Rexalicious Ruffaford

Best Day Ever!

Our day started with a long walk. Right away! I didn’t have to wait for Charlene to sit looking at that screen thing and moving her fingers foreeeevveerrr. Nope, not this morning. We had a long walk, even saw Oscar! The guy had him so we got to sniff and really say hi today.

Down a ways, there were huge sticks in the road. Bigger than me. I couldn’t get my mouth on them, didn’t even try because they didn’t smell right. There was a noisy car thing was rolling all over and carrying a huge stick so we moved on. I’m smart that way, take care of my family.

Then those big animals walked down our street again this morning. Maybe they’re cows, or elephants. One of those big things anyway. They walked near our place, I barked. Charlene and Aaron both looked out the windows and made that smiling sound. But when I looked in my dish, there wasn’t a treat. So I looked out the window too.

The big animals’ ears twitched all the time, like they can hear everything. I can, maybe they can too. I bet they didn’t hear that rabbit under the tree though, they’re too tall. And the people on their backs, making too much noise maybe. Oh, cows. I forgot the fuzzy cows live down around the corner and have big horns. These weren’t cows. Ok, so elephants walked down our street this morning.

The elephants’ scat smelled sweet, like apples and dried grass and stuff. I ate one last year during a walk. They taste as sweet as they smell, but there was too much to eat before I got groaned at. Not my fault there was a bunch right where we were walking!

The best part of the day is next. Charlene got a flappy plastic rug out of the small building. That flappy rug isn’t very comfortable to lay on and it tasted terrible. It sounds like the plastic bottles I crunch. Wish I had one of those now. . . anyway, I led the way. Charlene got a little distracted and went the wrong way but I caught up and ran ahead to secure the area.

Then we wrestled sticks! Big ones, little ones, and snappy ones. I fought sticks that wouldn’t come out of the cold, white slippery ground. I chewed them anyway. I carried a few bigger than me, uh-huh.

I don’t know why Charlene put sticks on the flappy rug. I know dog bylaws say sticks are mine. So I wrestled her for some of them. It was a great game. Later when Charlene had a whole bunch in her hand, I snuck behind and got them! I protected her and chewed them into little bits! Then went and hunted again. I saved her and Aaron from them. I’ve never wrestled so many sticks before. Hope we do it again! Even though we dragged all the sticks on that flappy rug to the huge pile of sticks. I don’t get it, but we’re safe from those sticks now.

Today was great too because that wild dog didn’t come back. Not the red, long-tailed dog Charlene likes to see. This one smelled mean and hungry. Right in our yard. Don’t know what he was thinking, but I got treats for that barking. I know I heard wrong because no way did Charlene ask if it was carrying Salsa. Salsa is the small dog a few houses down. Ugtthkk. Makes me shudder. I patrolled and kept the mean, hungry wild dog away. He didn’t even stay in the woods long. Nope. He knew, I told him.

So today was a great day! Aaron was sick inside but I could smell he was happy, when we came in. And he made that funny sound like smiling out-loud as he said “Rex” and “helped.”

Disclaimer: no pups, horses, horse apples, Highland Cattle, tarps, red fox, or coyotes were hurt during the writing of this blog. Our sticks, and the neighbors Ash trees – well, you can’t win them all.

Taking Care of Your 80-year old Self

Explore new ideas of fun things. Things you have interest in but perhaps not the time, energy, money, or abilities. Can you adapt them? Volunteer? Maybe apply for a grant or an introductory class? Make a 1-5 year goal? Do a part of something, this year? Or not.

Draw to mind some favorite things you tried as a youngster. Maybe something you only got to do once or a few times. Or dreamed of doing.

Play around, explore. . .Go through puddles or mud (if safe), or whatever comes to mind if the above aren’t doable.

Enjoy something. Hug yourself. Live.

Eighty looks different for each person. Explore, and enjoy!

Want more? Explore, exploring!

Friends often tell me they have a very different perspective 3, 6, or 9 months after retiring, recycling themselves, or re-imagining their lives. Whatever you call it (bodies/minds not cooperating, moving, – everything is included), things look different months down the road.

Some people suggest not committing for at least 6 months after big changes. If you have that luxury, see what opportunities look like later. If you need to commit, perhaps you review things at 6 or 12 months. People get better at exploring, reaching out with their hearts and minds. They cast their nets in new directions, not needing to commit but playing what-if?

So if you haven’t explored for a while, please do so. If your interest, time, energy, money, and abilities all line-up. . .you decide what’s next. More exploring or commitment?

