A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


It is so strange not to be working on this year's New England SCBWI Spring Conference. I really miss it. But I love Co-director, 20% of all Alex and Ani sales of the Make Your Mark Charm, benefits generationOn to inspire, equip, and mobilize youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Learning & the Brain Conference

November 15-17 I was in Boston for a Learning and the Brain Conference. I had been to others but this one was different. I left Boston on Sunday knowing that I and the school where I work have it right. We work with each child, finding ways that will support their learning needs. David Sobel said that it is, "about individual differences NOT learning styles," and he is right. The students I work with are amazing and different. I see beyond their challenges and know they are brilliant, empathetic, and avid learners. They never let their dyslexia, slow processing,, or executive functioning weaknesses stop from excelling.

Our current educational system does not have to be set in stone. Our country and our educational directives are still in their infancy compared to other countries.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanksgivukah = Rededication and Thanks

Thanksgivukah can only mean one thing, the convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. This could be the best mash-up ever for Jewish-Americans, Foodies, or any one who simply loves the idea of these two holidays being celebrated together. Chanukah starts at sundown on November 27th and the first full day of this 8-day festival of lights is on Thanksgiving.

Photo from
Think about how delicious this holiday mash-up will be: sweet potato and ginger latkes, pumpkin challah, Manischewitz-flavored Marshmallows, the possibilities are endless. So get creative and make you holiday meal one to remember.

Now, add into the mix, that Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for what we have, for the freedoms we enjoy, and for reflecting on the past, present, and future. Chanukah's, the festival of lights celebrates rededicating yourself to your beliefs and believing in miracles.

I believe I can complete the first draft of my next novel by January 1, 2014. To do so, I give thanks to my family who supports me and my dreams, for my friends who actually read my books, and for the life I am able to lead because of all the wonderful people who fill my life.

So when you are eating turkey and latkes, I hope you spend some time thinking about what you are thankful for and what you want to rededicate yourself too. Life is short, eat latkes!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What do Writing and Motherhood have in Common?

Writing is often about letting go and seeing where your characters will take you. Writing is a lot like motherhood. The time comes when you have to let go and see your children take flight. Maybe you have already experienced this or maybe you are fast approaching the moment when the world changes. 

Today was my day to let my firstborn drive solo for the very first time. I knew he could do it because I taught him how to drive. I know he is cautious and competent, what I can’t control are the other drivers on the road who might not be.

Letting go means he has to take chances and I have to believe he will always be safe and come home because that is what a mother must do. It is what a writer must do. Often you have to go to the scary places in your mind to be able to know your characters. I know my son, its time for him to soar. He will make the right choices and go to all the places he needs to go on his journey. 

It’s time for me to let him go.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Hampshire Statewide Book Awards for Children and Teens

For those of you who are interested in the New Hampshire Statewide Book Awards for Children and Teens, they are listed below.

Ladybug Picture Book Award is sponsored by the Center for the Book at the NH State Library, this award is given to a picture book that is voted the best of ten titles by children pre-K through 3rd grade. Many librarians are currently promoting the ten books on the 2013 list, reading the books at their library storytime and to classroom groups, this is their way of preparing their kids to vote in November. To see the picture ballot, tally sheet and promotional materials, go to http://www.nh.gov/nhsl/bookcenter/programs/ladybug.html

Great Stone Face Award is for students in grades 4-6 choose their favorite book from a list of 20 titles. The booklist for 2013-14 is available on the CHILIS website at http://chilis.nhlibrarians.org/gsf/ . Be sure to click on the awards' tab for drop-down menus that lead to booktalks, brochures and other promotional material. Librarians are currently promoting the books on the 2013-14 list. This award is sponsored by CHILIS.

Isinglass Teen Read Award is also sponsored by CHILIS. This award is given to the book that receives the most votes by students in grades 7 and 8. All 15 nominations are books suggested by students. Librarians are currently promoting the 2013-14 list and encouraging students to submit suggestions for the 2014-15 list. Students will cast their ballots for the winning title on the 2013-14 list in April 2014. For more information and promotional material, go to http://www.barringtonlibrary.com/barrington/isinglass.asp
The Flume: Teen Readers' Choice Award is geared for students in grades 9-12. High school students vote for their favorite book from a list of 10 titles. Only high school teens can suggest titles for the list. The 2013-2014 list is available on the YALS website at http://yals.nhlibrarians.org/book-awards/flume/ Teen librarians are currently promoting the 2013-14 list and will soon be encouraging teens to submit nominations online for the 2014-15 list. The Flume Award is sponsored by YALS.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Children's Author Blog Hop

This week I am participating in the Children’s Author Blog Hop.  For this Blog Hop, participating authors were asked to answer four identical questions and then invite additional children’s authors to join in the “Hop.”  My invitees are Ansha Kotyk  and Laura Pauling.

