Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Eve of the Feeding


In a moment of sheer irony, I find myself on the eve of a feeding seemingly straight out of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. Art may imitate life, but sometimes it is the other way around.

Two weeks ago, when I began my new teaching job, I accepted an offer from a colleague to house her two corn snakes, Beatrice and Priscilla, in my room as class pets. Their unusual cage antics throughout this week signaled their hunger.

So, off to the pet store I went.

Associate: "How can I help you?"

Me: "I'm looking for some white mice. For a snake feeding."

Associate (grinning): (5 second pause) "Sure, right over here."

I followed her, mini-plastic cage in hand, to the feeder mice and walked out of the store with two trembling rodents.

And now here I am, 8:45 on the eve of the feeding, concerned about those two little creatures, huddled together in my office. I mean, I even fed them a few Cheerios. That's one step away from naming them!

And so, my inner Drew fights its battle. Who is there to save them?

But such is the circle of life. Snakes eat mice. As Mr. Cross would say, "I can't deny their nature."

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MDTLC now available on Kindle!

To all my Kindle readers, Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken is now available on Kindle. Click here to download your copy today.

Also, let me know what you think of the book by leaving me some customer feedback on Amazon or posting on my blog.

Thanks in advance!

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PARC Partnership


Below is the message recently released to all members of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC).

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is pleased to announce a recent partnership with author Scott Heydt. Scott writes young adult fiction and has recently published his new novel Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. A portion of each book purchase is being donated to PARC to support the mission of amphibian and reptile conservation. Amphibians and reptiles offer important learning opportunities in the sixth grade class that serves as the setting for Mr. Heydt's new novel. Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken also features an Afterword written by Whit Gibbons, Professor Emeritus of Ecology at the University of Georgia. To purchase the book or for more details, please visit . A synopsis of the story follows below.

Sixth grade can be a zoo. Drew Harrington sure hopes so.
He and his best friend, Jackson Harris, can't wait to join Bridgeton Elementary's legendary teacher, Mr. Cross, in a classroom inhabited by cantankerous lizards, elusive iguanas, and a 13-foot Burmese python named Prometheus. Cootie-proof Kim Etter, Tinkle Troy Schwartz, the social outcast with an overactive bladder, and perpetual grade-schooler Joe Riaz are among Drew's classmates. Will this year be as predictable as the past five? Or will this be the year that makes Drew realize mice don't taste like chicken?

For more information about PARC and its efforts, visit

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

MDTLC Official Release

Devoted Readers:

Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken is officially available for purchase! Visit,, or for details! Available on Amazon and B&N in the next few weeks. A portion of each book purchase is donated to Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC).

Thanks for your continued support!

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sneak Preview of MDTLC Cover


The release of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken is imminent! Just a few final details to sure up, and information will be provided for how you can purchase. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the cover. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Into the Wild


"Greetings from Fairbanks!
This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the Yukon Territory. But I finally got here. Please return all mail I receive to the sender.

It might be a very long time before I return South. If this adventure proves fatal and you don't ever hear from me again, I want you to know your a great man. I now walk into the wild."

— Chris McCandless, in postcard sent to Wayne Westerberg in Carthage, South Dakota, from Alaska

So begins the book, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. A young man one day abandons all and treks into the most brutal conditions to find himself.

I write this post at 5:30 am of August 14, 2010, the morning of my 30th birthday. So begins the next chapters in my life's novel (yes, the cliche is heavy in this sentence). A young man (me this time) abandons all and treks into the most brutal conditions to find himself. In the spirit of Into the Wild, here is my postcard.

"Greetings from Thirty!
This is the last you shall hear from me Twenties. Arrived here today. It was very hard to say goodbye. But I finally got here. Please return all "you're getting old" and "it's all downhill from here" jokes to the sender.

It might be a very long time before I slow down and my body heads South--after all, there's much more work to do. If this adventure proves successful, and you hear great things from me in the decade to come, I want you to know you're the reason why. I now walk into the wild."

--Scott Heydt, in a blog entry sent to his Twenties in Chalfont, Pennsylvania

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Teen Phenom Kieryn Nicolas!


Meet Kieryn Nicolas, a teen writing prodigy (my opinion) that just hit the scene with her first novel, Rain. In just a few months, she's captured the attention of many with her upbeat attitude and commitment to the craft. This evening, I have the opportunity to host her in my Language Arts and Literacy graduate class. She'll speak to my students (pre-service teachers) about what teaching practices motivated, and continue to motivate her, as a writer.

Fortunately for you, she also agreed to an interview on my blogs. Check out her work. You won't be disappointed!

How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to begin seriously devoting yourself to the craft of writing?

I think I’ve been writing ever since I could write—and that does not necessarily mean I could spell. I have a journal from when I was four, and my first recorded story, from what I can decode, reads: "Laura wus pritty and nice it wus 12:00 at night Laura hred a strang naus. it wus bumping and sloshing and skraching. She did not know wut it wus. so she went out side and thar wus a Baer. She kickd the baer and pushed Him into the woods. the end"

Talk about climaxes.

