This Time of Year…

November 14, 2017

It’s this time of year that I most miss working with little children, especially  seeing the excitement in their eyes as they look forward to the holidays. By now we would be up to our elbows in all the holiday projects: decorating a home and classroom tree, present making, and holiday songs and stories. The holiday outings, well I still do those with my grown-up children. We look forward again this year to the 25 foot Gingerbread House in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Last weekend we went to a Harry Potter tea at the Muir Tea House in Sebastopol, and even drank butter beer!
All this wild activity can also be overwhelming for everyone, so what better than to get cozy on the sofa and relax with hot cocoa and a favorite book or three. This year, I’m highly recommending my writer friend Elizabeth Varadan’s new picture book, Dragonella. It’s one of those books the children will want to read and have read to them over and over. I love the idea of a pickle cake. Hmm, wondering if one could make a human version of it just like the cauldron cake we ate at the Harry Potter tea! I’ll have to ask my little friends what human ingredients they would want in their pickle cake next time I’m with them for tea.


How can a little dragon girl’s flames be tamed? Dragonella gets in trouble her first day in her new school because her dragon flames flare just as she is trying to make a new friend. Her classmates are frightened; and worse, they tease her. Mrs. Trollaga and her parents try to help, but every time she learns new dragon manners, her flames come out in another way. What will she do on Legend Day when Mrs. Trollaga is going to make the children’s favorite pickle cake? Will Dragonella be able to tame her flames on that special day?

Dragonella is a charming book written by Elizabeth Varadan. The illustrations and book design are by Brian Belanger whose depictions and colors artfully depict little dragons, trolls, ogres, and griffins. What a super gift this will make for the holidays and special birthdays, especially for a child’s classroom Kindergarten through third grade teacher. Elementary aged children and classrooms can use the book as inspiration for creative writing and art projects where they can write and illustrate their own books about fanciful creatures and how to deal with teasing and bullying. Or, they could make sock or paper-puppets-on-sticks of the characters in order to act out the story.

Author: Elizabeth Varadan
Illustrator: Brian Belanger
Belanger Books, October 2017
ISBN: 978-1978037823




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Whoo Hoo!!

August 25, 2017

“Whale Shark” watercolor & pencil 9×11″

Sea Turtle
acrylic on canvas, 6″x9″ 2009

Yes, I feel like an owl hooting in glee as I submitted a small painting to the Occidental Center for the Arts summer show, “Sea Creatures.” My painting “Whale Shark” not only was selected, but it sold. Then, they asked for another painting to replace “Whale Shark” on the wall, so I gave them “Sea Turtle!” I love that I can share my art with the world.


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Dragon Humor For Cuckoo Times!!

January 17, 2017

   Here it is the middle of winter and the world seems to be rocking with cuckoo (scary and sad too) stories, so what better than cozying up with a book full of humor to read with your child, or just for you! Timeless humor lifts spirits and helps us feel safe and sane. It truly cheers me up every time I look at the book sitting on my coffee table. I’m even going to copy some of the pages to color. I’m wishing each of you a very cheerful 2017.


Nickerbacher is back!! This time it’s as a middle grade chapter book, with Nickerbacher’s antics and dreams as viable as ever. His jokes are still funny and timeless. He wants so badly to follow his dream of being a stand-up comedian instead of guarding the Princess Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn, though, is a true friend and encourages him to stand up for his dreams against his father’s commands and Prince Fancypants ~ oops, Prince Happenstance ~ wanting to fight him for Gwendolyn’s hand. How will Nickerbacher ever get to La La Land and be on the Late Knight Show?

This lively book, with its story that dances a sprightly pace, will encourage middle grade children to read more, learning not only new vocabulary, but also to delight in the activity of reading itself. The illustrations in this chapter book are in black and white, so that young owners of the book can color the pages for themselves. (See Nickerbacher The Funniest Dragon picture book for full color illustrations). A great class activity would be for teachers to have students use Nickerbacher as a model for writing and illustrating their own books to be “published” within the school or even in creating their own classroom press to self-publish on-line. It’s never too early to become a published author. Highly recommended for ages 7-11.


Author: Terry John Barto    Author Website  & Nickerbacher Website

Illustrator: Kim Sponaugle    TJB KIDS, Los Angeles, 2016     ISBN: 9781944878276

NOTE ~ I am no longer doing regular book reviews in order for me to have more time to create my own books! So, from now on I’ll be only doing occasional book reviews on children’s (& other) books that I find tickle my fancy, have deep heart, diversity, and/or a roaring good story. For past reviews you can go to my old archives 

I’ll be putting all my reviews and posts here on my website instead of separate blogs. And for my creativity past posts
   As always I urge readers to support their local libraries and independent book stores. May you always find great reads for yourself.




