Friday, September 07, 2018

Custom PJs: A Read, Discuss, Do! Activity

WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON'T GO TO BED is the fourth in a series of board books by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. When your monkeys won't go to bed, what can you do? You may need to trick them into feeling sleepy. But be careful. Getting your monkeys to go to bed might make you sleepy too! WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON'T GO TO BED is a (slightly) wild and fun read that is perfect for bed time, play time, or any time!


DISCUSS: What kind of pajamas do you sleep in? If you could have any PJs that you want, what would they look like? What would they feel like? 

DO: Design your own custom pajamas!

Print out the pajama or nightgown pattern (or draw your own), then use crayons, markers, or colored pencils to design your own PJs! Add to your design with glitter, stickers, and other extras if you want. 

Check out the ones my niece and nephews did below!

For more information or to buy the book visit: 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Read Books for Free (without Stealing)

Recently I read an article online about book piracy. In this article were quotes from people who had the audacity to complain when authors were successful in shutting down book piracy sites. Book piracy sites offer unauthorized free downloads of books, often in the form of PDFs. They lure people in with "free trial memberships" and the promise that they "don't sell books." And they don't. Rather, for the price of a monthly fee, they simply give books away.

In case you don't see anything wrong with that, think of it this way. Imagine a shoplifter came up to you and said, "If you pay me a monthly fee, you can have your choice of the goods I swipe!" Would you take them up on it?

Now, if you've ever downloaded an unauthorized "free" copy of a book, I'm not judging you. But I am asking you not to do it again. Even though some may shrug their shoulders and think no harm done, the truth is that book piracy does cause harm. It hurts authors because it reduces book sales, and reduced book sales lower authors' incomes and hurt their chances of publishing more books. And, you know, it's stealing.

That doesn't mean you should have to pay for every book you want to read. Very few people could afford that even if they wanted to. But there are lots of ways to get books to read for free without hurting the authors whose books you are so hungry to pore over.

I'll start with the obvious:

1. Check books out at your public library. I know...libraries might not always have a specific book you want to read. But you can usually request that they be added to your library's collection. Many libraries offer e-books and audio books too!

2. Borrow books from friends or family members.

3. Sit at a book store and read.

Still need more?

4. Some publishers offer free e-books periodically to their newsletter subscribers. One example is Tor. Find them and subscribe! Plus, newsletters are great ways to learn about new books.

5. Visit a Little Free Library or find a cool coffee shop that has a book exchange shelf.

6. Enter giveaways. Publishers, authors, illustrators, and book bloggers run giveaways all the time as a way to promote books. I've gotten many free copies of books this way. Check out Goodreads as well as authors' and publishers' blogs and social media accounts for giveaways to enter.

7. Search your e-reader platform's store for free electronic copies of classics.

9. Take advantage of NOOK Free Fridays.

9. Become a book reviewer. Parchment Girl has a great post explaining how to get started.

10. Join BookBub and let them find free or steeply discounted books for you!

With all the options out there, it should be no problem for you to get your hands on plenty of free books while doing no harm to the authors, illustrators, and publishers who put so much work into creating them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

Last week I dragged my husband and son on a road trip through Nebraska for my first official research trip. We traveled the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, stopping at museums along the way, and ended up at Scotts Bluff National Monument, an area of stunningly beautiful rugged bluffs in western Nebraska.

From there we drove southeast, enjoying the scenery of rugged hillsides, then east along Interstate 80, stopping at various state parks and recreation areas along the way.

This literal journey is part of a figurative journey I have been on for the past several months, researching and planning for a historical verse novel I am going to write this year, as well as a modern fairy tale retelling. Both set in Nebraska, and both for middle grade readers.

I came home from this trip with a wealth of information and inspiration, as well as two new books, a dozen postcards, lots of notes, and over a hundred photos on my iPhone. There is nothing now to stop me from writing that historical fiction verse novel besides my own fear of trying something new.

Like the pioneers that settled Nebraska well over a century ago, I will forge ahead, using their strength, resilience, and determination as my fuel.

Here I go!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The 100 Day Project...and Beyond!

If you've been following me long enough, you know that I love art and that I've dabbled a bit in illustration in the past. I've even had a few illustrations appear alongside my writing in children's magazines over the years. However, I've never really had the guts to truly pursue illustration as part of my career in children's literature. I've told myself that it's because, no matter how skilled an artist I am, those skills don't translate well to illustration.

But the truth is, I've just been a big chicken. 

