Stepping through the #FantasticFrame with author Lin Oliver

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Author Lin Oliver can make anything fun.

Seriously–from SCBWI conference announcements to the crooked finger on her right hand (see #7 below), Lin’s repartee will have you chuckling. So I jumped at the chance to ask Lin about her action-packed new chapter book series,



Think MAGIC TREE HOUSE meets your favorite works of art–masterpieces by Henri Rousseau (Samantha Kallis illustration above; book 1), Georges Seurat (bk2), Edward Hopper (bk3), Georgia O’Keefe (bk4) and more to come!

Each book takes 10-year-old Tiger Brooks and his friend Luna through a magic FRAME, straight into a famous painting and an on-going quest to find a boy who disappeared decades before.

Teachers and Librarians–what a wonderful way for young readers to discover art history via intrigue, adventure–and did I mention humor? I love the non-fiction component about the featured painting and artist at the back of each book too. Which brings us to our own FANTASTIC adventure–8 Questions with Author Lin Oliver:

  1. Which character in THE FANTASTIC FRAME series is most like you? Tiger Brooks?  Luna Lopez? Viola Dots? Chives (…the talking pig/butler)? David Dots? Maggie Brooks? Cookie Brooks?Lin Oliver: Oh, that’s easy.  Tiger Brooks is a logical thinker and a scientist.  I am neither.  Viola Dots is a shut-in and a grouch.  I am neither.  Luna is a creative person, a maker, a dreamer and a hugger.  I am ALL FOUR OF THOSE THINGS.  Making things is my favorite activity in the world—whether it’s making a book, a pot of soup, a crazy quilt, a mosaic bird feeder, or a tower of rocks and sea shells at the beach.  I think Luna and I would be very good friends.
  2.  Which of the titles from your FANTASTIC FRAME series best describes your path as an author? (or your revision process?) Book 1: DANGER! TIGER CROSSINGFantastic Frame bk1Book 2: SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY  FantasticFrame2Book 3: BEWARE! SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT  **release date Oct. 2016 FantasticFrame3

    Book 4: LOOK OUT! GHOST MOUNTAIN BELOW **Coming soon!

    Lin Oliver: This is such a funny and clever question.  It would have to be SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY.  Messy is a key word to describe almost everything I do.  I meander through life, looking at everything, getting distracted by what interests me, collecting odd things, being overly-curious about everything.  That makes for messy outcomes.  Some people are planners and some, like me, just mess around until they get where they’re going.  I never outline a plot, I just keep fooling around with it until it’s right.  I only tidy up my writing desk when the potato chip bags get so high I can’t see over them.  And don’t try to find anything in my closet unless you’re willing to go to battle with the dust bunnies.  

  3. What is the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made thus far while writing this series?Lin Oliver: I learned so many facts about artists and their lives.  Georgia O’Keeffe never painted a person—only flowers and skulls and landscapes.  And when she was painting in Santa Fe and it got hot, she would lie under her car in the shade and paint. Edward Hopper, although he was wildly successful, lived in the same tiny New York apartment his whole adult life and had to walk down the hall to use the bathroom.  Henri Rousseau painted jungles but never saw one.  He was a customs agent and worked in an office in Paris.  I love to learn about people who lived odd and unique lives because they were pursuing their artistic dreams. 
  4. How are your experiences of writing a series like FANTASTIC  FRAME and writing for television similar?Lin Oliver: Writing a book series is a great deal like writing for television.  You have to come up with a premise that suggests many different story lines. THE FANTASTIC FRAME presents as many stories as there are paintings in the world.  Next, you have to come up with a cast of characters that your readers or viewers love and want to hang out with.  Every successful TV comedy you can think of has that—think of Friends or The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld.  You want to be right there with those adorable folks.  I hope that the readers of FANTASTIC FRAME love the characters, especially Tiger and Luna and Chives, and are happy to be with them on all their adventures. 
  5.  If you had an “Hour of Power” like Tiger and Luna, and could walk through the frame of any of the world’s greatest paintings, which one would you choose? Why?Lin Oliver: Oh, I love so many paintings that it’s hard to choose just one, but I think it would be thrilling to enter Salvador Dali’s painting, The Persistence of Memory—-you know, the crazy surreal one with the fluid looking clocks draped over weird tree branches in the desert.  I assume I’d turn into a liquid creature too, and slither all over that strange world. 
  6. What is your favorite question asked at school visits or in fan mail? Lin Oliver: Well, the most common questions from kids are: How much money do you make? (I never answer that) and What kind of car do you drive?  (When I tell the kids I drive an unexciting but eco-friendly Prius, there are usually wails of disappointment.)  My favorite question, which I’ve been lucky enough to hear on many occasions is, “How did you know me so well?”  It is thrilling for me as an author, to have kids recognize themselves in my books.  My answer to them is,

