dead. It took a little imagination and a lot of hot glue, but we pulled it off!

Autograph Party 

Not to be missed, the Indiana region of SCBWI is hosting a book signing in Zionsville, Indiana on Saturday November 10th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Christmas is coming and this would be the perfect time to buy books for the readers in your life and have them signed by the authors (all of whom are great people). If you're in the area and have time, drop by 4Kids Books & Toys and support our Indiana authors!

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Katie's Friday Finds #2

Welcome to the second installment of my Friday book recommendations. If you're looking for action-packed, can't-stop-reading-it middle grade fiction, here are two books for you!

The House on Hackman's Hill by Joan Lowery Nixon; middle grade fiction
Two cousins, Jeff and Debbie, venture into an old mansion to solve a mystery and get a $10,000 reward. The only problem - Anubis, the Egyptian guardian of the dead, doesn't want them in the house. Anubis wants revenge! This is the ultimate thriller for a middle grade reader. It's suspenseful, gripping, and every chapter ends with a cliff hanger.

When I taught upper elementary, we always read this book around October and completed Egyptian activities based on the novel. The kids LOVED it! They would beg to read more. My daughter just finished this book and she had the same reaction, too. Whether you have an accelerated reader or a reluctant reader, this is a phenomenal book as it keeps kids hooked right from the start.

Spy Cat by Peg Kehret; middle grade fiction
Adventure awaits the reader in this novel as Pete the cat and his boy, Alex, get tangled up with two burglars while trying to solve a mystery that's been plaguing the neighborhood. This is another fast paced, exciting novel that kids won't want to put down.

The twist on this story is that Pete the cat co-authored the book. His versions of events will have you laughing out loud. He tends to get upset when his humans don't understand his meows. My daughter finished this book in less than a week, and it earned a rave review from her. This is also another teacher-tested book, and all the kids in class always enjoyed reading it.

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Katie's Friday Finds

Lately I've been reading lots of middle grade books since that's what my daughter currently reads and since I'm in the process of revising my middle grade novel. Then I thought, Well, I love sharing my favorite books with anyone who will listen, so why not put them on my blog?

So here it is, the first installment of Katie's Friday Finds. Each Friday you can stop by and find my recommendations for some great reads. I'll put the age level and a brief synopsis of why you should read this book (or have your child read it, or your niece, or your second cousin's neighbor's kid). I can't guarantee they'll all be middle grade books, or that they'll all be award winners of some kind or even how many books I'll put on the list each week.

What I can guarantee is that all these books have somehow inspired me, made me laugh or cry, helped me to think outside the box, and otherwise had characters that spoke to me and stayed with me long after the book was finished. That's what I deem a great story.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor; middle grade novel
I first read this book several years ago based on a recommendation from an editor at a writing conference. I loved the book then and I still love it. My daughter (age 8) finished reading this about a week ago and adored the story, too. If you're looking for a funny, heartwarming and sincere tale, here it is. The main character, Georgina, is homeless and lives in her car with her mom and brother. She devises a plan to steal a dog and get some reward money so her family can afford an apartment. Barbara O'Connor does a wonderful job taking the reader on an emotional journey with Georgina, as we sympathize with her plight even though we know what she's doing is wrong. This is a great story with a thoughtful message and deserves to be read.

Junie B., First Grader Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) Barbara Park; early chapter book
I'm including this Junie B. book because not only was it hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, but the message at the end was perfect. The premise of the book is Junie B.'s class has to make a list of everything they are thankful for and enter it to win a school contest. Of course, Junie B.'s class comes up with some outrageous items to put on their list. But really, all the items are stuff that kids are thankful for. And that's what makes the book so great, when you stop and think about all the little things in life that make us thankful, like toilet paper and remote controls. I mean, can you imagine life without either of those, particularly the toilet paper?!

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Sweet Success

Whew! It's been a whirlwind ever since the Trails to Sweet Success conference ended almost two weeks ago, and I'm happy to report that the conference was a sweet success, with no major glitches and all speakers giving wonderful, information-filled sessions and excellent critiques on our work!

The conference was held at McCormick Creek State Park in Spencer, Indiana, and it was a wonderful drive. Here's what I saw most of the trip:

Two-lane roads for the entire drive. I love flat land and cornfields! Yeah, Indiana!

The lodge was quaint and charming. The Canyon Inn staff was extremely helpful, especially KJ and Marc, our two techies that helped set up projectors, computers, presentations, etc.

Canyon Inn

Some of my personal favorite conference highlights included hearing one of our members discuss the Nigeria Library Project he's created, learning how to physically page out a picture book, putting names with faces of all the members I always communicate with via email, attending the very inspirational HoosierLinks meeting on Sunday, and talking with our conference faculty about their lives in the city. I loved the short hike to the waterfall as well.

