Summer Reading 2017!

Reading has always been one of the joys of summer. As a kid, I relished the long days of swimming and reading, two of my favorite things. My reading time is shorter these days as I chase around an increasingly mobile kiddo of my own, but I still make time to do some summer reading. Here’s what’s on my list for the rest of the summer.

I just finished Madeleine L’Engle’s first book in the Crosswicks Journal series, A Circle of Quiet. The four books in this series were written mostly from her journal entries she kept while living at her farmhouse in Connecticut and apartment in New York. They cover the time period in her life I now find myself in, raising young children, trying to write and publish, and running headlong into the challenges and joys of both. I’ll probably pick up the other three journals throughout the rest of 2017. L’Engle always inspires and comforts me at the same time.

Next up is the middle grade adventure The Mysterious Benedict Society. I’ve read fellow Arkansas author Trenton Lee Stewart’s series before, but this time I’ll do a close read to see how he’s brought his multiple characters to life. One of my current stories juggles multiple characters on a similar adventure. The best way to figure out how to write your story? Learn from those who have already done it.

Then it’s on to a few non-fiction books for a little inspiration. I received Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic for Christmas, along with Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. I’m hoping one will inspire me to write and the other to dream big. You decide which is which! I just ordered Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s (yes, that Lindbergh) 50th anniversary edition of Gift from the Sea on the recommendation from my cousin that every woman should read this book. I’m sure it won’t disappoint!

Finally, I hope to get to a few books that have been on my list for awhile. Ta-nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me as well as Kwame Alexander’s Newbery winner The Crossover (basketball playing twins, yes!) and the follow up, Booked (this one’s about soccer. Woot!) Hopefully I’ll close the summer with Sherman Alexie’s new memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.

I’ll be happy if I get halfway through this list and continue reading on it in the fall. What’s on your summer reading list?

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5 Great Reasons to Attend the Arkansas SCBWI Conference this June

Although Arkansas is the proud host of quite a few writing conferences, the Society for Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference is the only major conference in the state focused specifically on writing for children. Here are my top 5 reasons for attending the conference!

#1 – Editors and Agents


The conference will host two editors and one agent from New York publisher Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic and Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. This is an easy way to get your work in front of editors and agents. That’s a BIG deal, and it’s not easy to accomplish.



#2 – Connect


This is a great opportunity to meet other writers from around the state. Writing can be a hard, lonely business. Use this conference to connect with other children’s writers in Arkansas and stay in touch throughout the year.



#3 – Downtown River Market


The conference is being held in the Butler Center in downtown Little Rock right in the River Market District. Spend a weekend in the capital and enjoy what downtown Little Rock has to offer.



#4 – Friendly Faces

The Arkansas SCBWI conference is NOT intimidating. This isn’t your overcrowded, get lost in the shuffle kind of conference. We’re a small, friendly group of writers looking to support one another. You will have the chance to speak with other writers, and you’ll get to chat with the industry professionals speaking at the conference as well.

Other conferences can be so full of writers that it’s hard to meet anyone, let alone talk personally with the editors and agents. Not so at the Arkansas conference.

#5 – Write Well


Become a better writer. In the end, that’s what we’re all looking for, and the conference sessions will help every writer get better at every aspect of writing, from working on that book to pursuing publication and everything in between.



The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Arkansas will hold its annual conference June 16-17 in Little Rock. Find out more information at or on Facebook SCBWI Arkansas.

I’ll see you there!



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School for Life – Springdale’s School of Innovation

**FDA Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Springdale School of Innovation but thoughts are my own. In researching the school, I discovered a wonderful, innovative school right here in Northwest Arkansas. Read on to learn more about it!**

School days, school days, dear old golden rule days the old song goes. Most Americans who have attended public school in the last 100 years can look back on their education from a similar viewpoint. Whether in the city or country, the emphasis was on reading, writing and arithmetic (we don’t use that word much anymore!). Mastery of these subjects meant a high school diploma and entry into college or a good job.

The job market has changed considerably though, whether education has or not. Technology is now at the forefront of many careers and a once traditional high school and college education isn’t necessarily the best fit for young adults searching for their career paths.

The Springdale School District in Northwest Arkansas recognized education these days is not a one size fits all approach and the need for students to keep pace with changing technology. Enter the Don Tyson School of Innovation.

The School of Innovation features an open floor plan.

The School of Innovation opened its doors in 2014 with the goal of offering a more flexible education that is project based and allows students to work at their own pace. In 2016, the school moved from its temporary location at the Jones Center for Families to a brand new campus in East Springdale. The new campus offers plenty of space for students to pursue their educational goals, from a more traditional education to a technology driven one.

Students who are interested in pursuing college can take the core courses needed to complete their education and also take classes that will earn them transfer credits to Northwest Arkansas Community College, allowing them to get ahead in their college educations while still in high school. Students can even earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from the School of Innovation.

STEM education takes center stage.

One of the school’s primary features is its focus on STEM education – Science, Technology and Mathematics. For students who want to delve deeper into these subjects, the School of Innovation offers courses in environmental and alternative energies and robotics. Students can earn a commercial drone pilot’s license (how cool is that?) and other certifications. How many high school students can claim they’ve studied alternative energies and are licensed to fly drones?

Even the daily schedule is unique at the School of Innovation. Students spend their class time in four different classes for four days of the school week, and attend “Real World Wednesday” seminars led by different local business leaders to speak about the challenges of the business world. When I was in high school, the business world seemed a distant future, even though most students are only a few years away from getting a job. Learning how to handle the responsibilities of a job and how to manage their time well is another way the School of Innovation is helping prepare its students for the real world.

Students who have an interest in pursuing business can even take internships with local businesses like Tyson Foods while at the School of Innovation. This takes the idea of Real World Wednesdays a step further, allowing students to see what life beyond high school looks like.

Mike Rowe, former host of the popular television show Dirty Jobs, continues to speak out about the need for highly skilled and trained workers in trade jobs. He pushes back against the notion that a college education is necessary for everyone, or that it’s even the right fit for everyone. For students who want to explore options outside of a college education, the School of Innovation has it covered. They offer courses in trades like welding and heating and ventilation. These are skills students can take into the workforce immediately after graduation.

It sounds like a dream education, but, of course, students at the School of Innovation still need to do the hard work, attend classes, and keep their grades up to be able to continue on the path of their preference, whether it’s pre-college, trade, or business. Still, the school makes it easier by providing each student with a laptop and allowing them to work at their own pace to finish courses. This is part of the plan to allow each student a personalized education and the freedom to choose the courses that interest them as they consider options beyond a high school education.

The idea of a one size fits all education – reading, writing and arithmetic – is as outdated as the old song. If you’re looking for a unique education for your student, the School of Innovation is certainly worth a look. Students in the Northwest Arkansas area can attend physically, but the school offers an online option that’s available to any student in the state. The School of Innovation is now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year. Visit the website at to learn more and apply for your rising 8th -12th graders.

Photos provided by Springdale School of Innovation and used with permission.

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