Reading Newbery Award Books

So I’m going to try and read as many Newbery Award books as possible this year! What is the Newbery? It is an award given to children’s literature by the American Library Association. Here’s the blurb from the website:

“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

The website also has a list of books that have won, but it’s a pdf and not very handy for online use and checking things off.

After a bit of searching, I found a Buzzfeed quiz (of course) that allows you to see how many winners you’ve read. I’ve read a paltry 16 out of 93. That makes me feel so unread. On the plus side, though, I’ve read a fair share of Honors books, so that’s a good point in my favor.

17% of Newbery Award Books

Only 17% of Newbery Award Books

It looks like I’ll turn to Goodreads to ‘collect them all.’ There’s a good list there that shares both winners and honor books, dates of publication, and records for me when I’ve read something so I don’t have to worry about duplication.

On a side note, I’ll be working hard to only get these books from only the library and not buying them. If I must, I’ll try and buy them from used book dealers if I can’t get them from the library. If I’m going to read a lot of books then I might as well do it on a budget.

Right now, my favorite Newbery Award Book might be When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery). It’s based on Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet). Who knows what new favorite I will discover as I read through this huge list?

How many Newbery Award books have you read?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Reading (It’s what I do)

This year I set myself a reading goal to finish 100 books. And I got it done! Goodreads was nice enough to provide a little graphical overview of my reading history. I wanted to read 100 books and I finished off the year with 107! That’s a nice total.


I love a compliment about my reading.

Still Reading

I had hoped to finish Ulysses (Gabler Edition) 1st (first) edition Text Only
in 2015, but it didn’t happen. I started reading it in June right before Bloomsday, but let it slack until I felt end of the year pressure. I guarantee I will finish it in January 2016.

Reading Wins

Now, for the books I did finish in 2015. I wish I could pick my favorite super easily, but they are so different. I really loved A Single Shard. I love learning about different time periods and cultures. This book inspired me to try my first pottery wheel!

One of the books I read with my middle son was Helen Keller (Scholastic Biography)
and I loved the experience of reading that with him. He’s so emotionally invested in books, he cried quite hard when Annie died.

My oldest is partial to graphic novels and he and I both enjoyed El Deafo and quoted Roller Girl
to each other. I love that my ten-year-old son enjoyed books about young women pushing themselves beyond limits and facing fears.

Reading Blahs

I was underwhelmed by Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (Canongate Myths) Stephanie Blake’s The Marble Queen. I don’t even remember what happened in My Sunshine Away. I feel so sorry to say that, because frankly as a writer I’d rather have someone remember and dislike my book than not remember anything at all. It may be a problem with my memory and not the book, though, because it was a NPR Best Book.

I set another reading goal for 2016, but I wasn’t sure if I should set something higher or lower than what I did last year. I finally just selected 100 books again. It’s a great goal and totally manageable. How many books did you read in 2015? Have you set a goal for 2016?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

2016 Writing Goals

Ready for some writing goals? I’m gearing up for another year of reading and writing (and running, because that helps more than you might think!) I’m not setting resolutions per se, but I do constantly set goals and work on them. I like to set a mix of short and long term goals, that way I can feel good about meeting short term ones along the way and keep up my momentum on the long term goals.

Reading helps my writing goals

Reading helps my writing goals

Reading Goals

For my reading goals, I’m going to aim for 100 books again in one year. You can find me on Goodreads and see what books I’m reading, but I generally don’t write reviews of books. I just move on to the next book. I do love working off of lists and I think this year I’ll find the list of Newbery Award winners and see which ones I’ve read and seek out the ones I haven’t. I also don’t know the criteria for the Newbery, so that will be something good to learn.


writing goals

Brainstorming ideas. Go crazy!

Writing Goals

For my writing goals, I plan to continue to submit my existing stories (including Dare Club, The Red Deer of Fal and Mission: Compostable!) But I want to have a new manuscript ready to pitch at conferences. I have two drafts of middle grade novels I can revise, and I think I’m going to work on my magical realism one and get that ready for the spring.

