marc and arthur…

4 May

You know Arthur right? A cute, young aardvark (with an obnoxious little sister) who’s been on countless adventures both in books and on TV.

Well, we’re pretty familiar with this character here at our house.

That’s why last night my best boy Tom and I jumped at the chance to hear Marc Brown, prolific author and creator of Arthur, speak. He was visiting Cedar Rapids as part of the Metro Library Network’s Out Loud! author series. He shared insights on how and when he created Arthur (in a bedtime story for his son Tolon 35 years ago), where he works on the Arthur adventures (he lives on Martha’s Vineyard surrounded by lots of animals with entertaining names) and what he is working on now (illustrating a heart warming new book by author Judy Sierra). He even drew a few versions of Arthur…right before our very eyes!

He was very funny and honest and I could have listened to his stories all night. I decided Marc Brown is a kid at heart.

Perhaps that’s one of the keys to being successful in the world of Children’s Literature….for 35 years…and still going!

After he spoke Tom and I waited as patiently as possible for Mr. Brown to sign our Arthur books. Tom was anxious because earlier in the day he’d drawn a picture of Arthur he wanted to give to the Arthur master. He realized when creating his drawing he’d forgotten Arthur’s glasses…no problem, said Marc Brown….borrow my marker and add the glasses. Tom did and handed off the drawing. Marc Brown was genuinely touched. I was told later by another attendee that he saves all the drawings kids make for him. Add that fact to the growing list of reasons I heart Marc Brown.

We chatted with Mr. Brown for just a moment while he signed books. We chuckled at the fact that we have a D.W. at home (Lucy of course!) Marc Brown made the point to say that even though little sisters can be a little much when you are young (he would know…he has three!), that they grow up to be fun people. Again, bonus points for the author. He knows his stuff.

We snapped a cute picture…

Aren’t they cute? Marc Brown is saying “pizza!”

…thanked Marc Brown, and were on our way. And I am sure the memories will last, like Arthur, for at least 35 years.

being a giver…

26 Apr

Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of being a “Book Giver” for World Book Night.

The idea was simple and powerful. I was given a box of 20 copies of The Hunger Games (yes, I was squealing like a teenage girl!) to give away to random people…reluctant readers, readers who might not necessarily be able to get their hands on a book, or whomever I thought might just need a random act of bookness as part of their Monday night.

First, let me tell you I love this book…OK, I’ll say it…I’m obsessed with this book and all things related to it. So how cool that I found myself  holding copies in my hand that would allow me to share something so exciting with others?!

(my box of books just before distribution...and look at the fun cover!)

What might be even cooler is that there were something like 50 people chosen to do this (with a wide variety of titles…check them all out on the website) all over Cedar Rapids. Think about that…1,000 books were given out on Monday night right here in my hometown. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Cedar Rapids was, in fact, one of the top twenty-five cities in the world participating in this event!

My dear friend Sara (whom I’ve gone on literary adventures with before) was also a giver (handing out The Book Thief…another of my favs and a must read). We decided to make a stop at Foundation 2, a local emergency shelter for youth between the ages of 11 and 17, who are experiencing a personal or family crisis, which makes it necessary to temporarily live away from home. I’ve known about this organization for quite some time and value the work they do in our community. We thought those kids just might like a new book on a random Monday night.

As soon as we set foot inside the door and mentioned free books the teens swarmed us like tracker jackers (oh but not venomous and out to kill us…bad analogy!) Let’s just say they were eager to get a copy and it was such fun handing the books out. But the best part was they’d take the book from us–very graciously I might add–then plop down on the couch, flip it open and start reading. Right then and there. Magical! And exactly the point.

Next Sara and I stopped to visit our old high school English teacher and surprise her with some books that she could then share with others. She was delighted. As we chatted it struck me that it was a very neat moment to be sharing with someone who helped shape and inspire my love of literature, especially young adult novels (with strong female protagonists I might add.)

As expected the whole thing was an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the official World Book Night to roll around again.

Maybe next year you’ll join me!

oh how lucky we are…

16 Mar

I love St. Patrick’s Day…or rather I love being Irish. Here in the Giorgio household (despite the origins of our last name) we celebrate the spirit of good cheer all year along. And I’d like to wish you the same…from my little Irish lass and lad.


read ALOUD!

2 Mar

You may or may not be aware that this coming Wednesday, March 7th has been deemed World Read Aloud Day, which may very well be my new favorite holiday. I mean it’s obvious that I love books, but I also happen to love to read them aloud to anyone who will listen. Usually it happens to be these two characters…











wait…here they are prepared to be better listeners…











I love reading to my kiddos…it’s the best part of my day, every day. As part of our nighttime routine we read anywhere from two to six books…that we pick out from the St. Matthew School Library, the Cedar Rapids Public Library, or our own ever growing library here at home.

