Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolutions I'm Going to Keep This Year (I mean it this time! Really!)

1.) Behave like a paragon of virtue.
2.) Keep my home spotless.
3.) Cook gourmet meals.
4.) Lose lots of weight anyway.
5.) Write a bestselling series of kids' books that appeal to children and adults alike and leave Harry Potter in the dust.
6.) Stick to projects until they are

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saints I Need -- Now!

Thanks to my first grade teacher, Sister Celeste, and her dramatic stories about holy people, I developed an early fascination with the saints. Once I could read well enough, I devoured every saint book in our school library and dreamed of growing up to be a martyr. Over the years, I looked to the saints for inspiration and turned to them for help.
I still do.
But sometimes I find myself wishing for new saints…special saints…saints who fit the life I'm living right now and the problems I wrestle with every day. I recently wrote about  these saints-that-don't-exist-but-really-should on the Catholic365 site. If you missed it, you can still read about Saint Peter the Podiatrist, Saint Kitkat Goodbar of Hershey, St. Tardia the Venerable Procrastinator, and all my other imaginary saints here

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Celebrate the Season!

If you're looking for a kids' book about this special time of year, consider Celebrate the Season! Twelve Short Stories for Advent and Christmas available at Pauline Books. This collection (which includes some of my stories) evokes the joy and meaning of the season. Kids 8-12 years old enjoy the stories, and teachers and parents find the book useful since each story is follow by "Questions to Think and Talk About." Would it make a nice gift for someone on your Christmas list?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cats in Trouble!

I've enjoyed all of this mystery series by my talented friend Leann Sweeney, and I'm always looking forward to the next book! The characters are wonderful – both human and animal – and the mysteries are intriguing. (And, no, the stuff about the animals is not cutesy! The cats are always important to the mystery and skillfully woven into the story.) Leann  throws in a little romance, a little sadness, and a little humor to create wonderful books that are hard to put down. The Cat, the Sneak, and the Secret is a great addition to the series. Poor Jillian Hart has to deal with planning a wedding and solving a mystery at the same time! Get the book here!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fantastic New Book for Middle Graders!

Inside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass tells the story of the original Biosphere experiment, but it doesn’t stop there. With well-written text by Mary Kay Carson and remarkable photographs by Tom Uhlman,this amazing book takes us inside this unique research facility and lets us follow the scientists who work there. While readers learn about the researchers and their experiments, they'll also pick up information about photosynthesis, soil erosion, solar energy, animal survival, and other topics related to environmental science. This book paints a fascinating picture of scientists at work and brings scientific method to life. Highly recommended! Get it here!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Another great character...another great book for young teens!

In Next Door to a Star, Krysten Lindsay Hager has created another great character who is believable, relevant, and relatable for young teens. Hadley Daniels is spending the summer with her grandparents who live next door to a teenage television star. Hadley has never had much of a social life, but she meets her celebrity neighbor and tries to become friends with her and her group. It's not easy! Over the summer – and even afterwards – Hadley struggles with the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and sorrows of relationships. Young readers will identify with her and enjoy sharing her journey. Hager nails Hadley's first-person voice as well as her dialogue with friends and family. Hoping for a sequel!

(Isn't this a great cover?)

Get the book here!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


That's what I'm calling my new Facebook page. Fridgerix=refrigerator poetry! Like this:

You can read and share refrigerator poetry on Fridgerix. Check it out here!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Saints Said It!

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

Those words of wisdom come from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pictured above.  For more inspirational quotes from the saints, check out my Facebook page Saints Said It. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Great Halloween Ebook for Kids

Just wanted to remind everybody about this delightful holiday story. Avery's Pumpkin: A Halloween Tale by Tam Cassidy is a wonderful read-aloud for home or school as well as a great book for kids to read independently. There's lots of Halloween fun in this story, but the author also "sneaks" in some real substance. What does it mean to be a "winner"? How do families love each other despite their differences? What really matters in life? Kids will enjoy Avery's story now and each October for years to come. Get this ebook here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Follow the Dot!

Vashti grabbed a marker and gave the paper a good, strong jab. “There!” Her teacher picked up the paper and studied it carefully. “Hmmmmm.” She pushed the paper toward Vashti and quietly said, “Now sign it.”

In this scene from Peter H. Reynolds’ delightful picture book, The Dot, Vashti begins a journey. She’s convinced she can’t draw, but her art teacher’s support throughout the story teaches Vashti that she is an artist. Then Vashti goes on to support another young artist. It’s a delightful book – for adults as well as children – and it made me think about how much writers need each other’s encouragement. It’s so easy to fall into negativity – and so great to get support from crit groups, writers’ organizations, workshops, etc. Thanks to all the writing friends who’ve encouraged me!