My process for the magical realism novel has been a little unusual. Here’s a brief outline:

Step 1: Write the novel during NaNoWriMo 2014.

Step 2: Let it sit for over a year.

Step 3: Ask myself “what’s funny about gaining the ability to read people’s thoughts?”

Step 4: Ask myself “what kind of character would get himself into trouble from hearing people’s thoughts?”

Step 5: Read books like Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence and think about what people love to read.

Step 6: Attend conferences, like Pennwriters, and learn about brainstorming 20 ideas of things that could happen to your character.

Step 7: Accumulate rejections for other stories.

Step 8: Try not to think about how long it took to revise Dare Club to something I was proud to share.

Step 9: Finally sit down and brainstorm ideas in my super-creativity-enhancing notebook.

Step 10: Read a Reddit post about the pros and cons of mind-reading.

Step 11: Take a nap.

Step 12: Wake up and decide to go to Target. Suddenly get inspiration for a starting point while driving!

In this story, which doesn’t have a great title but I’ve been calling Buyer Beware, a middle school boy finds a piece of magical technology that allows him to read people’s thoughts. I know I want to tell a story that follows the lines of “what starts out seeming like an amazing discovery that will solve all of his problems and make his dreams come true eventually gets him into trouble.”

See, the story can’t be about the mind-reading device. It has to be about the kid. And for it to be something I love, the kid needs to be funny and likable, and the kid needs to mean well but screw up, and the kid needs to win in the end. I’m not the person to write about child refugees and kids dealing with horrible experiences. I’m the person to write about ordinary kids (like myself) who thought they wanted to be extraordinary and made some dumb mistakes as they figured out how to get through life.

I think I’ve got a plan, now. I think I have a problem and a desire for my main character, and a framework for things that my character will do, and how it might culminate into an interesting climax with a satisfying conclusion. If you’re interested let me know and you can critique my next draft – when it’s ready!




About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Setting up email newsletter

Happy New Year! I love trying new things and here I go again. I’m trying a new way to stay in touch with people: an email newsletter. Check out the upper right area of my website and you’ll see this little green form:

Now I Have a Newsletter!

Now I Have a Newsletter!

I’m not going to send out emails every day or even every week. I have one email scheduled a month, highlighting different fun activities, books and events I’m offering to kids and families. I’ve sent out a few so far in the end of 2015 and had a nice response, including book sales and inquiries from local schools about my workshops. That’s success!

I’m looking forward to learning more about what families want to hear about from a local author, about healthy eating and encouraging their kids to read.

I use social media effectively to stay in touch with readers but an email newsletter is an easy way to reach readers when social media channels change their rules. We now that not everyone reads every social media channel and it’s better to come to your readers where they are and not wait for them to come find you. It’s also a good way to catch readers when they are not skimming through their feed for entertainment.

If you’re an author or small business looking to use email newsletters to reach your audience, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m available to work with you to set up your email newsletter, write content and schedule emails.

So sign up to get my newsletter and stay in touch!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

New healthy food activity book for kids!

Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an activity book that helped kids eat healthy foods? Parenting can get so stressful. We want the best for our kids, but we can’t control everything we do. We can’t force feed them healthy food! Remember the old saying, you get more flies with honey than vinegar? When I do talks at parenting workshops and at schools, I always encourage people to add some fun to the dinner time!

That’s why I created Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids! This new electronic activity book is designed to change dinnertime from a food fight into a fun event. There are lots of ways to make healthy eating fun. This new book that I’ve created makes it easy for parents to encourage their kids to try new foods in a friendly, not scary, way. In this activity book, I share some silly jokes, interesting facts, easy activities and even some of our favorite fresh food recipes.

Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids is available as a pdf and includes six unique activities. Once you buy the activity book for only 5.99, you can print out as many sheets and copies as you need. Use the sheets and re-use the sheets.

My kids have tried the jokes and challenges in this activity book and find them to be fun, too, but I’d love to hear what your kids think. Which are their favorites? Did they try a new food or devour their first Monster Salad?