I was in fifth grade, though, when I decided I wanted to be an author. I had an amazing teacher that year, and we actually did creative writing. That’s probably when I realized how much I loved writing long stories—aka, novels.

How do you live your life like a writer? What day-to-day habits must you incorporate into your routine?

Every day I have two emails and two Facebooks to check—my personal ones, and my author ones. I also have to remember to Tweet and do any other social media. Also, I always have something with me that I can record ideas on, whether that something is my phone or a notebook or the note app on my iPod. (I used that app a lot on the bus this year.) Pretty much I make sure that I stay in touch with my professional/author communications, and also the author in my head, who usually gets ideas at the least convenient times.

Who are some of the authors you lean on most for inspiration and craft when you get stuck in your own writing?

That’s an interesting question. Reading books that I like usually does motivate me to write my own stories. For example, J.K. Rowling is the queen of characters. Everyone in the Harry Potter series is incredibly real, and her writing makes me want to write my characters to life. Suzanne Collins—author of The Hunger Games and the Underland Chronicles—writes incredible action scenes, so when I read her books I want to make my own stories more exciting. I recently read the 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series by Meg Cabot, and it had an incredible voice. Guess what I’ll be focusing on next time I write?

In your opinion, how important is the link between avid reading and strong writing?

I think the link is fairly important. I’m not saying someone who isn’t an avid reader can’t be an incredible writer, or vice-versa, but personally I attribute a lot of my strength in writing to the countless hours I’ve spent reading. Story ideas have always bounced around my head, and seeing how authors brought their stories to life helped me figure out how to put mine in words as well.

What’s the funniest/craziest/strangest story you have so far from your writing escapades?

I’m not sure this is the funniest/craziest/strangest, but I got a friend request from someone from Indiana a few weeks ago. Thinking it might be someone I met at the Lit Fest, I clicked on his profile, and did a double-take when I saw I was in his profile picture. Yeah, it was the picture he’d taken of us when I signed a book for him! That was a pretty cool experience.

What can you tell us about your current projects?

I’m currently working on a dystopian story that I absolutely love—but I’m really bad at summaries, so I’ll just leave it there for now. Also, I’ll have a “short” (I use quotes because my version of “short” always contrasts with other people’s version of “short,” like my English teachers who insist on page limits and nonsense like that) story coming as an eBook from Echelon in the near future. It’s called Poison Ivy, and I wrote it as a response to To Kill a Mockingbird last year in English. We had our choice of projects, so long as we incorporated a theme from the book. I asked my teacher if I could do a story, and she said sure, as long as it was “reasonably short.” Of course, I used my own interpretation of “reasonably.”

Where can we go to learn more about you?

My amazing and tech-savvy grandma designed my website, On there are links to buy my book, a page with links to media about RAIN and myself, the prologue/first chapter of my book, a short bio, reviews of RAIN, and links to my social media pages (like Facebook and Goodreads). Also, I (usually) update my blog,, at least once a week. Well, I try to.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Monday, July 12, 2010

MDTLC on Hold


I have some sad and disappointing news to report. Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken, originally slated for release in August 2010, will not see release as planned. I’ll bite my tongue about the why and simply tell you that I now have the rights to the manuscript again and will begin shopping it around with agents. And, while Drew might go King Kong over something like this, I must pick up my head and commit myself. Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken deserves a home in the hands of readers, and I’m set on making that happen.

I appreciate all the support everyone has given Drew, Jackson, and the rest of the crew to this point. Please continue to follow the MDTLC blog for details on the new search.

“Live, Learn, Teach”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In My Bath- An Interview with Beth Reinke


Before you get too energetic about the title of this blog, I assure you that my interview with Beth Reinke did not occur in my bath. Sorry to disappoint!

Rather, In My Bath is the title of Beth's brand new children's book. I had an opportunity to ask this IndieDebut 2010 member a few questions.

How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to begin seriously devoting yourself to the craft of writing?

I remember writing my thesis in grad school and desperately wanting to write something else, something FUN.That’s when I knew for sure I wanted to be a writer. When my sons were babies and toddlers, I enrolled in courses from The Institute of Children’s Literature and learned everything I could about the craft. I started writing and submitting seriously when my younger son started second grade.

How do you live your life like a writer? What day-to-day habits must you incorporate into your routine?

Writing is my job, so most mornings I head straight to my computer to get started. I use two strategies to keeping organized – making lists and keeping a calendar by my desk. I write lists of things I need to do, from writing thank you notes to mailing book orders to researching article topics. Without the lists, I would forget things, that’s for sure! My calendar has big squares so I can write multiple entries for each day. For instance, on today’s date I wrote,“interview on Scott’s blog.”

