Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words

Summer Story Camp 

Pictures and Words

  • Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words is for creative kids grades 3 and up
  • Each camp is limited to 10 campers. 
  • Each day we will learn about a different kind of picture book.
  • Campers will create their own book (or “dummy”) each day.
Date: June 22 – June 26, 2020
Times: 9:30 – 10:30 am 
Cost: $75


After your registration is confirmed, you’ll receive an email with the supplies list, mentor book list, and Zoom links.
Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words is different from RossWriting Club. If you or your child has questions about Summer Story Camp, please contact me anytime!

Summer Story Camp – Big Ideas

Summer Story Camp 

Big Ideas

  • Summer Story Camp – Big Ideas is best for creative kids grades entering 5-8. (Younger campers can check out Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words
  • Each camp is limited to 10 campers.
  • We will brainstorm and create new elements of stories each day. Activities might include:
    • Brainstorming with Story Cubes
    • Heroes v. Villains (backstories and conflict)
    • World Building (maps, languages, flags, more)
    • Game Design (using characters and goals)
    • Sharing our creations, giving critique
Date: June 15 – June 19, 2020
Times: 10:00 – 11:00 am 
Cost: $75


After your registration is confirmed, you’ll receive an email with supplies list and Zoom links.
Summer Story Camp – Big Ideas is different from Ross Writing Club. If you or your child has questions about Summer Story Camp, please contact me anytime!



Exciting SCBWI Announcement for 2019!

I’m so excited to announce that starting January 15, 2019, I am the SCBWI Regional Advisor of Pennsylvania: West! It’s a true honor and I’m really eager to build a new leadership team and to work to support the creative members of our region.

We have some great events planned for 2019 already and we’re in the process of planning more.

Check out our events calendar here.

What are your favorite events to attend as a writer or illustrator?

One of my big goals is to reach out to new communities and neighborhoods. I’m hoping we engage new writers and illustrators and learn from the incredible people in Western Pennsylvania. I really believe that by increasing the diversity of our knowledge and experiences we can do our best work as individuals and an organization.

I’m a huge supporter of We Need Diverse Books and hope to guide our region into embracing diversity fully.


SCBWI is a wonderful organization for writers and illustrators.

SCBWI is great for new members. There is so much to learn about the publishing industry. Many new creatives don’t even know what questions to ask. That’s where SCBWI mentors and critique groups and workshops and conferences help. Even the online forums are helpful for figuring out how to write a query…or understanding what a query is!

But SCBWI is also useful for published writers. PAL members, or “Published And Listed” members, still need SCBWI. Connecting with other writers and illustrators helps me stay on top of changes in the industry and learn about new technology that can impact how and what we create. It’s no longer just about writing a good story, it’s about writing a great story that fits the publisher’s need at that exact moment, and one that fits with the market. There are so many options and we need help exploring them. We can now create graphic novels, ebooks, info-tainment non-fiction, and more, that being a part of SCBWI helps published writers and illustrators stay informed even as we hone our craft.

Both new and experienced writers benefit from SCBWI critique groups. Critique groups are an essential part of my writing routine. I have found an incredible support network from my critique groups. I’ve learned so much from my group. And my writing has improved. I’m not sure which benefit is more valuable.

If you’ve ever wanted to create for children, I invite you to join your local SCBWI chapter. Meet professionals and newbies, meet writers and illustrators, immerse yourself in the field and learn all you can. I promise you’ll meet amazing people. You will be inspired, and I know you will find some truly wonderful books that are great for any age!


The Mom Con in Pittsburgh

the mom con Pittsburgh

Nov. 15 – Don’t miss this!

There’s buzz, no doubt about it, surrounding The Mom Con happening in Pittsburgh on Nov. 15, 2014! It’s going to be a great event this year and although I’m not able to attend as a vendor for family reasons, I have to say I’m excited to still be involved and learning from the organizers.

