Leaping Lemmings

A lemming is a small, cute, little rodent that is found on the tundra in the Arctic. So what does the lemming have to do with writing you ask?   Quite a bit, if you follow along with my crazy thread!

Please hear me out before you quit following my blog.

As writers, we may see a trend in what is being published. and it is natural to want to ride that trend.  For example, the very successful Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. When “the boy sorcerer” hit the shelves, it was an instant success.  What followed in the publishing industry?  Everyone was searching for their Harry Potter.  A gazillion other variations on the theme came to life.  Were any of these of the caliber of Rowling’s creation?  In my humble opinion, NO.  These authors (I’m sure they are fabulous writers) were overshadowed by Harry Potter. 


Isn’t he cute!

So what does this have to do with lemmings, Julie? 

We’ve all heard the stories of lemmings leaping off of the cliff as they blindly follow their migrating group. My point is, don’t be a lemming.  Do pick a trend and write to it.  Once your story gets out there, the trend will be over and something else will be on the top of the charts. 

As writers, we HAVE to be true to ourselves.  Write what you love.  Write what you know.  Your heart and passion will show through. If it’s good and you’ve put in the work necessary, it will show.

So, don’t follow the trend over the cliff like a lemming. 

(BTW, did you know that lemmings really DON’T leap off of cliffs and commit mass suicide?  It’s a total misconception that was faked in a documentary by Disney in the 1950’s!)

Here is a darling story featuring Lemmings. One lemming just doesn’t fit in and follow the crowd. This week’s Master Study is of LEAPING LEMMINGS by John Briggs and illustrated by Nicola Slater.

Leaping Lemmings

You can find a blank Master Study form here.

See you on the shelves!



Master Study Monday #4

As a former American History teacher, I thought I knew quite a bit.  But, this weeks book taught me a few things.  In a search for a nonfiction mentor text, I found NOAH WEBSTERS’ FIGHTING WORDS  by  Tracy Nelson Maurer and illustrated by Mircea Catusanu.

This little gem had me hooked from the first sentence.

“Words! Numbers! They tickled young Noah.”

Pick up this nonfiction biography of Noah Webster, you’ll be surprised at what you will learn about the man who created the first American dictionary.

Here is my Master Study.

Noah Webster fighting words

You can find a blank Master Study form here.


See you in the shelves!




Master Study Monday #3

Here’s a quick MSM of  John Briggs’ LEAPING LEMMINGS.

We all know that lemmings will follow each other to their death with out thinking, but, Larry the lemming is not like the others.  His originality leads to some difficulty but he saves the day in the end.

Leaping Lemmings


I’ll be posting more MSM as a part of author Arree Chung’s Storyteller Academy.  If you are looking to advance your knowledge on how to write picture books from a published author/illustrator, drop by and have a look.

You can find the Master Study worksheet here.


Thanks for stopping by!

See you on the shelves!


I’m Back!

I apologize for being MIA for the last month or so.  Things in the LaCombe Maison (house) have been wild.

It all started with school getting out in May.  Who can work with 2 teen girls demanding your attention?  I must admit though, I love having them home.  They have turned into pretty cool human beings and we did have some fun.

June found us meeting up with family in San Antonio.   I literally had my last stand at the Alamo.  I tripped off of the curb and fractured my ankle.  BUT, being the martyr I am, I pushed on and walked the River Walk and Market and was OK until I sat down and it had time to swell.  Here we are, two months later, and my ankle still hurts.  I should have listened to my smart hubby and gone to the doctor sooner.

July found me traveling with my girls to Houston for my father’s heart surgery.  Thankfully it was a minor procedure (as minor as them placing something in your heart can be) and he was home in 24 hours and is continuing to do well.

Here we are now at the beginning of August and school is back in sight.  I’m sad that my girls will be heading back to school, but am looking forward to having some uninterrupted time to devote to my writing and blog.

So, for my first post back, I’m leaving you with the review and master study of a book that I picked up in Houston.  Noah Webster’s Fighting Words by Tracy Nelson Maurer is a funny and educational peek at how the famous dictionary came to be.  I give this noah websterpicture book two thumbs up.  If I were still teaching American History, I’d use this in my classroom, even the eighth graders would love it.  It has a great hook and Mr. Noah Webster himself  leaves comments.  It is thoroughly researched and has a full bibliography.

From Lerner Publishing:

Noah Webster, famous for writing the first dictionary of the English language as spoken in the United States, was known in his day for his bold ideas and strong opinions about, well, everything. Spelling, politics, laws, you name it—he had something to say about it. He even commented on his own opinions! With a red pencil in hand, Noah often marked up work that he had already published. So who edited this book? It certainly looks like the ghost of the great American author and patriot picked up a pencil once again to comment on his own biography!

