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Home at Last Deborah Raney

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September 8, 2015

Around the globe, people are raising awareness today about the incredible literacy needs out there. With nearly 800 million people unable to read or write, we should all do our part to help spread a love of reading and writing. I grew up in a home filled with books, was raised by educated parents, and I attended free public school in my state. But there are so many others who don’t have access to books or education. Below are a few staggering statistics.
Literacy Day

Thank you to the good people at Grammarly for this colorful infographic!

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Education,Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on Celebrating International Literacy Day



November 13, 2013

The Reading Promise

I recently devoured Alice Ozma’s wonderful book, The Reading Promise, and can’t wait to tell you about it. Isn’t this cover scrumptious? I could give it a hug! A father reading to a daughter, the little girl standing on a pile of classic books. This book is everything I believe in about kids, books, writing, parenting … I love it!

When the author, Alice Ozma, was nine years old, she and her father made a reading promise. He promised to read to her every night for 100 nights in a row, without skipping a single night. That doesn’t seem all that hard, does it? But when you think about reading for a little over three months, like an entire summer, without skipping ANY nights, this is not easy. But they did it. Alice’s father never missed a night.

So, to celebrate, they went out to eat pancakes, and over that breakfast, Alice just came up with the number 1,000. She asked her dad if he would commit to reading to her for 1,000 nights in a row. After a few bites of his pancake, he did.

And he kept that promise, not only for 1,000 nights, but for NINE straight years. They called it “The Streak,” and Alice and her dad kept up their reading streak from the year Alice was nine until the day she left for college at age eighteen. I’m almost in tears typing this sentence as I remember the details about where and when they last read together, ending the streak. You will not want to miss finding out how this amazing story wraps up.

Reading a book like this energizes me and gives me hope in the future. I really can’t say enough great things about The Reading Promise. Just knowing that there are people out there like Alice and her father, Jim, makes me feel a part of something big. Every adult who is reading a book to a child today is doing something important and long-lasting, creating a new generation of readers.

You can learn more about Alice Ozma and her dad here, and you can also commit to making your own reading promise!

This book has renewed my zeal in reading out loud to my children at bedtime. I hope it will renew yours as well.

By: Heather Ivester in: Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Education,Family,Parenting | Permalink | Comments Off on The Reading Promise



September 7, 2013



Have you ever wondered how an author turns a story idea into a published book? This video series by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver is really fun to watch. Over the summer, my daughters and I viewed the seven episodes together and enjoyed hearing Lauren explain how a favorite Maurice Sendak book from her childhood took hold of her imagination and helped inspire her to become a writer.

In the last episode of the series, we listened to Lauren read the first few chapters of her new middle-grade novel, The Spindlers. We loved the characters so much we decided to check the book out from our library and finish reading it together. It’s an exciting book — a bit creepy if you’re scared of spiders — but it shared the positive message of how brothers and sisters can deeply care for each other.

If you’re a teacher, parent, or simply curious about the process of book publication, I highly recommend this wonderful series, How a Book Is Made.

Happy Reading!

By: Heather Ivester in: American Authors,Children's Books,Education,Family,Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on How a Story Idea Becomes a Book



May 16, 2011



My three daughters and I were extremely blessed to hear Miss Camille Sims speak in person at a Mother/Daughter Tea last weekend. Isn’t she lovely? She is the 2010 Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen and she was also crowned Miss Junior Teen United States 2008.

While we sipped peach tea and munched on dainty cucumber sandwiches, Camille gave a speech and then entertained us further by singing Ella Fitzgerald’s A Tisket A Tasket. It was easy to see why she wowed the judges in her pageant performances. My youngest daughter asked with wide eyes, “Is she a real princess?” and the others wanted to know how she got her crown to stay on her head.

Miss Sims is a poised and talented young woman, representing my native state of Georgia in a platform of “Fighting Hunger and Improving Wellness.” She travels around the world inspiring young women to work hard in school and in all their endeavors so they’ll be able to reach out and bless others who are less fortunate.

