Clean Your Room!

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.13.14 PM

My tween daughter is a collector, just like her parents. She has tons of collections (bags, jewelry, art stuff, books, rocks, etc.), and sub-collections within those, like jewelry > loom band bracelets. Or books > comic books.

These things get scattered super-fast, and they pile up in all the wrong places, and then she gets stressed out because I get stressed out, and I forget that maybe she just hasn’t developed that particular skill quite yet.

She requires assistance. And by assistance, I mean oversight and direction. I do NOT do the work for her. I just stay in the room to keep her on track and help her solve problems as they arise. This helps her organize her mind, which has to happen before she can organize any physical space.

How to “Help” a Kid Clean Her Room

A foundational part of this is helping your child learn to recognize trash. My daughter loved to hang onto anything she ever touched with a pencil or crayon, and that’s just…no. We can’t do it. So before you begin, work through what “trash” is for your child. Let her create the definition, too. And make sure you have a designated storage spot for that ephemera she wants to keep. We have a “scrapbook drawer” that holds paper items she wants to commemorate in a scrapbook someday (soon!).

1 – Pile everything that’s not in its proper home into the middle of the room, or a bin if it fits. This goes on the floor. Not on a desk, not on the bed. On the floor. Anything at all that is out of place (on the nightstand, on under the bed, astray on the bookshelf) gets put into this pile.

2 – Nobody takes a break until everything in the bin/pile has a proper home. You can drink water on the journey, but there are no real breaks.

3 – Once everything that needs put away is in the pile, she picks up a single item and has to say its name out loud.

She is both verbal and auditory, so if she just sees an object, her mind can kind of go blank with what to do with it. I suspect she looks at an object and it reminds her of a friend, an experience, or she’s thinking about what she can be doing with it other than putting it away.

Note: Sometimes, she knows that a bunch of one kind of item are in the pile, so I allow her to do a quick search for like items so she can put them all away at once. But she can’t dig through everything. When she comes to another such thing, she’ll know where it goes because she’s done it before.

4 – Only after she says its name, she puts it away. 

I stick around to remind her, “you have a place for that kind of thing in this house,” and to help her designate new spaces for toys that previously did not have a home.

5 – After the pile is sorted, we take a brief snack break. This is away from TV, stories, games, the iPad, anything that can distract us. And the snack must be healthy and powerful, because after an hour or two of constant work, both of us are pretty exhausted emotionally, if not physically. Tonight, it was yogurt and some cashews for her, and yogurt and a banana for me, since I’m dealing with TMJ and not allowed to have nuts.

6 – Then we reassess the room. There’s usually trash that needs to be taken out, odds and ends on the floor that need to be picked up before we can vacuum, etc.

7 – Vacuum. 

8 – Dust.

9 – Relax! 

Notice, I don’t tackle clothes other than to put them where they go (hung up, laundry, drawers). Taming the clothing collection of a 9-year-old girl is something for another session! We’re starting to think along the KonMari lines — only keeping that which brings you joy — but we haven’t gotten there yet!

Thank you, 2014!

While the latter quarter of 2014 is a blur of homeschooling, work, illnesses and setbacks, I’m so grateful to have some pretty amazing things to put in the yearbook, too.

– Vacations to Hilton Head, Geneva-on-the-Lake, St. Louis, St. Simon’s Island, and NYC

– My first SCBWI conference!

– New family by way of weddings and birth (we love you, Mark and Clara!)

– Collaborating with Storybird as part of their Creative Partners Project to release THE MYSTERY OF DOGWOOD CROSS

I went back at the end of the year and looked at the stats the story garnered and read through reader comments, and was just blown away with the love shown there for my debut novel. To anyone who’s read the book, this one’s for you!
2014 readers

Do What You Love

People keep asking me, “How are you? You seem really busy!”

And I am really busy, but it’s a busy-with-good-things kind of busy. I really do love my job, and homeschooling is by far the most fulfilling, exciting thing I’ve ever done. I’m done with my travels for the year (I think!), having just gotten back from a week in New York. And I’m still having a blast over at Storybird. Aside from the cycle of illnesses that seem to hit every fall, things have been going really well!

