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What Do You Do With An Idea?, written by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom, published by Compendium, Inc. (2014) is a picture book, but not one for small children. Its thought-provoking, life-enriching big idea will resonate better with older children and adults. If the YA people in your life can get past that it has illustrations, What Do You Do With An Idea? may find a place in their hearts as well.

The story is told from the point of view of a young boy. He says he had an idea. (The idea looks like an egg wearing a small crown.) The boy doesn’t know what to do with the idea and so, like many of us when we get an idea, he walks away from it. But the idea follows him on its chicken legs.

With the honesty and simplicity of a child, the boy tells us of his fears and his joy as he and the idea spend time together. He realistically tells us of his struggles as they continue their friendship. The story ends happily. The ending is a little over the top, but when we consider that this is a picture book, we can forgive it for its big happily-ever-after moment. (And who knows, some “ideas” do have this kind of ending.)

The illustrations are active and evocative. While full of energy, they also manage to have a thoughtfulness about them that perfectly suits the fable. There is a really interesting use of color. In the beginning it is used sparingly. The world is gray except for the yellow egg. As the boy and the idea become friends, more color enters the boy’s world. Vibrant color erupts and spills out onto the last pages as the story reaches its exciting ending.

Adults will be touched with compassion for the boy and his idea and remember with tenderness their own experiences with new ideas. Elementary school children will find themselves in this story and be encouraged.

What Do You Do With An Idea? is a great book. I think writers, artists, scientists and other dreamers should have it on their book shelves and take it down and read it when necessary. And there will be days when it will be necessary.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.






Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space by Kathi Lipp and published by Harvest House Publishers (2015) is a book you can’t do without. Since I began reading the book a week ago, I have gotten rid of six bags of clutter and twenty extra dinner plates. I am experiencing a new sense of freedom because I don’t have to deal with so much extra stuff around my house. This book could change your life in an amazing way.

Kathi’s basic idea is that if you have so much extra stuff lying around, it will rob you of your peace and keep you from enjoying the things in your house you really appreciate. She gives three magic questions to help set the reader free from the pressure of having too much. They are: 1) Do I currently use it? 2) Do I really love it? and 3) Would I buy it again? If not, donating it, selling it or giving it away to someone would be helpful.

The book is full of many short, practical how-to suggestions for the clutter-minded individual. There is also a chapter about what to do if you live with someone who has a tendency to keep clutter. She brings up spiritual aspects of living clutter free. There are helpful Bible verses and reasons why people get themselves overwhelmed with clutter in the first place. There are also chapters about how to control your spending.

This book would be very good as a ministry tool. For the unsaved person who won’t read an outwardly spiritual book, this one has Bible verses and spiritual principles throughout. I have a coworker who wants to read it. It is very easy to read and doesn’t make you feel guilty, like other books on the subject.

Overall, I am so thankful I read this book. As Kathi says, it gives us quick and easy steps to simplifying our space. The reason most of us want to do that is to bring us less stress and more peace in our home environments. May this book bless you as it did me.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”


Shout out to all would-be writers who live in the San Francisco Bay Area! Carol Green and I will be teaching classes on writing for children in Castro Valley at the Christian Writers Seminar this weekend. There will be many other classes offered as well including those on fiction writing, writing articles, writing for teens, doing research, etc. Check out the website . The cost is very reasonable for this kind of thing. Hope to see you there.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I want to say thank you to the writers who try to listen to God and write stories that will help children. Writing can be a joyful experience, but it’s also often a  struggle. Doubts as to whether we have anything to say and doubts as to whether we can say it well become a little, a lot, intense.  Sometimes they become more real and more visible than the computer screen in front of our faces. We run away to other things–anything. Suddenly, clean floors need washing; a cooking show needs watching, and the mail needs sorting. God allows us, but then after a bit He takes our hands and leads us back to the keyboard. He breathes His courage into us and still rattled–we are only flesh and blood–we tell the stories that we hope will encourage a child or a teen.  So thank you to the writers!

Thank you also to the adults who make the time–and it does take time–to look into books and consider whether a particular one will help or hurt a young person. You grasp that reading is more than just a pastime or a brain exercise. You understand that what children and teens read does affect them and you care.  You know that what they read is food for their souls and you want them to “eat” the stuff that will help them grow up healthy and strong. I’m thanking you because I’m not sure that many people are thanking you or even noticing what you are doing or that is very important. They should, but they’re not. So thank you.

And thank you, God, for loving us and taking care us.



One of my sisters and I had a “misunderstanding” last week. It got a little emotional. OK, it quickly got a lot emotional. I hung up and despair rose up within me like a monster. Sharpening its claws and licking its lips, it prepared to eat me.