I’m always on the lookout for mentors for my daughters, especially as we’re entering the teen years. In her talk, Camille publicly praised her mother who was in attendance, and she told the girls in the room, “If I could give you any advice today, it would be to listen to your mother.” Don’t you know I loved hearing that! She explained that her mother is the reason why she has become the person she is today.

Miss Sims graduates from an Atlanta high school this month with a 4.3 GPA and will be attending Cornell University on scholarship. I asked her if she was excited about moving to New York, and she said she really is. I know God has great plans for this inspiring young woman, and I wish her all the best in her journey ahead!




November 30, 2010


I love field trips. Whenever my kids’ school sends home a permission slip for something fun and interesting, I’m there. I ride the bus, bouncing along with other parents, enjoying an excuse to break out of my normal routine and learn something new.

Still, it came as a surprise when I recently got invited to attend an educational field trip — just for me. I was somehow selected to join a group of media attending a conference hosted by the United Egg Producers, held in sunny Tampa, Florida.

I’m not sure why they chose me — perhaps a secret computer at my local grocery store alerted them to the fact that THIS WOMAN BUYS A LOT OF EGGS. It’s true. We eat eggs every day at our house — fried, boiled, or scrambled for breakfast; deviled and sliced for after-school snacks; and baked in all sorts of muffins, cookies, pancakes, waffles, and cornbread.

Eggs fill my kids up and give them energy. They’re also an inexpensive source of protein. Yet I hadn’t given much thought as to WHY eggs are so abundant in the U.S., as well as why I can buy them so cheaply.

We tried for several years to maintain our own free-range, organic egg-laying hens. But eventually we lost every single one of them to predators — neighborhood dogs, hawks, and weasels. In a way it was a relief. Chickens don’t lay forever, and once they age out, you either keep them as feathery pets or … you know, eat them. Which I couldn’t imagine doing.

So I went to Tampa, curious about how modern egg farmers operate. I went alone — with an open mind, a camera, and a little black notebook.

Our group was eclectic: I met other mom bloggers, healthy living writers, cooking experts, and even a senior beauty editor from New York. Everyone was super friendly, and I blended right in, trying to act like I do this sort of thing all the time.

We rode on a bus, actually a van, out to a modern egg-producing farm. Along the way, we listened to speakers and watched a video about how hens create and lay their eggs. Amazing stuff! When we arrived, our van had to be hosed down, and each of us suited up from head to toe in biosecurity jumpsuits. This is why school groups usually aren’t invited to tour egg farms — absolutely everything must be 100% sanitary, free of pathogens.

Here’s our little group, trying to get used to our new outfits (I am on the far right):



And here I am holding one of these hard-working beautiful white leghorn hens:




I cannot begin to describe to you all the emotions that raced through my body as I entered a barn housing over 100,000 chickens. Mostly, I felt gratitude. I realized I’ve never fully appreciated the labor behind each and every egg I bring into my home.

We learned that this facility packages 750,000 eggs per day. It brought back memories of watching “Mr. Rogers” with my children, as I wanted to ask each person working there a million questions. It was fascinating to watch the eggs going from hens to egg cartons within a matter of minutes.



Next, we visited a cage-free farm. Here the hens can roam around freely.




This breed of bird is more docile than the white leghorn, and lays beautiful brown eggs.


After our busy morning of visiting farms, we spent the afternoon listening to professors and other health experts explain the scientific research behind modern egg farming. I learned that the United Egg Producers have created welfare guidelines to ensure that hens have “adequate space, nutritious food, clean water, proper lighting, and fresh air daily.” It’s a voluntary program, and only farms that adhere to these strict guidelines can display the UEP logo on their packaging:



So, after listening to all of these well-informed people and seeing for myself what modern egg farms look like, I came away with one main thought: as consumers, we have plenty of choices when it comes to eggs.

