When did you know you were a writer?

Reaching Young Readers via Skype

This month, I have stepped into classrooms all over the U.S. with Microsoft in Education and their cooperative arrangement with Skype. Most mornings have been devoted to reading to kids in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia–and evenings with Greece, Sri Lanka, China, Mexico, Canada, and Japan. I will pause the Skype readings soon, but I’ll pick it up again next year during Literacy Month. 

In the meantime, real, in-person school visits have been keeping me busy. (I just loaded some student letters and artwork onto the pages of my various kids’ books. Please check them out–they’re so heartfelt.) This week, I’m headed to Ketchikan for the Alaska Library Association Conference along with presentations in local schools.

I’ve said it before–there is nothing better for children’s books authors than reading to and taking questions from kids. I love their feedback, yes (they make me feel like a rock star), but I want them to know something else: I never planned to become an author. It began with a love of reading and a library card that was well-used every summer, all summer long. Writing assignments were not drudgery, so that was a clue. But high school was followed by marriage and babies, and full-time work (as a newspaper ad-taker, then secretary in an advertising department of a company). By age twenty-five, when I entered college, I planned to study in the journalism program’s advertising arm. Then I got the surprise of my young life: I took the required “Newswriting 101” class . . . and excelled. I didn’t know I could do that. My professor counseled me, “Do this, not that.” And so I focused on the people stories, writing newspaper features and lengthy magazine pieces in the years that followed. Writing and editing books was the next natural step.

No, I couldn’t have planned that. I didn’t set a goal and chase after it. I just did what I liked, what I discovered I could do well. So when I’m asked, as I always am during school visits, “When did you know that you were going to be a writer?” the truthful answer is, “I really didn’t know until I was doing it.” But more importantly, I tell them that they don’t have to wait until they’re grown up (or have published a book, or earned a degree) to say, “I am a writer.”

Declare it, then do it. And, best of all, enjoy it.

Thank you, sweet child.


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World Read Aloud Day 2017 is here!

I crossed several time zones to meet with Ms. Matheny’s class!

February 16 is an important day all across the country–and the world! This day in February  is dedicated to the act of reading to somebody (or maybe even a pet). I’ve been doing my part during February and March by Skyping with classrooms throughout the U.S.–and then there’s Japan, India, China, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, and Ghana. And all without a passport. I just love Skype!

Tomorrow, I start with a visit to Nunaka Valley Elementary for their “Wake Up to Literacy!” morning. Afterward, I have back-to-back Skype sessions with New York, Wisconsin, and Canada.

Even if you’re not an author reading to students, you can participate. Click here to connect with the Children’s Book Council’s packet for how you can get involved.

And in the meantime, read to your furry family members. You know they love it!


Read that part again, okay?


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Oh, baby, it’s cold!

-10 in Anchorage

-10 in Anchorage

I shot this photo yesterday when I was flying back into Anchorage’s Merrill Field in a Cessna Caravan. I’d been out in Prince William Sound, visiting the village of Chenega Bay. My part of Alaska has been in the grip of deep cold for about a week. Now, you realize that Alaska is one-fifth the size of all of the Lower 48 states combined. So when I say “my part,” that’s only Southcentral Alaska, which usually doesn’t see below-zero temps in the winter. So a string of -5 to -10 days gives us room to whine. But not too loudly. You see, our friends in Fairbanks are shuffling around in -40 to -50F. And I heard this morning that Kobuk, Alaska, measured -59F. That shut me up.

All this said, I’m projecting to March 11-12, when I’ll be in ARIZONA (woo-hoo!!!) for the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona campus. I’ll be at the Author’s Pavilion on Saturday, March 11, from 12:15 to 2:15 p.m., signing copies of Bobbie the Wonder Dog and ZIG the Warrior Princess. And perhaps best of all, this trip will give me the chance to reconnect with a friend from high school. In the meantime, we’re layered up and hunkered down!

Come on, March! I'm cold!

Come on, March! I’m cold!




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Begin a Christmas Tradition

Sled dogs to the rescue!

How sled dogs saved Christmas for Nome, Alaska

How Kotzebue the caribou almost wrecked Christmas!

Kotzebue the caribou almost wrecked Christmas one year

‘Tis the season! I’ve been invited to read two of my classic children’s books–Alaskan Night Before Christmas and Musher’s Night Before Christmas–at a favorite Anchorage restaurant called Williwaw. It’s at 601 F Street, on the south side of Town Square.

On Friday evening, November 25, the annual AT&T Tree Lighting event will draw hundreds of kids and their families to the Town Square for carols, Santa’s arrival, and the flip of a switch to light the tree.

It’s simple–just pop across the street to SteamDot and Williwaw, and you can warm up with coffee, hot chocolate (free for kids under 12), a snack, and my reading. I’ll be on the Williwaw stage projecting the book’s artwork, which is timed for the “pages” to turn as I read. Come for the 5 p.m. reading of Alaskan Night Before Christmas, followed by Musher’s Night Before Christmas at 5:30, and a repeat of the two books at 6 and 6:30 p.m.