I called a friend and asked for prayer. After I told her what was going on, she prayed for me. (I am so thankful.) Then I took a walk. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling the warm sun on my face, I noticed my feelings of hopelessness were lifting. The accusations and rules from childhood, though they didn’t stop talking, did stop yelling. God was helping me. I knew it.

Back at home I told my husband the gist of what had happened. As I talked, I realized there was a lot of  “drama” in my conversation with my sister. Family stuff has often been that way, but did it have to be?

My husband didn’t think so; he cut to the bottom line. “You don’t need all the things you’re asking her for. What’s the one thing you need? Can she do that?” he asked.

It was a light bulb moment. I called my sister, getting her voice mail. I asked for the one thing I needed.

Later she called me back.

“I’m so sorry,” I said rushing into the conversation. “I handled that badly.’

“Me, too,” she murmured.

“You know,” I said, “all this emotional stuff makes great theater, but it’s not so good in real life.”

She laughed.

We worked out our differences. It was good. It was a lesson.

But God wasn’t done. During the week that followed I got more opportunities to think about the lesson. An email from National Center for Biblical Parenting (They send parenting tips.) suggested telling your child to take a break from a trying situation and come back to it when he/she has calmed down a little. The email reminded me that this organization while respecting emotions also counsels parents to not let emotions rule them or their children. On another day while surfing TV, I chanced on a show where everyone got very upset over something that in reality could have been resolved easily. Instead the characters intensified the situation with bigger and bigger displays of temper, frustration and old arguments. I recognized the scene for what it was–a gimmick to keep me tuned in.

Writing instructors will often tell writers when you’re plotting a story, you need to keep ratcheting up the intensity–the character’s situation needs to become increasingly more uncomfortable for him, more and more hopeless. Readers will keep reading to see if the character can endure the unending (that is, until the last page) fires of life.

But is this the only way to keep a reader engaged? And is it a good way, particularly when it comes to children and teens? Is media teaching, training really, children and young adults to be adrenaline junkies?

As I mulled this over, I thought about To Kill a Mockingbird. I read this book twice as a teen and I loved it. I loved the language, the humor, the characters, and I realized this past week that I loved the rhythm of the plot. Harper Lee created exciting, can’t-wait-to-read-what-happens-next moments, but she often followed them with moments of explanation and understanding. These “sabbaths” tucked into the story endeared the book to me. The “rest” in these moments helped me brave and accept the harsher truths of other parts of the story.

Writers today are often criticized for plotting this way. But I’m thinking maybe we writers, for the good of the kids, should just ignore the criticisms.


Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer, and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

I can’t believe it. It’s almost February and I’m not ready for it. Carol Green and I are preparing to teach classes in February on writing for children. We are having fun, but there is still much to do. It’s a great seminar BTW, Friday night and Saturday most of the day–February 17-18. Here is the link Humorist James Watkins is the keynoter and there will be lots of good teaching from Ethel Herr, Cindy Martinusen Coloma, Rick Acker, John Vonhof, Suzy Flory, Suzanne Woods Fisher and others. Lynne Thompson and  John Olson will be teaching a track especially for teens.  If you live nearby and have wanted to write for publication, this seminar could be for you. I know it might be intimidating to follow the dream of writing, but be brave. Attend the seminar. God will show up. It’ll be exciting.


Dear Book Lovers,

For me there are so many things to be thankful for: family, friends, health, writing projects and most of all God’s ever present love and care.

When I think about this blog I am thankful for the people who have come alongside me–who have read books and written reviews. These friends have brought so much into my life–great books that I didn’t know about, thought-provoking discussions about parenting, and their friendship. I’ve like being part of a team. It has really been fun.

I am thankful for the friend who faithfully has read this blog and called me when she saw a typo. She has saved my face and she’s saved you some puzzling.

I am thankful for my husband who has listened to my ruminations and passionate outbursts about the children’s book world before I even dared to put any word up on the screen.

I am thankful for the many writers, editors and publishers who work diligently and faithfully to provide materials for kids that reveal God and His ways.

I am thankful for Word Press who gives me a way to connect with you.

I am thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Dear Book Lovers,

I know I left you dangling on Tuesday with “However…” But good news–today I continue Moira Allen’s column, The Second Time Around (Or, Creativity vs. Drudgery) from her Writing World newsletter. (I thought this next part was really helpful!!)