We can buy the inexpensive white eggs that come from caged hens, or we can buy the pricier cage-free eggs. We can buy from local organic farms, or we can fill up our carts at the supermarket. If we have the time, space, and inclination, we can raise our own chickens to feed our families. I encourage you to research all of this for yourself. You can take a virtual tour of a UEP-certified egg farm here.

My special thanks to the United Egg Producers for hosting me on this tour. I learned a lot, made new friends, and gained a greater appreciation of the network of farms and people who work to bring food into my home.

This is definitely a mom’s field trip I’ll never forget.






August 17, 2010

Over the summer, while browsing through my Auburn University alumni magazine, I was surprised to learn that all 4,000 incoming freshmen are being encouraged to read a book together: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.


Wow. That’s a major book club, don’t you think?

It’s part of the Common Book program that more than 100 universities are starting to participate in. This reminds me of our own community’s Big Read last spring, when we all read To Kill a Mockingbird together. Can you see how a bookish person likes me gets excited about these types of programs?

So, I had Three Cups of Tea on my mind all summer, wondering what’s so great about it that an entire university would be reading it together. Sure, it was a #1 New Times Bestseller for months, but just because it’s selling millions of copies doesn’t mean I’m going to fall in love with it.

But I did. Oh … there is something rich between the covers of this book that reached the core of me. It’s changed the way I view the world. I hope you’ll get a chance to read it, if you haven’t yet. Especially if you’re a woman. Read it, and you’ll understand.

The story begins with Greg Mortenson’s failure to climb the K2 mountain in Pakistan, the second highest mountain in the world. He almost froze to death one night when the porter carrying his heavy backpacks disappeared far ahead. Greg wandered around lost for a while, and ended up in a village called Korphe.

While staying in this village a while to recover his strength, he was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people. There were children everywhere, and when he asked the elders where these kids go to school, he got some sad looks.

He discovered dozens of children huddled together in the freezing cold scribbling their math equations into the dirt with sticks. From this point on, he vowed that he would someday return to this village and build them a school.

The book is a page turner. He goes from one hard time to another — living out of his car trying to scrape together his own meager living and keep his dream alive. He writes 300 letters on a rented typewriter until some kind soul shows him how to use the “cut and paste” option on a computer, and then he sends out 280 more. At last he finds a person willing to back him up financially so he can build that first school, Dr. Jean Hoerni.

The rest of the book recounts the trials and adventures Mortenson encounters as he builds that first school in Korphe — which leads to launching a whole organization, Central Asia Institute, dedicated to promoting world peace through education. He builds not only schools, but also relationships with people in the war-torn regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


As you’re reading, you suddenly get the big picture that schools lead to educated minds who are less likely to be recruited by terrorists, and who are less likely to strap bombs to themselves and blow things up.

You realize books lead to peace. And so Mortenson’s mission becomes your own.

There’s now a Young Reader’s edition, which has full-color pictures and a simplified text. I think this would be a fantastic book for teachers or parents to read out loud. Students can also participate in the Pennies for Peace program.



The title of the book comes from the way in which the people in central Asia conduct business. Mortenson’s mentor, Haji Ali, teaches him:

The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.

If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to watch this short interview with Greg Mortenson. You’ll be amazed. I can definitely understand why an entire campus will be reading and discussing this book together, and who knows how many new dreams will be launched from this shared experience.

(I’ve heard the story continues, with the 2009 published sequel, Stones into Schools.)

All photos are complements of Central Asia Institute.




August 16, 2010

I’ve written about this before, but I thought I’d periodically update you on overseas teaching jobs. It’s a topic I feel passionate about, and I’m praying there’s a young 20-something woman out there who might discover my post and find a calling in teaching overseas. It’s one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I’d also like to remind mothers of teenagers there’s a huge world out there, and if their kids work hard, they can see it! I tell my kids this all the time, reminding them they’ll need a good education and work skills in order to have the means to travel.

