IMG_9922_edited-2My sister said, would you like a free trip to Italy?

I said yes.

Then she made the same offer to my brother, Chris.

He said yes too, so Claudia took us to Italy for twelve days.

We stayed in Vicenza, which is near Venice. We saw snowy mountains, men skulling gondolas around canals, we ate gelato and more pasta than you can shake a stick at (why would you shake a stick at pasta?).

Claudia and I practiced our very bad Italian. My brother only speaks English and German. Fortunately many Italians speak English and German too. Not to mention Italian.

This photo is one of my favorites from the trip. The stone lions are guarding a fountain in Bergamo. I think the dog is pretending to be a lion too.

If your sister ever says, would you like a free trip to Italy? say yes.

The Front Porch Library on TV!

WFSU segment on FPLSo many of the characters I write about begin as real kids in my real neighborhood. I get to know most of them because of The Front Porch Library, the very local kid’s lending library that now fills all of what was my dad’s house until he passed away.

Our Tallahassee public television station, WFSU, did a piece about the library for their “Local Routes” show. Click here to watch the segment and meet some of our kids and volunteers.

Authors in Missouri!

12805856_10153575041653786_7891030413469590644_nTruman State University gathered a fine mess of authors (including me) and then brought in busloads of kids so we could tell them about our best-job-in the world as writers–not to mention John Parra, our one illustrator.

Okay, so who are all these authors?

Back row, left to right: Angela Cervantes author of “Gaby Lost and Found,” a volunteer whose name I forget (so sorry), Mike Graf, who writes beautiful books about the national parks, John Parra, our lone illustrator, me, and Maryrose Wood, author of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.

Front row, left to right: Michelle Houts (Miss Red Shoes) author of “Kammie on First,” Shelley Pearsall, author of “Trouble Don’t Last,” Mary Casanova, who writes “American Girl” books and many others, Gennifer Choldenko, author of the “Al Capone” novels, and Phil Bildner whose latest picture book is “Marvelous Cornelius” set in New Orleans circa Hurricane Katrina.

I wish you all could meet these folks–they put out great books, but they are also funny and boy can they eat a lot of brownies!

Visiting Tampa Prep.

AFogelin-1I have been on the road a lot lately visiting St. Stephens Episcopal School, Shorecrest Prep, Tampa Prep, and Callahan Middle School.


I did a ton of workshops and met great students and media specialists everywhere I went.

Carole Holway, the media specialist at Tampa Prep sent me a link to their post about my visit to their school, and here it is.

Click it if you want to see me and a whole bunch of young writers in action!

Something cool from Gilchrist Elementary.

Gilchrist Crane


I visit the fourth-graders at Gilchrist Elementary School every year. I load my props (shoes, assorted knickknacks and photos) on a squeaky media cart and travel from room to room encouraging students to create characters and plots, and giving them a taste of what it is like to be an author.

We do a lot more than imagine and talk. I have kids not just describe how a character walks, but have them demonstrate that walk (I had a great gangsta walk from a girl whose character was named J.D. Jordan).

I show the students my own fourth grade diary. You can start writing at any time–even in the fourth grade. And then I always say, “And if you opened this diary I would have to kill you.”

Why would I want them to know how boring I was, or what a rotten speller I used to be?

You may be wondering about that crane photo at the top of this post. What is it? An art project?

See the green in the background? That’s grass. And every spot of color is a Gilchrist student or teacher wearing clothing in carefully-chosen colors.

Yup. You’re looking at a thousand-kid-and-teacher crane. Wow!



What’s up in the neighborhood?

Neighborhood Dragon Parade.

Goodness, it’s been a while since I put up anything new. Why? Things have been pretty darned busy around the neighborhood where most of my books are set.

On Saturday we had a block party featuring a bike parade. As we see it, no bike parade would be complete without a dragon. Meg, in the white shirt is the creator of the dragon.

While parading, I sometimes held up the head of the dragon, sometimes the middle, and the bikes whizzed all around that slow moving creature.

After, we ate chili cooked by the kids of the Front Porch Library.

Tip for future writers: sometimes your very best characters are inspired by the folks right next door–especially if they are the kind who hang out with dragons.

Back to school.

Matthew at the institute

I hope your summer was great, that you swam a lot, hung out, maybe even read a book or two.

Wonder what writers do in the summer?

I don’t know what those other writers do, but I grew a lot of tomatoes, did projects with the kids in my neighborhood and hung out with the boy in the picture who seems to be inventing the universe. That’s my grandson, Matthew, and today is his first day of kindergarten.

And I sat at this desk and wrote. Writers don’t really get the whole summer off (but that’s okay, we like our jobs). I’m working on a new book–a ghost story, and getting ready to visit schools in Miami and St. Pete, so I guess I’m back at school too.