    “I know you because way down deep, we are all the same.”

  7. Why is the little finger on your right hand crooked? (I found this fact on Lin’s web site. I asked because my husband’s finger was jammed by a basketball…WHO KNEW her answer would be about MY favorite sport? GAME ON, Lin Oliver!)

    Lin Oliver: I was a tether-ball fanatic as a child.  I played non-stop, and was crushed when I learned there was no Gold Medal given at the Olympics for tether ball.  I broke my little finger many times, either jamming it into the tether ball or getting it all bent up in the rope, or worst of all, slugging at the ball but hitting the metal joint that attached it to the rope instead.  Ouch, I can still feel that.

  8.  What question do you wish I’d asked?Lin Oliver: Why do I write for children?Answer:  Because I think all kids want and need love, and by writing for them, I can reach across time and space and love them up through my books.


    Bonus WRITING PROMPT for Teachers: Try question #5 with your class! Tweet snippets or even sketches of their answers to @LinOliver  with the hashtags #FantasticFrame #edchat 

Three #amwriting #writingprocess reminders from the Olympics. (Obrigada, Brasil!)



Confession: While I’m incredibly inspired by each Olympic athlete, my current personal best is an occasional sprint to the fridge between competitions. Thus, I hereby justify my Olympic-binge-watching by offering three #writingprocess take-aways. #amwriting reminders too. Dive in.

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  1. When I teach the WRITING PROCESS, I neglect one of the hardest parts: The WAITING PROCESS. Like an athlete’s Olympic journey, our writing steps from brainstorming to revision are key, but the WAITING. Yeesh. You’ve submitted your work. You’ve put yourself out there. And now you have to believe. As young writers work through the PROCESS, let them know that authors wait. A lot. Part of an author’s WRITING PROCESS is waiting for response from critique partners, Beta readers, agents, and editors–way before the final PUBLISHING step. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes you don’t receive a response at all. This is GOOD NEWS, teacher pals! The perfect answer to those students who ask, “Have you corrected our papers yet?” After all, our job as teachers is to prepare students for the real world, yes? Obrigada (Thank you) USA gymnastic All-Around medalists, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman for the reminder that waiting is a huge part of the process. (And CONGRATS!)

2. USA superstars, gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Missy Franklin (Remember London?) deserve medals for cheering their teammates while battling that evil green monster, ENVY and the relentless media. NO PRESSURE.

So often students see A grades and 100% as gold medals. Highlighting the gold in the work of emerging writers, sharing an excerpt from their work with the class, builds much needed confidence. I also add it to our Moments of Magic butcher paper on the wall. Pure gold.

I’d love to say I always view the well-deserved publishing success of author/illustrator friends as another medal for TEAM #Literacy. Admittedly, that green monster stalks us all, but Dearest authors and students (teachers too!):

The SUCCESS of others is NOT your FAILURE.

We all have MOMENTS OF MAGIC. Celebrate those. Obrigada Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin. You rock. 
IMG_31093. I almost wrote off “veteran” swimmers Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian —and what about Oksana Chusovitina, the 41-year-old vaulter from Uzbekistan who competed in her SEVENTH Olympics? Well guess what world, I was WRONG. And oh-so-happily so! Kudos to all.

