Win an TOO PURPLEY! Board Book on Goodreads!

To celebrate the release of the TOO PURPLEY! Board Book, I’m giving away a free autographed copy on Goodreads. Check it out!

Totally Awesome Takeaways from Mary Kole’s Beginnings Workshop

Literary agent, Mary Kole, who specializes in children’s literature at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, recently completed her 5-part Novel Beginnings Workshop. Her thoughtful critiques of 5 submitted novel openers are brimming with tips on writing beginnings that hook your readers. Stop by her blog to read these detailed critiques AND to have a look at her agent wish list.

For a sneak peek from the workshops, here are my top takeaways. Thanks, Mary!

Workshop 1: Interiority and characterizing details reveal the main character as a person. Make sure your writing is mimetic.

Workshop 2: Opening paragraphs ground readers in time and place. Your narrator’s voice must match the time period and vantage point of your story – which is especially important in historical novels.

Workshop 3: Beware of play-by-play narration that is incidental to the story. It’s more important for your reader to understand the context of the action. Voice is critical, in children’s literature especially. We need to know what’s in our main character’s head in the opening scene and not allow our adult point of view to slip in. And as an addendum from Workshop 4 – if you can’t change your voice, change your character to fit your voice.

Workshop 4: Beware of jarring or dialog heavy beginnings that don’t ground the reader. Improper grounding leads to confusion which leads to distraction. Openings should fully engage your readers rather than causing them to step outside the story to rethink what they just read. When readers need to step outside the story, the stakes diminish. See also Workshop 3.

Workshop 5: Readers need to be emotionally involved with the main character right from the start. What might prevent readers from bonding with your main character? Dry adult language, dense writing, invisible stakes or unclear motivation.

To read the submissions in full and Mary Kole’s workshops in their entirety check out .

Audrey Vernick on Brainstorming and The Bufflalo’s Bucket List

Last summer when I traveled to Uganda I was quite picky about my traveling companions. They had to be fun, hardy and have a LOT of heart. That’s why Audrey Vernick’s buffalo made the cut.

After all, if he could handle kindergarten, he could handle most anything. Sure enough, I found that this treasure of a picture book, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? delights kids everywhere.

Now, in Audrey’s latest book, in bookstores June 28th, our favorite buffalo has got the beat. He’s learning to play the drums! YES! And he’s sure to leave his mark, not only on the music world but on the children’s literary world as well. WOOHOO! Check it out!

Of course, this news begs the question “What will he do next?”

Well that’s precisely what I asked my friend, fellow picture book author, and buffalo lover, Audrey Vernick. So I’m bubbling over with pride at presenting Audrey’s thoughts on brainstorming and her hilarious Buffalo Bucket List. Go, Audrey!

Brainstorming for buffalo ideas has everything to do with Daniel Jennewein, the illustrator of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS. The buffalo I first wrote about was just this idea of a buffalo until Daniel brought him to life. The ideas I envision now are very closely tied to the images he created; there’s no way to separate them.

I cannot resist the impulse to put my buffalo in costumes and give him props, which is why both the Winter and Summer Olympics really call me. I would love to see the buffalo go for gold. The publishing reality of that, of course, is a pretty tiny sales/marketing window, and so I’m sure it won’t happen, but just envision: Speedo/goggle-clad Buffalo in the 400-meter medley, competitive trampoline, fencing, canoe. For the winter sports–bobsled, ski jump, curling, figure skating (pairs).

All I have to do is think it and I can see what Daniel would come up with, and well, that’s a party in my head. When I think about brainstorming in general, as requested by my lovely host, I stumbled upon a surprising reality: I don’t really brainstorm. (How’s that for an engaging guest blog post?) An idea comes to me–via something I say or think–and I weigh it for story potential.

I am at my least creative when actively seeking ideas, a true brainstormer’s worst nightmare. But because my buffalo already exists, he’s an exception. I stink at brainstorming from scratch, but I had one heck of a good time coming up with this bucket list for my buffalo.

And now (drum roll) ….


  1. Make a cameo appearance on Sesame Street
  2. Hang out with this buffalo:
  3. Throw a set of earthenware mugs on a potter’s wheel
  4. Spend a day in the Bronx with select Yankees including but not limited to Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera (odd request: he wants his author with him)
  5. Work as a lifeguard at the beach (assuming giant buffalo-supporting chair can be procured)
  6. Be asked to serve as spokesperson for the American Bison Society
  7. Direct a hilarious character-driven film with heart
  8. Create his own foundation to help assimilate cud-chewing ruminants into the public school system
  9. Water ski
  10. Attend first grade.

Jean, thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Buffalo’s Bucket List. That, my friend, is an award winner.

Audrey! I love it. So the Buffalo is a Yankees fan? Who would have guessed? And don’t be surprised if some seamstress fan doesn’t fashion that buffalo Speedo for him in time for London 2012. Thanks so much Audrey for stopping by. We can’t wait until June 28th!

For these and Audrey’s other award-winning books visit her website at

And don’t forget to keep up with Audrey and her drum-playing sidekick at these other blog tour stops:
June 29th with Peter Salomon at
July 6th with Ruth McNally Barshaw at
July 13th with Laurie Thompson at

Now let’s open it up. Do any of you buffalo fans have “to dos” to add to his list? Let Audrey know in the comments section below.

A Very Special Picture Book Peek Week …

… is coming this July. Watch for it!

(What is a Picture Book Peek Week? Find out here.)

LitWorld: Spark a LitSummer

LitWorld is such a terrific organization. You might remember, they sponsored World Read Aloud Day. Here are easy ways to help with their summer endeavor.

LitWorld is spreading the power of story from Kenya to Harlem and we need your help sparking our LitSummer! We are calling out to our community to donate books and school supplies as we embark on summer projects to benefit young people across hemispheres, including our first ever Story Power Camp at the Polo Grounds in Harlem and our LitWeek initiative in Kibera, Kenya.


        • Paperback Picture Books (New or Excellent Condition)
        • Clickable Pens and Mechanical Pencils
        • Small, Lightweight Notebooks
        • CrayonsLink
        • Markers
        • Chalk

Visit LitWorld here and contribute to LitSummer drive by June 30th!

All materials © 2020 Jean Reidy. Author website by Websy Daisy. Shelly the Turtle designed by Genevieve Leloup.