Pick a Circle Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes

Daisies in December

Daisy Troop Author Visit 3Tempus fugit!

Doesn’t it seem like a moment ago you we’re still preparing for Thanksgiving? Suddenly the first week of December is nearly gone and the days are filled with (often canned and corny, but I love it!) holiday music programming and the (sometimes welcome) predictions of snow!

For me, a lot intervened between the wonderful cap to my fall activities and appearances involving the publication of my first book, Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes, and posting these wonderful images of my visit with lively Daisy Troop 20113 in Nutley, New Jersey, at the end of November.

Daisy Troop Author Visit 4Thanksgiving celebrations, editorial deadlines, not to mention a week-long bout with flu-like exhaustion have kept me buried in work and tissues, but I’m back and ready to run the race to 2013’s finish line!

While I’ve been working against an impending journal deadline and refilling the humidifier, the Elf on the Shelf has made his cheeky yearly reappearance and Christmas lights have gone up everywhere. It’s a favorite part of the season for me—nothing makes the mundane more magical than sparkling  strings of blinking, winking lights. And if you can nearly see such lawn displays from outer space, all the better!

Having decided to enjoy all the little moments this holiday season, thankful even for every gimcrack and bauble, I’m happy to be a witness to the unfolding process of celebration. I tend to be a nose-to-the-grindstone type of individual and while the fall was a wonderful first-time author whirlwind, I often put (I admit) enjoying it all last on my list. When I sit back and look at these pictures, I’m reminded of how joyous these feisty young Daisies were—throwing themselves into participating in the troop’s activities, unafraid to ask questions, join in, and not worry about making mistakes. The meeting focused on recycling and as a compliment to the lesson, we created a cornucopia, collage-style like Susan Swan’s gorgeous illustrations in Pick a Circle, using materials like leaves cut from old magazines and wrapping paper fruit.

Daisy Troop Author Visit 6The girls were game, and so were their parents, including several fathers, which is always great to see. I’d like to thank the troop leader, Francesca Ciotoli (also my youngest sister) for inviting me to meet with the troop, and especially to my niece Ava, who read Pick a Circle beautifully to her sister Daisies!

While I’m looking forward to a bit of a long winter’s rest, I’m also thankful for what lies ahead, for my family, and for the appearance of my second book in March 2014, Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting, and the third book in the series, which arrives next September. That book, by the way, is getting a new title and new last stanza—so it’s back to work!

Here’s wishing you safe and peaceful travels on your own journey to 2014!

Daisy Troop Author Visit 5

Who knows what treasures lay ahead for each of us?

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Seasons Greetings!

Pilgrim Pepper and SaltIt’s such a packed and hectic time of year I’m finding it hard to keep up with everything on the schedule. But that’s when my editorial instincts go into overdrive and I start making lists and checking them twice.

There’s a downside to being busy (see below), but I’m trying to take a creative approach to the mounting piles of mail and similar facts of everyday existence.

At the same time I’m on the verge of becoming overwhelmed, I’m feeling thankful—for a thriving home and family and all the blessings surrounding the release of my first published book in September.

Promoting the book and keeping abreast of daily life and my responsibilities as the managing editor of an academic quarterly led immediately to a long and growing list of resolutions about how I will approach matters when the second book in the series appears next March.

If it seems like I’m mixing up the holidays, well, I guess I am. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride this fall, but (to mix metaphors) I cast my net wide and with hopefulness in order to learn the ropes.

Did I get rope burn? On occasion—but every opportunity has been a chance to begin learning how the marketing and promotion side of a published book works, and as a new author, I’ve had to get out there in ways that, as a shy person, have been challenging for me.

I’m a bit proud of my sometimes awkward and goofy self for going for it. And it has always been a pleasure to meet and work with the children I’ve visited with, as well as the many kind people—especially the parents, grandparents, and teachers—who have been drawn to the book and the topics it covers.

That’s heartening, and a reminder that when I write and speak from my heart, my shy, sometimes awkward and goofy self is on the right path.

the downside to being busy

And now, it’s time to wash some dishes!

