Nobody But Timmy

I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Story Contest. The task – tell a holiday story in 250 words or less about a holiday hero. Here goes!

Nobody But Timmy (238 words)

     ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all the creatures in Timmy’s house were stirring.

Nobody noticed Jasper (Grandma’s cat) eyeing the twinkling ornaments.

Nobody but Timmy.

He rescued the glass ball just before it shattered on the ground.

Nobody noticed Percy (Aunt Rosie’s parrot) squawking and swooping ‘round the tree top.

Nobody but Timmy.

He spread his arms over the angel’s wings just before Percy pecked them off.

When Grandma gathered everyone around the piano for carol singing, nobody noticed Fred and Ginger (Uncle Mike’s two golden Labs) sneaking into the kitchen.

Nobody but Timmy.

Timmy tried his best to get the family’s attention.

He jumped and bumped.

He yammered and yelled.

He even sang off key!

But he just couldn’t compete with “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”



Everybody dashed to the kitchen. And there, right in the middle of the floor, was the Christmas ham…

…with a bite missing from both ends!

“Oh, no! Our guests will be arriving for dinner and we have no ham!” exclaimed Mom.

Nobody offered any ideas.

Nobody but Timmy.

“I know! We can cover the holes with strips of bacon. No one will even notice,” he said.

“Hmmm. That just might work,” said Mom.

“A splendid idea!” squawked Aunt Rosie and Percy.

“Ham and bacon –a perfect pair!  Just like Fred and Ginger,” added Uncle Mike.

“Timmy, you’re our holiday hero!” said Grandma.

And this time everybody noticed.


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NCTE Reflections

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On Friday at NCTE I attended a workshop titled “Writing Poetry in the Wild” with Heidi Mordhorst, Irene Latham, Margaret Simon, Laura Purdie Salas, and May Lee Hahn. One of the ideas Laura shared was to think about our connections to the world. She encouraged us to look around, especially when we are someplace new, write a poem that shows that place, then make a connection to a feeling or perhaps a memory. She passed out post-it notes and challenged everyone to write a poem at some point during the convention.

On Saturday morning I found myself in a quiet room, waiting for the next session. I opened my notebook and found that post-it. It was the perfect time to write. I started by listing words that came to mind about NCTE – things I saw or heard, feelings I had, what I noticed. I hope this list poem captures the excitement of the first day:

Friday at NCTE

Scurry down the hall

Quick embrace

So good to see you

Can we catch up later?

Treasured friends

New ideas





And here’s a haiku for the whole experience:


Opening minds to

Fresh ideas and discourse

React and renew


Thanks to all the authors, friends, speakers, participants, and volunteers who inspired me at NCTE.

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What I’m Reading This Monday


Just got back from the NCTE conference in Houston! It was full of learning, reconnecting, meeting and hearing from great speakers and authors, and of course BOOKS. This morning I unpacked the book stack I was fortunate enough to come home with – poetry, picture books, novels, F&G’s, ARCs.

Laurie Purdie Salas very kindly gifted me with an F&G of her book of Haiku riddles due out in April – Lion of the Sky: Haiku For All Seasons from Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing). This is a beautiful book not to be missed. I found myself reading each poem over and over again just to let the words sink in and fill my heart. The illustrations from Mercè López perfectly complement the text. And there is back matter! Readers are invited to try writing their own riddle-ku and are given suggestions for further reading.

Happy reading this week, and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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It’s Monday – What I’m Reading

IMWAYRPart of the perks of being on a book award committee is getting books to review. Last week I received a box of books from Boyds Mills Press (thank you!). So here’s what I’ll be reading this week:

Book Stack 1

A few I’ve gotten started with include:

Dreaming of You by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Aaron DeWitt is, well…just dreamy! Amy’s lyrical language and Aaron’s inviting illustrations combine to deliver a wonderful read, perfect for bedtime or any time a story is begging to be read.

In I Just Like You, Suzanne Bloom reminds young readers that friends don’t have to be exactly alike, and that we should appreciate the diversity we find in the world. Perfect for preschoolers!

