Abilene-Storybook Capital of Texas

If you love children’s books like I do, then Abilene is a MUST stop destination on your travels through Texas.  I’m fortunate enough to be a 3 hour drive away.  The Mr. and I decided to take our girls on a little day trip for Spring Break.  (Honestly, I REALLY wanted to visit the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.)NCCIL logo

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) collaborates with award-winning illustrators to create exhibits of their work.  After debuting at the NCCIL, the exhibits then travel to museums, libraries, and galleries nationwide.  The mission of NCCIL is to exhibit, tour, collect, preserve and promote original art from  the finest children’s literature  thereby inspiring and empowering children to read and be creative.

Lightning struck when William Joyce set his children’s book Santa Calls in Abilene,  which led to a  chance meeting and an immediate friendship between the he and the Mayor and the NCCIL was born.

I love what Joyce had to say about it…

You know sometimes luck, fate, chance—whatever you want to call it—shines down so bright it makes life seem like something from a storybook.

That’s how it happened for me and the city of Abilene. By chance I set my book Santa Calls there. The main character’s name was Art Atchinson Aimesworth and I wanted him to wear a cowboy hat. So obviously he couldn’t be from New Jersey or Boca Raton. Abilene, Texas fit like a four Beaver Stetson. It sounded just right.

Of course I’d never actually been to Abilene. I don’t often visit the places I write about. Not the North Pole, or Mars or the Lost City of Atlantis. How was I supposed to know Abilene was a city of cock-eyed optimists and dreamers. The book had been out for about two weeks when I got a call from the Mayor. The next thing I know they’d built a museum, and erected a statue of my characters.

The NCCIL is a great achievement. They put art and literature on a pedestal there. They’ve made life more vivid and dreams come more alive for countless children and grown-ups.

Things like that don’t happen in real life very often.


Words Set Me Free | © 2012, James E. Ransome, Acrylic and oil paints on paper



Currently on display is the artwork of James E. Ransome. this is the rope  The exhibit is titled Everyday People.  His  work is saturated with  vibrant colors that bring life to his pictures.  I particularly enjoyed seeing large prints from   This is the Rope.

Visit his website to see this talented artist’s work.  I love his use of colors to evoke a mood or feeling.


Make sure to stop by for my next post where we go on a storybook scavenger hunt through Abilene!



dr-seussToday, March 2, is Theodore Geisel’s birthday.

Better known as Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel was a prolific children’s writer.  In 1960, Random House founder Bennet Cerf challenged Seuss to write a children’s book using only 50 words.The result of this challenge, Green Eggs and Ham was born!  Granted, the story has over 700 words, but, it is written with only 50 unique words.

Children’s author Vivian Kirkfield  has created a challenge in honor of Geisel’s birthday and Bennet’s challenge.  It’s call #50 Precious Words.

The rules are simple:  Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count for the story is 50 or less.

Let me tell you, using ONLY 50 words is very difficult.  Not only do you only have 50 words to work with, your story still has to have an arc.  It’s not as easy as it seems!

So, I’m throwing my hat in the ring and posting my #50 Precious Words entry.

I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to leave me feedback!

Not Me

©Julie LaCombe 2017

(48 words)


The lamp crashed to the floor.

Mom asked, “Who broke it?”

Not Me.

The cookies disappeared from the jar.

Mom asked, “Who ate them?”

Not Me.

There’s someone who lives in my house,

His name is Not Me.

Trouble is his business.

Unfortunately, they think it’s just me.


Go by and read all of the other wonderful entries on Vivian’s blog!






I Did It!


I just completed my first Storystorm challenge and ended up with 34 picture book ideas!

Some of them may be good, some not so much, but I’m looking forward to fleshing them out to see what I’ve got.

I am participating in the Write On Conference this week.  The line-up looks pretty good and there will be agents and editors trolling the forums looking for manuscripts.  I’m hoping to learn and improve my craft.

So, between all of this writing, I am also preparing and teaching a PreK sight word reading class through our local parks and recreation.  Is it ok to admit that I’m hoping these littles will provide me with picture book ideas?!

I have also found a new critique group that I’m looking forward to working with.  There seems to be a Texas theme among all of us!  They seem like a great bunch and I hope we can build a wonderful, supportive community.

Now top all of this off with Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 and I’ve just summed up my month!  I am really looking forward to learning everything I can from the 12X12 community of writers.  Plus, I will be challenged to finish a manuscript each month.

Now for the blog…It’s really taken a back seat to everything else, but I’ve decided to start reviewing and dissecting the books I’m reading.  Hopefully it will serve as a resource for you.

Oh, I forgot, one last thing…if you haven’t heard about it already, Susana Hill is hosting a writing contest.  Hop on over to her blog and see what you need to do to enter her Valentiny contest.

