Announcing a Blog Giveaway August 1st!

Hello Readers!

I’m so happy to announce a blog giveaway here starting August 1st.  Check back to enter to win a copy of my picture book, plus two beautiful art cards by Paula Nasmith, plus an Amazon Gift Card! This will be open to residents of Canada and the United States only.  Apologies to others around the world who cannot enter but I hopefully can do an international giveaway at some point in the future.

This blog has been fairly hidden and perhaps difficult to find so your chances to win are very good! Follow me here so you don’t miss the chance to enter.


And by the way, I usually have a little tea with my pancakes.  How about you?

Summer Reading Challenge: Week 1

Welcome to a new weekly feature here on my author blog!  I’m participating in Rena Traxel’s summer reading challenge and having a ton of fun while reading and discovering new and different picture books.  Here are some photos from this week. Rena has challenged us to find new a different places to read with a different book each day.  By the end of the summer, I will have read 62 picture books!  Yay!  This is the perfect challenge to encourage me to research in becoming a skilled picture book writer.

July 1st:  I began with a bright red strawberry lemonade and enjoyed reading The Moccasin Goalie by William Roy Brownidge in celebration of Canada Day. After all what could be more Canadian than a story about a child who plays hockey on an outdoor ice rink while wearing moccasins? Read someplace in celebration.

July 2nd: Still celebrating from Canada Day, I moved my chair into a new spot and chose another Canadian picture book, When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs and Andrew Kiss.  This book tells the story of the camping experience while at the same time serves as a search and find book with opportunities to look for animals camouflaged in their natural habitat.  It has a very Canadian feeling. Read someplace new.

July 3rd: I found a swing! The Best Places to Read by Debbie Bertram, seemed a perfect choice for this reading spot.  Though I’m not sure a swing like this one is best for reading as it makes holding on and swinging a little tricky.  Still fun!  Read on a swing.

July 4th: This was a week of hiking for me so I decided to take books along to some of my hiking spots.  The first book was Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik which I took along to the Kinsol Trestle Bridge (built in 1920) where we hiked for the morning…14.8 km in my new hiking boots. No bears in sight on this hike. Whew! Read someplace old.

July 5th: We found a magical spot in East Sooke Park and my friend, Sara, asked me to read to her so I did: Spotted Owlets by Victoria Miles and Elizabeth Gatt was my book of choice.  Read someplace magical.

July 6th: We found the perfect log while hiking in the Mystic Beach area and stopped to read The Owl and the Pussycat with illustrations by Stefanie Jorisch.  This was just the right seaside location as the book begins “The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat”; I can picture them out for a ride… Read on a log.IMG_4873

July 7th: I sat on a park bench near my home to read this picture book about a very difficult topic: living in a residential school.  Though this is not a part of our history to be proud of, we certainly do not want to ignore the injustices done to children in these British Columbia schools.  Bravo for dealing with a difficult topic and making it appropriate for children.  The book is titled Shin-chi’s Canoe is by Nicola I. Campbell.  Read on a bench.IMG_4903
What will I be reading next week? Check back and find out!  And though it is too late to join Rena’s challenge, you can still read along with me all summer!  It’s easy, just pick a new book each day and try reading someplace new each day OR follow along with locations from Rena’s blog.


Blog Giveaway This Week!  You can win a free picture book, my own, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker.  Giveaway closes midnight tonight, Pacific time.  Visit my blog at to enter.

Happy Book Birthday, Katie Shaeffer!

Katie Shaeffer is too young to use the stove. Katie is also an avid collector. She has just one wish. One dream. One desire.  Katie wants to make golden brown, fluffy as a cloud, perfectly round PANCAKES all by herself.


Enjoy this charming story and find out how Katie and her friend Baxter find a way to make Katie’s wish come true.

Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker is written by Cynthia Mackey and illustrated by Paula Nasmith.

Available April 24th on Barnes and Noble and!

Creating the Book Cover


This morning, I got up a little sleepy, needing my cup of tea and wondering what the day might have in store for me. I’ve been waiting to hear from the book designer and now I just feel like celebrating because my inbox has the cover edits for Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker and the cover is going to be just excellent! I’m so excited! Yay!

After lots of studying other picture book covers and how they are done and lots of consulting with people who had some design knowledge, I feel the cover has gone through a complete transformation! I always loved Paula’s image of Katie in the chef’s hat but now the image has been highlighted and showcased in just the way I had envisioned. Now if the interior edits are just as good, the book should be ready to go in November, just as I had hoped.

Thank you so much to those of you who commented with your thoughts on creating book covers; you were very helpful. I can’t wait to show you the finished product.

Getting Inspiration

For me, inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker was inspired in part by the book Loose Parts , Inspiring Play in Young Children written by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.

The book is full of beautiful photographs of loose parts arranged to inspire play in young children.  Here are a few examples that I photographed from the book.  There are many many more in the book itself so I would highly recommend purchasing the book for your own inspiration as a parent or as an educator.  Or at least borrow it from the library!  It really highlights the endless possibilities that loose parts can present.

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And during the time I have been using loose parts theory in the preschool classroom I have witnessed many projects that children have undertaken.  These projects have also served as inspiration for the story.  I hope that Katie and Baxter from my story Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker will inspire young children to take on more creative projects using items they and their parents or teachers have collected!

