untitled (169)A TRIBUTE TO MAYA ANGELOU by Jackie Wellington

Maya, you no longer have to be a caged bird,
confined in a tiny space,
looking out from behind those bars.

Now, your spirit is set free,
You can glide towards the moon,
sail upon the clouds,
and settle in your new home – Heaven.

I became a “Phenomenal Woman”
because you said that’s who I am.
And I believed you.

I shook hands with a “Freedom Fighter”
because you said that’s what I should do.
So I listened.

I stopped “Passing Time,”
stopped existing,
and started living.
(That was your advice to me.)

You told me, there were “Senses of Insecurity.”
“Don’t buy in to the stereotype,” you said when you recited this poem.
At that time, I lack “Communication I, Communication II,” and “Artful Pose.”

Now look at me, standing here in “Remembrance.”
Reminiscing on the life of an author, motivator, poet, actress, human rights activist, an abolitionist of mental slavery, and a wonderful human being.

You have left your imprint on the future of our nation.
The little boys and girls of all races, cultures, and ethnicities.
You will join your brothers – Martin, Marcus, Malcolm, and Mandela.
And your sisters – Rosa, Harriett, Sojourner and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Thanks for impacting my life.
Thanks for motivating me to be something bigger and better.
And thanks for being you.
Rest In Peace, Maya Angelou.

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As you are aware by now, I am fascinated by nonfiction picture books. From science driven ones (Dianna Aston)untitled (135) to biographical focused ones (Barb Rosenstock, Audrey Vernick, Emily Arnold McCully, et. al.) to historical fiction (Kelly Lyon Starling, Judith St. George, Don Tate, Eve Bunting, et. al.). The text and illustration are so captivating that I cannot stop turning the pages. untitled (136)

The days of the “boring textbooks’ format” in nonfiction is fading away like rotary phones and landlines. I, for one, is ecstatic about this. So I am constantly keeping up with the buzz on the changes in publishing and how nonfiction is affected. I came across this article and thought I should share. I found a blog that blogs about the Common Core State Standards. Whether they are for or against it, is irrelevant. However, they stated that there are 7 categories of nonfiction in kidlit and they classify these books in these categories. untitled (139)

[link: http://nonfictionandthecommoncore.blogspot.com/].

1.) Data: In more friendly terms, you might call this category Fasts Facts. It includes Eyewitness Books, The Guinness Book of World Records, and my own book Animal Grossapedia. These are the concise, fact-filled books that groups of boys love to read together and discuss. untitled (141)

2.) Expository: You might call this category Facts Plus because the facts are interwoven into a content-area explanation. This is could be considered “traditional” nonfiction in some ways, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about today’s expository titles. Their engaging text and rich, dynamic art and design are sure to delight as well as inform young readers.

3.) Narrative: This is a category we’ve heard a lot (I mean A LOT) about in the last few years. It’s the current darling of awards committees. Narrative titles present facts in the form of a true story with a narrative arc. As you learn about the next few categories, I think you’ll see that some of the books that have been lumped into the narrative category should really be thought about on their own terms, based on the author’s approach to the information. untitled (137) untitled (139)

4.) Disciplinary Thinking: These books reveal how scientists and historians go about their work, how they evaluate evidence and form theories. The structure could be narrative, but it usually isn’t. This category might also be called something like Experts at Work. Scientists in the Field books are the perfect example, but there are plenty of other examples. Skull by Mark Aronson is one that immediately comes to mind. untitled (142)

5.) Inquiry: This category could also be called Ask and Answer. In these books, the author raises a question or a group of related questions and then seeks the answer. Sally Walker’s Written in Bone and What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby are great examples. untitled (143)

6.) Interpretation: For these books, authors research a topic widely, find their own meaning in the information, and present the content from that point of view. Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman is the first title that leaps to mind, but I’d also put books like Those Rebels, Tom and John by Barbara Kerley in this category. I think we’ll see more of these books in the future because this type of presentation directly supports Common Core. untitled (144)

7.) Action: This is category offers a separate spot for titles that invite young readers to take action. The most obvious examples include Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns and the Science Play series by Vicki Cobb. I’m not sure this system is the be all and end all, but it’s a very interesting way for writers, teachers, librarians, and other book lovers to think about nonfiction. It stretches the way we think about current books and future possibilities, and I think that’s extremely valuable. untitled (145)

Do you know what you are writing? Do you know in which category your manuscript belong? Take the Challenge. Find some of these books, read them, and come back here and post the title, author, and category. Trust me, you will not be disappointed in your finding. Better yet, you will have a new love and discovery for all things nonfiction.