According to Joy Jobs, there are nearly 5,000 overseas teaching vacancies right now. Recruitment for the 2011-12 school year has already begun, as it takes a while for a teacher to tie up loose ends and move overseas.

These jobs do not require raising financial support; the teachers are paid by the school. I know there are many opportunities for young men and women to go into missions, but most of the time, they require raising support.

I received information today about the following jobs. If reading through this list fascinates you (as it does me!), please contact Joy Jobs. There’s a process where you submit your resume and find out how recruitment works.

***************

LAST-MINUTE POSITIONS FOR IMMEDIATE START!

———————————————————
Málaga, Spain

Tutoring Center in Málaga city is looking for full-time and
part-time Native English Teachers. We are seeking motivated and
well-organized applicants with comprehensive communication
skills.

REQUIREMENTS

– Bachelor’s degree: Education, Languages or related field.
(TEFL and other certificates are valuable).
– Only residents in Málaga or nearby.
– Availability from Monday to Saturday (9:00 – 21:00).
– Previous experience will be valued
– Computer skills: Intermediate (Microsoft Office package,
Proficient in Internet and E-mail)
– Work permit for non EU citizens.
– Candidate needs to be flexible, a fast learner, high spirits,
open minded, and optimistic.
– Fluent in Spanish

SALARY

Negotiable, depending on the candidate skills and
qualifications.

Apply today!
———————————————————

St. Vincent & The Grenadines – Carribean

A Primary School Teacher is wanted for a 10 pupil English company
primary school (Pelican School) on a beautiful small Caribbean
island – Canouan.

It is a wonderful experience for someone seeking an adventure,
looking to enrich their career and life experiences and wanting
to make a difference.

• The successful applicant should have experience teaching at
all levels and must demonstrate commitment to equality and
diversity.
• Having varied teaching experiences, teaching science and
social studies, and also having some knowledge of distance
learning techniques would be an asset.
• He/she will be required to work together with 2 other staff,
teach a class of mixed aged pupils, bring a fresh approach to
this small school of very high potentials and great resources.

Minimum Qualifications:
• A first degree or 5 years teaching experience
• Educational training relevant to your home territory
• A passion for teaching
• Vision and enthusiasm

Families and couples welcome.
We offer accommodation, flights and an attractive salary
package.

Deadline: 10 October, 2010

Unsuitable applications will not be acknowledged

———————————————————

MEF International School – Istanbul

For August 2010, this is an urgent vacancy:

•MS/HS Chemistry/Science

Come live in glorious and historic Istanbul, the 2010 European
Capital and work at an IB World School!
Deadline: 1 September (unless post remains vacant after this
date)

———————————————————
URGENT FULL-TIME ENGLISH TEACHERS IN NORTH VIETNAM

Shelton English Training Centre is one of the prestigious quality
English centers. It has been well-established from the high
reputation of Technology Transferring & Education Development
Ltd., Co founded in 1997. The company has been well-known in the
education and training industry over the past 13 years.

Initially starting business in Hanoi-the capital of Vietnam,
Shelton English Training Centre has been expanding the business
wise to other Northern provinces of Vietnam such as Hai Phong,
Quang Ninh. We are seeking for experienced English native
speaking teachers from England, Australia, America, Ireland,
Canada, etc.

Shelton English Training Centre offers a highly competitive
financial and benefits package to teachers, which is based on
qualifications and experience

If you are serious in teaching and fun loving children then this
is a great opportunity. What are you waiting for, come and join
us!
———————————————————

Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates

•Math Teacher Advisor/Curriculum Support Specialist for a boys
middle school in Abu Dhabi!
Be a part of Educational Reform in exciting Abu Dhabi! Assist
the local staff in the implementation of a new curriculum, new
teaching and learning methodologies, and make a difference!