As any work-from-home mom will tell you, multitasking is a necessary habit, too. I fit in other tasks while writing - putting dinner in the crockpot, grooming the dog, doing laundry. Luckily, the laundry room is close to my computer so I can hear the dryer buzzer – LOL.

Who are some of the authors you lean on most for inspiration and craft when you get stuck in your own writing?

For inspiration, I read anything by Kathi Macias who writes powerful novels as well as women’s nonfiction books. Right now I’m reading No Greater Love, the first book in her Extreme Devotion series. For inspiration and craft, I like writer Kristi Holl’s blog at

In your opinion, how important is the link between avid reading and strong writing?

Just about every writer will tell you that reading and writing go hand-in-hand, especially for those of us who love to work with words. I write articles for magazines and find it helpful to analyze nonfiction. I try to study the writing in a novel, but I usually end up lost in the story and forget to analyze it! Peeking into someone else’s life in fiction is so much fun.

What can you tell us about your current projects?

I'm working on two children's book manuscripts right now. One is a follow up to In My Bath. The other is an ABC book, which is new territory for me. I'm busy keeping up with my new website and blogs, too.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Readers can visit me at My website contains a bio, links to food and nutrition articles I’ve written and two blogs. My “Food & Faith” blog contains nutrition tips and healthy recipes. To read children’s book reviews,check out “Beth’s Book Basket.”

To learn about my illustrator, Ginger Nelson, please visit She does the bestest work!


Any tub adventure needs rubber duckies! Beth has graciously offered a set of five, squirting rubber duckies to the contest winner. Just reply, in the Comments section of this blog, with the answer to the question to register. A winner will be selected at random at the end of the week.

Question: What is the title of Beth's next book (listed as "Coming Soon" on her website)?


"Live, Learn, Teach"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part VII: Elmer & Super


A poem, by Elmer & Super, Mr. Cross' classroom geckos.

"Do not call us freaks,
although we lack eyelids
and keep our eyeballs clean by licking their see-through covering.

Do not call us freaks,
although our toes cling us to every known surface,
except the Teflon pan in your kitchen.

Do not call us freaks,
although in fits of anger,
we will shoot our putrid smelling feces in your direction.

Do not call us freaks,
although we defend our lives
by losing our tails (only to have them grow back again).

Do not call us freaks,
although we can't speak for the Geico gecko
who so willingly gives away our savings of 15% or more on car insurance.

Do not call us freaks.
Elmer and Super will suit just fine."

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview with Carla Mooney, author of Owen and the Dragon


Allow me to introduce you to Carla Mooney, fellow writer, Indie-Debut member, and author of Owen and the Dragon. Carla was kind enough to answer a few questions.

How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to begin seriously devoting yourself to the craft of writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child, but as an adult had moved away from writing fiction and concentrated more on business writing. Then about 3 ½ years ago, my son developed leukemia and I quit my accounting consulting job to take care of him. It was during that time that I decided to turn back to something that I loved – writing, specifically writing for children.

How do you live your life like a writer? What day-to-day habits must you incorporate into your routine?

I am an early morning person, so I usually get the bulk of my writing done between 5 and 7 am, sometimes earlier if I have a deadline fast approaching. If I can sneak in another hour or two to write when my son is at preschool, that’s great. The rest of the day, I try to take care of emails, sending out proposals or packets. If I’m not falling asleep on my pillow, I try to read at night after the kids go to bed – either something that I’m researching or a new YA or MG book that I’ve heard about.

Who are some of the authors you lean on most for inspiration and craft when you get stuck in your own writing?

I usually have a few projects going at the same time. So if I get stuck on one, I tend to switch gears and take a break from it. Sometimes taking time away can help give me perspective on what isn’t working. Recently, I’ve been having a plot problem in one of my books. Reading the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins has been especially inspiring. As I read them, I was just amazed at how she built such a gripping plot with turns and twists throughout the books.

In your opinion, how important is the link between avid reading and strong writing?

I think it is extremely important. Even when I read a book that I don’t like or don’t connect with, I try to think about what specifically turned me off. Was the plot too slow? Was it too wordy? If it was a picture book, was it too clunky to read aloud? Looking at the book through the eyes of a reader helps me evaluate my own work in the same way.

What can you tell us about your current projects?

I’m working on a new book about the Explorers of the New World that should take me most of the summer to complete. I’ll be developing a bunch of projects for this book, so I’ve already warned my kids and their friends to get ready around the kitchen table!

I’m also very excited about my first picture book, Samson’s Story, coming out with Earth Day Publishing this fall. It’s the story of a boy with leukemia told through the eyes of his dog. He has feelings that anyone who has loved a person with a serious illness can relate to. Given my personal connection to this topic, I’m thrilled that a portion of the proceeds will be going to cancer related charities.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

There are lots of places! My website is
You can also follow me on my blog at or on Twitter as Carlawrites.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part VI: Wartz


Toads and frogs may seem alike, but don't tell Wartz that. Wartz prides himself on his toady features. Unlike the bulgy-eyed, long hind-footed, and slimy skinned frog who resorts to "childish hopping" (his words), Wartz has a powerfully stout body, dry skin, and paratoid (poison) glands behind his eyes. He walks instead of hops and sports his warts as proud pock marks like tattoos.