Here are some of my favorite nonfiction. untitled (140) untitled (153)

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Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

Speak – Laurie Halse Andersen

Naughts and Crosses = Malorie Blackman

Forever – Judy Blume

Shipbreaker – Paolo Bacigalupi

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Gingerbread – Rachel Cohn

The Hunger Games Series – Susan Collins

Vivian vs. the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle

(Vivian Apple at the End of the World)

Romiette and Julio – Sharon M. Draper

If You Could Be Mine – Sara Farizan

Monster – Walter Dean Myers

The House of the Scorpion- Nancy Farmer

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Born Confused – Tanuja Desai Hidier

The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton

Firecracker – David Iserson

The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson

Alice, I Think – Susan Juby

Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan

Adaptation – Malinda Lo

Legend – Marie Lu

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix– J.K. Rowling

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

(You) Set Me on Fire – Mariko Tamaki

Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

Uglies – Scott Westerfield

Miracle’s Boys – Jacqueline Woodson

I am the Messenger – Marcus Zusak


Okay, so you know that within the last two months, I have taken three writing courses. This post is spotlighting NONFICTION ARCHAEOLOGY:DIGGING INTO NONFICTION.

This course is 4-weeks long. It is facilitated by Kristen McGill Fulton. The class is designed to write picture books with a specialization in writing nonfiction picture books. I loved this class. This class had all the information needed to create entertaining nonfiction books.

The class is delivered through webinars and daily emails (except for weekends :D). The good part of the course is you can depend on Kristen to answer your questions. She offers you her phone number so you may call her and asked questions.

And there is a support system of writers who are there to offer support, give feedback, and share their journey with you. Now, I am going to find a spot, and write this nonfiction picture book.

My advice, “If you want to be a writer, learn from the best who are at the height of their careers.” You go, Kristen 😀


For two months, I have taken 3-writing course. I will blog about each of them. They were all so fantastic, amazing, and superb. This post is dedicated to the “Writing Chapter Book Course.”

untitled (121) For the last 5-weeks, I have been taking a CHAPTER BOOK ALCHEMY: WRITING CHAPTER BOOKS course with Dr. Mira Reisberg and author Hillary Homzie. This class is amazing. imagesQ44U4U7A

I am one of those people who do not endorse all willy-nilly. But this is not about spewing what others want you to say. This is about telling you why this was one of the best decisions I made. I made many decisions in my life, both good and bad. The best ones I made were serving my country, Army. Went to college. Start a family. GET A DIVORCE. Following my passion, Writing. And taking the Chapter Book Alchemy course sponsored by Mira Reisberg and Hillary Homzie.

These five weeks were the best. I was so busy writing everyday that at times, I lost track of time. I woke up early to read the post and complete the exercises. Sometimes doing the same exercises two and three times. The resources, supplemental aid, webinars, information, and the supportive community of writers enabled me to hone my craft, get feedback in a timely manner, and have the experts answer my questions so I can write the book.

When I finished my first book, I got down on my knees and cried. Yes, I cried. But since I had time, I wrote another book. Yes. I am so excited about this. You should definitely take this course. It is one of the best investments you will make. And the truth is, you can only get better when you learn from the best.

P.S. There are opportunities for scholarships if you cannot afford it. I hope you will consider taking this course.



There are weak verbs and there are strong verbs. Not all verbs are the same. Some carry a different emotion of picture when the brain decipher the coded message in your words. So what are the weak verbs and strong verbs? How do you know which category your verbs fall in? strong

You hear it all the time when you are writing. Get rid of the weak verbs. Find stronger ones to convey your message. So you go back to your manuscript and you try to find those strong verbs of which you have no clue which ones were weak in the first place. So I came up with a strategy. When I write, I automatically look for synonyms for my verbs whether I know if they are weak or not. If I want to say, “As the footsteps came closer, CJ ran through the woods.”boy ran I create a list of verbs for ‘ran” – dash, jog, race, sprint, hurried, skitter, etc. I then re-read the sentence and substituting each verb for ‘ran’. When I picture the illustration, then I know I have a strong verb. I think, if someone is coming after me, I am not jogging. I am hurrying, sprinting, racing, or dashing.run

In conclusion, try this strategy. See if it can be helpful with your writing. Find the best verbs to convey your message to your reader. Choose well because if you don’t, you might end up in the wrong category. Remember, strong writers use strong verbs, evoke strong emotions, and have a stong fan base.



voice 2 I am a VOICE snob. I love books with strong voices. That is why I have read every single book written by Mildred Taylor. According to About.com, “Voice has two meanings as it concerns creative writers:• Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or
• Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.”

I agree. Make your work stand out. When I read, ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred Tayloruntitled (34), it was Cassie’s voice that captivated me. It was the sassiness within her that spoke to me. Cassie did not understand why the African-Americans were pushed around in Mississippi. The explanation was, “That’s just how things are.” But for Cassie, that was unfathomable. Even though she was a young girl of twelve, she realized that something was wrong with the community and VOICED her opinions often.

Also, I hate reading when voice is passive. This means, the usage of ‘had, was, should, could, were,’ etc. Write more in active voice. For instance, “He had eaten twenty burgers.” This is passive voice with the usage of had. Say, “He ate twenty burgers.” This is active voice. Get rid of ‘had, have, and has’ in your writing. Use strong active verbs and keep it moving. 😀 active

I read a lot of kidlit, especially picture books and Middle Grade. Strong voices dominate a book’s success. No one wants to read about boring characters who do no take risks and chances. So go now, write your story. Remember, you want a voice that commands a reader to stop and listen.
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