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Why Sleuths Solve Mysteries

June 23, 2013

I enjoy doing book reviews. How else will I ever be able to read new and adventurous books that I may never have heard of before? Usually I review children’s and young adult books, but this time I’ve had the utter delight of reviewing an adult mystery by Nancy Means Wright who I first reviewed for her The Book CoverMiddle Grade Mystery The Great Circus Train RobberyI still use the book as a model for how to write my own middle grade novels. 

Sleuths never give up no matter how hard the difficult the mystery is to solve or how tangled the evidence gets. This is a great model or lesson for writers and artists because the going gets really hard at times. Life bites away at creative time, the main character just won’t behave, you put a final stroke on a painting and it’s wrecked. But we slog on as the creativity is in our life’s blood and we must solve the next step no matter what.

In Broken Strings Wright’s protagonist Fay Hubbard faces all the challenges of life and creativity and more, and still persists until she solves the crime. See my review: brokenstrings

Nancy Means Wright writes another page turner, a winner indeed. Just as the reader thinks she knows “whodunnit” another clue, distraction, or more grimly, another body pops up leaving sleuth Fay Hubbard all the more puzzled and determined to find her friend Marion’s killer.


Fay Hubbard is also a character in Wright’s Ruth Willmarth mystery series. In this book, Ruth is away on an extended honeymoon, so Fay not only takes on Ruth’s goats, but also her three foster children. As if that isn’t handful enough, Fay is also a puppeteer for Valentini Marionettes owned by her friend Marion Valentini who collapses at the end of a show, poisoned. Fay takes over the running of the show and, although a suspect herself, sets out to find Marion’s killer. She begins to find that all the circumstances and relationships around her are increasingly complex, a maze she has to ramble through as fast as she can in order to solve the murders.


Owing to Wright’s compelling prose and excellent plotting, the reader instantly becomes a part of Fay’s sleuthing and serious duties, sprinkled with great dollops of humor. This book, set in Vermont is as good as, if not better, than an English cozy.

For More Information go to Nancy’s website




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I’m Excited!

June 15, 2013

Book coverLast evening in Santa Fe, we won the President’s Choice award for Best Design and Production for Millicent Rogers: A Life in Full. Soon I will post a copy of the award and pictures of us at the ceremony. Another book Storied Recipes also won the same award in the cookbook section. I have a recipe in that book. Our designer Lesley Cox of Feel Designs Associates designed both books.


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“I Can’t Paint With Red.”

June 25, 2011

“You have a wise, gentle yet firm, empathetic approach — and a lovely sense of humor!” – Yvette, Berkeley, CA

In an art class critique I was told to use red, a color I never dared use as it seemed too bold and harsh for me. Yet, I was bothered that I had that block against red. A fellow student who was more daring in her art work, encouraged me to use it “just a little bit,” and she demonstrated on her own painting that she painted with the soles of her shoe instead of a brush! I tried just a tiny mark of red on the very edge of my next painting. Lo, what a difference! Now I can use red whenever I need. That friend was my good Creativity Coach that day.

I opened the door of my comfort zone and walk into my creative zone… when was the last time you felt that creative excitement, freedom, and peace? 

  • Do you have trouble deciding which creative project to focus on?
  • Are you at the start of your project and feel blocked, overwhelmed, or unsure?
  • Is marketing daunting for you?
  • Do you feel that your creative goals are constantly being unfulfilled owing to the real demands of daily life?
  • Do you wonder where to go next?

Are your creative feathers ruffled? Isn’t it your time to explore the real creative you?



Delight in your creativity and find even deeper meaning in your creative life whatever your media or pursuit of happiness. I am a writer, novelist, artist, and trained creativity coach with a background in education. I help you find and pursue your creative success goals, overcome your challenges and blocks, and take you through the process of your project, including setting your routines and finding confidence in each step of the way. Shall we start?!

Let your creativity soar!

As a Creativity Coach I can help you:

  • see, comprehend, and move through the creative blocks that stand in the way of your projects. I can work with you in whatever media: art, writing, crafts, theater, music, photography, or your creative business.
  • inspire you to create meaning with your projects so that you can think bigger, with clarity,  and can work more productively.
  • pinpoint the doubts, fears, anxieties, and worries that so many of us have as creatives.
  • know that you are listened to, and then coach and nourish you so that your creative work shines.

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  • Special lifetime price for original clients

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