Here are some of Wartz's favorite anti-frog jokes:

Q: What's green, green, green, green?

A: A frog I pushed down a hill.

Q: What do you call a frog with no legs?

A: It doesn't matter. He won't come anyway.


A: Unhoppy!

Q: Do you know why the heron couldn't talk?

A: It had a frog in its throat.

Q: What happens when a frog parks illegally?

A: It gets toad.

Wartz overall has a bad atti-"toad." Let's hope he finds a friend soon.

Wartz (TOAD)
I’m a lonely (croak, croak). A lonely toad (croak, croak).
Could use a friend (croak, croak). In my abode (croak, croak).

"Live, Learn, Teach

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part V: Hugs


Last week I visited the quaint and diverse Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA. Through the doors of the Bayou exhibit, you find an array of nocturnal animals, and in the far corner before you exit you'll happen upon a huggable critter--the boa constrictor. At up to 60 pounds and nearly 10 feet long, constrictors like Hugs may look intimidating, but often they are calm creatures happy to gorge on rodents and slither all night.

Don't underestimate Hugs' strength and cunning, though. Hugs finds his feasts in the dark with heat-sensing pits on his face that allows him to detect body heat of animals around him. With his prey locked in his jaws, Hugs will coil his body around it. The next time the prey exhales, Hugs tightens his hold, preventing the prey from inhaling again. Full grown boas can apply around 12 pounds per square inch of pressure to their victims.

Hugs does have his scaredy-snake side. Despite his incredible ability to swim, Hugs avoids the water. Now his anaconda friend....well, that's a different story.

Be kind. Hug a boa.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

A conssssstrictor, I sssssqueezzze. Giving hugssssss, I am besssssst.
It isssssssn’t my fault. Air escapessssss from your chessssst.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meet Fiona Ingram- Author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab


In March, fellow middle grade author Fiona Ingram provided a wonderful preview of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken on her blog.

Today, it's time to return the favor. Fiona's novel, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is part Hardy Boys, part Indiana Jones, part History Channel, and all adventure. From terrifying hostage situations to the unveiling of age old treasures, Fiona's novel will have every child begging for a trip abroad.

Fiona graciously answered a few of my questions.

Could you provide a brief synopsis?

A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realize they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs.

Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They survive terrifying dangers in a hostile environment (such as a giant cobra, as well as sinking sand), pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out.

They must also learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!

I understand The Secret of the Sacred Scarab received several prestigious nominations.

Yes, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a Finalist in the Children’s/Juvenile Fiction category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2009 National Best Books Awards. It was a winner in the preteen category of the Readers' Favorite 2009 Awards. The book was also nominated number 2 in The Children's and Teens Book Connection nominations for The Top Ten Favorite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens and Teens.

Your website provides countless interactive tools. Can you give our readers an overview?

Since this was a real trip with my two nephews, I decided to make the website mirror as accurately as possible the trip we took. When readers click onto The Journey, they'll find a map of Egypt, and a frisky camel ready to take them to any destination visited by the two heroes Justin and Adam. Not only that, included in the journey is a quick educational look at each place, photos we took (some of my nephews), artifacts we bought, clues to the plot, and sometimes Hidden Chapter which actually don't appear in the book.

Kids will enjoy learning about Egypt as they trace the footsteps of the two adventurers. Young explorers can enjoy this interactive journey through Egypt, following Justin and Adam’s exciting adventure on Those who survive the journey, make it to The Tomb of the King, and manage to translate the Curse of Thoth (with the help of The Mummy) will be able to read the first chapter in Adam and Justin’s next adventure—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—as they hunt for the Scroll of the Ancients.

Readers can also browse the first chapter of the book by clicking on the button marked The Book. They'll see the desk and various pieces of equipment that belong to the adventurer archeologist James Kinnaird, and if they look carefully on the desk they'll see old photos of Egypt dating back to World War 2, painted papyrus and lots more cool stuff. Hieroglyphics and their translations are scattered throughout the site and it gives kids a chance to see their language ... in another language.

I hope you'll take the time to venture over to and discover Justin and Adam's adventure for yourself!

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Friday, March 12, 2010

International Book Preview


Not that I don't want you here with me at the Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken blog, but I encourage you to visit Fiona Ingram, author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, has kindly provided me with my first international book preview.

Happy Reading! August, and the Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken release, is just a few months away.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Indie Debut 2010- Small Press Month Makes a Huge Impact

For Immediate Release

Indie-Debut - Small Press Month Makes a Huge Impact

In celebration of Small Press Month, Indie-Debut 2010 is thrilled to
announce their March event schedule for the week of March 7, 2010. Join in
the fun and cruise on over to and read insightful interviews from
prominent individuals in the small press world. Participate in lively
discussions, Friday gift giveaway contests, and so much more.