We’ll have a supply of both books on hand and will be ready to personalize one for your favorite kid or the whole family. Drop by!

Illustration by Alan Stacy

Illustration by Alan Stacy

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Halloween Fun in Anchorage

Download and Color Me!

Download and Color Me!

Hey! It’s almost time for Trick-or-Treat Street in downtown Anchorage! If you’re headed down on Saturday, Oct. 29, be sure to swing by the 4th Avenue Market Place, where I’ll be reading my children’s books and showing movies of illustrations. I’ll be reading every twenty minutes or so from noon to 4:00 p.m. in the Port View Room. Come and find me. I’ll be in a scarecrow costume that I made myself!

I grew up in a time when door-to-door trick-or-treating was one of the social highlights of a kid’s year. I’m so old that I watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when it was new! With help from our creative Mom, we came up with our own costumes–like “witch,” or “hobo,” or “ghost” (note the absence of Disney-copyrighted characters)–and held out pillowcases for goodies. Afterward, my brother and I dumped out our takes on the living room carpet and negotiated trades. Some mothers actually made and wrapped cupcakes, caramel apples, or popcorn balls. And they were not only safe for consumption, they were delicious. The whole neighborhood was lit up for the lanes of foot traffic. It really was that heady and innocent and fun.

Thank goodness for groups like the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and other business folks that keep innocence alive for this generation of children. Treat-or-Treat Street is more than a single street of merchants handing out candy. From C to L Streets, including 4th, 5th, and 6th Avenues, there’ll be lots of activities planned (and candy, too!). Here’s a partial list:

  • Skinny Raven Frightening 4K Run & Costume Contest
  • Visit Anchorage Haunted Log Cabin
  • Cookie Decorating at the Hotel Captain Cook  
  • Join the Alaska MS Center for their annual zombie flash mob, goodies, and more! 
  • APDEA Child Kinderprint ID in 4th Avenue Market Place
  • Anchorage Fire Department Haunted Fire Truck
  • Anchorage Police Department Cars & Candy
  • Ring the Bell and get a Sneak Peek inside the Anchorage Trolley 
  • Free Kid-sized Hot Chocolate for kids in costume! 
  • Author Tricia Brown readings in the Port View room of the Market Place
  • Store Discounts

Yes, I’ll have copies of all my books available for purchase, too. See you there! Here’s a link for more info and maps: Trick-or-Treat Street!



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National Festival of Books is Calling


Designed by illustrator Yuko Shimizu

I’m getting ready to skip off to the 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. next week. (Okay, actually I’m flying, flying, flying for many hours, from Alaska time to Eastern, from 54 degrees to 90 degrees.)

And I can’t wait!

I’m excited to represent our state’s Center for the Book at the nation’s “Bookfest.” A colleague and I will man a booth in the Pavilion of States, where we’ll field questions (mostly about Alaska) and hand out free stuff. They tell me that we can expect to be mobbed and, please, try to not set out the best freebies all at once. (Reminds me of Halloween candy rationing.)

My children’s book Charlie and the Blanket Toss, illustrated by Barrow’s Sarah Martinsen, will be featured as Alaska’s choice to represent the 49th state in literature. Book TV will be covering the event, too, but I expect they’ll be after the big names like Stephen King and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, not us regular folks.

I’m traveling to D.C. early to meet my cousin Dee and spend one day as a gaping sightseer. And what timing! Saturday, September 24, is the dedication of a brand-new, hard-won addition to the Smithsonian Institution: the National Museum of African American History and Culture. President Barak Obama will be making a dedication speech with former President George W. Bush in attendance. Dare I squeeze out into the crowd on the Mall? Absolutely. It’s historic!

And inside the Washington Convention Center, books-books-books. For me, that’s more addictive than Halloween candy!

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Revving up for Fall

A fun and busy summer comes to a close

A fun and busy summer comes to a close

September 3 marks my last day at Anchorage’s Downtown Market. It’s been a good summer–I’ve enjoyed spending every other Saturday talking with travelers who love Alaska and love books–just like me. Most of the customers were either beginning or ending their dream trip. I’ve shared the booth space with other members of the local Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators. (Yes, a mouthful of a title, but a neat, creative group.)

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for a full slate of events this fall. You can check my calendar for updates on upcoming trips to the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., followed a month later by a visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the annual Heartland Fall Forum.

Representing Alaska at the 2016 National Book Festival

Representing Alaska at the 2016 National Book Festival

The D.C. trip is part of my role as an Alaska Center for the Book board member. With another colleague, I’ll be manning the Alaska booth in the Pavilion of the States, meeting people, handing out free items, and answering questions. I am honored that the Alaska Center for the Book chose Charlie and the Blanket Toss was chosen to represent our state’s literary contribution this year.

