Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Countdown to the New Year: Scholastic Book Fair

26ish days left in the New Year! Here is my book haul from the Scholastic Book Fair this year. Only book not here is "I Am Not a Chair" by Ross Burach. David's teacher is the lucky one who gets this book for her class!

The rest of these are Christmas/Birthday books for the kids!:

If you have access to a book fair, which books did you buy?

Prompt: What would you do if you were stuck overnight at the library?

Other than above, where would you like to be stuck overnight?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Countdown to The New Year - Let's Have Some Cookies

One of my favorite times of year for making cookies is December. What kinds of cookies do you make in December? I like making sugar cookies, but honestly they are so much work that I only want to do them once a year.


Create a scene/story with a baking mishap.

Write or draw a scene containing cookies (can be a continuation of the first prompt).

Monday, December 3, 2018

Countdown to the New Year - Day 1 Prompts

I have had the worst luck lately with being ill! I feel like doing some extra prompts and fun stuff to end off this year. 

You can use these for either pictures or stories. If you send them to me at I will post them here and give you a link back. Also you can send me prompts to share if you'd like!

1. Your perfect holiday scene.

2. How you feel about snow.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Prompts: A Look at Color

Sorry this is late! I was not feeling well all last week which has thrown everything off. Including this week!

Writers: Describe color to someone who can't see colors.

Artists: Create the feeling of a rainbow without using a color (black, grey and white is ok.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Prompt

I'm starting Monday Prompts today! These prompts are for artists and illustrators.

Draw or write about:

1. A child's mishap while getting dressed for school.

2. Your favorite holiday outfit/costume.

You can share any of these on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with #smartdummieschallenge

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Progress? Changes are coming!

I was pretty sad when I realized that I can't participate in #folktaleweek2018. I've had major burn out this week and I have some family issues come up. I could have participated, but I wouldn't have any quality work to show. I have gotten some good ideas from the prompts, and will work on some portfolio pieces from these.

EDIT: Please take 2 minutes to fill out this Smart Dummies Survey!

What I'm Creating:

I've been doing some sketching but no completed pieces. I hope to get some finished work soon.

I have plans for my blog! I want to find time to blog more so I need to make some changing. The linky list is not working, or doesn't work for everyone, so anyone who wants to post their blog links to their "What Progress" post then just post in the comments below!

I've decided to cut Monday Coffee, because I usually don't get enough time Monday to drink my coffee and write a post. I'm changing it to Monday Prompts. This will be one or two prompts that can be used for writers and artists (or at least one for each).

I'm also cutting interviews for now. I'm not against doing them, but the act of finding people to interview is more than I can do right now. I'm considering doing some picture book reviews instead, because they will take less time.

I'm also considering a writing challenge for. Is anyone interested? I'd love to spend more time writing and I think this would be a good time to write! Let me know your thoughts!

If you created a process post this week then please post your link below!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Margo Sorenson -- Color and Light

Margo Sorenson talks about Color and Light today and everything else that Alessandra finds in Italy in her new book Secrets in Translation. This is not Margo's first rodeo on my blog. I interviewed her back in 2015! Interview is here if you'd like to see!  Since we just had a big art event she thought it would be fun to write about the visuals in "Secrets in Translation"! You can buy her new book here: Fitzroy Books more links after this post.



By Margo Sorenson

When Dani asked me to write about visual writing to create a sense of place, I was thrilled! After all, who doesn't love to pick up a book and feel transported to another destination? In my newest Young Adult/Crossover Adult (not "cross adults!" 😉), SECRETS IN TRANSLATION (Fitzroy Books), the setting in Italy is vital, because it serves as one of the key motivators for the main character, Alessandra. Italy itself is almost like an actual character in the book, and so I needed to make Italy vibrant and colorful for readers, so they could feel as if they were really there.

Lemons on the Amalfi Coast

From the back cover: "Seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for six weeks to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve-year-old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano become frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those that she loves, and in the process, she finds herself—and her Italian heart".