Today–because it’s snowing and frankly we thought we were done with the white stuff–we snuggled up and read Ponyella (Lucy’s pick and recommendation) by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, Stick (which Tom actually read to me and Lucy…LOVE!) by Steve Breen, and Dr. Seuss’s ABC (which my 60-year-old father-in-law still has memorized from reading to my husband when he was little) written by none other than Dr. Seuss (whose birthday is being celebrated in a big way today…he would have been 108!)

You see I think reading to your kids is a requirement of parenting. It is not only fun, quality time together, but it also helps you raise a child who loves to read (and boost their brain power, among other benefits while you do it.)

It will come as no surprise that I signed up in support of World Read Aloud Day…you can too! The best part is that you don’t have to jump through any hoops or make a huge commitment to be part of something so important. Just read to your kids…or with a friend…or to an elderly person. Heck, even your dog would enjoy a  good read aloud session. I plan to read to the kids at Tom and Lucy’s school…and to Tom and Lucy of course.

The way I see it, every day should be read aloud day!

writing in the cracks…

13 Jan

OK, OK, OK…I know it’s been FAR too long! But I’m here now…so here goes.

I just got back from an evening spent at the OneBookTwoBook Festival in Iowa City with my dear friend Sara. We listened to twenty 4th through 6th graders read their poems and stories aloud, which was truly inspiring. As we grow older (at least in my case) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand in front of a crowd and read your own work.

Then we got to hear from author and National Book Award winner (for her book Mockingbird) Katheryn Erskine. She said many wonderful things about why we tell stories and how important it is to make sure kids of all ages and abilities feel understood and appreciated.

But the one little nugget that I know I’ll remember for quite some time came when someone asked Erskine what her writing process is. She not only said she isn’t the type of writer that sits down every day to write but she also said she is often “writing in the cracks.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard before that totally hits home for me. And I don’t think you have to have a husband, two young kids, a dog, two part time jobs and a freelance writing career to (not to mention the rest of life) to understand what it means.

The cracks may be all I’ve got at this point in my life, but I walked out of the room where Katheryn Erskine was standing and thought “you can win the National Book Award just writing in the cracks.”

Call me an eternal optimist…I’ll see you when I find the next crack.

c is for cabin and canoe

20 Sep

Last week our family took a mid-week break (because we all work really hard by golly!) and spent the night camping at Pinocon Ridge Park near Central City, Iowa. We stayed in a great little cabin (please, I’m not really the tent camping type) with two sets of bunk beds (which the kids loved but I can’t say were very comfortable.)

We grilled cheeseburgers, roasted marshmallows and stayed up late. It was a wonderful crisp fall night.

The next morning we got up and headed out on a canoeing adventure (which I consider brave with a three-year-old in the canoe!) The morning was a bit brisk but the sun came out eventually and it was a marvelous day. The water on the Wapsipinicon River was very low (we actually got stuck on the bottom a time or two.) And we were quite literally the only ones out on the water, except for the wildlife that is. I would say it was peaceful, but then again I was in a small canoe with a three-year-old and a six-year-old who have no concept of being quiet while observing nature.

Since I allowed Tom to miss a day of school (which I rationalized because it was only a half day) I told him we had to make a list of all the wildlife we saw on our two-hour tour so he could share it with his class the next day. And despite the obnoxious noises being made by my wildlife, we were able to spot a few creatures.

Here’s the final list Tom came up with…*

On Our Canoe Trip We Saw

1. Turkey Vulture

2. Elk

3. Bald Eagle (actually we saw two and they were amazing)

4. Crane

5. Blue Heron

6. A Squirrel (this actually swam all the way across the river…had no idea squirrels could swim!)

7. Minnows

8. Deer

9. Goats

10. Horses

11. Cows

12. Sand Piper

13. Geese

14. Water Bugs

15. Dragonfly

16. A ? Head (yes, that’s right. We kept seeing a mysterious head pop out of the water but it would always dive back under the water before we could get close enough–or quiet enough–to see what it was. I’m told Tom’s class guessed it was a great white shark or an alligator. Thankfully I think they were wrong.)

There you have it. Just a lazy fall day on the river in Eastern Iowa with the Giorgio family. I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from our adventure.**

*Please note: I tried to scan the list Tom wrote up but it didn’t scan well. Which is unfortunate because it shows off his wonderful 1st grade penmanship 😉

**Again please note: Lucy is not actually scared in this photo. She is ULTRA dramatic and was just acting for effect 😉

school traditions…

26 Aug

Oh, joy! We have officially kicked off the new school year here at the Giorgio household!

I love this time of year for lots of reasons…but a big one is the annual first day of school photo. It’s such fun to take the photo each year and then look back at years past and see how big the kiddies have grown.

Here’s this year’s entry (please note: we typically take this photo on the front porch but there was a quite a thunderstorm the morning of the first day of school so we had to use the entryway)

Tom is in 1st grade this year (woohoo!) And Lucy will be starting preschool (although she doesn’t technically start until next week we let her in on the fun this week!)

I appreciate this tradition thanks to my mom. Every year she lined up me and my siblings in our cute little school uniforms. Here’s a gem from 1988. I was going into 2nd grade, my brother Joe was going into 1st and cute little Andy was starting preschool.