Journey Through Workshops

New York 2019 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

What do I share about two days of workshops and presentations, when I’ve agreed to the SCBWI policy ‘to not share what isn’t mine to share’?

Wonder and passion are excellent descriptors of my experience in my first session. Title: The Picture Book: It’s Not Writing. It’s Not Illustrating. It’s Riveting Emotional Theater! Presenters: Marla Frazee – illustrator, author and teacher; Allyn Johnston – VP and publisher, Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster; Ruben Pfeffer – agent and founder of Rubin Pfeffer Content. We hear how an agent and editor feel when they first read THE script. The script that gives them tingles. The script they read over and over again. The script that stops what they were going to do next. They take care of this first by putting the next steps in motion for THE script.

I hear the awe and respect in their voices as these presenters read picture books that excite them, and that they’ve read over and over, for years. I hear their passion as they point out all that touches them about this book. All that excels and rockets this over most other picture books. This changes my perceptions and perspective, changes my understanding.

I hear the wonder and passion Marla Frazee shares while she discusses her process for a few projects, start to finish. She shares her love and interpretation of the text. She shares the direction and misdirection of her thoughts while sketching thumbnails and larger images. She starts over in one example, to better match the expressiveness and direction of the text.

We hear the passion these people share with the writer. We hear best practices to work as a team. What they share is eye-opening and affirming. We hear the commitment needed from every member involved with a book.

Takeaways I can share, we’ve heard them many times from excellent kidlit people. At the very least, take 8 sheets of paper and fold them in half. 1) Create a picture book dummy for your picture books. 2) Read your book aloud at least 10 times. Why? How many times is a parent, teacher, older sibling or other person going to be reading aloud a favorite picture book? Like many of you, I record most later drafts. When I listen to the recording, I usually find many things to improve. I listen to someone else read it aloud. Hint, I do this with everything I write, no matter the genre.

Commitment, excitement, and exploration describe the afternoon session. Writing for Young Readers: Chapter Books and Young Middle Grade Novels is presented by Alyson Heller, senior editor Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; and Tricia Lin, assistant editor Aladdin/Sime & Schuster. They share examples and definitions of chapter books, young middle grade novels, older novels, and early readers. We hear the commitment and excitement they bring to their work and to the team involved with a book. We hear about the commitment writers need to have for writing, and for creating the end product with a team.

We explore voice, character, and themes in chapter books and mid grade novels. We work with writing prompts that help us find motivations, and develop characters. Writing exercises help us explore a good fit for our talents, tendencies, and skills.

We feel excitement as we brainstorm, work on exercises to explore concepts, and have group discussions. We work in small groups with people from around the country and world, and an editor joins us for a short time. We network and explore ideas. We exchange business cards and say farewell until next time!

Bios for SCBWI NY 2019 Presenters mentioned in today’s blog

In no particular order, their bios:

Allyn Johnston is Vice President and Publisher of Beach Lane Books. Allyn has been working in children’s publishing in her native California for twenty-four years. Among the authors and illustrators with whom she works are Mem Fox, Lois Ehlert, Marla Frazee, Cynthia Rylant, Debra Frasier, Arthur Howard, Jan Thomas, Avi, and M.T. Anderson. She’s also worked with Jeanette Winter, Jonah Winter, Linda Davick, Lauren Stringer, Mary Lyn Ray, Amy Schwartz, and K. L. Going. Beach Lane will be ten years old in 2019.

Recent titles Allyn has edited are New York Times bestseller Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee and New York Times bestseller All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, both of which received a Caldecott Honor. simonandschusterpublishing (dot) com/beach-lane/

Marla Frazee has illustrated many acclaimed picture books, including All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, which received a 2010 Caldecott Honor; EverywhereBabies by Susan Meyers; and Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!by Mem Fox; as well as her own Boot & Shoe; Walk On!; Roller Coaster; Santa Claus the World’sNumber One Toy Expert; and A Couple of Boys Have the BestWeek Ever, which received a 2009 Caldecott Honor.

She received the Boston Globe­­-Horn Book Award for her wordless picture book The Farmer and the Clown. She is the author-illustrator of The Boss Baby, now a DreamWorks animated feature film; the book’s sequel The Bossier Baby; and the fall 2018 picture book Little Brown; as well as many others. She is also the illustrator of The Seven Silly Eaters, the New York Times best-selling Clementine series, and the picture book It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton. She lives with her family in Pasadena, California. Visit her at MarlaFrazee (dot) com.



