Kayla Saves the Day (Kids Write Books)

I recently had the pleasure of working with students at the Northwest Service Cooperative’s Young Authors Conference in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. In my sessions, we brainstormed a story outline. Then students broke into groups and were assigned different parts of the story to write. This story was written by…

March 9, 2017: Session 1

When Kayla woke up, she was excited to go to work at the Warroad Nursing Home. She also worked at the Warroad Animal Shelter. Everybody liked Kayla because she was caring and generous.

Kayla saw on the news that someone was trying to burn down the hospital. Kayla wanted to save the hospital because her grandma was inside.

Kayla took off for the hospital and tried to see what was going on. When she arrived, she saw Marie inside trying to kill everyone. She was shocked because Marie was her best friend.

Kayla pulled out her gun, but she found out she had no bullets. Now, she couldn’t shoot to save the day. But she did not give up because her grandma was still in there. She had to find another way.

Kayla heard a voice from the hospital and recognized that it was the talking chicken. She also saw that Marie had started the first floor on fire.

Kayla called Joe the Turtle for help. “Where are you?” she asked through the phone.

“You know how small my feet are. I barely move one mile per hour!” Joe stated.

“Hurry!” she yelled, but she knew Joe was too slow to get there in time.

Just then, Kayla saw a scary man with a candy van. He was trying to break into the hospital.

“Ahhh!” she screamed.

The man left his van, and Kayla realized that this was her chance. She slowly and quietly ran to the van, opened the door, and stole it.

She looked up in time to see the talking chicken run straight into the fire. Kayla was sad for this loss, but she couldn’t give up. She could still save her grandma from dying.

Luck was finally on her side because it started raining hard. Kayla drove to the back of the hospital and gathered as many buckets as she could find. She set them out, and they quickly filled with water. Then she carefully put the buckets into the back of the van.

Kayla drove the van through the hospital doors and all the way to her grandma’s room. Kayla got the buckets of water and used them to put out the fire. She led everyone inside to safety.

After everyone was free, Kayla saw her former friend Marie. She chased her down with the van. Then Kayla jumped out and tackled her. Kayla saved the day one more time by bringing Marie to jail.

Hockey Goal (Kids Write Books)

I recently had the pleasure of working with students at the South Central Service Cooperative’s Young Writers & Artists Conference in Mankato, Minnesota. In my sessions, we brainstormed a story outline. Then students broke into groups and were assigned different parts of the story to write. This story was written by…

March 7, 2017: Session 3

The TV screen flashed “game over.” Link had lost again. He had been playing video games for six hours, but he was still stuck on level three.

Link was a good kid. He cared for his Chihuahua, Jack. He could hold his breath for a really long time, and he was the best hot dog cooker in town. Why couldn’t he pass this level?

“Shut off your game,” snapped his mom. “You’ve been playing all day!”

“Get off your behind, and do something,” his dad added.

“Link, you need to get off the couch,” said his mom.

“What should I do?” asked Link.

“Play a sport or clean the mall bathrooms,” his mom answered.

Link felt very frustrated at the moment. He turned the TV channel and saw a hockey game. He said to himself, “I want to set a goal to play hockey.”

As soon as Link made a game plan, he went to find out when hockey tryouts were. They were about to start in an hour, so he went outside with his dog and tried to get to hockey tryouts on time.

He went to the sports store to get his equipment. He got knee pads, elbow pads, a face mask, a hockey stick, and all the other things that he needed. Then Link went outside in his yard to practice his moves. He got really good and thought the coach would be impressed enough to let him be on the team.

After he left home again, he realized that his dog, Jack, was not with him anymore. Link started to worry and looked for Jack.

Meanwhile, the Chihuahua ran outside, took a right, and jumped onto a train headed to a warehouse in Alaska. The train took a left turn, and Jack jumped off the train in Duluth, Minnesota.

As Link looked for Jack, a bully named Tarzan started picking on him. Then Grandpa George called to tell Link that Grandma Jane was dying. Link became so upset that he went back home and to his bedroom. He slammed his Xbox to the ground.

He walked outside and wondered what to do. He thought of what his grandma would say, which would be to keep trying. He decided to go to tryouts.

Link still couldn’t find his dog, and it was getting late. Tryouts started in five minutes and one second. He noticed that the garage door was open, and he saw his mom’s car. That gave him an idea. “I’ll take it.” It was only fair, since his parents went on vacation in Hawaii without him.

As he drove to tryouts, he got stuck in traffic. He really loved hockey, and he didn’t want to miss his chance.