Look for this book at your local bookstore as well as the equally charming Ish, also written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

International Dot Day, a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration, began when teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot on September 15, 2009. You can celebrate it on the same date this year! Read about it here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tackling Tough Topics with Kids

Are you on the offense and your older kids/younger teens on the defense when it comes to talking about tough topics? I wrote this book to put you and your 11-14-year-olds on the same team. I tried to make it non-preachy, engaging, and contemporary but also doctrinally sound. 

Each chapter focuses on a real-life challenge to faith as experienced by a fictional character. I also included statistical information about the chapter's topic, discussion questions, links to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an activity, a prayer, and a concluding message offering practical advice for how students can deal with the respective issue. I hope Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction will be a helpful resource for caring adults who want to discuss sensitive issues with young teens.

Want to see what Tackling Tough Topics is all about? Click here to view sample pages, including a chapter on the difficult-to-talk-about issue of pornography. (Other sensitive issues covered in the book include cyberbullying, modesty, family, materialism, dishonesty, body image, substance abuse, stress to overachieve, and depression.)

The book is available from Pauline Books and Media.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yep! More Writing Wisdom! (I ♥ this stuff!)

I ♥ writing! I ♥ quotations! So I ♥♥♥ quotations about writing!

In my view, a writer is a writer because even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.      Junot Diaz

It's never too late -- in fiction or in life -- to revise.     Nancy Thayer

The sinister thing about writing is that it starts off seeming so easy and ends up being so hard.     L. Rust Hills

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.    Raymond Chandler

We write by the light of every story we have ever read.     Richard Peck

Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.                     Mark Twain

Draw your chair up to the edge of the precipice, and I'll tell you a story.           F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, August 10, 2015

Saints I Need -- Now!

Thanks to my first grade teacher, Sister Celeste, and her dramatic stories about holy people, I developed an early fascination with the saints. Once I could read well enough, I devoured every saint book in our school library and dreamed of growing up to be a martyr. Over the years, I looked to the saints for inspiration and turned to them for help.
I still do.
But sometimes I find myself wishing for new saints…special saints…saints who fit the life I'm living right now and the problems I wrestle with every day. I wrote about  these saints-that-don't-exist-but-really-should on the Catholic365 site. You can read about Saint Peter the Podiatrist, Saint Kitkat Goodbar of Hershey, St. Tardia the Venerable Procrastinator, and all my other imaginary saints here

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You don't have to agree with me....

...but can't you do so thoughtfully and respectfully? 

I'm disturbed by the poorly reasoned and hateful way people "discuss" issues these days. Here's an opinion piece I wrote about the problem, published yesterday in our local paper, the Northeast Suburban Life. (Go to Page 7.) What do you think? Can we disagree civilly?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Getting Motivated to Write

Maybe you’ve heard the story about Michelangelo and the block of marble that would one day be his statue of David. Some important guy – a prince or something – heard that Michelangelo hadn’t done anything with the marble even though he’d had it for months. The man went to see about this himself and found the artist just standing there, staring at the huge block of stone. “What are you doing?” asked the visitor. Michelangelo replied, “I’m working.”
I imagine Michelangelo was thinking, planning, visualizing, dreaming up and rejecting ideas, preparing himself to create. He really was working!
A lot of a writer’s work is invisible, too, because it goes on inside the mind. But too many times we tell ourselves we’re doing the Michelangelo thing when we’re really just stalling around. Writing is tough. It’s hard to start writing. It’s hard to keep writing. It’s hard to rewrite as much as you should.
Here are some ideas for getting and staying motivated. You’ll have to figure out what works for you, but hopefully one or more of these suggestions will help!

Set a reasonable goal.Okay, everybody tries setting goals. The problem is that most writers set pie-in the-sky goals that are just too hard to meet. (Like you’re going to get up a four in the morning every day and work on your novel!) You need to set a goal you can actually achieve. And if you really have trouble getting yourself to write, make your goal so easy that you’d feel ashamed to miss it. That way you’ll get somewhere with your writing even if it is just a little at a time – and you can feel proud when you overachieve!

Lose the not-worth-it attitude.It’s wonderful to have a whole hour, a whole afternoon, a whole day to write. (I was so happy when I was able to quit teaching and write!) But usually real life doesn’t allow that. It’s easy to feel there’s no point in even trying to write when you have tight time limits. Why, you’ll barely get started! And you certainly won’t get very far! And the end is nowhere in sight! Why bother? But even though it’s slow and inefficient, writing in little pieces can really work. Eventually you’ll write a whole something. Keep waiting until you have plenty of time, and you’ll eventually write…nothing whatsoever.