Snowflakes and buttons#snowflakes#buttons#creatingdesignswithlooseparts

A post shared by Cynthia Mackey SCBWI Member (@mackey_cynthia) on

#loosepartsplay #outdoorclassroom #creativeplay #earlyyears #outdoorplay

A post shared by Cynthia Mackey SCBWI Member (@mackey_cynthia) on

Have you or your child created something using loose parts?  Maybe you are an educator who has been using loose parts theory in the classroom like me.  Send a photo of your project to and I would be happy to feature it here on my author blog.

In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”  -Architect, Simon Nicholson

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Discover Challenge   Mixing Media.

Fifty Tips for New Picture Book Authors Who Wish to Self-Publish


Okay, I’ll admit I’m no expert but I do like to share so here’s my list of 50 tips for brand new writers and self-publishers of the kid-lit variety.

  1. Show don’t tell  You will hear this a lot.  In a nutshell, this means your words need to paint a picture by including details, coversation and action.
  2. Use dialogue to help identify your character When you write dialogue remember who is speaking and choose words that help define the character who is speaking
  3. It is not completely taboo to use the word “said” Don’t just flip through the thesaurus and swap other words in for variety.  Choose words that add to the action or the character’s emotion.
  4. Write your story and then leave it alone for awhile When you go back to it you’ll have fresh eyes
  5. Watch out for things that don’t make sense
  6. Learn about child development Knowing and understanding your audience is hugely helpful.
  7. Make sure the images match the words Children will notice if there’s a disconnect
  8. The children in the story need to solve the problem, not the adults
  9. Each page needs to connect to the next one so that the story will flow
  10. Making a book ‘dummy’ can be helpful to see where the page turns will be
  11. Generally children’s books have a sense of being home, leaving home and then coming back home 
  12. Find a group to share your writing with You need other people to read your writing.  They will see things you cannot.  A fresh perspective is so valuable.
  13. Write and revise over and over The more you work with a story the more it grows and changes to become something better than it was at the beginning
  14. Take notes When you get little ideas, jot them down and save them for future stories.  You never know what you might be able to use.
  15. Join the SCBWI There is a huge resource of expertise available to you.
  16. Writing for magazines is a great way to start
  17. If you’re writing for children, then prepare to do school visits Most children’s authors sell their books through school visits in person or via Skype.
  18. Start a blog In order to sell books you need a platform and that platform grows from blogging.  Blogging helps you practice your craft as well.
  19. Grow your blog with giveaways When you host a giveaway it brings more traffic to your site allowing more people to become aware of you and your books.
  20. Network Through your blog you can network with other writers.  You can share ideas and learn from each other plus help grow each other’s blogs.
  21. Guest Posts Write guest posts for other blogs and invite others to post on yours.
  22. Do Some Research Learn all you can about self-publishing and how it works.
  23. An Good Editor is Extremely Valuable A good editor can guide you so that your unpolished work becomes polished and professional.
  24. Be Prepared to Spend Some Money to Get the Book Published Though it is possible to publish a book without spending a lot of money, you are better off to pay for the services that will make your book stand out.
  25. Non-Fiction Books for Children are in Greater Demand If you have the ability to write non-fiction books for children, it may be easier to sellcropped-101.jpg
  26.  Adding a non-fiction section at the back of a fiction book can be a way to make your book more marketable
  27. Books that deal with topics related to the curriculum are sought after
  28. Research the books that are already out there Write the book that you wish you could find but no one seems to have written yet.
  29. Diverse children’s books are needed
  30. An author website is essential
  31. Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important ways to let people know about your book
  32. Book reviews are super important You need book reviews of 4-5 stars if you want people to buy your book
  33. Do not pay for reviews
  34. Doing a blog tour can help get the message out about your book
  35. SCBWI has book parties that feature newly released books 
  36. Your book needs a marketing plan
  37. Spend a lot of time thinking about the title of your book, choose a great one!
  38. People do make judgments about a book based on the cover so make sure the cover is excellent
  39. You can use Goodreads to connect with readers and do giveaways
  40. Giving away your book for free might feel difficult but it is all part of marketing
  41. Book design is important If you know how to use Indesign then you may be able to do this yourself but hiring a book designer is worthwhile.
  42. Having your book available in as many ways as possible allows more people to buy the book so consider making it available as widely as possible
  43. Ebooks are different from the physical book and require formatting You can pay someone to do a conversion for you.
  44. Children’s picture books are more expensive to produce because of the color images.  
  45. Images for a children’s book should be 300 dpi This will avoid having the images come out looking pixilated.
  46. Once your artwork is completed, you can have it scanned and converted to 300 dpi files There is a significant cost for this as well so be prepared.
  47. Read a lot!!! Read all kinds of books but especially the books in your genre.
  48. Reading and commenting on other blogs is important too.
  49. Look at other author’s websites to see how they are structured and how they do their school visits.
  50. The list seems long, but keep this quote in mind… “How do you eat an elephant? A little at a time.” – Creighton Abrams

Enjoyed reading this post? I don’t get paid for any of my writing on this blog; it is all done during my free time. If you’d like to show your appreciation for what you’re reading here then please like my Facebook page. That would be just awesome. Thank you.