The theme for this year’s event is “Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering” and frankly I’ve felt all of those things even before going to the event! I’ve been learning about the businesses and vendors that will be there and I’ve been inspired by the founding moms. I’ve connected with other moms at pre-Mom Con events. And I’ve felt empowered to reach out and try some new events outside of my comfort zone.

Check out this list of speakers  and the schedule. There are still tickets available and if you haven’t gotten yours, I suggest you get them soon!



Why Farm to Table is Great for Kids and Families


Farm to table Pittsburgh

March 21-22, 2014

This weekend is the 8th annual Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh! I am really excited to be involved in this year’s event again. The theme for this year is Food Sources and the conference again offers lots of excellent activities for children. The conference has always been family friendly, but a new feature of this year’s conference is the special Kids’ Track of programs! Both Friday and Saturday there will be programs and speakers just for kids and families. The Kids’ Track is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of eating healthy, local food. And if you’re not already convinced to bring your kids downtown, remember that kids under 12 are free!

We are so lucky to have this event in Pittsburgh. I recently spoke at the Parenting Expo here in Pittsburgh and discussed how helping children experience food with all of their senses increases their comfort level with foods and can help them learn to try new foods. Growing foods, shopping at farmer’s markets, attending events like Farm to Table and seeing gorgeous photos of fresh foods being grown, even meeting our local farmers, are all positive ways to help children develop a willingness to try new foods.

I’m so excited to be a part of the Kids’ Track on both days. On Friday, I’ll be hosting a special Tasting Party for kids, and on Saturday I’ll be hosting the Super Fun Local Food Challenge School Assembly! Both of these programs are available as school classroom workshops or assemblies and work with the Social Studies standards for Pennsylvania schools.

Of course in addition to these programs there’s the Local Food Tasting on Friday night and the Saturday Networking Breakfast. Both events are hugely popular. By the time I got to the Saturday breakfast last year all of the food was gone – it was so good no one left a crumb!

I’ll have an exhibitor table again and I’ll offer an encore to last year’s very popular Pizza on a Stick Tasting Party. My boys love coming to Farm to Table and roaming the tables, trying everything from local honey to local cheese, pickled vegetables, fresh milk, apples and more. This year I have decided to get one of those mushroom logs. I love mushrooms and Pennsylvania is the nation’s leading producer of these tasty fungi!

Looking forward to seeing you at the 2014 Farm to Table Conference. Bring the kids, stop by and say hello!


National Novel Writing Month 2013


NaNoWriMo 2013

Start writing!

It’s almost National Novel Writing Month! Are you tackling the challenge this year? I didn’t win my first year (2011) but I did win last year (2012) after a massive, 7000 words in one day final push at the end of the month. I have a much different plan for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I have a strong plot outline that I’m using as the foundation for the story, I know my characters’ backstories and innermost desires. I’m ready to do this. Are you?

Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about what leads to success in my writing. I often have to think for several days, even weeks, about what I want to write before I sit down and put the words to paper or laptop screen. It helps my writing for ideas to ferment in my brain for awhile. I’m so curious about how other people tackle their writing. Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped acting on story impulses, but I think I’ve matured a little and am producing better work when I remind myself that time and careful thought before I begin the act of writing adds value.

So what works best for your writing? Working frantically on spontaneous ideas or slowing coaxing a story into life?

If you want to find me and add me as a writing buddy during NaNoWriMo, search for me under the name OneSweetWriter. Good luck!


Tips for Attending a Writing Conference for the First Time

writing conference

SCBWI is on Twitter @SCBWI

This fall I’m heading to my first writing conference, the Western PA regional conference for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This conference is in Pittsburgh so I will be able to ease into it without the stress of travel and being in a strange city. But in February 2014 I’ll be heading to my second writing conference, the big SCBWI conference in New York City. As a member of the SCBWI, I have access to a really excellent local critique group. One of the other members in this local critique group recently went to her first writing conference. I asked her what she learned after this first one, and her advice and insights were so excellent I felt I had to share them here with you!