The right candidate will have 5 years relevant teaching
experience and

· Hold a teaching qualification of at least graduate level
· Experienced in curriculum management and development
· Experienced in the use and analysis of performance data
· Sound understanding of innovations in teaching and learning.
· Proven commitment to quality
· Evidence of an ability to understand the ethos of partnering
and of delivering in that environment.
· Excellent English communication skills (both oral and
written)
· Competent in the use of IT and willing to develop these
further
· Respectful and sensitive to local culture and heritage
———————————————————

Government Schools in Malaysia

* English Teaching Professionals as English Language Trainer

From contract period 2011 to 2013 – 3 years

– for primary students
– to enhance the local teachers teaching
competency via co-facilitation and training
– to start in end 2010.

Excellent Benefits and rewards to the right candidate. Malaysia
is a fantastic palce to live.

Application Deadline: 28 October 2010
———————————————————

Kingdom of Bahrain

•English Teachers Required Urgently!

Two experienced English teachers (5-10 years) required to teach
English at middle and high school levels leading to GCSE diploma
in a private school in Bahrain:current strength (300 students)
Knowledge of GCSE curriculum would be an added advantage. Masters
degree preferred but not essential but ability to work in a
highly diverse environment with different nationalities is key to
success. Potential joining date is September 1, 2010 and
therefore speed is of essence. Attractive tax free salary, free
furnished accomodation,leave travel and medical and a two year
fixed contract are available for the most deserving candidates.

Bahrain is one of the most desirable places in the Gulf (GCC
States). Considerable saving potential and no restrictions on
expatriate living.

Apply immediately with CV, cover letter, photo and three
references

———————————————————
Bali – Indonesia!

International School in Bali, Indonesia urgently and immediately
requires a Primary Grade 2 teacher.

Degree in primary education and experienced teachers preferred.

Apply ASAP!

By: Heather Ivester in: Education,Travel | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)



July 30, 2010

Hey Moms and Book Lovers!

I just found out about this very cool program for kids. We were shopping at the mall recently looking for new backpacks and school clothes, believe it or not, and we slipped into Borders to see what was new in the children’s book department.

I found out it’s not too late for your kids to join in the Double Dog Dare Summer Reading Club. All you have to do is go here and print out the form, then have them fill in ten books they’ve read since school was out. You have until August 26 to turn the forms in, and your kids can win a free book!

The books they can choose from are awesome:

Ramona the Brave, by Beverly Cleary
Miss Daisy is Crazy! by Dan Gutman
Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan
Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
The River, by Gary Paulsen
Kristy’s Great Idea, by Ann M. Martin (Babysitter’s Club)

Hmmm … in looking over this list, I realize we already own most of these books. But I still plan to go pick up our free copies because, don’t you know, books make great birthday gifts! And they also make nice teacher gifts as well, since I know teachers love having their own stash of great books for kids to read.

Isn’t this a fun idea? Thank you, Borders marketing people! We moms need all the help we can get motivating our children to read.

P.S. Even if you don’t join the program, be sure to read Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney’s letter to educators about the importance of reading.




July 13, 2010



I hope you’re all having an amazing summer, sipping lemonade and staying cool. Here are a few blogworthy bits and pieces I’ve compiled for you. I seem to always be on the lookout for items that relate to TEEN WRITERS, so I think God is working on my heart in this area. I’ll soon have a house full of teens, and of course I want them to be writers!

*Randy Ingermanson has written a wonderful post, How Old Must You Be To Write a Novel? I wish I’d read this when I was 15. Pass this along to any teen you know!

*Michelle Medlock Adams is the new teen content editor for ibegat, an online magazine for teens. She’s written a post full of encouragement and cool links to get teens sending their work out.

*Agent Chip MacGregor recently posted about 10 Errors That Drive Me Crazy. I laughed all the way through this post, yet secretly cringed when I realized how often I commit these annoying bad habits. If you’re looking to improve your writing, read Chip’s list.

*In my other life, before having kids, I used to teach high school English. When I read Whitney L. Grady’s story, Why I Teach, it gave me chills and reminded me why so much joy can be found in the classroom.

*Jan Fields has written a snazzy article here on how to save postage when sending your writing off to editors. What do you do if a publication requests that your manuscript be included in the body of an email? See Jan’s tips on formatting.