Alyson Heller is a senior editor at Aladdin Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster. She acquires picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and the occasional YA, but her heart is in contemporary middle grade. She is actively looking for middle grade reads that deal with “tougher” topics, strong female characters who kick butt and take names, and stories across all age ranges that represent the under-represented in our world today. She has been fortunate enough to work on a range of books from nonfiction (Life in Motion: Young Reader Editionby Misty Copeland, The Distance Between Us: Young Reader Edition by Reyna Grande, Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away: Young Reader Edition by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathy Van Cleve), to picture books (Cake by Sue Hendra, illustrated by Paul Linnet) to series (Thunder Girls, Goddess Girls for Aladdin QUIX, both by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams), to contemporary MG reads (Star-Crossedby Barbara Dee, Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls trilogy by Beth McMullen). Tweet her (at) EditorAlysonH.

Tricia Lin is an assistant editor at Aladdin Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She acquires picture books and middle grade novels for Aladdin, as well as young adult novels for Simon Pulse. At Aladdin, she has had the privilege of working with wonderful authors such as Jenn Bishop, Kate Hannigan, and Kevin Sands. Tricia holds a BA in politics from New York University. Follow her on Twitter at (at) triciaelin.

Rubin Pfeffer is the founder of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC, a literary agency focused on children’s content, representing industry luminaries, award winners, and exciting new talents. Previously, Rubin served as president and publisher of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Trade, working with world-renowned writers and illustrators of adult and children’s literature. As SVP and chief creative officer of Pearson, Inc., Pfeffer coordinated programs between Penguin and Pearson’s educational products and services. Later, he joined Simon & Schuster as SVP and publisher of children’s books, overseeing such fine imprints as Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Atheneum, McElderry Books, and the launching of Beach Lane Books. rpcontent (dot) com/


A Dear Friend

George is a dear friend, who happens to be our current oldest friend. He turns 101 in April. He still plays music & sings along while he exercises. We love discussing what he’s reading, which actually means his current book for people who are blind. Every time we get together we discuss and often listen to jazz music (our favorite, if we truly have a favorite type of music).

We frequently discuss older movies, including “A Song is Born” 1948 starring Danny Kaye & Virginia Mayo. If you want to see and hear almost ‘everybody who was somebody’ playing jazz at that time, find “A Song is Born!” (It’s a music themed remake of “Ball of Fire” 1941 starring Barbara Stanwyck & Gary Cooper – also a terrific movie.) That might top our list of favorites, along with Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And yes, I may have been born the wrong generation.

Years ago George shared how slowly his tasks got done. Whether it was turning around to sit, or to place something on the counter, everything involved taking many tiny steps and moving his wheeled walker many times. Shortly after our discussion, his legs were less reliable so he started using his wheelchair when he was alone. His very diminished eyesight added more challenges to all tasks. He used an electronic magnifying system for looking at papers and reading. He became a master at orienting and perusing materials when using this disorienting machine.

Nowadays George continues working on thigh & leg strength through sit to stand exercises, while singing. A family member is always present for this activity and they sing along since it helps him keep a good tempo. George uses special equipment with grab bars for these exercises, and he gets strapped to it for safety.

To stand and answer the door is quite a process. Thankfully he has a power lift recliner to start the process. He transfers to the wheelchair, taking several steps for the small standing pivot transfer. He uses a wheelchair at all times since his legs don’t work as well as they did a few years ago. And yes, modifications have been made so expected staff, family and friends can enter without his great effort. We’re greeted with George’s joyful words and smiling face no matter which process is used to open the door.

Celebration and exploration will be common themes in these blogs. Hopefully you glean something from my sharings above. Perhaps you even explore the magnification feature on your computer. Standard installed accommodations for computers have come a long way since I took rehab engineering and technology courses, thank goodness!

If you have the luxury, it can be beneficial and interesting to explore adaptations and accommodations before they’re needed for loved ones or yourself. Exploring changes can also be scary, and frustrating. It can bring up issues people would rather not think about, let alone plan for. Please be compassionate and understanding with yourself around difficult topics.

My hypothesis for “Taking Care of Your 80 year old Self” blog series: I’ve had the honor of teaching approximately 2500 fitness and health classes to people, mostly ages 70 – 94+ years. A vast majority of these classes were with the same folks, twice a week for over 10 years. I’ve learned oodles from these experiences, in addition to working for two and a half decades in health care. I’m looking forward to exploring and sharing perceptions, perspective, and understanding through these blog posts.