I am so grateful that my dear friend, the picture book goddess, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, was kind enough to reach out to me via social media and ask me join in the fun.

Joyce Shor Johnson & Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
The Meeting of two great minds
(2009 NESCBWI Conference)
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen writes across the spectrum. Her work includes picture books, fiction and non-fiction for both children and even adults. Her upcoming middle grade chapter book series, Spectacles of Destiny, and her latest picture book Duck, Duck, Moose! illustrated by Noah Z. Jones is coming out January 2014.  You can find Sudipta at these social media sites: Website, blog, which she shares with author Kami Kinard, Facebook, Twitter.

Blog Hop Interview of Joyce Shor Johnson

What are you working on right now? 
Over the last year, while Co-Directing the 2013 NESCBWI Conference, I had been toying with an idea for a contemporary young adult novel. Now that my two-year commitment to NESCBWI is complete, I have started writing again and I am two chapters into my WIP. This is the fun part, because I am still learning about my characters, which often leads to unexpected developments.
I’ve also been outlining and working on a number of non-fiction picture books, including one about the art of keeping secrets.

How does it differ from other works in the genre?
My first two books, THE CASTING and HOUSE OF GIRLS are historical fiction. My current work-in-progress is contemporary and focuses on how social media has become ruling factor in how we communicate. The two non-fiction picture books are experimental, and I’m waiting to see how they turn out.

Why do you write what you do?
I write for children because my characters always seem to be kids on the threshold of change. 

What is the hardest part about writing?
Finding the time to outline and then the time to write the first draft. Once I know where I’m going and have the time, the writing is easy.  

Here are the two talented writers that I’ve invited to the Blog Hop, (I wanted to invite everyone I knew, but there are limits).

Ansha Kotyk lives in Massachusetts where she writes upper middle grade stories full of adventure in the modern day with a twist of fantasy. What that fantastical twist is… well, it depends on what her cat whispers in her ear while she’s writing.

Her characters have strong family ties, and value their friendships. They also seem to get into a great deal of trouble and meet some seriously evil bad guys in their stories. You can find Natasha at these social media sites:

, her first novel, spent 3 weeks in the top 10 of Hot New Releases in children’s books about bullies, is a story about a boy, a bully and a magical comic book that transports its readers to the gangster era of the 1920′s. Book #2 in the Ink Portal series follows the friends on a Geo-caching treasure hunt in a mysterious haunted mountain range, Apocalypse Junction will be out later this year.

Laura Pauling writes about spies, murder and mystery. She’s the author of the exciting Circle of Spies Series, and the time travel mystery, Heist. She’s a former elementary teacher and currently lives in New England. After spending time reading books to her kids and loving a good plot turn, she put her fingers to the keyboard. Don’t ask her about the unfinished quilts and scrapbooks. Stories are way more exciting. She writes to entertain and experience a great story…and to be able to work in her jammies and slippers. You can find Laura at these social media sites: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

HEIST, One night Jack travels back in time to one of the world’s largest art thefts, known as the Gardner Heist. Why that one moment in time? And what does it mean for Jack?
When he returns, his world is different. His best friend is rougher, meaner. His dad hasn’t been around in years. And then there’s Jetta. The girl who took over his heart the moment she stepped into his life. No one is safe. Each time Jack goes back to the heist to fix his mistakes, he returns to face the fallout. Disaster strikes in the present until Jack must make a choice. His family and his own happiness. Or the girl he loves. Except, he learns that his sixth sense was right. Someone has been watching him and wants him dead.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

HEIST by Laura Pauling

Author Laura Pauling knows how to write thrilling fiction. Her latest novel, HEIST, continues the tradition. The inspiration for HEIST came about because of her interest in the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist.

One night Jack travels back in time to one of the world’s largest art thefts, known as the Gardner Heist. Why that one moment in time? And what does it mean for Jack?

When he returns, his world is different. His best friend is rougher, meaner. His dad hasn’t been around in years. And then there’s Jetta. The girl who took over his heart the moment she stepped into his life. No one is safe.

Each time Jack goes back to the heist to fix his mistakes, he returns to face the fallout. Disaster strikes in the present until Jack must make a choice. His family and his own happiness. Or the girl he loves. Except, he learns that his sixth sense was right.