The novel takes place in Positano, which, if you've ever been there, has one of the most stunning, drop-dead gorgeous views in the world.

Photo Credit: Nicki Storey @NickiPositano on Instagram

So, when I set out to write a book with Positano as its background, of course words of sight, touch, scent, taste, and sound became some of my world-building blocks. Positano had to come alive for the readers, so that Alessandra's feelings about Italy and her journey would seem real.

Many of my readers have never been to Italy, so it was key to try and find vivid words for all the senses, beginning with sight. As you know, if you've ever been there, most of Italy looks nothing like the United States, so I had to paint with a detailed brush right at the beginning:

"My feelings churned as I looked out the window at the hills dotted with olive trees, the occasional random, crumbling castle, the tiny villages clustered around an ancient church bell tower, and the AGIP gas signs."

Chianti Hills 

Once Alessandra and her employer family begin the drive to Positano, I wanted the reader to be able to grasp how unusually beautiful the setting is, because that setting actually nudges Alessandra into her realization at the end of the book (not a spoiler!):

"Two hours later, we drove through Sorrento across the Amalfi peninsula to the Amalfi Coast road and began the terrifying drive that I remembered vaguely from previous trips to the coast. The sheer cliffs dropped into the bluest sea imaginable. Tiny villages clung to the steep mountainsides, making me wonder how it was they managed to hang on."

Positano from Treville 

As the drive continues: " Looking out the window, though, at the little shops and restaurants and the signs for each little cliffside town, a feeling of familiarity began to tug at me. The boys hanging out on the street, looking over a motorino. A gaggle of girls whispering outside a store. The plump figure of a nonna all dressed in black, market basket over her arm, making her way gingerly across the cobblestone street."

Readers would know instantly that this setting is so definitely not the United States! That realization is one of the keys to the plot. Once the visual is established, then come the all-important other descriptive words to create the atmosphere in depth, by using touch, sound, taste, and smell:

"But my smile faded as we hiked down the narrow, winding streets to find our apartment. I was back—I was really back. All around us, Italians laughed and gestured as they walked by us on the narrow sidewalks; motorinos and scooters whizzed past, drivers hollering to each other and at pedestrians. The familiar scents of Italy surrounded me—sweaty humanity, ancient buildings, the suddenly pungent fragrance of geraniums in window boxes, the acrid smell of benzina, and fresh bread wafting from bakeries. It was as if I’d never left."

Then, as Alessandra and the family settle in, the word choices need to create a renewed sense of belonging and positive feelings:

"We breakfasted on oranges and hard, crusty rolls and yogurt, sitting at the square table under the window, the Italian sunlight streaming in through the gauze curtains. Through the open window, we could hear the sounds of Positano waking up, people calling to each other, the cars braking and accelerating, and the high-pitched zoom of scooters."

Alessandra starts to relax and begins to enjoy being back in Italy: "I hated to admit it, but being out on the streets in Positano was fun. The fresh, salty breeze met us at open turns, encouraging us to continue down through the town to the shimmering blue sea. Shops displayed their wares on small tables outside their doors. Blue and yellow dishes, decorated with lemons, were stacked alongside woven sandals; light summer dresses, embroidered with lemons and flowers, hung outside the shops and fluttered in the sea breeze. Lemons were everywhere, it seemed."

Positano Street Scene
Positano Plate

As Alessandra begins to let her guard down about her Italian feelings, she finds that her journey to find who she really is becomes even more complicated…because of a dangerous conspiracy—and because of, yes, crush-worthy Carlo! As a writer, I hope readers are firmly planted in Italy by now, because of words used as building-blocks of color and light, so they can be with Alessandra on her journey back to Italy. Maybe they will discover their hearts are a little bit Italian, too!

Author of thirty traditionally-published books, Margo Sorenson spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speaks (or tries!) four languages. A former middle and high school teacher, Margo has won national recognition and awards for her books, including ALA Quick Pick Nominations, recommendations from Multicultural Review, and was named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. After having lived in Hawaii and Minnesota, Margo and her husband live in Southern California.