How do you make eating fresh food fun and healthy? Share your ideas and they might end up in the second edition of Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

My Christmas Story

The best gifts are memories!

The best gifts are memories!


What is your favorite Christmas story?

Personally, I am not a fan of the Grinch. I get the appeal, but it just doesn’t hit me in the heart. And while I laugh hysterically at the movie “A Christmas Story,” my real favorite is O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. I love the self-sacrifice and love that come through in this story. Two people are willing to give up something very special to make their favorite people really happy. It’s not about the gifts at all, it’s about how much they are willing to do for someone they love.

I love a good Christmas story. That’s why I’m writing one! Or, I’m trying to. I’ve been working on this particular one for more than a few months.

I’m working on a short story about Christmas, sort of a cross between The Polar Express and The Martian. Yeah, that’s a real mash-up, I know. But let’s say you’re a child, in space, waiting for Santa to arrive. You want Christmas to come to you, no matter where you are, so you wish upon a star and the stars send you the answer you need.

If I wrote a Christmas list, I’d ask for the ability to write the words that captured the emotions necessary to make this story a success. I think it needs some sadness and some joy, some wonder and some doubt, some fond nostalgia but also hope and excitement for the future to come. That’s a tall order for one story!

Wish me luck on this project, and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Winning NaNoWriMo 2015

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo 2015! I wrote the first draft of my novel, The First Step, in a touch over 50,000 words. Here’s the day-by-day progression of my word count.

NaNoWriMo 2015

My boys really enjoyed seeing the word counts grow and as you can see, they also enjoyed writing the updates themselves. At the beginning of the month, my husband asked me what I wanted to get out of this month’s work. I thought carefully about my answer. In some sense, I wanted just the sense of completion, like when a runner finishes a huge race for the first time. In another sense, I wanted to write a good story, or at the least the bones of one, like when a runner aims for a personal record.

I think I hit the mark on both counts. I also learned a lot about myself as writer during the process and kept track of some of my thoughts on my Facebook page. I’m recording them here, too, so I can remember them for next year but also so other writers can share their reactions and their own thoughts.


I’m starting today. It’s not going to be easy as I have family visiting, a volunteer event from 2-4pm and a bandage on…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Sunday, November 1, 2015

This is a weird #NaNoWriMo for me. My planned story got ditched (by me) somewhat spontaneously after a deep discussion…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Monday, November 2, 2015

So this is not new, but it’s good to be reminded that I really get a lot of great ideas and story planning done during…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Thursday, November 5, 2015

From “The Mindful Writer” by Dinty W. Moore especially during #NaNoWriMo

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Friday, November 6, 2015

I find it really hard to resist doing a little editing and revising during #NaNoWriMo but I don’t want to cheat myself…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Do you share your #NaNoWriMo synopsis, idea, or plot with non-writing friends? When I’m at the beginning of a project…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I passed 46,000 words today. My story is a little lopsided towards the front, but I know I won’t have trouble finishing…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Highlights Foundation Workshop

In October, I was made the decision to take the big leap and attend my first Highlights Foundation workshop. The workshop I chose was called “Creating Page-Turning Non-fiction for Middle Grade Readers and Up.” I’ve had a fair number of non-fiction pieces published in really great children’s magazines and I would love to also create non-fiction books for children.

Lucky for me, this workshop was taught by the incredible Deborah Hopkinson, who also has a ton of experience writing page-turning historical fiction, one of my ‘dream genres.’ I love the way a really skilled writer can weave a great story around accurate historical facts.

We also had the chance to hear from and talk with Steve Sheinkin, a two-time National Book Award finalist.

The setting for the workshops is the Barn, a retreat in the woods outside of the small town of Honesdale, PA. It was almost a six hour drive from Pittsburgh, so I chose to fly to Philadelphia, then take a connecting flight to Scranton, then a driver from Highlights drove me the last hour or so to the Barn.

On site there is a lodge and cabins, and I stayed in cabin 10, a short walk from the main building where we had our classes and our meals. The food, by the way, was very healthy and fresh.