Work on several projects at a time.
It seems counterintuitive, but working on several pieces of writing at once can be easier than concentrating on just one. When you have a single writing project, hitting a snag can stop you cold. You sit there for ages, unable to decide what to write next, getting more and more discouraged until you finally quit, never to return to the computer until you’ve worked through the problem, which, face it, could take months. But if you keep several projects in the works, you can set aside a piece that’s not working and move on to something else. And something else if you have problems with that piece. Having several projects also makes it easier to start writing because you have a choice of possible projects.

Make the job fit.To keep yourself working for all of your valuable writing period, match your writing tasks to your personality and energy level. If you’re someone who works best when you’re fresh then start writing as soon as you hit your desk. Don’t squander your most productive time on checking your email, printing address labels, doing research, and the like. You can turn to those tasks later when you’re getting tired. Having some easier jobs at that time can keep you from quitting early. If you’re someone who needs to settle in a bit first, then go ahead and do some of those jobs. Just be sure to watch the clock so you don’t piddle away your time.

When you’re wrestling with a story, taking a moment away can really help. You can do that by setting the story aside and working on another writing project. (See #3.) Doing something unrelated to writing can help, too, so you might just step away from your desk for a few minutes, get a cup of coffee, sit on your deck awhile, or walk the dog. But be careful – and honest with yourself. If a certain activity tends to lead you into the temptation of just quitting for the day, don’t even start it. Substitute a less tempting activity and set a time limit for it.
You can keep your writing energy up over time by refreshing yourself with somenonverbal activities. Art classes, hobbies, and sports give you a break from all those words, words, words so you can come back to writing feeling renewed and open to new ideas.

Join a critique group.Getting together regularly with other writers is one of the most motivating things you can do. Reading other people’s work inspires you to write yourself. The support you get from writing friends keeps you going. Other writers’ suggestions help you improve your work which makes you want to write more. And needing material for your meetings encourages you to write on a routine schedule.

End with a jumpstart. 
When you reach the end of one writing session, set things up so it’ll be easier to get started next time. Some writers stop in the middle of something – an exciting scene, an interesting dialogue, or even a sentence! I sometimes jot a few notes about where I’m planning to go next: a few words about plot, a snippet of possible dialogue, a question. If you’re using some kind of outline, check off what you’ve finished. Even just straightening up your desk and setting out what you need next time can help you get a good start.

Be nice to yourself.You’re trying to do something really hard so cut yourself some slack. Gag that critical inner voice, and take joy in what you’ve written. Write as much as you can but don’t hate yourself if that darn stupid real life gets in the way. When you can’t write, let your mind imagine, dream, plan, and prepare what you’ll write next. Who knows? You might be working on your masterpiece!

For more writing tips, visit my website!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Writing Wisdom

I've written before about how I love to read what other writers have to say about writing, and I've shared their wisdom before. Here are some more quotes from my collection:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.  Elmore Leonard

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.  Stephen King

I respect a man who knows how to spell a word more than one way.  Mark Twain

The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.  Voltaire

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  Jack London

Monday, June 8, 2015

Delightful New Book for Little Kids

I love this new picture book written by my friend Sherry Ellis, author of That Mama is a Grouch and That Baby Woke Me Up Again!  It's a simple and charming story that teaches little ones a lot of basic skills. Not only does it help kids understand counting, it also teaches them about simple subtraction, colors, and classifying. With its rhyming patterns and predictable story structure, Ten Zany Birds is a fun read-aloud for pre-readers and a great read-along for beginning readers. Cute and colorful watercolors by Charu Jain enhance the fun story. Get the book here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Great Books for Young Readers

I wish this series had been around when I was a tween! Landry is a wonderful character – funny and insecure, sweet and sassy, good-hearted and likeable. Krysten Lindsay Hager gives Landry a fresh and genuine voice that makes these books as intimate as a conversation with a good friend. Young readers can identify with Landry and the ups and downs of her life. Fans of True Colors, the first book in the series, will enjoy catching up with Landry, her friends, her family, and her modeling career in Best Friends…Forever? Both e-books manage to be "clean" reads without getting dull or preachy, and that's not easy to do!

Get True Colors here.
Get Best Friends...Forever? here. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Now You're Cooking!

Milk-fed snails...ostrich stew...peas with leeks and cuttlefish...mmmmmm. Can you believe people used to cook up dishes like these? 