Highlights for the week of March 7, 2010:

Mon, March 8: SPOTLIGHT: Miriam Forster and Winner Announcement

Tues, March 9: Stephen Mooser Interview w/ Amy Cook

Wed, March 10: Discussion: As a reader and lover of books, do you pay
attention to the publisher or the quality of writing?

Thurs, March 11: Indie Bookstore Interview with Amy Cook

Fri, March 12: SPOTLIGHT ON TEASERS: Scott Heydt & Carla Mooney

PLUS Giveaway: Fabulous Follower Prize: Become a follower of our blog,
twitter, and Facebook and be entered to win:

The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade tote bag - prize by Lori

Amazing Africa Projects - prize by Carla Mooney

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson - prize by Donna McDine

Thank you in advance for your interest. We look forward to your visit.

Be sure to check back for next week's schedule.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part IV: Flash


I may seem like any run of the mill turtle, but I have some surprising facts to share.

*I can live up to 40 years in the wild, but my life span is shorter in captivity. Thankfully, Mr. Cross keeps me in the courtyard so I feel like I'm in the wild.

*I don't have teeth, but I do have a beak to help me chew. I rarely use it though. Swallowing food whole is more fun for me--especially chewed up sandwiches dropped by Drew.

*My shell is made up of 13 different bone plates called scutes. As I grow, I shed my outermost layer and grow a larger plate underneath. Kind of like a tree, you can tell how old I am based on the rings on my scutes.

*The best things come in threes. That's why my heart has three chambers instead of four like humans. College students often use my strong ticker (well, not mine, but you know what I mean) to study the heart and its beat.

Hope you'll drop by the courtyard sometime!

~Flash, the painted turtle
"Eat, Sleep, Crawl"
Coming August 2010!

My…pro….gress….is…..slow, I….plod….and….I…..trudge,
Get….me….in….the….sun, I….won’t…..want……..budge.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part III: Lactose


Red touches black, You’re okay jack,
Red touches yellow,You’re a dead fellow.

This simple rhyme helps differentiate between a harmless milk snake like Lactose and a venomous coral snake. Often found in forested regions or prairies, these nocturnal critters slither to and fro in search of a scrumptious diet of slugs, insects, earthworms, small mammals, birds, and eggs. In fact, they'll eat pretty much anything, as milk snakes are "opportunistic eaters." Like the classic joke, they're into see-food--they see food, and they eat it. This means Lactose requires a cage of his own. Place him in a cage with another snake and someone's gonna be lunch.

Milk snakes get their name from myth. Legend has it milk snakes, prone to wandering into barns, would such milk from the udders of cows. All they really want are the mice that run rampant on barn floors and the dark, cool environment barns supply. Cows can rest easy--their milk is safe.

Overall, milk snakes are docile and will only strike when threatened. A perfect reptilian pet for Mr. Cross and his band of sixth-graders!

"Live, Learn, Teach"
Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken- August 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part II: Ozzie


What can I say about Ozzie? I vividly recall days slumped over my 6th grade desk only to hear the THWAP! THWAP! TWHAP! of Ozzie's tail against the glass cage. He'd thrash in his water dish, slice with his claws, and devour a helpless mouse with his mighty jaws. His reptilian mug looked of an annoyed teenager listening to his mother spout on about breaking curfew.

But Ozzie had his softer side as well. The times you picked him up and held him just right, he never struggled or slashed. He laid in your gloved hands and for a moment you almost thought you could raise him up to your face so his tiny forked tongue could kiss your cheek.

Nile Monitors like Ozzie are found in many regions of Africa. They are excellent climbers and can run at impressive speeds (Ozzie was always a squirrelly one!) These beautiful creatures appeal to the casual pet owner when young, but the following quote best describes what that pet owner faces as "Ozzie" ages.

"Very few of the people who buy brightly-coloured baby Nile Monitors can be aware that, within a couple of years, their purchase will have turned into an enormous, ferocious carnivore, quite capable of breaking the family cat's neck with a single snap and swallowing it whole."
(Bennett, D. 1995. Little Book of Monitor Lizards, Viper Press, Aberdeen, UK)

Deep down, don't we all have a little Ozzie in us? Luckily, many of us had a Mr. Cross of our own to teach how to control the Ozzie inside.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Like a scaly, reptilian Indiana Jones,
I’ll whip with my tail and snap at your bones,
I’m mean and ill-tempered, a terrible brute,
I suggest you steer clear.
Away with you! Scoot!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meet Cross' Critters: Part I: Pinkies, Fuzzies, & Hoppers

Greetings readers!

As the release of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken approaches, it's time to introduce some of Mr. Cross' classroom critters. Today's guests are Pinkies, Fuzzies, and Hoppers.