Some of our conference faculty; Andrew, Eve, and Jessica

This conference definitely ranks near the top of all conferences I've been to (and I've been to lots!). It was a great learning experience and a joy to be around other writers for an entire weekend.

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nature and Writing

I am geeked out....this is the weekend! Our Indiana SCBWI conference, held at McCormick's Creek State Park in southern Indiana is taking place Friday through Sunday. A weekend mixed with nature, inspiration, writing comrades, editors, agents and fun. Does it get better than that?

The conference starts off Friday night, runs all day Saturday and ends with my HoosierLinks meeting on Sunday, where attendees will gather and share bits of inspiration and helpful hints that they can take away from the meeting and use immediately. We're also having a book swap, so every attendee that brings a gently used book on the craft of writing/illustrating can take a different book on their craft. We've never had a swap quite like this, so I'm hoping it turns out 'fair and square', as my daughter says.

And while I'm off enjoying two of my favorite treasures in life, nature and writing, my other two treasures, my husband and daughter, will be back at the homestead taking care of a rather pressing issue. If you follow my other blog, you'll know just what I'm talking about (can we say...bawk, baawwkk, baaawwwkkk)? Check it out here,

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica

I finished reading Miracle on 49th Street this morning. I went into the story with high expectations, since one of my favorite MG novels is Heat, also written by Mike Lupica. I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed, although I still think Heat is my favorite that he's written.

The story premise of Miracle on 49th Street involves basketball and I'm not much of a basketball fan, which is why I was hesitant to start the book. It's been in our book basket for 6 weeks now, and I've renewed as many times as possible with our library, so I either had to read it or return it unread.

I'm sure glad I read it. My favorite part of Mike Lupica's writing is the way he builds characters. He creates depth and personality, so that I feel like these characters are my friends. The friendship that he created between Molly and Sam, the main character of the story and her sidekick, was so real and true. You can't help but root for them throughout the novel.

It takes great skill to build characters this way and maintain them throughout the story. If you're looking for a good example of how to create a strong friendship between characters in your novel, Miracle on 49th Street is a fine place to start.

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Turning Swords into Plowshares

Last night I listened to Peggy Reiff Miller speak about the seagoing cowboys, a subject near and dear to her heart. She was asked to speak at the last in a series of Peace and Popcorn events, and the subject was titled Turning Swords into Plowshares.

Peggy and I are in the same writing group and she has devoted the last ten (or more) years of her time researching and writing about the seagoing cowboys. Her historical YA novel, which is phenomenal and will most certainly be on shelves someday, is about a seagoing cowboy who is trying to find his horse.

It was so enlightening to hear stories from real seagoing cowboys, who traveled on ships after WWII taking livestock to countries that were devastated by war. The cowboys who attended the event each shared what they remembered from their trips across the sea. Some common shared threads witnessed by the cowboys included the destruction left behind after war, and the evils of the concentration camps, including the soap making factories, which I had little knowledge of until reading the draft of Peggy's book.

The cowboys got several laughs sharing stories of being seasick. The up and down, teeter-totter feeling of the ship seemed to resonate with them all.

Peggy has done a great service by saving a part of history that would have otherwise been lost. You can read more about her work on her Seagoing Cowboys website. It is a unique and wonderful part of history that you may not know about.

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Blog Title

My friend Anne recently started following my blog, and she questioned me about the title. I realized I've had lots of questions about my blog title over the years and maybe lots of others are wondering the same thing. Why would I title a blog after mouse poop?

At times, I can have a rather bizarre sense of humor, which is how the title came about. My first writing I ever sold was a picture book project based on a mouse. When I think of mice, I think of their droppings. And I know that I'm not a blogger that blogs on a regular basis. I tend to 'drop in' and post when I have something to write about. Which is how I came up with Droppings, since I'm just dropping in and blogging. It's simple, and sort of weird, but that's how I came up with the title.

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Friday, April 20, 2012

SCBWI Conference at McCormick's Creek

No... I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth. Although it may seem that way, since I have not blogged in, well, forever. I've been busy editing, but that's slowed down considerably since the first of the year, which has allowed me to devote more time to what I really love, writing!

On the writing front, our big SCBWI conference, held at McCormick's Creek State Park this year, is just around the corner. With only a month to go, I've been busy preparing for the manuscript critique, learning about the editors that are presenting, and organizing the HoosierLinks event that will be held Sunday morning after the conference.

I can't wait to see everyone, and hope that all our Indiana members are planning to attend!

Thanks for stopping by,