*One of my lifetime goals is to read every book that has won a Newbery Award. So, I was totally inspired when I read about this little ten-year-old girl, Laura, who has already read every single Newbery winner. AMAZING! She even includes links to reviews she’s written for most of the books. I better get busy catching up with her.

*Here’s another fun article for you book clubbers out there, How A Book Club Changed My Life.

*Rounding out this list, my good friend Sally Apokedak alerted me to this captivating article by William Zinsser, on how he wrote his perennial best-selling book, On Writing Well. I keep Zinsser’s work only a few inches from my computer, so I loved reading the story behind his creation of it. Thank you, Sally.

Enjoy your summer reading!




July 6, 2010




We have a guest today who’s an expert on teaching kids about the great outdoors. I had the privilege of meeting Heather Montgomery at an SCBWI conference a couple of years ago, and her enthusiasm for science writing is contagious!

She’s the author of several fascinating books, including How is Soil Made? Mummies: Truth and Rumors, How To Survive An Earthquake, What’s Inside a Rattlesnake’s Rattle?: And Other Questions Kids Have About Snakes, and Why Do My Teeth Fall Out?: And Other Questions Kids Have About the Human Body.

Besides books, we often see Heather Montgomery’s byline in Highlights magazine, which our whole family loves to read!

Hello, Heather. You look comfortable up there in that tree. How did you become interested in nature writing?

I love nature and teaching about it. One day I realized that I could teach many more people through writing than I could ever hope to reach in person, so I decided to try my hand at nature writing for children.

Were you inspired by nature as a child? What were your favorite activities to do outdoors growing up?

I’ve always loved the outdoors. I grew up in a rural area where we spent our days running through the woods, playing tag in the yard, and pulling oysters out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Our family vacations were to state and national parks, and I attribute my love of learning in the outdoors to those early experiences with awe-inspiring nature rangers.

As a child I was scared of spiders and was not thrilled about some of the subjects that now amaze me, but I’ve learned that the more you learn about something, the less you fear it. Now I regularly hold spiders in my hand to teach children about them. I’ve always been curious about science and how things in nature work.



Yikes! I’m not sure I could hold a spider in my hand. What do you most enjoy now?

I haven’t outgrown my childhood pleasures. I particularly like to climb trees, wade in clear streams, watch bugs, and garden. I also love just about any sport or game played outdoors. One of my greatest pleasures is taking student groups outside to nature journal and discover the excitement of science.

Sounds like you’ve chosen a career you love! Why do you think it’s important for today’s parents and kids to get outside and explore the great outdoors?

The outdoor environment is perfect for stimulating a child’s curiosity. No matter what their interest — science, art, music, sports — they can find nature inspiring and develop life-long healthy hobbies.

Humans like to learn, and being in a natural environment where learning comes easily helps children realize that learning is fun. Free play in the outdoors is critical to the development of curiosity, physical health, and a sense of place.

I agree. Kids learn more from experience than from watching it on a flat screen. I see you’ve written a number of books on a wide range of subjects, from earthquakes to soil to rattlesnakes, and more! How do you choose to write on a topic?

When a potential topic comes to my attention, my first thought is “How interesting is it to me?” Is it something I might want to spend a few years learning and writing about? If I’m not passionate about it, then it won’t make a good topic for a kids book or article.

The second “test” I give it is marketability. Is there a publishing house out there which might be interested in it? Answering this question requires a good bit of market research.

Thirdly, I consider the practicalities. Is there enough material out there on the topic, do I have good access to experts on the subject, etc.?

Most of the books I’ve written (and all that I’ve published so far) have been on assignment. Educational publishers or book packagers have assigned me the project based on my experience and their needs.

What has been one of your most intriguing assignments?