Scott: Mr. Hopper, could you please share with our readers the difference between pinkies, fuzzies, and you?

Hopper: I'd be hoppy to! Pinkies, also called kittens, are cocktail weenie-looking babies of white mice. They earn their name from their pink color before their fur grows in. Fuzzies are pinkies with hair and a little larger size. Me, I'm so grown up I hop and race around so reaching 6th grader hands can't catch me.

Scott: How do you spend your time when you're not evading 6th grade grabbing hands?

Hopper: Chewing.....exploring......chewing.....leaving know, same as any other normal mouse.

Scott: Other species have names to identify males and females. What do you call a male mouse and a female mouse?

Fuzzy: Oo-oo! I know this one! I'm a boy, so I'm called a buck. My pinky sister over there is a doe. We're like miniature deer, but with much longer tails.

Scott: Does it anger you when someone picks you up by the tail like this (*scoop*)?

Fuzzy: Hey, cut it out! Put me down! You should never pick up a mouse by its tail. The end could fall off.

Scott: (*plop*) I apologize, I had no idea. One final question for today. If mice don't taste like chicken, then exactly how do they taste?

Hopper: I'll answer this one. Our people were once fried and cooked long ago to cure human ailments like smallpox, whooping cough, measles, stomachaches, and even bed-wetting. Not to mention our place on the food chain in Mr. Cross' classroom. I'll respectfully decline an answer as I want no allusions to our tastiness that we might suffer these same fates in the future.

Scott: Well, I appreciate your time. And now, if you'd please stop gnawing on the microphone, I'll bid you a good day.

Pinkies, Fuzzies, and Hoppers:
Born a blind, pink cocktail wiener,
Nothing sadder has ever been seener,
But when fuzzy I become, I scamper and hop,

Good luck trying to catch me, cause I’ll never stop!

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

IndeDebut 2010

*Many thanks to author Lori Calabrese for creation of this article for IndeDebut 2010. Visit her website at

Chances are you’ve heard of the Class of 2k10 and its predecessors. The Class of 2K was founded by Greg Fishbone in 2007 under the principal that authors can band together to make the publication journey a pleasant one. However, if you’re an author whose publisher is not listed in Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market, you’re not eligible for online marketing groups like Class of 2K10 or Authors Now! Hence, Amy Allgeyer Cook came up with the wonderful idea of Inde-Debut 2010.

Inde-Debut 2010 is a group of first-time authors who’ve joined together to spread the word about their books that hail from small presses and I’m proud to call myself a member. At a time when the book world continues to struggle economically, like other businesses, there are many small publishers redefining the business and allowing great stories to be shared.

Business Week reports, “Without the marketing muscle or resources of the large houses, small publishers have innovated in order to succesfully bring their authors to market. For one, they have created alliances with like-minded independent bookstores with fiercely loyal customers. Small houses also defray costs by publishing their book catalogs online and publicizing new releases and author events through e-mail blasts and blogs.”

The odds of getting published by a “major” publishing house are dwindling because of a failing economy. However, the odds of attracting a small publisher are improving. Inde-Debut 2010 is aware that not all small presses are created equal, which is why they caution authors to do their homework and sift through publishers to find the one right for them.

Inde-Debut 2010 books are being published by a spectrum of Small Presses across America and range from Picture Books to Middle Grade to Young Adult. Inde-Debut 2010 is proud to support these small presses that are championing new voices, focusing on niche markets, creating whole businesses by reissuing out-of-print classics, and maintaining the tradition of printing literary fiction.

Please visit Inde-Debut 2010 online at the official Inde-Debut 2010 website and join them at Facebook and Twitter.


"Live, Learn, Teach"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

If You Give a Mouse Some Milk

Happy December, Readers!

Two weeks ago, my fifth-graders finished their read aloud projects. The goal? To practice a favorite picture book out loud until they knew it forward, backward, and upside down. Then, present it to their classmates in their best reader voice with props and questions for the audience--all the things the teacher normally gets to do.

The books of Laura Numeroff, author of such favorites as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, of course received several instances of airtime. A student of mine became so inspired, he put together an homage of his own. I should note that this student works with this family on an active dairy farm each day, so you'll clearly see the tie in. With mice in mind as we approach the release of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken, enjoy this cute tale (or tail?) from a fifth-grade author we'll call A.W.

If You Give A Mouse Some Milk

by A.W.

If you give a mouse some milk,

he will want to know how it was made.

When you tell him that it was made by cows,

he will want to go see some.

When you ask your mom to drive you,

he will want to grab his note pad to take notes.

When you get to the farm,

the farmer will take him to see the cows.

On the way to the cows he will see the chickens

and want to go feed them.

When he is done feeding the chickens,

he will see the barn and run in.

When he sees the cows,

he will want to make his own clay cow.

When he is done making the clay cow,

he will see a sink in the barn.

When he sees the sink,

he will want a drink of milk.

And chances are, when he asks for a drink of milk,

he will want to go to a different farm and see a different cow.


