10 Must-Read Science Picture Books

Since they were tiny, all three of my kids loved books. Just last night while reminiscing, I asked my husband if he remember at what age our (almost) 3-year-old started loving books. He said two months. Obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but pretty much as soon as she could move on her own she was stacking books in a pile, cozying up with her blanket and “reading”.

Kids learn from books, but they also learn from asking me approximately ten thousand questions a day. And although I am super smart and know almost everything, they do slip some questions in that I don’t know the answer to.

It was due to one of these rare occasions that I ventured into the non-fiction children’s section of the library. What I found was…disappointing. While a lot the books were full of pictures and used a child friendly vocabulary, they were not narrative and not meant to be read like a picture book. They dumped lots of useful information for say, a school report, but I wouldn’t want to read them cover to cover. My kids’ eyes glazed over after the second paragraph on the first page.

Thus began my quest to find great science picture books that read like fiction. After years of searching I’ve found my top ten: Continue reading

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Improve Your Writing: Be a Beta Reader

If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you have come across the scores of writing rules that float around the writing-verse.IMG_20190130_153914

Show don’t tell

Adverbs must die

If you don’t use the oxford comma we can’t be friends

Passive voice is the worst

Prologues are…

You get the idea. And I’m sure you’ve heard them all. But what is a rule if it can’t be broken? As soon as rules are formed, some writer is breaking it. There is one rule that applies to everyone in every writing situation, and it goes something like this.

If you want to be a good writer, you have to read.

Reading extensively is one of the best ways to improve your writing because you see examples of good writing and, less often, examples of poor writing. Without even consciously choosing to, you pick up these writing techniques as you read them.

Reading can help you consciously improve your writing as well. One of the best ways to do this is to become a beta reader. I’ve already written about the attributes of a good beta reader and why you need to get beta readers to read your writing. But being a beta reader yourself, can also help you to improve your writing. Continue reading

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10 Attributes of Good Beta Readers

In my last blog post I talked about why beta readers are an important part of the writing process. But beta readers come in all varieties and and a bad beta read can hurt your writing and emotional well being. So what is it that makes a good beta reader? I’ve created a list of 10 attributes a good beta reader has, so you can find (and be) the good ones. Continue reading

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10 Reasons Why You Need Beta Readers

I recently had a discussion with another writer about whether getting feedback on your writing is valuable. The answer is, yes, it is. The discussion led to this post. A few follow-up posts on beta reading are coming soon. Enjoy! 

So you’ve written your story, edited your story, spit shinned your story. It is the absolute best you can make it. But before you send it off for querying or publishing, there is one more step. And if you are an introvert like me, it may be the step that keeps you up at night. Here it is:

Give your story to beta readers.

Beta readers read, comment, and critique your story so that you can make it even more sparkly, shiny, and perfect. Sounds great, in theory, but you are telling someone to point out everything that is wrong with your book. (Don’t mind me while I go hide under a rock.)

Here are 10 reasons why it’s worth the terror to use beta readers Continue reading

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Traveling through Time

Zion and grand canyon 112     I was a clueless California city girl when the professor leading our field trip pulled our van to a stop along the highway that leads through Zion National Park in southern Utah. We spilled out of the vehicles and followed our fearless leader to the base of a sandstone mesa. Doc pointed. “Go up there,” he said and scrambled up the slope.

I didn’t know cross beds from conjugate joints, but I climbed after him and the other enthusiastic students. The slope went from comfortable to “I might fall and die” by the time I’d taken a couple dozen steps. I looked up. The mesa was vertical above me. My heart beat quicker, not from exertion but from the unfamiliar feeling of danger. I didn’t know if I could make it. Our professor had come to a stop not far above. Other students clustered near him. Continue reading

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Character Interview: Rai from Child of the Kaites

Beth Wangler, my writer friend and critique partner, is publishing her first full length novel. I am so excited! The Child of the Kaites is a fantasy novel inspired by the story of Moses. I’ve had the opportunity to read it, and it is amazing.

In honor of the big release day on July 28th, I’ve interviewed the main character in Child of the Kaites, Rai, so that we can get to know her better.

(Yes, we writers sometimes consider our characters so real, we feel the need to interview them.)


Me: Rai, I’m so glad you have taken the time to chat with me today. I’ve gotten a chance to know you but for the sake of everyone else, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? For example, I know Rai is a nickname. What is your full name?

Rai: Hi Ashley, it’s great to get to talk with you! My name is a…complicated topic. My birth parents named me “Mailoua,” which means “Cursed” or “Nameless.” My people have been suffering, you see, and my parents felt that suffering very strongly. When I was ten, the kaites gave me a new name, “Raiballeon.” My new name means “Leader of a Revolt.” I like this name more, even if I don’t feel like a leader of anything most of the time. Of course, “Raiballeon” is quite a mouthful, so I go by “Rai” or “Raiba,” depending on who you’re talking to. Continue reading

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First Run

img_20180531_1355241Recently, during a conversation about running, I mentioned that I had cut back my workouts because I was suffering from shin splints. A well-intentioned person proceeded to give me all kinds of advice on how to overcome this challenge.

I listened politely, interjecting weak comments, like, “I know,” and “yes, I’ve done that before,” until the conversation drifted to other topics. While I appreciated the desire of this person to help, what I really wanted to say is, “Buddy, I’ve been running for twenty years. These aren’t my first shin splints and they won’t be my last. I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”

(I have a lot more sass in my head than I do in person.)

But the thing that stuck with me most wasn’t my inability to speak my true feelings, or any of the advice this person gave. It is, that I have been running for twenty years. Twenty years ago this summer, I started high school cross-country and became a runner. (I am suddenly feeling pretty old.) But I never would have made it past my very first run, if it wasn’t for a stranger who offered a lot more than advice. Continue reading

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