Ok, I lied.  One more thing.  If you didn’t read my post about ReFoReMo, go check it out.  I can’t wait to learn from all of the fabulous guest posters during the month of March!

So, there you have it!  I hope everyone reading this has a wonderfully productive year!





readingforresearch-logoYes, it’s a silly sounding title.

But…it serves a great purpose.

The only way to learn how to do something is by education.  It doesn’t have to be a formal degree, it can be as simple as studying something or someone.  YouTube, Google, and a number of other online platforms have free instructional videos.  I even saw where MIT, yes, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has uploaded courses that are free for anyone to watch!

Writing picture books is no different.  There are many fabulous authors who offer webinars (I just did one with Arree Chung)  and seminars at conferences.  Online communities like SCBWI, Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 and the Picture Book Blueprint community that help authors of varying stages in their career.

But ReFoReMo helps get you into mentor texts.  The best way to learn how to write is to READ!  You get a feel for language.  You see the nuts & bolts of these 32 page masterpieces.  Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo)  is supported by authors, illustrators, educators, librarians, editors and literary agents, pretty much anyone who gets their hands on books for kids.

This years lineup of presenters is very impressive!  You will find authors Vivian Kirkfield, Nancy Churnin, Dr. Mira Reisberg from the Children’s Book Academy and many editors, illustrators and agents.  Go take a look at the calendar HERE.

Registration to participate opens on February 15.  Make sure you sign up and join in the fun of being exposed to old and new books.

(ReFoReMo illustration by Lori Nawyn)


Are you participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoldMo  Storystorm?

If you aren’t and are a writer, you should be!

Storystorm helps and encourages you to come up with 30 story ideas in 30 days.  You also get 30 great posts by published authors and illustrators.  Today is only day 5, but wow, what great inspiration and advice!

Today’s post is by author-illustrator Dan Moynihan.  dan-mMy take-away from his message is “Ideas and stories take shape through action.”  I think this is universal, not just for writers or illustrators.  You can apply it to any area of your life.  Nike puts it as “Just do it.”  If we do nothing, nothing will ever happen.  We are the captains of our own ships and if we want to find the buried treasure, you can’t just drift in the middle of the ocean.  You’ve got to weather a few storms and dig a few holes.  (That’s Julie’s wisdom! LOL!)

I’m making 2017 my year of action.

I will submit this year!

What action are you going to take this year?

Tooth Fairy in Training

The pitch for my manuscript Tooth Fairy in Training is featured on children’s picture book author, Susanna Hill’s blog today.  Yay!

It helps that she’s also featuring a recipe for

Raspberry-iced Nutella-filled Chocolate Cupcakeimg_4381-4-2-1Need I say more?

Run on over, salivate over the cupcakes, then give my pitch a read.  At the end of the month her readers will vote on their favorite pitch and the winner will get to have it read by editor Erin Molta.


Realizations Not Resolutions

I’ve been working through children’s author Julie Foster Hedlund’s  12 Days of Christmas for Writers to help me become a better writer in 2017.  My last post was a list of my successes in 2016.  I accomplished more than I thought I had!

Day 4 was all about looking at challenges I faced as a writer and what things were standing in my way both physically and mentally.  This was a hard exercise at looking within myself and seeing how I am my own worst critic.

Day 5 had us looking at those challenges and turning what Julie calls my BFJ, or Big Fat Judgement into a lesson learned.  I really like this idea.  It forced me to look at those judgements my inner critic makes about me and turn them into positives.

I learned that I have put my writing on the back burner because I was afraid that I might fail.  So, I am going to take action.  I will be scheduling writing time and treating it as if it was a traditional job.  No more cancelling my writing time.  In life, there will be rejection but if I never try, it won’t happen.  I WILL be submitting my polished manuscripts in 2017.

I’ve been afraid to tell anyone outside my immediate family that I have been writing with the dream of being published.  I was afraid that they would judge me and think that it was just another pipe dream.  I learned that those who love me, support and encourage me and that those that don’t , well, “bye Felicia!”  My worth does not come from other people’s opinion.

This exercise is such a great lesson.  I’m having my daughters work through this with me so that they can see that judgements they make about themselves are not true and to turn the negative self-talk into a “learning.”

Give it a try.  Make a list of 5 challenges you faced in 2016.  For example, one of mine was that I didn’t submit any of my manuscripts this year.  Then, write a BIG FAT JUDGEMENT (BFJ) your inner critic tells you about your challenge.  Mine was that I am not good enough to submit and no one will like my writing.  Then look deep within and write the truth about it.  This is what you would honestly tell yourself or someone else if they came to you with this challenge.  My truth was that to boost my confidence I need to find a critique group and learn about the correct way to make submissions and then just do it!

Now it’s your turn.  Make some realizations for 2017, not resolutions.

I hope 2017 is everything you hope for!  Happy New Year!