Teachers, please consider an author visit, either in person or virtual. An author visit makes books come to life. It proves that behind each book is a real person.

My specialty is getting kids excited about writing by doing innovative exercises either orally or in writing workshops.

Check out the details!

Higgledy Piggledy

Sister Spider Knows AllI bet you all know what a haiku poem is. Seventeen syllables in three lines divided 5-7-5.

But that is nowhere near as tricky as writing a Higgledy Piggledy. The rules are so complicated I won’t even share them with you. They will make you either: a. sleepy, or b. pull your hair out, and we can’t have that.

I would never attempt to write one and I am pretty sure you wouldn’t either, but Gary Crew, a librarian at the Leon County Public Library wrote one for me (I was doing an evening program).

And here it is!


Higgledy Piggledy…

Adrian Fogelin

Writes books with great kids who’re

People she sees…


My fav’rite book’s a look


Set at an int’resting

Market for fleas…


In case you can’t guess which book Gary is describing I’ve included a big hint.

The Front Porch Library blows out the candles!

6th birthday, giant cookie.Last Sunday we celebrated the 6th birthday of the Front Porch Library. As my partner in crime, Kary says, “It seems like longer than that, doesn’t it?”

Indeed it does–so many kids have come through the FPL, so much glue, craft paper, sidewalk chalk, reading aloud, shooting hoops, learning Greek mythology–and while cleaning for the party I came across the flash cards I’d made to teach Latin root words.

We’ve covered a lot of territory in those six years.

As always we spent several Sundays cooking for the event. This year we served dinner for 35, including two teachers who drove all the way from Jacksonville to be part of the festivities.

6th birthday--with hats.I can’t thank the volunteers enough–and the spontaneous acts of generosity, like Craig performing his famous Ydon the pirate magic trick and organizing a group poem.

Meg, who had just catered a wedding brought all the leftover flowers and put flowers anywhere that would hold a stem, like the door frame and the driveway umbrellas.

Kary did a photo booth. Mr. John supervised the kitchen. Tina and Maya helped get the library ready for the gathering. Donna, Meg, Penny, Heather and others did a heroic clean-up.

Between the arrival of the twins, screeching into the driveway and the last kid trailing off down the street we ate, messed with Play-Doh, shot hoops, tossed water balloons, built cities in the living room. It was a class-A celebration of a BIG community effort.

Want to see more photos from the party? Visit our website.

Press Release

Press Release

The last time the Front Porch Library reached out to the wider community, it was to ask for help finding an insurer to keep their doors open.

Tallahassee came through with suggestions, offers of help, and ultimately an insurance policy.

Now there is good news to share.  The Front Porch Library is a finalist for a 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.  The award – given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and its partner agencies — recognizes top arts and humanities-based programs which operate afterschool and out-of-school.

The Front Porch Library is one of 50 programs to achieve Certificate of Excellence status from hundreds of nominations from across the country. If chosen in the top ten, the library will receive $10,000 and an invitation to Washington, DC for the award conference in August.

Today the Front Porch Library continues to thrive as a book-and-project gathering spot for the children of Seminole Manor Neighborhood. Co-founded by neighbors Adrian Fogelin and Dr. Kary Kublin, the initial vision was to give ready access to books and educational materials to youth in this low income neighborhood.

“The library began with my father’s house, and kids who needed books,” says Adrian Fogelin. Not wanting to give up his house when her father died, she decided to establish a library on the porch—a library which quickly took over the whole house.

The collection now numbers over 3,000 cataloged books, all donated. But the library is more than just books. Every Sunday, a volunteer staff gathers to run programs that bring the wider world to kids who arrive on foot and by bicycle. Library volunteers come from the neighborhood and the community. Many are students from SAIL High School and Leon High’s Key Club. These high-achieving teen volunteers act as mentors and role models.

As the library gets ready to celebrate its sixth birthday, there are many past programs and shared memories to draw on: building a Rube Goldberg machine, jousting on the lawn with the Society for Creative Anachronism, quilting, cooking, studying Greek mythology, learning about modern China, conducting explosive science experiments and funding summer camp experiences from one generous donation.

“We’ve seen a lot of kids come to the library, growing up right before our eyes Sunday to Sunday,” says Co-Director Kary Kublin.  “If we want kids to read, we’ve got to read with them.  If we want them to ask questions and solve problems, we have to make sure the opportunities are there and that they are accessible.”

The Front Porch Library is proof that it takes a village. With this national recognition, the village continues to grow.

More information about The Front Porch Library as well as weekly updates and photographs can be found at