As my current work project winds down, we’re shifting gears to be more school-centric. THE MYSTERY OF DOGWOOD CROSS is approaching its final chapters, too, so I’m looking to what’s ahead in my writing life.

Right now, though, I probably won’t be updating this blog for a while. Instead, I’m focusing my posts over on my Storybird Author’s Journal. If you want to know what’s on my mind, you can find me there.

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

What if, on a normal morning, everyone reacted to you with shock and horror, insisting that you died three months ago? Died, as in fell off a pier and drowned? Died, as in they saw your coffin lowered into theground? Author Kat Ellis explores this horrifying premise in her debut thriller, Blackfin Sky.

Blackfin is a small, insular town where newcomers are rare and odd things happen. Even so, residents wonder how Skylar Rousseau could return when she had seemed to drown on her 16th birthday. Sky remembers the last three months living her life as normal, which means she has no idea whose body is buried underneath her tombstone.
Everyone seems reluctant to help except her steadfast friend and crush, Sean . . . and a secretive man who draws her to a mysterious circus in the woods.
It is easy for readers to lose themselves in the magic of Blackfin, where weathervanes are inhabited by ghosts and fortune-tellers can be found in foreboding, walled-off forests. The sincere voices of Sky and the friends and family who love her ground the mystery in a story that is, at its heart, about protecting the people you love. A little bit The Night Circus and a little bit Wake, Blackfin Sky spins a unique magic of its own.

My Review The premise was impossible to ignore and the book design looked so great that I dove in as soon as I got my ARC. From the first lines, I was hooked, and the story carried me through seamlessly. I can’t talk too much about the plot, but suffice it to say the setting, characters, and story made this book come alive.

It’s for the older YA set, as there are a few dark moments for our heroine, particularly pertaining to a swinish set of brothers who are out to do Sky harm. The magic and the mysticism are wonderfully navigated, however, and I can’t wait to explore the world further.

Fans of Sarah Rees Brennan and Myra McEntyre will definitely enjoy Blackfin Sky, which releases in the US in September 2014, from Firefly Press. 

The Math in Writing


One way I use math in writing is to determine pacing and plotting. I don’t want to use up all my planned plot points too quickly…or have them all at the end in a big dump. I know I’m at the end of Act I right now. I know what my midpoint action will be, and where in the word count it will fall. I can figure out how much narrative and how much action comes between now (18,000 words) and then (35,000 words).

Tool: Free PDF to PowerPoint Conversion

I’m a Word person. I can make PDFs in my sleep. In fact, during my last job when I was working 18 hours a day on top of homeschooling, I think I DID create PDFs in my sleep.

But PowerPoint never fails to freak me out.

I received notice about a new web-based tool that converts PDF files to PowerPoint-ready files called PDFConverter.

Its main features include:

• Native and scanned documents conversion

• No file size limit

• Safe and easy to use

• Fast and accurate conversion results

• Hassle-free: no need to buy or install anything on your computer

You can learn more and test it here:

They plunged for Freedom and the Right

We officially wrapped the homeschool year yesterday with our year-end assessment! I’m relieved to have another year under our belts, but learning never, ever stops. Case in point: today.

As a Memorial Day activity, my husband had the good idea to go make rubbings of soldiers’ headstones. We taught her how to determine in which war they had served. Many had fought in the Spanish-American War, which is one she wanted to learn more about. Fortunately, I knew a thing or two about it. Because I’m a geek.

The cemetery groundskeeper was very supportive of it, but he did ask what kind of paper we were using. It was freezer paper (which worked great), and he said that was perfectly fine. Some people use carbon paper, and he says that messes up the stones, so it’s not allowed.

This weekend, our hearts are with the families of those who have served and paid for our freedoms with their lives. We are blessed, regardless of what the news outlets say. And we’re very grateful.

Image*title taken from Joyce Kilmer’s “Memorial Day“.