This Phelps-Adrian-Chusovitina lesson applies to the #kidlit world, for the fabulously talented young authors and illustrators, as well as “veterans” like me. As Penguin senior editor Stacey Barney reminded us at the #LA16SCBWI Summer Conference: “Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.” (Teaching too, my friends.)


A special shout out to the amazing International Schools in Brazil where these photos were taken.

Happy Beck-to-School to all.

Obrigada Brasil! Tchau. My DVR calls…


You’re my Liebster! 11 questions about lobsters, books, and blogs.

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Any FRIENDS fans out there, my #kidlit pals?

When I was nominated by JEN Garrett over at LexicalCreations for the LIEBSTER AWARD, 


As it turns out, LOBSTERS and LIEBSTERS share a few key points.

Liebster Award

On FRIENDS, Ross tells Rachel she’s his lobster because–according to Phoebe–lobsters mate for life.

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The LIEBSTER is an award fellow bloggers bestow on blogs that they believe deserve more visitors.

We want you to hang with us for life.

So, uh, welcome to my #kidlit tank, FRIENDS.

If I’ve nominated you, be sure to check out my questions for you below.

As for me, —hear-ye, hear-ye–…I graciously accept this awesome LIEBSTER honor by answering the following

11 Burning Questions that Jen sent:

1. Do you follow many blogs? Why or why not?

Erin: I love bloggers: Class Blogs, Authors, Librarians, Book Reviewers. I follow a bunch on Twitter. Thus I read the blogs they post in their Twitter feed. I’ve tried to follow and/or reply to numerous blogs but usually that requires several hoops such as:

  • signing into my own blog
  • remembering my lengthy, convoluted (aka secure) password, and
  • completing a math problem to prove I’m not a robot.

Honestly, I think the robot would be quicker at the math problems…so how can they really tell?

 2. What ways do you have on your blog for people to follow you?

Erin: Check out the handy widgets WAY UP in the right hand corner there —–>  Which reminds me I need to add a link for Instagram. 


3. Where (on your blog) do you have ways to follow you? Near the top, to the right, or somewhere else?  Besides the widgets, the same options are at the bottom of every post.


4. How do you interact with your followers?

Erin: I reply to any and all comments on my blog. (Except for the ones who want me to wire my long lost best friend gobs of money to an undisclosed offshore account because LLBF has left the country on a spur of the minute global adventure… Yeah, right, buddy. ) Sometimes we move the conversation to email or Twitter. Sometimes these are requests for Skypes and/or school visits which I LOVE LOVE LOVE. 

Skype with Miss Zapp's 2nds

5. Do you worry about building your brand? Why or why not?

Erin: I don’t “worry” about my brand, really. It’s fun to connect with teachers, librarians, readers, publishers, editors, and other authors & illustrators. I am Erin Dealey on ALL social media. (The only place that’s hard to find is my Facebook page, WRITE NOW! AN OCCASIONAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF AUTHOR ERIN DEALEY, FOLLOW.FOLLOW.FOLLOW–This was my very first foray into the land of BRAND. My suggestions for newbies:

  • Find the social media that works for you, and concentrate on that.
  • Make sure whatever you choose goes by YOUR NAME–not some cutesy Instagrammy moniker no one will recognize.

6. Do you participate in blog hops? If so, what about the hop attracts you?

Erin: Blogs are a great way to get to know cool authors. And I love a tempting GIVEAWAY.

Here’s a recent blog tour celebrating author Holly Schindler’s YA launch for SPARK.

Spark Holly Schindler

7. Have you ever participated in a virtual blog tour, or had one for your books?

Erin: I’ve participated in #ArmchairBEA. Haven’t had one for any of my books, yet, but I’m open to any and all suggestions.

I spend more time blogging about author pals and their books, or sharing LESSON PLANS for teachers. (I’ve shared these on PINTEREST too.)

8. What is a blog post you’ve read recently and why?

Erin: I loved Do Your Best Writing: Kick Down the Bumpers over at #TwoWritingTeachers, an Author Spotlight by Julie Falatko, author of the delightful  SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK).   