Joe gets the award for looking most excited!

It took a little photo digging at my mom’s house (I’ve inherited her lack of organization for family pictures unfortunately)to find this picture but it was totally worth it.

And I decided that I love these first day of school photos so much that I plan on following my children around all the way through college just so I can capture these great moments.

Here’s to a lifetime of learning!


inspired by others…

19 Aug

Tonight I ate my dinner quickly and raced on over to my local Barnes and Noble for some truly powerful writing inspiration: talks/readings by authors Anne Ylvisaker and Katherine Hannigan.

Anne went first and talked about her latest book “The Luck of the Buttons” (which I’ve blogged about before.) It is magical to listen to her story of how her story came to be…and what you might discover, or mistakenly remember, while wandering around the Iowa prairies.

Katherine spoke second and talked about her books, including the latest “True…(sort of)”, which I finished reading just last week. It is the type of book filled with characters who pull at your heart-strings and start to influence the way you talk to and think about the world around you.

Please do yourself a favor and read both “The Luck of the Buttons” and “True…(sort of)” in the very near future! (I’ve got both now if you’d like to borrow them ;))

Hearing these gifted writers speak tonight was as inspiring as I hoped it would be. When you sit and listen, their natural storytelling powers make it seem that every word they offer should be written down…that it could all go into a book. And I sit, listen and smile…take it all in…dream about the stories floating around in my head…and secretly hope that some of their magic might rub off on me.

And then I add more books signed by authors to my collection.

summer days…

29 Jul

So all summer I keep wondering what is making it all go by so very quickly. I mean it’s almost August for goodness sake! But as I sat down now to write today I thought back on all that I have done in just the last week. And it started to click that while we haven’t done anything grand and vacationy this summer, we’ve been doing plenty to make the days fly by.

Last Thursday I enjoyed a night at The Classics at Brucemore…outdoor theatre featuring Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have to admit I always enjoy the food, drinks (cucumber vodka and water please!) and gals I go with more than the actual performance (not that we don’t have amazingly talented performers in this fine city). It’s just that it’s all so picturesque and fun.

Then I spent the weekend taking part in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City. I participated in a picture book writing workshop where a fine group of aspiring and accomplished writers gave me very valuable feedback on my manuscript. (Now I just need to make time to implement changes!)

Then came a trip to the pool, a trip to the dentist (least favorite activity for sure), writing several stories, being assigned several more, swimming at our friends’ house, turning in our reading program materials at the CRPL, checking out a new spalshpad (are you sensing the water theme here? It’s been darn hot!), a parent association meeting (school is on the horizon) and a most enjoyable evening at Brucemore’s Outdoor Children’s Theatre. Such fun!

And those are just the highlights! I do have to keep up with the laundry and sweeping up all the hair the darn dog is shedding and grocery shopping (OK I haven’t been the best about keeping up with this lately!)

When I look at it this way I know why we’ve had such a busy–and FUN–summer.

Of course there’s more fun to be had (including an upcoming trip to St. Louis to meet my new favorite nephew!) and I fully intend to soak up every last minute. But I’m about to go break it to Tom that there are 24 more days left until school starts back up.

Wish me luck!


15 Jul

So clearly once again I have fallen off the blog wagon! I don’t know how this happens…life gets in the way I guess. Which is of course a silly and easy excuse. Because once I sit down to blog it takes all of half an hour of my day. I’d like to blame it on summer (which is FLYING by, by the way) and say I’ve been visiting wonderful vacation destination. But unfortunately that’s not true (not that I don’t love Kansas City and St. Louis our two summer getaways this year.)

I have been doing lots of writing though…local publications like The Gazette and CBJ Quarterly have been good to me as of late.

But anyway, a couple of recent…let’s call them “incidents” got me thinking about my lack of discipline for a routine. Example number one is the fact that I haven’t blogged for months…yes months! (I know you’ve been missing me.) For a while I was pretty good about doing it once a week…usually on Tuesday or Wednesday. And then I just didn’t get to it on my to do list (yes, I make one everyday that includes things like “shower” so I know I’ll at least cross one thing off…most days!) and it just didn’t get back on the list.

Then a few days ago I emailed an editor to send him a story and completely forgot the attachment. Nice!

If you thought that was bad, I followed up by sending a different editor my notes instead of the story I wrote. But to make matters worse, when I looked for the story I wrote to send the right version along I realized that in my haste I hadn’t saved the story in the right virtual folder and it disappeared into cyberspace. 1,000 words…gone! BOO!

After beating myself up a bit about it I’ve concluded that perhaps my working on writing at midnight (even though I am a night owl) isn’t my best option any more. Perhaps I need a new routine. One that includes blogging regularly again, too.

Until next week…promise!

ps…In the meantime, if you have any tips for whipping my writing routine into shape (please keep in mind my day is subject to interruption by a husband and two lovely children ;)) send them my way! My editors would appreciate it.