Reading Through the Pandemic

I’m lucky! I’m surrounded by books. I have an e-reader, too, that I use while walking on my treadmill. I walk at least an hour a day, so I read at least an hour every day.

Who am I kidding? I read another hour or two while my husband is watching television, and when I should be writing, and when I should be changing the litter box. I read while I’m waiting for water to boil, and I’m known for dishes that might be a little overcooked.

When I’m not on the treadmill, I prefer to read paper pages. I definitely prefer hard copies of graphic novels and picture books, and I keep backup hard copies of nonfiction so I can underline text and make notes in the margins and inside the covers.

Right now, I’m reading Warp Speed by Lisa Yee. I love her characters and the way she shows us who they are. That’s why I just stepped off my treadmill to share this depiction of Marley, a 7thgrader who is thrust into a Home Ec class after his AV teacher is taken to the hospital. A new girl, Emily, picks him as her project partner, and he is reading an article from the fashion magazine she left behind on her desk. This scene right here, with Marley sitting down to do his homework, says so much about Marley.

“There’s an article about “The Perfect Boyfriend.” A photo takes up one whole page. The caption reads, “Seth is wearing distressed jeans and a rust-colored polo shirt, topped off with a B-Man jacked from RX59 – where all the cool kids shop.

“I set the magazine aside and I put on my Benjamin Franklin jacket and glasses. Oh wait, can’t forget the Spock ears. Math is up first, then science homework. English is just a review of vocabulary words. I always do well on those. Now history. I save history for last since it’s my favorite subject.”

I don’t know about you, but when he put on his Benjamin Franklin jacket, I laughed out loud! Laughter and learning are helping me get through these scary times.

I hope you are all as lucky as I am and have books to read and time to read them. Stay safe.






I've Got the Blues 1

My book arrived on Friday, March 13, amid a pandemic. The speaking engagements and book signings I had planned and was planning are now on hold, along with the plans of most of the rest of the world.  At least we can still stay at home and read, as long as we do what we must to stay healthy.

If you want a signed copy of the book, send me a message and I’ll tell you how to make that happen. The book is also available online from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

When I can visit indy bookstores in Oklahoma safely, I’ll let you know where you can pick up copies of the book locally.

Stay tuned!

A Riddle a Day, Day 4

What do a hat

and a wetlands

have in common?

Me, rodent engineer!

The hat almost caused my extinction.

My ability to create wetlands,

even during a drought,

may save us all.

What am I?


See,  riddle poems don’t have to rhyme.

This one combines science and history, two of my favorite subjects. If you know the answer, you can learn the role of this charming creature in the history of  the United States. Remember that not all history is nice, even if sometimes there are happy endings.

What are your favorite study subjects? What topics would you like to turn into riddles? I hope you’ll share your riddles with the world.


A Riddle a Day, Day 3

Animals are great riddle subjects, but what are some of the everyday objects around the house that would make good subjects?

Here is one of my riddles about something I use every day.

A faithful servant, tall and thin,

to students and pharaohs and laboring men.

Great stories, love letters, and truth get their start

as words on paper from my black heart.

What am I?

What is something you use every day? Your phone? A water glass or coffee cup? A hand towel? What can’t these be the subjects of riddles?

Do you need to research these everyday objects? It doesn’t hurt. You never know what you might learn about something you thought you knew all about. Once again, even though my riddle rhymes, yours doesn’t have to.

A Riddle a Day, Day 2

I love crows. I throw out grain and seeds for them in the winter. When they see me coming, they call to each other. I think they’re saying, “Here she is!”

Today is the first day of spring, and they are starting to find plenty of food for themselves in these woods. But all winter I’ve watched them congregate with doves, cardinals, jays, wrens, and sparrows. Roadrunners and a family of woodpeckers also call these woods home. And soon the warm weather birds will be here.

I wrote my crow riddle many years ago because a lady in the small town where I once worked as a newspaper editor had rescued a baby crow. She worked in the convenience store near the newspaper office, and when she would drive to work, the crow would fly alongside her car, keeping her company.

I knew they were smart birds. And when I did my research and found that they could learn to talk, I thought I had a little-known fact for my riddle.

When I posted the riddle to Twitter, children’s author Ame Dyckman guessed that it was a myna bird. Myna birds talk.