Read my guest post on the Hands-on-Books blog to learn more about old recipes -- and modern cooking fun for kids. Try out a special recipe from Now You're Cooking! Ten Short Stories with Recipes

These short stories cook up tales of friendship, fun, laughter, and food! Each story involves food or cooking and is followed by step-by-step kid-friendly recipes. Kitchen safety tips, general cooking instructions, a recipe index, and prayers for before and after meals are all included. Best for children ages 8-11. Available here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How old is...

... the oldest written recipe? Read my guest post on Hands-on-Books blog for the answer and for some fun cooking ideas for kids!  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wonderful new novel!

      Kathy Cannon Wiechman brings history to life in Like a River – A Civil War Novel. The book is well researched, and the author's authentic detail and skillful writing draw readers into the realities of the times. Today's young readers can relate to the two main characters, Leander and Polly, but they seem to be genuine teenagers of their day, too. This powerful story of young people facing the horrors of war is captivating, moving, and inspiring!
        Get it here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Time's Almost Up!

Tick tock tick tock....Time's running out on my book giveaway! Enter to win a free copy of Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction, a faith-based resource designed to help you talk to young teens about sensitive subjects like modesty, depression, pornography, cyberbullying, and more.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction by Diana R. Jenkins

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction

by Diana R. Jenkins

Giveaway ends April 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Don't Call Me a Bully!

One-third to one-half of teens have been bullied online, and just as many teens engage in cyberbullying others. Yet many cyberbullies don't view themselves as bullies at all. They think of, "bullying" as the "old-fashioned" kind of harassment -- upfront and personal. By comparison, their online behavior is no big deal. Harassing, teasing, threatening, or embarrassing someone on the internet or by cellphone is perceived as fun, funny, and inconsequential. And if somebody's feelings get hurt? Well, they probably deserved it!

Of course, cyberbullying is a big deal. The effects can be devastating to the victims, causing self-esteem issues, trouble in school, depression, and self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse and even suicide. Many kids would stop their bullying if they understood the consequences.

But how does a teen -- or anybody else -- know if their online activities have crossed the line into bullying? Here's part of a quiz from my book Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction. Even one "yes" answer can be a sign of cyberbullying:

Have you ever texted or posted rude comments or insults to or about anyone?
Have you ever forwarded photos, emails, texts, or anythng else someone wanted to keep private?
Have you ever posted something negative online that you would never say in person?

Need help talking to kids about sensitive issues like cyberbullying? I wrote Tackling Tough Topics to help you, and I'm giving away three free copies. Enter here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction by Diana R. Jenkins

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction

by Diana R. Jenkins

Giveaway ends April 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away three copies of my latest book, Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction. This is a faith-based resource designed to help caring adults talk to young teens about sensitive subjects like pornography, depression, modesty, cyberbullying, body image, and more. Each chapter uses fiction about contemporary teens as well as varied resource material (statistics, scripture, discussion questions, activities, etc.) to help teachers, catechists, and homeschoolers connect with kids and give them guidance. Enter below -- and please share!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction by Diana R. Jenkins

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction

by Diana R. Jenkins

Giveaway ends April 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Friday, March 20, 2015

What a Great Day!

                                                                                                                                                                  I recently visited All Saints School, Kenwood, Ohio, where I had breakfast with the teachers, gave three presentations, shared a pizza lunch with accelerated readers, autographed my books, and talked to lots of wonderful kids, teachers, parents, etc. 

I really enjoyed my visit! There's a very caring environment there, but I can tell the kids are challenged, too. How great is that?

Thanks to everyone at All Saints for making it such a lovely day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Delightful new picture book!

I love The King Cake Baby by Keila Dawson! This charming picture book gives the old gingerbread man story a New Orleans twist. This time the escapee is the tiny baby meant to be hidden in a king cake. (A delicious New Orleans tradition!) Lively language by author Keila Dawson and fun illustrations by Vernon Smith bring New Orleans to life and make this a story kids will love. Highly recommended! Get it here!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Childhood Writing

I loved writing, even as a kid. Here's the earliest written piece I still have. I wrote this poem for my grandmother the summer after third grade. I know this because I wrote her a letter about it on the other side and I dated that letter. I guess they did a good job of teaching us about proper letter formatting in third grade -- as well as cursive handwriting!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Kids' Book About Martin Luther King, Jr.


What was Your Dream, Dr. King? and Other Questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. (by award-winning author Mary Kay Carson) is a wonderful book for young readers age 7 and up. The kid-friendly question-and-answer format allows readers to explore the book at their own pace and learn about the man and his times in meaningful chunks. As usual, Carson's writing is clear, accessible, and informative. Beautiful illustrations bring Dr. King to life.

Check out Mary Kay Carson's blog post about using this book here.

Get the book here.