9. What is the last book you’ve read and did you enjoy it?

Erin: My recent reads include THE 14TH GOLDFISH (Jenni Holm); CICI RENO #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Kristina Springer); A MONSTER CALLS (Patrick Ness); TOWERS FALLING (Jewell Parker Rhodes); and MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY (John David Anderson).

You can check out my reviews and such here on GOODREADS.


and RUBY LEE AND ME (Shannon Hitchcock)


and THE ONE THING (Marci Lynn Curtis.)

10. What is your favorite breakfast?

Erin: My husband makes THE BEST poached eggs. Of course I will never turn down PIZZA –morning, noon, or night…

11. Which question type do you prefer to answer: a “Would you rather…” or a “What if…”?

Erin: I’m a “What if…” kind of gal.It’s what authors do every day, isn’t it?

But enough about  me—(There are at least 11 random facts about me in the answers above–Or check me out on social media.)

WHAT IF I’ve nominated you for a LIEBSTER? 

(This means you: Julie FalatkoHolly SchindlerJen LongoMike Jung, Shannon Hitchcock.)



If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award and you choose to accept it, please write a blog post about the Liebster Award in which you:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog in your post.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. [Some claim that this is a flexible rule, so I’m ignoring it. In fact, I was nominated by someone who doesn’t qualify. 😉 ]
  6. Create a new list of questions for the nominees to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post (copy and paste from here). Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

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Exactly what I thought.

TAG-Julie Falatko 

Holly Schindler 

Jen Longo 

Mike Jung

Shannon Hitchcock


Here are your QUESTIONS from ERIN DEALEY:

  1. Which comes first? Instagram? Twitter? FB? Snapchat? Tumblr? Your blog? *_________ Other
  2. Where can I find the latest blog post about your book?
  3. Are you connected with BOOK REVIEW bloggers? If so, which ones?
  4. Which character in your book(s) is the most like you? (Why?) 
  5. What’s the farthest you’ve traveled for a school visit? How did they contact you? (via blog/web site? email? agent? twitter? etc.) 
  6. Do you have a favorite TEACHER or LIBRARIAN or CLASS blog? Where can we find it?
  7. If I visited your office, would I find any favorite quotes on your wall or desk? Please share one of them.
  8. Do you make playlists for your books? Before or after? Can you share a link?
  9. Any advice for authors wanting to put together a blog tour for their next books?
  10. Which author do you Fan-Geek over? What would you ask him/her if you could? 
  11. What question do you WISH I’d asked you? (Please answer it here.)

Looking forward to reading your posts.

LIEBSTERS for life!

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Poetry for ALL–3 easy activities for #NationalPoetryMonth

Another lesson plan? Fear not! As a teacher, I know the


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Thus, dear fabulous teachers, I present to you 3 activities you can use TOMORROW–with minimal prep– for #NationalPoetryMonth or those days you need just a little something extra to GET KIDS EXCITED ABOUT WORDS!


  • Minimal prep: ZERO. Read these easy instructions and try one before you share with the class.
  • Begin with a motto, theme from your Literature unit, line from a play or book, (appropriate) song lyrics.*

*This becomes the First line of your poem. 

Your poem then uses the last word or words of each line.

Line by line, the poem grows.

Grows until you are finished.

Finish your poem with words from your First line.

First line / Last line poems write themselves !

Note: The poems can be a long as you want. I usually tell my students to try for 8-10 lines total, but really it’s up to you.


2. POETRY JAM:  Begin the morning with a poem. Seriously this takes five minutes–depending on the length of the poem you choose, and if your students beg for more…

  • Minimal prep: Pick a poem or a rhymed picture book to share with the class. I’m sure you have your own favorites. If not–check out poems by Jack Prelutsky or my friend Rebecca Kai Dotlitch. 
  • For older kids–read a poem a day of one of 2015 Newbery Medal recipient Kwame Alexander’s novels in verse:THE CROSSOVER or his newly released BOOKED. (Congrats Kwame!)
2p_THE CROSSOVER jacket.indd  Booked Dust of Eden
  • What to do: No, this is not just a read-aloud by you. Line by line, you–the teacher– (or a selected student) reads the poem selection aloud with expression. *After each line, the class repeats whatever was just said.