What if my riddle can have another true answer?

Do mynas eat corn, I asked. That sent us both off to do research. They are omnivores, according to our research, but so are crows. Mynas, however, don’t normally eat seeds and grain in the wild. Crows do, if they can find it. That’s why there are scarecrows.

Blackbird, she guessed next. Children’s writer Francis S. Poesy guessed starling. More research!

Guess what! Blackbirds and starlings can learn to talk, too.

At this point, I knew I had to add more lines to my riddle to make it specific enough.  See, when I set out to teach a lesson, often I am the one who learns the most.

Did I say these birds are smart?

Problem solving is their art.

Is this enough? Do I also need to add how sociable crows are? They congregate in groups. Would saying a group of them is called a murder give away too much?

I can see I have more research to do.

A Riddle a Day, Day 1

Here’s a rhymed riddle and a challenge for newly-minted homeschool teachers.

I’m black as a crayon. I love corn.

My cry is as loud as a rusty horn.

But like a parrot, I can learn to speak.

I’m a smart, dark bird with a yellow beak.

What am I?

Now, help kids do their own research on any topic. It doesn’t have to be about an animal. Have them write their own riddle, based on their research. It can be rhymed or unrhymed, formal or informal. What matters is that the information is correct. They should try to sneak in odd facts and little-known tidbits.

I hope you’ll share their riddles.

Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath

I’m not going to review this book.  Instead, I’ll just share some of my favorite quotes.  Rivera’s writing is just so quotable.  Suffice it to say, this is an important book.  It’s important to brown kids and queer kids and to those who question their place in the world.  It may be even more important to old white hippie ladies and privileged young people who forget to question our biases and the role acceptance plays in ones life.

If you know a kid who needs this book, buy it for them.  Buy a copy for the public library.  There will be thought police who try to keep this one under wraps for its subject matter and language.  That makes it all the more important that we spread copies of the book around.

Now, some words of wisdom from Gabby Rivera.

“It looked like the Salvation Army of bookstores, and who doesn’t love a little dig through salvation?”

“You want answers. Make your own religion out of doubt and curiosity. Don’t go running after one God.”

“…God was at best an elevated spiritual feeling and at worst one of the most brutal myths people have created.”

“Libraries had zero tolerance for bullshit.  Their walls protected us and kept us safe from all the bastards that never read a book for fun.”

“The underbelly of America creeped me out; the sociopathic patriarchy was still some old devil who never got put down.”

“You said reading would make me brilliant, but writing would make me infinite.”

Tulsa Library Day of YA Coming!

For you YA lovers in the Tulsa area! You know you want to be there.

valerie r lawson

This coming week, the Tulsa Library is hosting a wonderful event called Tulsa Day of YA. This FREE event “celebrates young adult literature and those who love it by bringing together authors, fans, and aspiring writers through workshops, panel sessions, and academic discussion.”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I can hardly wait!

The event begins with a special opening keynote on Friday night, February 21, with Justina Ireland, author of DREAD NATION, in conversation with Tulsa Artist Fellow Juliana Goodman.

I just finished reading DREAD NATION and it is so good! I can hardly wait for the sequel coming out soon!

On Saturday, February 22nd, the day begins with a Women in YA panel featuring Cindy Pon, Justina Ireland, Sonia Gensler, M. Molly Backes, and Juliana Goodman with Ally Carter moderating.

How awesome to have two fabulous Oklahoma SCBWI writers on this panel! Am I right?

View original post 110 more words

Book Review – STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King

I just bought King’s Me and Marvin Gardens. You know how much I love middle grade!

valerie r lawson

I am a huge fan of A.S. King and have been ever since I read her novel PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. The voice was so authentic and gut-wrenching. Part of me WAS Vera – at least, my teen-self floating close to the surface could really relate to the heavy shit Vera was going through. (Honestly, you should stop whatever you’re doing and go read this awesome book right now. Seriously. I will NOT be offended.)

Each book of hers that I have read has been just as stellar as the first. And did I mention that she always adds a dash of magical realism just to make things even more interesting?


Published by: Penguin Young Readers Group

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Contemporary


Plot Summary:

Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she…

View original post 393 more words