Someone has been watching him and wants him dead.

Pauling explains:

I love heists - any and all kinds: art theft, diamonds, bank robberies, con stories…etc. Some of my favorite movies and books involve a heist of some sort. So a few years back, I decided to write about one. But which one?

I turned to my best friend in times like this - Google. I plugged in the words, famous art heist. And on the very first page I found the Gardner Heist. I still didn’t think much of it, but I clicked on it, and the word, Boston, flashed on the screen. What? There was a famous heist in a museum in a city near me? The decision was made.

Of course, I knew absolutely nothing about the museum or the heist.

So, the research started. I read nonfiction books and learned the ins and outs of the crime. It truly was fascinating. At that point in time, the heist was coming on twenty years - and it had never been solved! That hooked me even more.

This was an amazing opportunity for me. My books have been set in Paris, Greece, Prague, and the ruins of the ancient Maya. I had to learn what I could of those settings from blogs, books, Youtube videos…etc. It was incredible to go to Boston, walk through the museum, stroll through the Public Garden, ride the T - all settings in my story. Of course, soaking in the atmosphere and scribbling down details I’d be sure to forget otherwise.

You’ll find all those details in Heist. Plus, you’ll walk through details of one of the most famous art heists.

Interview 101 with Laura Pauling:

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?

No, I haven’t. I’d love to say I’m one of those writers that wrote her first story when she was 3 months old. But, I’ve always loved a good story. It wasn’t until I was home with my kids that I got the urge to create my own. Before then, though, I always had a creative outlet. I loved putting together small photo albums. I quilted - for a little bit, even finishing a wall hanging. And I put a lot of time into the children’s ministry at my church, planning events. The earliest creative memory I have is designing a line of cards to sell in the neighborhood.

What’s a recent book you’ve read that you absolutely loved? And what will you be reading?

The last book that I couldn’t put down and loved was Twenty Eight and a Half Wishes by DeniseGrover Swank. A book I’m looking forward to reading soon is Nomad by J.L. Bryan - another time travel thriller.

What do you like to do in your free time? Any other creative pursuits?

Right now, outside of writing, my time is spent with my family and my kids. I enjoy hanging with them, especially because every time I blink, they seem to get a year older. I still participate in my church, co-leading the middle school youth group too.

Will there be a sequel to Heist? Or will you be working on something new?

Right now, Heist is a stand-alone novel. If I were to write a sequel it would be from Jetta’s point of view on one of the alternate time lines. When I hit this alternate time line in Heist, I realized there was a lot more to tell there. And, of course, other heists to write about.

I’m eagerly planning, plotting and outlining an adult light-hearted romantic mystery. We’ll see what happens when the writing starts. I’d love to turn it into a series.

Read an excerpt of HEIST now!

At the bottom step, I hesitate. Moonlight reflects off a metal napkin holder and a half-finished puzzle left out for customers. It’s a small shop, and the faded smell of cinnamon clings to everything. Even our upstairs apartment.
I breathe in the scent, drawing courage from all that is familiar. Times like this I wish for Dad. He’d know what to do.
The floor creaks from the other side of the room. 
My heart crawls into my throat, choking me. My knees weaken and my sweaty hands slip on the handle of the bat.
Step up and be a man. Those were Dad’s words, spoken into a telephone on the other side of the glass partition.
I think back to that day, the visit Mom knows nothing about. The smeared glass, the stubble on Dad’s chin and the fierce look in his eye that said he’d be outta there next week. But the next week turned into months and then years.
As my eyes adjust, the vague outline of a man appears in front of a painting on the wall. He reaches out and traces his finger down the gilded frame.
My pulse pounds so loud against the inside of my head, I can’t think. I stumble forward and raise the bat above my head. “Who’s there?” My voice shakes.
With his back to me, the intruder hesitates, his finger at the bottom of the frame. He doesn’t turn or flinch or seem to care who’s behind him. His black suit is tailored to fit his body and much too fancy for this time of night.
Sweat beads on my forehead and it feels like hours before the man clears his throat to speak. My arms shake. I debate whether to whack the guy in the legs with the bat and then take him out with one good punch.
“You been behaving yourself, kid?”
I freeze. The bat drops with a thud.
The words, the tone of voice, remind me of lazy spring afternoons when Stick and I would find my dad and uncle under the hood of their latest piece-of-shit car. I can taste the cold iced-tea and homemade cookies. I can feel the warm air against my face and smell the gasoline and grease. That was when I was thirteen and thought my dad was perfect. At sixteen, I know better.
Dad turns and steps forward, his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his tuxedo. All suave and elegant, he looks like a star from the old black and white movies Aunt Fiona watches. His parole is tomorrow. Did they let him out early? Or did he break out? 