A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights is a wonderful picture book biography by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Alison Jay. I learned a lot about this lesser known (at least to me) champion of equal rights. Belva Lockwood was the first woman to appear on a presidential ballot, and she did it at a time when women couldn’t vote! This book includes a timeline and primary source quotes making it a perfect mentor text for young nonfiction writers.

Garbage Island by Fred Koehler will be my travel read as I make my way to Houston for NCTE 18 later in the week.

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The Story Dispenser

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Last week I attended the Keystone State Literacy Conference in State College, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions. It’s always fun to return to Happy Valley where I spent four very formative years as an undergraduate. Of course, that was fifty years ago, and much has changed in that time.

One of the optional pre-conference events was a tour of the library. I hadn’t been in the library in…well, probably close to forty-five years, so I jumped at the chance to rediscover this special space.

As we entered I took a minute to orient myself. The massive staircases still framed the front lobby, but the Starbucks tucked in the back was new. The room with the long study tables and card catalogs now housed comfortable chairs and couches arranged in small group spaces. There were more rooms, large and small, more spaces designated for creating, more computers, and on a Sunday afternoon…more students. I think that is what stood out to me the most. There were students everywhere on computers and tablets, working alone and together. The library was a hub of activity!

Near the entrance was a Short Edition short story dispenser. Here you could opt to receive a 1, 3, or 5-minute story at the touch of a button. The stories are written by Penn State students, faculty, and staff and submitted for distribution. The program, started about a year or so ago, is an attempt to encourage more people to spend time reading and writing literature.

Short Story Dispenser

I copied this from the PSU Short Edition website: “Together let’s make the world a more poetic place by encouraging reading and writing, while showcasing Penn State authors internationally.”

Sounds good to me! I believe that it is “story” that will bring us to a better understanding of each other and what it means to live in kindness. Wouldn’t it be great to have these dispensers everywhere, like Little Free Libraries? Perhaps it is a movement, I just never saw it before.

And by the way…thank you, Sabrina, for your engaging story “The Model Employee.”

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Zadie’s Halloween Surprise

I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Story Contest. The task – tell a complete story in 100 words or less that uses the words shiver, howl, and cauldron in any form. Here goes!

Zadie’s Halloween Surprise (98 words)

“Not fair!” screamed Zadie Zombie. “Tonight is Halloween! I want to bellow like a banshee at Zeke and Zelda’s party! Not be stuck in bed with a cold!”

“Back to bed, my little hobgoblin,” insisted her Mom.


A howling, shivery wind whistled through the window sash.

The lights dimmed.

Zadie heard footsteps.


She cracked the door and…

…caught a glimpse of gooey gobs of gator guts in a witch’s cauldron.

“Surprise! We brought the party to you!” shouted Zeke and Zelda.

The friends gobbled and slurped and bellowed like banshees the rest of All Hallows’ Eve.

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Finding the Details

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My friend and I sat in the almost-empty restaurant catching up on personal news over a late dinner. We talked about our grown children (conversations about kids happens at all ages), upcoming special events, and the little details that make up a life. We met in part to celebrate my birthday which we mentioned a few times during the course of the evening. When it was time to order dessert, we declined. That is, until the waiter mentioned that he overheard us talking about a birthday and explained to us that a free dessert was offered to anyone celebrating a birthday. Of course we quickly changed our minds and decided to indulge.

Last week Kate Messner posted tips from seven authors for the National Day of Writing. Kate’s tip was about finding the small details in a scene – something that brings the writing back to the personal. That’s what happened that night in the restaurant. The waiter found the small detail, a birthday celebration, in the bits of conversation he overheard. His attention to detail turned what might have been an ordinary dinner between friends into a true celebration.

The baked salted caramel cookie topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream was delicious. It even came with a candle – another small detail that shouldn’t be missed when celebrating a birthday.

As writers and teachers and citizens, it is important to attend to the stories held in the small details of life.


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