Friday, June 1, 2012

Guest Post: How to Keep Your Child Learning This Summer by Blaine Milleford

Keeping your child learning during the summer can be a lot of fun. There are lots of things to do, starting with swimming lessons, visiting your local library, nature hikes, planting a garden and visiting local museums or zoos!

Swimming Lessons

Starting your day with swimming lessons is a great way to get out of the house and get your child exercise. Swim instructors teach everything from the basic stroke to advanced strokes, passing the local swim test to advancing to a swim team. Swim teams are a great way for teaching kids camaraderie, competitiveness, skill building and having fun.

The Library
The local library is a great place to go in the summer. Most public libraries have summer reading programs that track your child's reading progress, then at the end of summer, they give a prize or have a party for the kids that participated in the program. Many public libraries have special guests that do things for children like teach about animals, or do crafts in the library. Parents can sign kids up for trips or special events in their community.


Going on a nature hike is a great way to spend the day with your kids. Check your local map for hiking trails near your home. Many public parks offer nature hikes where the park ranger will describe the types of plants and animals in your community. Being outside and seeing the birds and trees on your local trail can great for your kids.


Starting a garden in your yard can be a fun thing to do. You can plant it in your yard with your kids or if you have a small space in the city plant some plants in containers in your house or deck. Tomatoes are a great vegetable to start out with and strawberries are a great fruit to plant. Taking your child to a U-pick farm can be a great way to spend the afternoon. It all depends on the place you live on the type of farms you can go to. Picking berries and vegetables is another great way to enjoy the outdoors with your children and connect with the earth.


Visiting your local museums is a great way to spend the day. Most big cities have children's museum. Children's museums can be a lot of fun they usually have great "stations" that teach your child information while playing. Some children's museums have musical instrument areas, art areas and pretend play areas like working at a super market. Some museums have a dinosaur area where you can dig for bones or read up on your favorite dinosaur. Train building areas are popular in children's museums and so are space themed areas. Check local listings to find out what is going on at your local children's museum.
Going to your local zoo can be fun for your kids. On a sunny day you can't beat a day at the zoo. Zoos are usually over a large area and are a great way to get exercise. Walking between animal exhibits and reading about what country the animals came from can be fun for kids without even realizing it. Many zoos have special displays going on during summer vacation. There are also special themed summer nights at many zoos around the country.


Visiting your local aquarium is a great learning experience about the ocean. Many aquariums have special learning programs for kids during the day. Children especially enjoy touching sea life in tide pools.

Keeping your child learning during the summer can be lots of fun. These ideas will keep things interesting during summer vacation, so look into them ASAP!

Blaine Milleford writes about education, finance & saving money at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Riley's Countdown Begins!

In 7 days, Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe will be released! Written by Halima Sahar Muhammad, this middle-grade novel explores sibling rivalry and the value of teamwork. Read the official press release below and stay tuned for more updates!


Halima Sahar Muhammad is an avid reader who has been a Texas State Finalist in the Letters About Literature writing contest in 2010, 2011, and 2012. After successfully completing National Novel Writers Month challenges in 2010 and 2011, Halima decided to edit and publish her first middle-grade novel, Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe. Her novel has been self-published on and is also available on, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes and Noble NOOK starting June 7, 2012.
  Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe is a middle-grade novel about an 11 year-old girl and her ongoing feud with her pesky big brother, Atticus. When her parents are called out of town for business, Riley and her brother find out that they will be spending six long days in the country visiting family. During their stay, Riley volunteers her brother to help throw a dinner party for their aunt's new neighbors. When the kitchen goes up in smoke, will Riley and Atticus stop fighting long enough to salvage a potential disaster?
Halima's mother, Raychelle Muhammad, assisted her with the editing, formatting, and cover design. She insists, however, that the hardest work was done by Halima herself: "Halima created the Riley character during NaNoWriMo 2010. When the 2011 challenge began, she was determined to write the next title in the Riley series and publish it. Halima finished her first draft, took a month-long break, and resumed edits and rewrites in January. On the day before her self-imposed deadline, May 14, 2012, the manuscript was done. I am incredibly proud of Halima and I am grateful for the outpouring of support and well-wishes she is receiving from friends, family, and the literary community."

Halima is 12-years old, homeschooled, and will be entering the 9th grade in the fall. She is an excellent student. One of her favorite mantras is, "Nothing can quench the thirst for knowledge." In her spare time, Halima enjoys reading, fashion, swimming, painting, and hanging out with family and friends. For updates about her launch, visit her Facebook fan page at and her blog at

Raychelle Reviews: Toby and His Hospital Friends by Charmaine Hammond, Plus Book Giveaway!