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Scarecrow Joe Makes Rhyming Friends at the North County Branch of the Hunterdon County Library

Tweens Program at the HCLI love the bulletin board the Hunterdon County Library children’s librarians made up for the Tweenz poetry workshop I did on Tuesday evening at the North County Branch in beautiful Clinton, New Jersey!

Using the colorful, textured scarecrows the multi-talented Susan Swan created for the illustrations of my concept picture book, Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes as inspiration, I gave kids grades 1 to 5 some of the poetry tools to write a rhyming couplet.

We focused on rhyme and rhythm (meter) as the workshop participants used a selection of autumn-themed one- and two-syllable words to fashion end rhymes for their couplets.  They did a great job!

The kids were responding to the following poem I wrote for the workshop, “The Lonely Scarecrow.” In writing the poem, I tried to imagine what Scarecrow Joe, who is lonely, longs for, and decided the answer was quite simple: a friend.

The Lonely Scarecrow by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Workshop participants used their rhyming words to tell Joe what they might do to have fun if they were to spend time together. She had a little trouble figuring out where the line break belonged, but one young girl even ended up rhyming her own name with a three-syllable word. Impressive!

After we had penned, read aloud, and discussed all the couplets, I asked the kids to complete the activity sheet below, one of five I created to accompany readings of Pick a Circle:

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares--Lonely Scarecrow

At the workshop’s close I raffled off a signed copy of the book and donated another signed copy to the library for their stacks.

I am pleased to share that Miss Jean, the librarian, invited me back to do future Tweenz programs to accompany the appearance of Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting (Spring 2014) and and Sap, Tap, Maple Syrup! Collecting Winter Colors (Fall 2014), when they appear next year. I also be doing several Hunterdon Country Library Teen Café poetry workshops in the spring as well.

Thanks, Miss Jean, for the wonderful opportunity to share my book and some writing tricks I’ve learned during my poetry journey. Looking forward to returning next year to do more workshopping with the younger patrons of the Hunterdon County Library!

Read on!

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Whew! It’s Been So Busy…

Red Mill Harvest Festival Fan 2I’ve hardly had time to post, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos from my author signing at the Red Mill Harvest Festival in Clinton, New Jersey, this past Sunday. It was a windy day, but the locale and the company was truly lovely. A number of the children attending the festival stopped by to do my scavenger hunt, but the girls below enjoyed it so much they came back to do it again!

Red Mill Harvest Festival SuperFans 3
I’ll be back in Clinton this evening to teach a group of tweenz how to write rhyming couplets, and will be back tomorrow to post a few more photos and update my calendar of events!

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Here are a few photos from the Tuesday morning Storytime at the Ledgewood, NJ, Barnes & Noble earlier this week:

B&N Storytime 5, Ledgewood, NJ 11-5-13

Thank you to Patty for inviting me back to read Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes, and especially to Michelle, who conducted the hour-long session of stories, songs, and activities.

B&N Storytime 4, Ledgewood, NJ 11-5-13It was exciting to share the book with this lively gathering, participate in the singing—who doesn’t love a hearty round of “The Wheels on the Bus”?— and to see children and parents alike enjoy coloring in the packet of activity sheets I’ve prepared for Pick a Circle events.

B&N Storytime 2 close up, Ledgewood, NJ 11-5-13I learned a new song, was cheered by meeting all the smiling faces, and even signed a few books. And what an unexpected delight it was to pen a dedication to a young child named Audyn, after one of my favorite poets, W.H. Auden!

It was a good, good morning that started off like this…

B&N Storytime 9, Ledgewood, NJ 11-5-13

…and finished with my dad, patiently waiting to go to Panera with my mom and son for lunch!

B&N Storytime 8, Ledgewood, NJ 11-5-13

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Who Doesn’t Love a Costume Party?