One of the most interesting bits of field research I’ve been able to do was at Mammoth Cave. I joined a group of middle school students who were trying to figure out why one of the rivers in the cave runs backwards sometimes. We crawled through the cave, saw mummified bats, pulled test equipment from a river so far below us that we could not even see it and found a blind cave crawfish. I’m working to turn that experience into a magazine article.

That sounds incredible. I hope we’ll be able to read about it!

I also enjoyed the utterly gross experience of dissecting a rattlesnake. When I was writing my upcoming book on rattlesnakes, I happened to find a dead rattler along the road. Always one for hands-on learning, I decided to dissect it (Warning: Do not try this at home).

Wow! Did you feel like you were in any danger doing this?

Not at the time, but later when I learned that a rattler’s fangs can strike on reflex even after they are dead, I wondered if it had been such a good idea.

From that dissection, I did learn that most rattlers have only one lung — a neat anatomy note that I use during my school visits to help students think critically about how a body is designed.

Do you take your own photographs for assignments? Do you think it helps to sell an article or book idea if a writer includes his or her own photographs?

I do take photos for my projects, but mostly for my own reference and use. They, along with my nature journal, help immensely when I’m working on adding vivid detail to a manuscript. Some editors, like those at Highlights require that you submit photos to support the article, but most prefer to use professional photographers or stock photos.

How did you get started in writing for Highlights magazine? What do you recommend for writers who’d like to break into this publication?

I was fortunate enough to attend the “Writing from Nature” workshop put on by the Highlights Foundation. During an amazing five days I learned boatloads of information about writing for kids and met the science editor for Highlights. A tip I learned at the workshop was that every piece in the magazine is written by freelancers. That includes even the three-sentence “Science Corner” pieces and the short puzzles. Those are a great way to get a foot in the door.

Can you tell us about your involvement with the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)? Do you think this organization is helpful for people interested in being published in the field of children’s literature?

Joining and becoming actively involved with the SCBWI has been the single step that has most helped my career. Through the organization, I’ve joined a critique group which has proven instrumental in improving my writing and keeping me producing work.

I volunteered to help and have become the Assistant Regional Advisor for Southern Breeze (the Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi region). This involvement has exposed me to numerous talented members who have all willingly shared their knowledge, helping me each step of the way. The SCBWI publications have been an invaluable resource as I have navigated the stormy seas of the marketplace.

Would you recommend SCBWI conferences? Is it a good idea to go if you’re just getting started in writing for kids?

Absolutely! Through SCBWI international and regional conferences I have learned about the business end of being an author, had the pleasure of meeting editors, and forced my shy self into networking. For people new to the industry, in addition to finding a supportive critique group, I would recommend reading the publications provided by the SCBWI.

Then, I’d recommend attending a regional conference or event which focuses on craft. After you have some experience, try to attend conferences and events designed to help market your work. The professional critiques available at these conferences are a good step once your work has been critiqued by peers and revised several times.

This fall I’ll be presenting at both the Carolina’s and the Southern Breeze regional SCBWI conferences. I hope to see you there!

That’s great! I’m hoping to go to one of these SCBWI conferences. Are there any other conferences you’d recommend to aspiring writers?

I highly recommend any of the Highlights Foundation Workshops. The folks at Highlights genuinely care about your progress as a writer and about providing the best literature for children. Plus, their food is scrumptious. 🙂

Mmmm…All the more reason to go! Can you tell us what your latest writing project is these days?

I’m working on numerous projects on topics ranging from hiccups to parasitic wasps and even a work of fiction. In the near future, I’ll have two more snake books published. One is on garter snakes, and the other on rattlesnakes. Did you know that these snakes give birth to live young instead of laying eggs? Nature works in mysterious ways — ways that scientists get to study and figure out!

Cool! You make it all sound like so much fun. Thank you for visiting here with us!

My pleasure.

You can learn more about Heather Montgomery at her author website, as well as at her award-winning consulting business, DEEP: DragonFly Environmental Education Programs. Be sure to scroll down to read Heather’s article, Most Dedicated Mom. I think you’ll be quite surprised!