Author Charmaine Hammond wrote Toby and His Hospital Friends based on the book and movie, On Toby's Terms. Toby is a pet therapy dog who visits the children's hospital every week with his owner, Miss Charmaine. The young patients look forward to seeing Toby because he is kind, generous, and lifts their spirits. The story walks readers through a typical visit day which educates about them about the therapeutic value of animals.

Rose Anne Prevec's illustrations enhance this delightful story of sharing, caring, and hope.

Toby and His Hospital Friends increases awareness of pet therapy. The author also includes a set of questions at the end of the book to help readers improve their critical thinking skills. This is an uplifting story that will be appreciated by people of all ages.



Please leave a question or comment for Charmaine Hammond in the comments below. On Saturday, June 2, 2012, one person will be selected to receive an autographed copy of Toby and His Hospital Friends!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Suzy Beamer Bohnert

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?

I come from a family of athletes. My sister and brother both played collegiate tennis, and I played three sports in high school. I lettered in basketball, soccer, and softball. Ever since I was a young child—and I’ll date myself—we had access to a Weekly Reader that we used each week in school. There was a section in it where you could write about whatever your passion was. I always wrote about sports.

I think I started having the Weekly Reader in third grade, and even then, I would tell people that I wanted to be an “arthur.” I couldn’t say “author”—couldn’t pronounce it—but I knew that I wanted to write, and I wanted to write about sports because I was a tomboy. I would play with all the kids in the neighborhood—it didn't matter if they were boys—and we would play football, and baseball, and basketball. From that experience, I always knew that I wanted to chronicle the happenings in the sports world. I was always fascinated with sports at a young age. That was my passion, and it still is.

I live in Arlington, Virginia, with my husband and two children. It's a great community.

2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?

I write primarily nonfiction sports books. As to my ideal reader, I guess that depends upon the book. Some of my books have been geared to adult women and adult men--the Game-Day Goddess Sports Series. I also have kids' books--the Game-Day Youth Sports Series and Binkie Learns to Fly, and those are geared for children kindergarten and up.

For the sports books, the message I’m trying to get across to people is that sports are not difficult to understand. They are very easy if you understand a few simple concepts. Also, sports can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re a gal or a guy, you don’t need to be afraid of sports because, yes, some who have played the game before or who watch it more than you might know more than you now, but with these books you can really learn a lot quickly. They're written in simple language, so that you can pick it up in a speedy way.

With Binkie Learns to Fly, I want people to know that they can overcome doubt.

3) Tell us about your Game Day series. How did you develop this concept?

I told my Dad that I had this idea about writing a book, but I didn't know it would lead to a series. I always liked to bounce ideas off my father. He said, “Yeah, I think that’s really good because to know a game you really have to understand the language of it. Then, once you understand the language, you can learn more about the rules and how the game’s played.”

So, I was trying to aim the first book for those who were beginners learning the game and also those with a sophisticated knowledge of the game. I had different reviewers, including friends—men and women—and my Dad—and they all seemed to like it.

What I decided to do, too, was to make the books humorous. I didn’t want them to be dull. I made them pocketbook-sized, brief and concise, but factual. That has aided in their success because people enjoy them, they can relate to them, and they find the books entertaining. That has helped sales and made the books popular among women, men, and youths.

4) What inspired you to write Binkie Learns to Fly?

My son was learning to swim, and he had doubts about whether he should jump in the pool because the water may have been too cold, or he was not sure if he’d float. I told him that I would write a book for him if he tried.

Binkie Learns to Fly is a heartwarming story about a butterfly, an insect afraid to fly until he gets encouragement from his mother, who points out the joy of seeing the world. At first timid, Binkie butterfly gains confidence and then learns to soar in the air, overcoming his fear and relishing flight. This is an upbeat book for babies through preschoolers, with an extended market to younger children, who may want to read the book to a sibling, neighbor, or friend.

5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I try to have as many print, radio, and television interviews as possible. I also like to connect with others in the writing community, such as yourself, to let people know about my books. Additionally, I've taught classes about sports at athletic clinics, so that exposes me to a variety of people.

Each method has worked well, so I'm an advocate for using all types of methods and media to get the word out.

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

My favorite author is Somerset Maugham, who wrote Of Human Bondage, a wonderful book. I'm also fond of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. I love to read The Wall Street Journal each day, in addition to books, and my Parents and Parenting magazines.