Something happened recently that changed that. Over the last few months I participated in a creative challenge on Instragram called The 100 Day Project, during which I illustrated one poem a day for 100 days straight. It was a way for me to get outside my comfort zone and begin to test my skills as an illustrator.

Admittedly, there were a few flops. And some days I barely had ten minutes in which to create and share my illustration for the day. But overall, I felt it was a big success, mainly because, at the end of the 100 days, I was less afraid to try.

My goal is to transform "less afraid" into boldness. There is no reason that my art can't be something more than a creative hobby. Does that mean you will one day see written and illustrated by Rebecca J. Gomez on the cover of a book? I don't know. But one thing is certain: that will never happen if I don't take the first steps.

Click here to see all 100 illustrations

So, what's next for me? I'm taking it slow, but I've already given myself another challenge. The other day I took a pile of blank cards and divided it into two stacks. On one stack of cards I wrote down various character types. On the other I wrote down various activities. At least once a week I plan to pull a card from each stack and then draw a picture of the result. The first time I did this the result was "toad" and "holding a balloon." Here is the resulting illustration:

I think he turned out pretty great! 

How have you challenged yourself to get outside your comfort zone lately?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tangled Wool: A Read, Discuss, Do! craft and activity

THE SHEEP WHO HATCHED AN EGG is a charming book by author/illustrator Gemma Merino. When Lola's extraordinary, soft wool all gets cut off, she patiently waits for it to grow back. But once it does, it is a fluffy, tangled mess! Lola doesn't want to do anything but hide until one day something that had been hiding in her wool helps her realize that her wool doesn't have to be sleek and smooth (or "pretty") to be extraordinary. THE SHEEP WHO HATCHED AN EGG is a sweet friendship story with a subtle lesson about vanity. The text is fun, and the somewhat abstract, sketchy illustrations are a colorful delight.


DISCUSS: Why do you think Lola's wool got so fluffy and tangled? Has your hair ever been as tangled as Lola's? What did you do about it?

DO: Create your own tangled-wool sheep! 

You will need:
Sheep image 
Yarn or string in any color
Crayons (optional)

Directions: Print the sheep image (or draw your own). Cover the wooly sections of the sheep with a generous amount of glue, avoiding the arms, legs and face. Cut a long section of yarn and arrange it in tangled swirls over the glued areas of the body. Use a shorter section for the head. Press the yarn down into the glue and let it dry. Color the arms, legs, and face once the glue is dried if you like.

Optional motor skills activity: With your index finger, begin at one end of the yarn and follow the loops until you reach the other end.

Saturday, June 09, 2018


Today, June 9, is Moose's birthday! That is, it is the 3rd anniversary of the release of my very first picture book, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?! To celebrate, I am giving away a signed copy of the book! To enter, simply fill out the form below. To be eligible for a BONUS entry, subscribe to my newsletter (only confirmed subscribers are eligible, so be sure to complete your subscription)!

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Generate Story Ideas

A question authors get asked more than they can count is: Where do you get your ideas?

For me, the simple answer is that I get them from my brain. But the inspiration for those ideas often comes from outside my brain, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get my brain to do that part of its job. My favorite ideas often come to me by accident, but during times of idea drought, I've got to help my brain along. After all, it's not good for an author to have no ideas!

So here are my top ten ways to generate story ideas:

1. Reading. Ideas may strike while reading other people's stories. This is okay as long as your story is unique on its own.

2. Watching movies. Like reading, but more visual. And louder.

3. Lists. Think of a subject and start listing everything that comes to mind. It can be anything. Winter, pets, gross things to eat for lunch!

4. People watching. People are interesting creatures. Everyone around you could potentially spark a story idea if you're really paying attention.

5. Brainstorming. This is similar to writing a list, but instead of a subject, for me this usually begins with a "what if" question.

6. Listening to people. People say funny or inspirational things. They ask questions. They complain. There are story ideas in those words!

7. Observing nature. Nature is fascinating. It's important to slow down and pay attention, and have a notebook handy!

8. Play time.  Climb a jungle gym, get dizzy on a tire swing, or play duck-duck-goose with some kids. Taking the time to play means taking advantage of serious idea-generating power.

9. Other creative pursuits. Sometimes being passive is productive for the writer's brain. Getting out of writing mode to give your brain a chance to shift gears could be just the thing you need to stumble onto surprise inspiration.

10. Writing prompts. I don't use writing prompts often, but they can be a fun way to get your brain going, or get it moving in a different direction.

All of these methods have worked for me over the years. I'd love to hear about idea-generating methods that have worked for you!