Book & Author Details:
Heist by Laura Pauling
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Celebrate Summer 2013

So much has happened since my last post at the beginning of May. It was just a day before the 2013 NESCBWI conference that I directed and I was so entrenched in the final details. The conference went so smoothly and then suddenly, I was just done. No more planning, or checking and rechecking details. Just quiet exhaustion!

Logan Airport, June 2013
I had planned a vacation with my daughter to London and Paris just because I wanted time with her and because I knew I would need a distraction from the quiet of no longer planning out the conference. I packed for that and off we went.The Flight out of Logan was delayed due to severe thunderstorms but this amazing rainbow heralded the days ahead and we had a flawless flight to Heathrow. We spent several days with in-laws and then stayed in Central London and saw one of our former Cultural Care Au Pairs. It had been 6 years and she was amazed at how "her" Kendra had grown up!

We had a lovely surprise when arriving at the Globe Theater for a tour, we were able to see a full dress rehearsal for the upcoming performance of MACBETH. It was a true gift and I enjoyed it very much.
Paris France, June 2013

We headed over to St. Pancras Train Station and
waited for our train to Paris. I was nervous since I speak no French, but I should have known...I never have a problem communicating!It was so nice to visit family and friends in London and to make a few new ones in Paris. The 10 day trip flew by and I was home again only to to be so very lucky to be able to spend some time spend some time at Lake Champlain with Murray and his lovely companion, Nancy.

Another quick turnaround and I was on my way to Gettysburg, PA for the 4th of July. While sitting in the car, I was finally able to start reading my copy of Chris Eboch's ADVANCED PLOTTING. Get a copy, it is excellent!

Versailles, France June 2013
PA was great. Visited a dear and now (old) friend and her family and introduced them to some new friends from New Hampshire who came with us! Now I am helping my daughter to pack for camp and then I will start plotting the next grand adventure!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

House of Girls Free on Amazon

In celebration of my almost being free to write again and the New England SCBWI Conference this weekend that will keep me from obsessing about download numbers (thank you NESCBWI), House Of Girls is free on Amazon today and tomorrow (May 2nd & 3rd). Enjoy!

House of Girls is about being fifteen, falling in love, and getting pregnant—all of which is a real problem if it is 1961, you’re Jewish, your boyfriend isn’t, and you are determined to keep your baby—especially if your parents want you to “fix” the problem.

At the end of 1961, life is still suspended in the ideals of the 1950s, but it is only a short leap into the turbulent 196os, where young women fought for and won, independence for themselves, their children, and their right to love on their own terms.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Get Ready - NESCBWI 2013 Conference

It is just around the corner! NESCBWI Word-By-Word: The Art of Craft Conference in Springfield, MA. The largest gathering for industry professions in children's literature. You can follow the conference on twitter using the hashtag #nescbwi13

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Cover - The Casting

Check out the new cover for The Casting!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

House of Girls - Available Now!

By Joyce Shor Johnson
Sharon knows being fifteen, falling in love, and getting pregnant—is a real problem in 1961, especially if like her, you are Jewish and your boyfriend isn’t.

It all starts when Irish roars into Sharon’s life late one humid summer afternoon in the Catskills. He propels her into the grown-up world of love, sex, lies, and scandal. For ultra-conservative Jewish women and girls, spending summers in the Catskill Mountains is not just about escaping the heat of the Bronx. In the Catskills, you are freed from the restrictive confines of what it means to be “a good Jewish girl.”

Sharon’s parents relax their grip on her enough so she is able to spend her summer days learning about love with Irish. The end of the summer means a return to her “real” world but not an end to Sharon and Irish’s relationship. When Sharon discovers her pregnancy, her parents have her remanded to a home for unwed Jewish girls, and assume she will give up the child.

In the home for unwed mothers, Sharon struggles to find a place for herself. Along the way, she bonds with a few of the girls, each with her own story of pain and drama in a world where abortion is illegal and the stigma of being pregnant and unwed is harsh and humiliating. Gradually, the shared stories and dreams help Sharon find the strength to stand against her parents, family court, and the adoption agency so she can give birth to her baby.

At the end of 1961, life is still suspended in the ideals of the 1950s, but it is only a short leap into the turbulent 196os, where women fought for and won, independence for themselves, their children, and their right to love on their own terms.

Will Sharon make the leap?