In our classes we discussed so much, from standards to research methods to what librarians want and teachers need, to what readers want – but Deborah reminded us that our job is to tell the story. She gave each of us two thoughtful critiques and plenty more listening time outside of class. We learned a tremendous amount from her about constructing a solid non-fiction book proposal. Deborah comes from a grant-writing background and she really knows how to show the value of a project. She’s also a fine writer. I read her book Titanic: Voices From the Disaster in one day.



It was a productive three days. During my time there I read (and loved) several books, including Sheinkin’s Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War. At the end of this workshop, I felt like I was in a great place to put together at least one solid non-fiction book proposal. Deborah also coached me through the elements of my planned historical fiction story and a new novel about running. On the flight home, I revised my butterfly story and came away with a very strong new version. The runs on the woods, the walks around the grounds, and time spent with thoughtful writers was really invigorating.


We were also able to take a tour of the Highlights offices and Boyds Mill Press in Honesdale. I enjoyed seeing the “where the magic happens” and connect with some editors.


I have been considering doing one of these since 2012, but they do require a fairly significant financial investment and for some workshops, I’d have to be gone for a full week.

But I knew these workshops also offered significant resources and information. Back in 2012 I thought I might bring my first novel to a “whole novel” workshop, but I’m really glad I did not. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years and I know if I had attended that session it would have been heart-wrenching. Instead, by waiting for the right moment, I think my first Highlights Workshop was a real success.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Books That Made Me Laugh

Recently I posted about books that made me cry. Frankly, I don’t mind crying during a book, I feel like it’s a good thing when a writer can make me care so much that I cry. But I also love when a book makes me laugh. Not just say “heh” in my head but actually open my mouth and laugh, no matter where I am reading.

As I work on my own projects, I strive to make my readers laugh. In fact at a recent critique group, someone suggestions I insert brackets and put the words “pause for laughter” right in the text. It was a joke! And a good one.

I’m good at writing funny. I’m not being immodest, I’m just confident that I can do funny and I’ve had external sources confirm this. Doing sad is hard. I do have one story that has made my kids cry. That’s pretty impressive. Kids want to laugh, they don’t want to cry.

One day, maybe I’ll be able to create something that makes readers laugh and cry in the same book. What an achievement.

Here are some books that made me laugh – what you would you add to this list?

One reviewer on Goodreads found The Martian silly and criticized the playful tone. I heartily disagree. I laughed and loved this book.

In addition to being a totally cool trip down memory lane, Ready Player One made me smile frequently and laugh out loud, although nobody said LOL back in the 80s.

I am a sucker for all things Tina Fey. Her book Bossypants had me laughing out loud, but I don’t think my husband found it as enjoyable as I did. He loved it, but not crazy love like I did.

Anastasia Krupnick was a recommedation from a friend. It was written by same lady who wrote The Giver, but a lot more lighthearted. Pretty much any book is more light-hearted than The Giver. I read one reviewer who said as a child, she took this book so seriously. I’m glad I read it as an adult because I definitely chuckled while reading.

Here’s why I reveal my nerditity, like loving The Martian and Ready Player One didn’t already do that. Two Miserable Presidents is about Civil War history and includes lots of facts and dates and it made me laugh! Yes! Caution: it may only appeal to other history nerds.

Just William is an older book that most American kids wouldn’t read. Even though I enjoyed it, the print copy I purchased wasn’t that readable for my kids. However, they were delighted by the videos I checked out from the library that brought the stories to life.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Being Thankful for the Good and the Bad

turkey plateFive Bad Things I’m thankful for:

  1. Writer’s Block – because I wouldn’t have it if I wasn’t a writer
  2. Spelling Errors – because they give editors like me a job
  3. Bad Days – because they usually make better stories than perfect days
  4. Traffic jams – because I can brainstorm
  5. Tough critiques – because I can do better

Five Good Things I’m thankful for:

  1. Sharp pencils and blank paper
  2. Generous friends and family
  3. Long runs
  4. Hot coffee
  5. Sequels




About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.