Tips for Your First Writing Conference

I attended the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference in Cleveland.  I was excited and nervous and secretly looking forward to a break from my usual weekend routine of kids and running them around!

I am a creature of habit so once I found a table to sit at for dinner, I went back again for lunch the next day.  I wouldn’t do this again, it is better to mingle and try and meet more people.

If you click with someone ask them what sessions they went to and what they learned.  Also, what sessions they are going to and have them report back in.  I had a hard time picking what I should be attending, so this was nice, it gave me a clue to what I was missing out on (you can’t do it all!) and let me share what I learned with others, helping commit it to memory.  It is a bit of an information overload.  If you are going with a writing group I would try and structure it so you cover as many workshops as possible and debrief each other later.  Alas, I was by myself!

Ask others how their critiques went, I had a couple random people let me read theirs.  It is helpful, even if you don’t know the whole context of the story.

Before attending write what your story / stories are about in three short sentences.  This will help you be concise if asked by someone what you are working on or what you have written.  Plus, you sound more professional.

I would also pay better attention to who the keynote speakers are when signing up for workshops.  The agents and editors present were all keynote speakers and I had also signed up for sessions with them.  This was good and bad.  Good, because I got to know them better.  Bad, because some of the information from their workshops was a bit redundant with their keynote addresses.  In the future I think this would help me pick between two workshops I really wanted to attend.

Another interesting note is both the agents ended up attending one of the workshops an editor gave that I signed up for. Makes total sense now that they might do this and it also provides another opportunity to sit next to an agent and get to know them.

Final thought – it was really exhausting!  I was surprised how tired I was.  You get so much info and at the same time are thinking about your stories and what you need to do.  It sets your mind is spinning.  It is fabulous and inspirational.

OK – that’s it, hope you find it helpful!

Fun Food for Your Picky Preschooler

I know it’s tough to to the parent of a picky preschooler. They are not at the age when you can reason with them and their tastes change so quickly, it can feel so frustrating. But there’s another way to approach the challenge: make it fun.

I was so lucky to visit a Bright Horizons class this summer and bring one of my Tasting Party workshops. There was more than one picky preschooler in attendance. I was bringing some new foods to them to try so we decided to make it fun. Making pizza on a stick all by themselves was a delightful adventure. Take a look at these brave little faces!

picky preschooler

Do it yourself – it tastes better!




Fun for these kids means hands-on and the opportunity to examine the food options as much as possible before tasting it.They looked closely at the food, smelled it, touched it and then finally nibbled and tried! More than one child tried tomatoes for the first time. Not everybody liked them but they were giggling and chatting and no one whined! Can you imagine that kind of dinner?

picky preschooler

No one can resist food on a stick

Skinny Pete’s Kitchen growing among family friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh

Farm to Family Skinny Pete's

Pittsburgh families deserve delicious food!

Who’s hungry? Join me at Skinny Pete’s in Avalon for Farm to Family, a fantastic new option and from one of the truly family friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh. Parents, grandparents and kids can come together to enjoy a special meal in a relaxed fun atmosphere.

Kids get to create their own meal while adults can take a breather and enjoy fresh farm-to-table offerings from Skinny Pete’s. Kids also get their own copy of My Food Notebook to record the foods they’ve tried.

We need more opportunities for families to enjoy delicious food in a family-friendly setting – and Skinny Pete’s is making it happen. Even if you can’t stay for dinner each meal is available for carry out.  Make your reservations today and stay connected with Skinny Pete’s on Facebook. 

Farm to Table Pittsburgh 2013

I’ll be at the Farm to Table Conference this weekend, hosting a table and a workshop on Saturday called “Kid’s Tasting Party.” Our family really enjoyed Farm to Table last year and we love supporting our local farms. If you’re in Pittsburgh, join us!