Example using another variation: try a Tongue Twister: ; )

Whether the Weather is cold. Or whether the weather is hot. (class repeats)

We’ll be together whatever the weather (class repeats)

Whether we like it or not! (class repeats)

That’s it. Zero prep, once again, really. And why would you TAKE THE TIME to do this? It gets the words in the mouths of your students. Words they might not ordinarily use. They feel the rhythm. You’re sharing awesome poetry, but not in a way that students can easily tune out. They have to LISTEN

          3. POKER POEMS –(Tell the older kids this is Five Card Stud and they’ll get it right away!)

  • Materials needed: old business cards. *I have recycled my own, my mother-in-law’s, my husband’s–It doesn’t matter as long as one side is blank.
  • Minimal prep: Building your deck
poker poems part 1
  1. The next time your class reads a story or chapter together, have them pick out the words that zing. (Or email me and I’ll send you my Poker Poems starter list so you can make the deck(s) yourself…)
  2. Write each word on the blank side of the business cards. One per card.

Playing/writing Poker Poems: Groups of 5-6–one deck per group

  • Choose a dealer –one for each group.
  • Dealer deals 5 cards FACE DOWN to each player, as well as herself.
  • When you say “Go,” players turn their cards over.  The object is to make a “sentence” using all 5 cards. Note: Sentences do NOT have to make sense. 
  • Example: The five cards I got were moonlight, fragile, message, echo, and shattered.
poker poems part 2
  • You may add suffixes, prefixes, and as many extra words as you wish.
  • Write your sentence on your paper.

My sample “sentence” (Eventually you can have them write it as a poem.) =

The echo of the moonlight shattered the fragile message. OR–in poem format:

The echo of the moonlight


the fragile message.

  • For Round Two, players may get rid of any or all 5 words, and the Dealer will deal the same amount of new ones, so the players have five cards as before. Proceed as above, making a new sentence out of the words on your cards.  Write it down.
  • Repeat for Round Three,  and more if you have time!
  • Add to the decks any time your students find a cool word in a story. Builds #Fluency!

Happy writing–and teaching–my friends. I love sharing these activities and more at writing workshops and Teacher Inservices–and on Pinterest (Erin Dealey)– and they work with all ages. If you try any of them, I would love to hear from you. Send student writing via my Contact Erin info on my web site–or find me on Twitter or Instagram @erindealey.


We, too, are America–a play for #BlackHistoryMonth.

Need something new for #BlackHistoryMonth? A history unit? #Diversity? Because #BlackLivesMatter? As a theater teacher, I write plays for my students to perform when I can’t find what I need. And because I know how busy you are, I thought I’d share this one. (Free PDF download below) 

WE, TOO, ARE AMERICA–a tribute for Black History Month, was written for a class of any color–or MANY COLORS–to perform as an assembly or class project. (I promise you, it’s very easy to produce.)

Sojourner Truth

Students will read about and portray twenty-five African-Americans who have helped shape America.  

I’ve attached the pdf here: We, too, are America –a tribute to Black History

Production Notes:

Cast: Flexible cast.  30 speaking parts–5 narrators, 25 “masks”.  Some roles may be combined.


Masks:  Hand held masks– enlarged photos of actual historical figures with name printed clearly in large bold letters so audience can read it.  (Laminate; attach a paint stick as handle–at neck. Optional: Back side of mask can have the character’s lines on it.)

Variation:  Masks with names only, printed clearly in large bold letters so audience can read it. Combine with power point showing photos of actual historical figures.

Simple costume pieces/props may be added for specific characters, such as hat and purse for Rosa Parks, school books for Elizabeth Eckford, etc.  Others may be imagined or pantomimed.

Sound: (Optional) “Military” drums, kettle drum.

Suggested Songs*: “We Shall Overcome,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “O Freedom,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.  *Others may certainly be used instead.

Langston Hughes

Poem: I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes.

Happy February, dear Teachers. I hope you’ll take the time to share these amazing Americans and their contributions with your students.

If you perform the play–take a pic and send it my way via twitter @ErinDealey or my web site.

Most of all, THANK YOU for all you do for your students.