"Live, Learn, Teach"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blog Talk Interview w/Laurie Zieber- Robin Falls Kids- 11-23-09


On November 23, 2009, I had the opportunity to interview with Laurie Zieber, a blog talk radio host who works in conjunction with Robin Falls Kids. Robin Falls is a series of blog talk shows featuring authors and illustrators as well as a new magazine intended for a youth audience. For more information, visit

To listen to the interview, click on this blog's title, which will take you to the interview site.

Happy listening!

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Birds Sing

This year I once again have a talented group of fifth grade writers. During a recent creative writing task, the students were asked to imagine an alternative explanation for why birds sing (rather than a scientific explanation). This one specifically caught my eye. I hope you enjoy it.

Why Birds Sing

I believe birds sing because they are like Martin Luther King, Jr. They have something to say that will change the world.

Seagulls sing to change the deep blue sea from pollution. The doves make a difference by making world peace. Owls sing to warn people on the street at night so people don't get hurt. Sparrows make people happy in the morning by singing a joyful song to wake them up. The eagle waits its whole life to prepare for defending our country from any group trying to take America's independence and inspire people about our country by singing "The Star Spangled Banner." The storks sing softly to babies to lull them to sleep. Penguins sing to protest against too much factory smoke and car fuel. Roadrunners sing enthusiastic songs to encourage running marathons to earn money for good causes.

Do you have a creative explanation for why birds sing? I'd love to hear it.


"Live, Learn, Teach"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference


On Saturday October 17 I had the unique opportunity to attend the 40th annual Rutgers University One-on-One Plus conference sponsored by the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature. I was one of approximately 70 writers/illustrators accepted for this day-long, intensive experience.

The day began with a writer "strategy" session in which we poured through the packets of information given to us to identify those editors, agents, and authors we planned to meet throughout the day. We also heard from a "success story"--an author who attended in past years and received publication for her picture book as a result.

After a brief speech by the conference founder, Vivian Grey, I met my mentor for the day, two-time Newbery Honor Award winning fiction and nonfiction author Jim Murphy. We spent the next 45 minutes discussing my current nonfiction manuscript, Gray Matters, and how to refine it for future publication. Mr. Murphy is a wealth of knowledge. From simple tips about voice to more refined tips about nonfiction citations, I absorbed everything he had to say.

Next, all attendees gathered for a literary agent panel discussion followed by lunch that allowed us to mingle with agents and editors. I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with Shauna Fay, editor from Penguin Young Readers.

Our third session involved a five-on-five meeting with five mentees and five mentors at one table. This table included Carolyn Yoder, editor of Calkins Creek, a U.S. History imprint of Boyds Mills Press, as well as Ammi-Joan Paquette, an associate agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

To close the day, we gathered for an incredible presentation from Judy Freeman--librarian, author, and one heck of a performer. Judy shares her passion for children's literature through song, poetry, movement, and plain old fun.

Overall, I left Rutgers with a sense of writing purpose and an invigoration that this craft is what brings me joy--a joy I want to share with my readers.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Two Unforgettable Fans


This past weekend I had the opportunity to promote Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken at Scranton, Pennsylvania's 3rd annual "Pages and Places" festival. Located amid a beautiful courthouse square, this event featured workshops, promotional tents, and live author readings.

My reading began soon after lunch. Poor readers before me spoke to a slim crowd. Some even spoke to no one but the tents set up before them. As my time approached, I made it a point to gather listeners up and down the row. One group of boys that seemed to be the age of my reading audience happened to walk toward the square with their father. I said, "Hey guys, I'm doing a reading here in a minute from my book, Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. I think you'll like it. The two boys laughed and agreed they'd come. One even called to me, "Will there be real mice there?"

The crowd grew and I shared my two excerpts, complete with a visual of a fake mouse dangled above my mouth. Afterward, the two boys (whose names I've learned are Gavin and Alec) approached me with excitement. "Can we have your autograph?" they asked. I told them to come down to my table and I'd do just that.

After I provided my autograph on a large bookmark, I stepped aside of them for a moment to hand another bookmark to some passing children. Alec, who wore a "I'd Rather Be Reading Bukowski" t-shirt, asked me, "Do you want me to help you pass these out?" I, of course, agreed and he rushed to the sidewalk to hand one to all passersby.

Both boys left with enormous smiles and an excitement about the book's release. I'll never forget these boys. Not because they wanted my autograph or anything self-absorbed like that. I'll remember them because they are the audience I seek to reach with Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. The young boys who are often the reluctant readers. The ones who struggle to pick up a book and sustain enjoyment.

I once had an agent tell me that books to young, male reluctant readers is not of interest to the publishing industry. Maybe the numbers say so, but the look in the eyes of Gavin and Alec tell another story.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mice Don't Levitate- Do They?