I'm working on reading the classics now because they are certainly worth reading. What I'm tackling now is Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. With my busy schedule, it may take me some time!

I won't hesitate to say that I enjoy listening to my kids as they read Junie B. Jones and Matt Christopher books. Believe it or not, I share an interest in those, too!

7) What are your views on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Although you may feel deflated because your book has been self-published, the whole realm of publishing has changed such that I don't think it really matters if you have a traditional publisher or put the book together on your own. As long as a book is done well--with proper research, writing, and editing--I think the target audience does not really care about the publishing aspect. The audience is hungry for information or a good read--whether you have an agent or a publisher is of little concern to them.

8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

I’m a coach of sports for my kids. I coach basketball, baseball, and soccer, and I’m also a mother and a wife. So I have a lot of roles that I play in my everyday life.

I always try to remember that there are only 936 Saturdays between when my kids were born and when they leave for college. Although that number may sound like a lot, it's really not. So those moments I have with my kids and family are precious, and even though I have the challenge of juggling my adult life, I try not to let it prevent me from appreciating and enjoying their childhood by doing things with them that they enjoy.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I am working on Game-Day Youth: Learning Football's Lingo. It will come out later this year, and it is another book in the Game-Day Youth Sports Series. These are perfect books for kids who, for instance, may play basketball, football, or baseball in gym class. They may play it with their friends at the local park, or they may play in a league, or they may want to watch the game on TV with Mom, Dad, or a friend. They might want to learn about how the game is played. These books are primers—whether they’ve just started out playing or whether they’ve played for several years. They’re helpful in learning the language of the game. If they don’t understand certain terms, there’s lingo in the back of the book that’s alphabetized, and all they have to do is flip to the back, and if they hear a term, they look it up and find out what it means. It’s helpful for a boy or a girl to use the books to learn the language of the game and how to play the game. Parents love them, too!

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

I learned to be persistent. With my books, I thought I had a good idea and wanted to press forward with it. Contact a lot of people at different firms until you get the "yes" you are looking for. You shouldn't let the first person who said "no" stop you from going forward.

Author Bio

Suzy Beamer Bohnert launched her writing career with a job as a newspaper sports editor. During that job, she interviewed numerous coaches, athletes, and fans about sports, putting complicated games into simple words. She has written six books, including Game-Day Goddess: Learning Baseball's Lingo; Game-Day Goddess: Learning Basketball's Lingo; Game-Day Goddess: Learning Football's Lingo; Game-Day Youth: Learning Baseball's Lingo; Game-Day Youth: Learning Basketball's Lingo; and the fiction children's book Binkie Learns to Fly.

Her basketball, baseball, and football titles have been named Best Books for College Students by, a Washington Post Co. She also claimed the Best Books for Teen Boys Award from the New Hampshire Library Media Association.

The Mom's Choice Awards named Game-Day Youth: Learning Baseball's Lingo as the "Most Outstanding Nonfiction Children's Book."

The winner of eight national awards for writing excellence, including the Blue Pencil, Gold Screen, Ragan Communications, and MarCom Awards, she lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Randall, and son and daughter, where she helps coach her kids' basketball, baseball, and soccer teams.

Her books are available in paperback and e-book format on,, and She also has a line of Game-Day Goddess and Game-Day Youth T-shirts at

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Scott Gill

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work.

I live in Rockwall, Texas, a bustling town on the banks of Lake Ray Hubbard, about 23 miles east of Dallas. I teach English at J.W. Williams Middle School where I also coach football, basketball, and track. I stay pretty busy outside of school as well with my wife of 20 years (June 6) and our 4 children (3 big boys; 17, 15, and 13 and our daughter who is 5). We have lived in the same little house for 15 years, so it is pretty crowded, but it makes for a close family.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author.

Teaching and coaching is my second career, for the first 15 years I was a church pastor and youth pastor. The ministerial life can be extremely stressful (there are often unrealistic expectations placed on you and family) and so I finally decided to change my career. I have always worked with teenagers and I love it, so I decided to try my hand at teaching. At the same time I had to channel my "ministerial frustrations" and I began to write, mainly journaling at first, then I got the guts to send an article into a religious magazine and they bought it. I couldn't believe my fortune, so I sent another and they kept buying. I think one Christmas I made close to $1000 on articles. I enrolled in The Institute of Children's Literature and began studying the business of writing for children and teens. During those years of the periodic published article, I had some book ideas, but none of them stuck like Goliath Catfish.