As he appeared in "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

As he appeared in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”

A month later, I’ll be at the Heartland Fall Forum, a trade show is attended by members of the Great Lakes Booksellers Association and the Midwest Booksellers Association. I’ll be part of what they’re called the “Moveable Feast,” an opportunity to sign books and meet the folks on the front lines. I’m looking forward to telling some of them that Bobbie the Wonder Dog walked across their state back in the winter of 1923-24.

If you are a librarian, principal, educator, or an otherwise champion of children’s books, remember that I am available for school and library visits with two new books in 2016, both of them true stories about remarkable dogs: Bobbie the Wonder Dog and Zig the Warrior Princess. Let’s talk about setting up a half- or full-day visit with your students! You can reach me here.

Sharing Alaska with young readers

Sharing Alaska with young readers

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A Peek behind the Curtain

Early thumbnail sketches for pages 4 and 5

Early thumbnail sketches for Zig, pages 4-5

Cary Porter's final art for pages 4-5

Cary Porter’s final art for Zig, pages 4-5

A teacher-writer friend of mine has a terrific blog, and following the release of ZIG: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS, she interviewed me for details on how the book came together. If you’re interested, please click here to read more.

From a publishing standpoint, ZIG: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS was unique–about as non-traditional as you can get. I was the author as well as the book developer, contracted to write the book as well as hire an artist, a book designer, a production person/print buyer, and get the book lined up for delivery to the site where they will be sold: the Husky Homestead in Denali Park, Alaska.

If you’d like to obtain a copy, just visit Jeff King’s Husky Homestead online store by clicking here. I hope you come to love Zig as much as I have!

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Meet ZIG!

Not just another pretty face!

Not just another pretty face!

I’m happy to announce that hot off the press is Zig: The Warrior Princess, a new children’s book that I wrote with Iditarod champion Jeff King! The illustrator is the terrific guy who also produced the art for Bobbie the Wonder Dog. Recognize that gorgeous style? It’s Cary Porter!

Denali Park resident Jeff King has covered hundreds of thousands of miles in his career as a mid- and long-distance musher, both in training and in actual racing. He’s won the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times, placing him in a rare club of mushers who’ve done it, too. But in all those years and trail-miles, he’s never had a dog like Zig, he told me. So we planned a book that would tell children, in Zig’s voice, why she’s the Princess of the dog yard, but at the same time, how she is a WARRIOR on the trail, so intense and focused that Jeff says he’s never had such a talented sled dog.

Zig is not just another pretty face…a good lesson for adventurous girls, especially!

If you’d like to pick up a copy, you may not yet find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or even in your local Indie bookstore. Starting on June 22, you may click here to jump to Jeff King’s Husky Homestead (Where Sled Dogs are King!) store, and order your copies.

ISBN-13: 978-0-692-68607-2

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Back from Bobbie Country

Bobbie starred in a silent movie

Bobbie starred in a silent movie

Bobbie the Wonder Dog may have lived nearly a century ago, but he is still a big star in Silverton, Oregon. And now Silverton’s hometown dog is back in the national news with the release of a new book from WestWinds Press.

In the winter of 1923-24, after he became separated from his family, Bobbie walked from Wolcott, Indiana, to Silverton, alone. With miscellaneous side trails and byways, he walked about 2,800 miles. Bobbie was a news sensation. The small town sports a 70-foot mural dedicated to Bobbie, along with a statue of the collie mix, and a replica of his “Castle,” a heavy-duty doghouse originally built for Bobbie in 1924, at the peak of his fame.

I had the privilege of visiting Silverton during the days leading up

Frank Brazier poses with Bobbie in a publicity photo

Frank Brazier poses with Bobbie in a publicity photo

to their annual Pet Parade, hosted by the Kiwanis on May 21. I dropped by three local schools for book presentations (which includes showing a little movie of the book illustrations as I read). I was pleased to see those little faces light up when they recognized pictures of the mural and statue of Bobbie. And yet, the rest of the story, they hadn’t really heard. Well, they know it now! It was great to share this remarkable journey with a new generation, and the reaction to Bobbie’s nearly 3,000-mile walk was just the same it was in 1924: shock and amazement.


Thanks again to the descendants of Bobbie’s people, Frank and Elizabeth Brazier, for offering your support. Their great-grandsons Dana (and wife Donna) Crockett and Ron (and wife Chris) Crockett have been terrific. Thank you to Portland’s Cathy Marshall at KGW news, to Amy Wang at the Oregonian, and to Helen Raptis at AM Northwest for hosting us.

If you’re looking for a copy, check with your favorite bricks-and-mortar store, or go online to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound. They’ll have it. I’ll be doing some signings around Anchorage in the coming months, too.

Visiting with Quincy, a Bobbie lookalike, at the Pet Parade

Visiting with Quincy, a Bobbie lookalike, at the Silverton Pet Parade

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