Mice are the brunt of human experiments every day. If I was a mouse, this story might be the last straw.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory discovered a way to levitate mice using a superconductive magnet. Their goal is to simulate an astronaut's weightlessness and to study possible bone loss in extended space missions. Our furry friends are placed over a magnet in a specially constructed cage. The magnet is so powerful it can levitate the water in their bodies and in turn levitate them. Researcher Yuanming Liu said this about the first levitated mouse, "It actually kicked around and started to spin. Without friction, it could spin faster and faster."

Fiction author Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, said these same mice are the most intelligent beings on Earth. In fact, he said, they created this giant supercomputer named the Earth to figure out the meaning of the life, the universe, and everything. Turns out we are the experiment. Next time you find yourself floating and spinning uncontrollably, don't be surprised :) It's just the mice exacting their revenge.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Retention Comes in a Plethora of Ways


While I plug away at the second round of edits for Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken, I'm also improving my vocabulary along the way as I study for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that I'll take on October 31. The pages and pages of suggested vocabulary words from my study booklet are overwhelming. I have to resort to any means possible to get these terms to stick.

A popular stop has been pop culture like TV and music. Here are some examples of the odd connections in my mind.

1. Nostrum- "quack medicine--no real medical value": I'm a huge Seinfeld fan. In a few episodes, Kramer acts as doctors named Dr. Van Nostrand and Dr. Van Nostrum. I think of Kramer as the 'quack' doctor, so this word is no problem.

2. Mellifluous- "sweet sounding": Also a Seinfeld reference. During an episode where Elaine sets up George with a woman, George comes into Jerry's apartment thrilled about a phone conversation with her. He tells Jerry that her voice is 'mellifluous."

3. Encomium- "a formal expression of high praise": In high school I listened almost exclusively to Led Zeppelin. In 1995 a Led Zeppelin tribute album released with cover songs by popular bands of the time. The title? 'Encomium'

4. Obsequious- "obedient": They Might be Giants is a strange band--a strange band whose CDs I own One of their songs called "Turn Around" has the lyrics "It was the same obsequious manner, that was the reason I'd had him killed." Random I know, but effective for memory.

5. Plethora- "overabundance, excess": Classic moment from the comedy The Three Amigos. I've attached the video for your viewing pleasure.

6. Effrontery- "arrogance": Sorry readers, but I'm not a fan of Zac Efron. Seems pretty arrogant to me.

7. Edacious- "voracious; devouring": Edward Cullen from the Twilight series is a voracious vampire devouring what he must hunt (besides Bella).

The point of this rambling? For all those who preach the dangers of TV, movies, and music on the literacy and language development of students, it's more important to know that learning comes from anywhere. You only need to keep your eyes and mind open.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Letter to the Real Mr. Cross


I placed a letter in the mail today.  A letter for a very special man--the real life Mr. Cross and the inspiration for Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken.  I've included the letter below but removed certain names for privacy sake.  It felt right to me that my reading audience know just what this book, and more important, this teacher means to me.

August 16, 2009

Dear Mr. *******,


It’s been almost two decades since you’ve seen my face, but I hope you remember me.  I was a member of your 6th grade class during the 1991-1992 school year at ********* Elementary School.  Maybe you recall “movie snacks”, your flying glasses, or Ted’s dead pets (and two shirts)?  This letter has many purposes, but the main one is to communicate how you influenced my life seventeen years ago.

I’ve always enjoyed school but never to the level I did during my year in your classroom.  Believe me, it wasn’t just the reptiles.  Your passion for reading, your wealth of knowledge, and the range of experiences you offered us changed my perception of learning forever.  You unknowingly modeled the teacher I would later strive to become.

I now teach fifth-grade in Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, PA. I also hold a Masters degree in Leadership and Liberal Studies from Duquesne University.  To this day, my class’ first read aloud book is Interstellar Pig by William Sleator and I, like you did, strive to offer unique experiences for my students that change their perception of learning forever.

On top of my teaching career, I’ve become a published author with the release of my first novel, O.Y.L., in the fall of 2008.  Which brings me to my reason for writing.  I attended a writing workshop as a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group in the winter of 2008.  The presenter, Ann Russek, titled the workshop “Tator Tots and Technique.”  She explored the many ways writers can bring their childhood school experiences to life.  A seed for a story arose after multiple writing exercises.  That seed, now titled Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken, will become a published reality in the summer of 2010 through P.M. Moon Publishers.

The story is about you.  In fact, it’s about all the characters in our room that year, including our scaly friends.  Fiction weaves the story, but the real experience you provided is responsible for the manuscript construction.  It’s my dedication to a phenomenal teacher.

I could say so much more, but I’ll keep this letter brief.  My hope is that you will permit me to dedicate the book to you and perhaps accept an invitation to Pennsylvania for the book release party when the time comes (FYI…I’m thinking of holding it at the Reptile House of the Philadelphia Zoo J).   In the meantime, please feel free to contact me and be on the lookout for

Deepest thanks,

"Live, Learn, Teach"
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