Together at Last!

I am always amazed to hear stories of authors and illustrators who never connect during the picture book process. How can this be? I know publishers can be a bit leery of any author-illustrator relationship pre-publication. After all the author might attempt to influence the illustrator, or squash her creativity. But I LOVE to find my illustrator on social media right away. If the chance arises to meet her in person, all the better. And the ultimate meet up? You got it! A book signing together. 

Chronicle Books was the perfect matchmaker when they paired illustrator, Alina Chau, with my story Double Happiness. Besides being uber-talented, she’s delightful and humble and fun. While I’ve known this for some time, this summer was the first time I was able to see her in action at our signings in California.

First, we visited Luan Stauss’ Laurel Bookstore in Oakland. Alina’s dog, Coco, joined us. When you’re reading Double Happiness, see if you can find Coco in the book.AlinaandNancyatLaurel

Photo by Selina Liu





We had a few celebrities join us at our signings, too. Here’s Mike Jung and his famous donuts: 


The next weekend we were privileged to be part of an inaugural event thanks to the Book Shop West Portal and West Portal branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Alina and I read Double Happiness in two voices (Gracie’s and Jake’s) at the library. Alina showed the audience how to draw a few of the characters.


We had a celebrity there, too–the lovely Deborah Underwood.DeborahUnderwoodWestPortal

 Our last stop was a totally new venue for me. Trickter is a gallery/bookstore in Berkeley, run by Anita Coulter. 

AlinaNancyAnitaSee what happens when you hang with your illustrator! A whole new world opens before you. 

Now if I can only entice Alina to visit the east coast for a few double signings here. That will be extra happy occasion, for sure. 

(As an aside, I had the best fig pizza ever from Summer Kitchen in Berkeley, but I didn’t get to try Mike’s donuts)

Library Secrets: Part 2

Okay, maybe this isn’t a big secret, but have you discovered this amazing resource at your local library? She’s called the Children’s Librarian. I’ve yet to meet one I didn’t love. What’s great about my children’s librarian is she anticipates my research needs before I voice them. Just the other day she brought over two new books to my office. “Here you go,” she said. “I know you’re writing a story for Fifth Graders. These might help you.” (FYI, I haven’t read them yet, but they are Pie by Sarah Weeks and Dumpling Days by Grace Lin). How much more amazing are the results when I DO ask a direct question; she won’t rest until she’s scoured the physical and electronic shelves for my answer.

Sometimes I have the privilege of working in the Children’s Room at my library. That’s when I realize how much there is to learn. Did you know there’s a great little series out by ABDO Publishers called “Children’s Authors.” Each book features a modern author, such as the beloved Maurice Sendak, Grace Lin, Kate DiCamillo and the Wimpy Kid’s very own Jeff Kinney? It’s also when I get to SNOOP …sneaking a peak at our most recent additions. One of my favorite newbies was selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Book Awards. Neville by Norton Juster (Phantom Tollbooth), illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This is not your average “child moves to a new neighborhood” kind of book. It’s quirky and funny all wrapped into one.

That said, if you haven’t made your way into the Children’s Department of your library lately, put those running shoes on, and head there immediately. Treasures await, and the aren’t just found on the shelve. They may be walking around. 


It’s official. Fall is here as of today. This is when we ask each other questions such as where did the time go? Or what was your favorite summer memory? Surprisingly one of my best memories took place at the library. I know. It’s hard to believe. After all I did venture off to see black bears and whales in Alaska. What could beat that?

Well, the Teen Poetry Club came close. I had the privilege of introducing teens to a variety of poetic forms and several award-winning poets for five weeks. True, I was wondering who would sign up for this club. I mean, there are trips to the beach, visits to grandparents. I found the answer to that question on the first day—teens who are passionate about writing, and who are really, really good at it, too..

That said, I thought it was only appropriate that I share some of their work (with their permission, of course). I do this for two reasons: first, so you can be thoroughly impressed with the caliber of young writers here in Norwood, and second, so you may think about signing up for this workshop next summer.