Here’s a link to my Master Study sheet for Noah Webster’s Fighting Words.

Noah Webster fighting words

It’s a Brave New World

As a former educator and aspiring children’s author, I still believe my mantra of “Knowledge is Power.”

I am always trying to better myself and my craft. In today’s technological world, it is much easier to find classes, webinars, self-paced courses and a myriad of other types of education that may not be available in your neck of the woods. I’ve participated in videotaped webinars, live Facebook chats, Skyped courses, and self-paced courses. One thing I’ve learned, is that the KidLit community is the most generous group of people.

To pass on that generosity, I wanted to compile a list of courses for you. I’m sure many of them you are familiar with. If I have not listed one you know about, please share it with us in the comments.

WOW Nonficpic – led by Nonfiction author Kristen Fulton (This begins on Monday, July 10 so if you are interested better sign up quick!) I’ll be there!
Nonfiction Archaeology – also led by Kristen Fulton; 4 week course in July and October. (I’m signed up for October!!)

KidLit College – Agent/ Author Jodell Sadler has created a community of authors, agents, editors and illustrators who present webinars. I’ve learned a great deal by participating in KidLit College.

Story Teller Academy – Author/ Illustrator Arree Chung (NINJA!) has created a wonderful community of published and aspiring children’s writers. He takes you from idea generation to the business of publishing.

Picture Book Blueprints – created by Laura Backes, one of the best-known children’s writing teachers and her husband, Jon Bard. Blueprints is an online guide to the wiring process that leads you step by step to ensure that your story is the best it can be.

12X12 Challenge – Author Julie Hedlund has created a wonderful community for writers of all levels. With the challenge to create a manuscript a month, monthly webinars, forums, and monthly author blog posts it is a wealth of information!

Picture Book Summit -Picture Book Summit is a world-class online conference for picture book writers and illustrators.

I know that I am leaving off a number of other resources, but my brain is on overload! If I left of a resource that you think I need to add, please leave it in the comments!
Happy writing!

Master Study Monday #2

the snurtchWelcome to our first official Master Study Monday!  I hope you had a chance to read The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell.  I love this story.  It reminds me that we all have our own Snurtch that rears its head from time to time.

Let’s jump into our study.  I’m not going to insult you by discussing the characters or setting, it’s pretty self-explanatory.    How about the problem in the story?  What did you feel was the problem? Was it Ruthie or the Snurtch causing problems?  Do you think kids can relate to the problem?

Inciting incident-  What started the cause & effect ball rolling?  Did you notice how the illustrator, Charles Santoso, began setting up the story on the beginning end-pages and the copyright and title pages?  You are also hooked on the very first page, “Ruthie has a problem at school.”  You want to read more to find out what the problem is.

The escalation of the story follows the traditional “rule of three.”

  • Throws pencil
  • Makes rude noises
  • Grabs George’s drawing

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let me know!

Does Ruthie solve her own problem?  Yes!  By drawing her Snurtch she learns to control him.  I almost wonder if the Snurtch is a deeper metaphor for jealousy.  I love how the other kids recognize the Snurtch as the one causing problems and Ruthie sees that the other kids have their own Snurtch.

What do you think the universal theme of the book is?

Here is my Master Study Worksheet.

The Snurtch MS

Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

Monday, July 10, we will study Tammi Sauer’s Nugget & Fang.  If you have a title that you would like to study, please share it with me in the comments and we will work it in!

Have a fantastic week and watch your for your Snurtch!


Show. Not Tell.

Dread seeps into my bones when I hear those words.  Like Big Foot, showing not telling is elusive and almost impossible to capture.

How do you balance the show VS tell?

First, you need to know what they are.  Telling is a passive almost abstract way of saying something.  It doesn’t involve the reader.  For example, “Get out of my way,” she said angrily. This tells the reader she’s angry, but it’s boring and slows the pace of the story.  Using adverbs too much will indicate that you are telling, not showing.

Showing is active and helps create a mental picture for your reader.  Let’s use the example from above to demonstrate showing:  Angie shoved Paul aside as she stormed towards the open door, “Get out of my way.”

Did you notice the details in the showing example?  It helps evoke emotion and helps draw your reader in.  You can tell that Angie is angry.  I didn’t even have to use the word “said.”

So, if someone tells you to “show, don’t tell” don’t panic,  take a deep breath and paint a mental picture with your words.

I hope everyone is ready for our Monday study!  Till then, have a great weekend!