However… A synonym for “drudgery” might also be “work.” And there’s another mind-game that is common amongst writers (myself included) — the notion that “creativity” and “work” are opposites. If I have to WORK at coming up with an idea, a story, a rhyme, or whatever, it’s not real creativity, is it? Creativity, we often imagine, is something that flows spontaneously, like water from a stone. (Unfortunately, I suspect there are quite a few “creativity” teachers who foster this notion. I remember one rather vague lady who tried to jolly my class into writing poetry. When I chose to draw a picture of a willow instead, I was still lauded for being “creative” — even when I knew darn well I was simply being lazy.)

On the flip side, I can also remember assisting my father, who was a graphic artist — something I thought of as quite a creative profession (though, to be honest, he didn’t). I don’t know whether he honestly wanted to help me learn the ropes, or whether he just needed a pair of willing hands, but one of the tasks he set me (this was in pre-computer-graphics days) was to rub away all the oozy bits of rubber cement from his paste-ups. Now, this could possibly account for why I did not choose a career in graphic arts (though I suspect my lack of drawing talent might also have contributed) — but it also taught me an unpleasant, but lasting lesson: There is no job so creative that it doesn’t have its rubber-cement-rubbing side.

So now, with my novel, I find myself where the rubber cement hits the road, so to speak. I have a choice. I can put it aside and draw a willow tree, and convince myself that this is all I need to be a “creative genius.” I can tell myself that it’s “good enough” and start shopping it around to agents. I can tell myself that it’s totally brilliant, and if the agents don’t want it, that’s THEIR mistake. Or…

Or, I can put the butt back in the chair, and get to work. Because if “work” and “creativity” are opposites, they are coin-side opposites; one cannot exist without the other. Without creativity, there is no motivation to do the hard work; without the hard work, the creativity will never have a chance to shine. I can think of it as rubbing away rubber cement — or I can think of it as polishing a diamond.

So let me leave this with a salute to all my fellow drudging diamond-polishers out there — I know you are many! And I know that it often feels as if there’s more drudging than diamonds. Butwhat we’re really talking about here is dreams, right? And at the end of the day, nothing shines much brighter than a dream come true– no matter how hard we have to work to get there!

— Moira Allen, Editor, Chief Bottle Washer and Diamond Polisher

(Copyright 2011 by Moira Allen) (


Dear Book Lovers,

I’m in the throes of a second draft for Book 2 of my Edinburgh novels. And I’ve been struggling. I’ve also been upset and embarrassed that I’m struggling. Doing this draft shouldn’t be so hard, should it?

Moira Allen’s column in Writing World‘s newsletter ( landed in my e-mailbox the other day and gave me some perspective. It was too good to keep to myself so with her permission I’m running part of it today (I’ll run the rest of it on Thursday) for those of you who are writers, for those of you who know writers, and for those of you who want to be writers.

The Second Time Around (Or, Creativity vs. Drudgery) by Moira Allen

Last summer I completed the first draft of a novel. It was an occasion for rejoicing — for me, an unprecedented achievement. And make no mistake, I’m very, very proud of that.

However… When it comes to novels, the words “first draft” and “completed” are something of an oxymoron. A first draft doesn’t mean one has completed a novel. It means that one’s work has just begun.

When I started that first draft, I played a mind-game that you’ve probably heard of: The game of telling myself that it didn’t MATTER whether the writing was good. All that mattered was getting the words on the page. All that mattered was moving the story forward, scene by scene and chapter by chapter, from “Once upon a time” to “and they lived happily ever after.” It is an excellent mind-game and I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with that all-important first draft. It WORKS.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on the second draft. Because, by definition, one wouldn’t be DOING a second draft if quality didn’t matter. Absolutely the only reason to even undertake a second draft is to make your book BETTER. The second draft is where you accept the fact that while the first wasn’t bad, it also isn’t everything it should be — or that you want it to be. And if your book is ever to become what you want it to be, you have to get back into that chair and begin again. (And sometimes again and again…)

And now I will take a moment to offer an apology to several writers out there whom I’ve chafed, in years past, over the need to “edit.” I’ve known several very good writers who would, I was convinced, have crossed the line to GREAT writers if they’d only have been willing to follow through with a second draft. The general rationale for not doing so seemed to be that the writers in question just didn’t feel any creative spark, any enthusiasm, any motivation when it came to REWRITING.

Well, old friends, I hear you now. You’re absolutely right. When it comes to second drafts, “sparks” quite often just aren’t in it. Motivation is dim. The creative urge is on holiday, or contemplating the deep fulfillment to be found in rearranging the cupboard for the fourth time. If I thought it was difficult to keep butt in chair for the first draft, now I find myself scanning the calendar, muttering, “Don’t I have a root canal scheduled for today? No? Drat!” In short, a synonym for “second draft” might well be “drudgery.”


(Copyright 2011  by Moira Allen)

More on Thursday



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