I know I do—and I’m still recovering from all the fun I had doing a Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes scavenger hunt with the children who attended the Branchburg Sports Complex 2013 Halloween Party this past Sunday. The children searched for shapes in the fun-filled indoor football field, brought me their completed scavenger hunt sheets, and received prizes: a harvest pencil topped with a Halloween eraser, a Pick a Circle bookmark, and their choice of a sweet treat! And those who wanted a respite from the various games and activities stopped for a while to color and decorate some of my other activity sheets and chat.

I was busy! As busy as answering the front door on Halloween night! In fact, I was so busy meeting Incredible Hulks and fairy princesses and lobsters in strollers that I almost forgot to take a pictures. Here are a few adorable trick-or-treaters I met during the party. Their parents seemed game for having fun as well. It was really nice to see all these young families enjoying themselves.

Branchburg Sports Complex Halloween Party 2013

I want to say a special thank you to Mark, Lisa, Steve, and the Branchburg Sports Complex team for giving me the opportunity to participate in this fun event. I was able, amongst the festivities, to speak as well to the parents about my books and to hold a raffle for a signed copy of my second book when it comes out early next spring: Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting.

I’ll be emailing the winner of that raffle tomorrow afternoon!

Branchburg Sports Complex Halloween Party 2
May your Halloween be full of happy tricks and tasty treats!

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Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere!

Here is a collage of photos from a family visit with my sister, niece, and nephew to Burjan’s Pumpkin Festival in Three Bridges, New Jersey. We took our annual pumpkin hayride to the patch for the perfect pumpkin. Yearly visits to Burjan’s are part of what inspired me to write Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes. I gave the owner, who went to high school with my late father-in-law, a copy of the book. She posed with for a photo, as did the lovely ladies who were helping to make the busy festival run smoothly.  Not pictured: the corn maze, moon bounce, and other fun parts of our visit, including a stop at Dan’s Backyard BBQ for pulled pork sliders and a cup of hot cider. Why? Because they were gone!

Burjan's Collage

scream team

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Too Tired to Post More than One Adorable Photo

from today’s author signing at the Stangl Factory Farmers’ Market (posted with Mom’s permission). More to come tomorrow!

stangl farmers' market cutie-pie

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Hi Mom and Dad!

Barnes and Noble signingI was pretty nervous beforehand, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience speaking to the teachers attending the Fall Educator Reception at the Ledgewood, NJ, Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon. It was thrilling to sign so many copies of Pick a Circle, Gather Squares, but I was even more excited that my parents were able to attend the reception (thanks, Mom, for these photos) and to be around a crowd of people who just LOVE books. It was wonderful to talk with the dedicated  teachers who stopped to chat or have a book signed, and to hear the thoughtful book recommendations of the B& N staff. A special thank you to Patty, Christina, and the Ledgewood B&N staff for the opportunity to share my thoughts about writing and my experiences in becoming a published author.  I look forward to returning to Ledgewood very soon for a B&N Storytime visit!

Barnes and Noble speakingTomorrow I’m off to the Stangl Factory Farmers’ Market in Flemington, for storytime, a scavenger hunt, other kids’ activities, and to sign copies of Pick a Circle, Gather Squares! I’ll also be raffling off a copy of my forthcoming Cheers for a Dozen Ears. I hope you stop by!

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Pick a Circle, Gather Squares Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market Signing and Activities!

I had a lot of fun doing a Pick a Circle, Gather Squares author signing and kids’ activities at the Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market in Flemington, New Jersey this past Sunday. It was a beautiful day filled with smiles, sunshine, and apple cider! My husband was a big help. My son, too! A special thanks to Sweet Valley Farms for loaning me some beautiful pumpkins to enhance my display and donating two baskets of crisp apples to give to the children who completed the shape scavenger hunt. And a super big thanks to Catherine Suttle and the people of the HLT for allowing me to share my book with market patrons and and celebrate the Garden State fall harvest—which is part of what inspired to write Pick a Circle!Hunterdon Land Trust Signing and Kids' Activities


Hunterdon Land Trust Signing Hunterdon Land Trust with Catherine Suttle Gus and Nate

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