3) Do you gravitate toward any particular genre?

I love to write for young adults, mainly adventure stories. Having quite an adventurous childhood and a huge imagination makes that genre more appealing to me than something like romance. I have also written tons of memoir-style stories which my adult friends seem to like.

4) Tell us about your recent release, Goliath Catfish.

It's a story set in the 1940's, in Memphis, Tennessee. Albert McClune is a 12 year old boy, desperately poor. He tries to do what he can to help his family survive like hunt in the woods that surround his little neighborhood. He is big for his age but hardly realizes it because of guilt and shame has cut him down to size. He decides to run away from home, thinking it would be better and easier for his family, and he meets a peculiar kid named, Elijah Amos Fortune Jones. Elijah invites him on a treasure hunt for the last ransom money of gangster, Machine Gun Kelly. The pair risk life and limb in the rat-infested sewers under the city in a race to find the money. Albert will be forced to face his fears and painful past or lose everything he holds dear.

It is a fun adventure tale that is set to come out sometime in July.

5) Describe your path to publication. Has this experience met/exceeded your expectations?

The idea started as an assignment through The Institute of Children's Literature. My instructor, Kevin McColley, after reading some of my initial ideas, encouraged me to keep going, that it had potential. After two years of writing little by little, mostly at 5am, I finally finished. I researched publishers and narrowed my best choices down to three. I sent the manuscript to my first choice and waited and prayed. Eight months later I learned they had never received the manuscript and wanted me to resend a copy. No sooner than I mailed it, I learned of a new publisher, Glass Page Books (, and they seemed like a good fit. I emailed a query and received a response a few hours later, they wanted a full manuscript. I mailed it and while camping with my boys in Tennessee, I received a call, they wanted it!

6) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

Promotion is my big challenge at the moment, in fact, it has taken time away from writing on a new idea... I have had to learn how to build a website (, write press releases, and create bookstore flyers. The internet is a huge help with Facebook and now, I have a Twitter ( follow me @scotttgill5). As far as success in promotion, we'll have to see come July. Oh, and I have some launch parties in the works (Roma's Books of Rockwall!!!), fortunately, I have taught hundreds of students that are excited about the work and I am blessed with a great group of friends and family.

7) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your respective reading lists right now?

I am a student of C.S. Lewis (my Master's thesis was on his last novel, Till We Have Faces) and have read nearly everything he and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. I also love to read Mark Twain, Gary Paulsen, Suzanne Collins, and J.K. Rowling. Presently, I have really gotten into Ernest Hemingway and am almost finished with The Old Man and the Sea.

8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

With four kids, life is seldom slow and boring. I'm a teacher and a coach so I have to get up and write early during the week, then I head to school where I teach English to 8th graders, direct a college preparatory program called AVID, and coach football, basketball, and track. I try to work out and stay in shape when I have the time, then on the weekends, I am typically at a lacrosse field watching my boys play, or at the park with my daughter, or watching movies with my wife. Every once in a while, I'll take my boys camping or fishing at a nearby pond.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I am writing a new story that will take place in the Reelfoot Lake area in Northwest Tennessee and deal with a modern Night Rider movement (the Night Riders were a Ku Klux Klan type of group in the 1900's that terrorized the area in order to secure rights to live and fish on the lake, to read the history of the Night Riders, a good book is The Night Riders of Reelfoot Lake by Paul Vanderwood).

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Write as much as you can when you can. Be persistent, diligent, and patient. Learn all you can from others who have been before you.

About the Author

 After serving as a minister for nearly 15 years, Scott Thomas Gill left the “cloth” to pursue a different calling: teaching and telling stories.  Now, as a middle school teacher and coach, he helps teens read, instructs writing, and inspires athletes from the sidelines. Outside education, Scott is an avid writer, having been published in The EFCA Today, Dallas Child, Teachers of Vision and compilations such as Chicken Soup for the Father and Son’s Soul, Democrat’s Soul, and The Ultimate Teacher. He was voted J.W. Williams Middle School’s Most Inspirational Teacher 2009, 2010,and 2011, and Teacher of the Year for 2009-2010.

He’s earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from The University of Memphis, and a Masters degree in theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary.He also studied writing for children and teenagers under the tutelage of H.M.Hoover and Kevin McColley through The Institute of Children’s Literature. Scott is a member of the Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Scott Gill lives in Rockwall, Texas with his wife, Angie and their four children.

Contact Scott

Twitter @scotttgill5