Each time we covered a different topic in our workshop. Here’s a poem that one student, Lauren Swank, wrote during our first meeting. We were discussing the use of dreams and special places to jump start our writing when Lauren penned the following:


Loud voices come from the excited crowd,

all of these sounds seem so loud.

Will he cooperate throughout the course?

Will he be a good little horse?

I look ahead at the obstacles before me.

All I am thinking about is he

who needs support because his head is down.

I tell him softly “a smile is better than a frown.”

A big horse trots on by.

My little horse seems so shy.

My horse looks up for he is towered

by the horse who has over-powered

my poor shire who is all alone

when the whistle blows he stands like stone.

I softly say “Just take your time”

and after that he seemed just fine.

He did the course in two minutes flat.

We walked past the rest and said “Beat That!”

The judges gave us a First Place prize and

I then could not believe my eyes.

Loud noises came from the excited crowd

and those noises made my shire seem so proud.

Here’s another dream-inspired poem by Dina Delic. She brings her reader right into the strange and stirring place of a dream, or nightmare as the case may be.


Light flickers through,

blue-white like an old film,

and I see her,

silently staring at a wall




And I can see her closed lids,

see her struggling to breathe,

because her bone corset is laced too tight.

Her wings are tied up, and she wants to fly,

to feel the air on her skin,




She is laced too tight.

Her corset won’t let her breathe.

Society won’t let her breathe.

The heavy damask curtains won’t let her breathe.

She wants out,

but she can’t get out,

can’t loosen the ribbons restraining her freedom.

The light flickers out,

and I can still see her,

struggling to be free.

To breathe.

Just breathe.


This one is a pantoum by Sara Harder. The poet J. Lorraine Brown came to our club to discuss this particular form. In case you want to try writing one, a pantoum as defined by Merriam Webster is “a series of quatrains rhyming abab in which the second rhyme of a quatrain recurs as the first in the succeeding quatrain, each quatrain introduces a new second rhyme (as bcbc, cdcd).”


Sweet and tasty

Crunchy and round

Chocolate chip and peanut butter

Sugar cookies and almond rounds

Crunchy and round

Sticky dough on a baking tray

Sugar cookies and almond rounds

With sugar and flour and butter

Sticky dough on a baking tray

Cooling on a wire rack

With sugar and flour and butter

Mixing in a mixing bowl

Cooling on a wire rack

Chocolate chip and peanut butter

Mixing in a mixing bowl

Cookies, sweet and tasty

Another local poet, Jean Tupper, inspired the teens to write a list poem. After all, everyone has some kind of list. I’ve made my To-Do lists into poems now and then.

Often Haiku can appear deceptively easy. Short and sweet, right? But the students learned from poet, Fran Witham, that there are several key elements to haiku, including a reference to nature. This example is by Lauren Swank.

Frolicking in dandelions
Her head held high
She is free

Our final class was on ekphrastic poetry. JoAnne Preiser showed us famous works of art as inspiration for our own poems. Meenu Ravi write this poem:

Those Who Are

Our sorrows are of worlds whose patina shed

The laughter and beauty of all long lifeless

The saber of new old battles, the coronal of new queens

And jolly and simple and downhearted sorrows of me

With melody in our hands ever- shall we dance

All are our family, the world is our home

Where the voice of the wind sings my wandering feet

Through the echoing woods and the echoing street

What love shall we sow, what peace shall we gather

The voice of the breeze is the voice of our future fate

No love wishes us dawdle, no peace wishes us wait

Where the wind sings our wandering footsteps we go

So yes, when someone asks me what my best summer memory is, I tell them about my teenage poetry club. What started as the seed of an idea, grew into a spectacular experience. As a matter of fact, I think the teens had a pretty good time, too. After all, I received the ultimate compliment from them. Not only did they ask if we could do this again next summer (yah!), but they told me it was “epic.” In teen lingo, that’s not too shabby. Then again, that’s something a few of us knew all along…poetry is definitely “epic!”

Published in the Norwood Transcript 9/23/11