When he finally arrived, he found his dog. Jack ran to him, and Link cried because his dog was not locked up or dead. When he walked in to tryouts, he said, “I made it just in time for hockey.”

Link got his turn on the ice, and he slipped and fell. A boy named Jeremy helped him up. As Link continued to try out, he got better at skating. He started being good at the goalie position, and the coach told him that he made the team.

“Whew, I’m glad I made it on the team,” said Link. “I’m also glad I’m not cleaning bathrooms!”

“Hey, Link, it turns out I’m going to have an award for you,” said the coach. “MVP!”

“Yes!” said Link.

He went home and saw that his grandma was better.

“Can I play video games now?” he asked.

“No!” his parents exclaimed.

The Queen of Mars (Kids Write Books)

I recently had the pleasure of working with students at the South Central Service Cooperative’s Young Writers & Artists Conference in Mankato, Minnesota. In my sessions, we brainstormed a story outline. Then students broke into groups and were assigned different parts of the story to write. This story was written by…

March 7, 2017: Session 2

Martha Maplewood kept looking. She dug and dug. She was a funny muskrat. Her best friend, Julia, thought she was a good listener and liked to joke about Martha’s snort laugh.

But this was no laughing matter. Martha needed to find the map to Mars. She had no choice but to keep searching.

She found a cave near a beach. The cave looked like a blueberry, and it was named Blueberry Cave. Martha stepped into the cave and then ran out of it—right into the skunks. They had heard about the map, too, and wanted it desperately.

Now, Martha was in danger, so she ran up a tree. If she could build a rocket, she could get to Mars. Then she could work with the spiders that lived there in order to take over the skunks and to protect herself from them. That was the whole reason she wanted to be queen of Mars.

After the skunks left, Martha built a green bucket rocket. She stood and admired her beautiful masterpiece. She decided to invite her magical unicorn friend, Julia, to join her.

The skunk leader spied on Martha while coming up with a devious plan. “Ha, ha, ha, I shall steal the ship,” he said.

The skunk leader needed to communicate his plan to the minions. They all decided to go to the SBU (Skunk Bank United). They walked across Africa and continued across the Indian Ocean to the Philippines. Then they went to Paris and to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. There, they discussed their plan. Then they backtracked across Earth to the ship, and they waited for the historical moment to strike.

The savage skunks had grenades that spit water. They pulled up near the bucket rocket and blew it up. This caused everyone to fly into the water.

During all the confusion, the skunks managed to capture Julia. They told her that if she didn’t do what they said, they would kill her.

To try to gain traction in the effort against the skunks, Martha found the leader of the birds and persuaded the birds to help her. Although this species of birds was hideously ugly, the birds were glorious and magnificent warriors.

The skunks attacked again. While the birds battled them, Martha had to go and get pixie dust on a desert island. With the rocket destroyed, flying to Mars was her only hope.

She ran to the shore and saw the print of a boat bottom slowly being washed away. Panicking, she looked first left then right. Soon, a note in a bottle washed up on shore. The note said, “Ha, ha, we have sunk your boat and will build a death machine.”

Even though Martha had outstanding problems to tackle, she kept trying to overcome them. She was too scared to stop trying because she didn’t want to get killed by the skunks.

She swam to get the pixie dust, but there was a huge lion named Phil in control of the pixie dust. Martha gnawed a piece of corn into a sword and had a big battle with Phil. Finally, she killed the lion. After many hours, Martha finally got the pixie dust.

Next, she decided to save Julia. She used the pixie dust to fly over to where Julia was and save her. She flew to Julia’s cage and gnawed off the bars. Julia was free!

Martha used the pixie dust to fly into space. But she ran into a crater, and all of the pixie dust poured away from her. In this process, she crashed on Mars.

After she crashed, she found a sword left by a previous queen. She encountered the current queen of Mars and slew her. Martha became queen of Mars and built her own castle.

Queen Martha used her new army of spiders to defeat the skunks. Then she went to her super secret lab and drank an arm-growing substance and grew an extra arm on her stomach.

The army of bad skunks was in exile from the good skunks. They were sent to the wilds where they died from acid rain.

After the war, Martha stayed as queen of Mars, sitting on a rock throne with her best friend, Julia.

The Skinny Giraffe (Kids Write Books)

I recently had the pleasure of working with students at the South Central Service Cooperative’s Young Writers & Artists Conference in Mankato, Minnesota. In my sessions, we brainstormed a story outline. Then students broke into groups and were assigned different parts of the story to write. This story was written by…

March 7, 2017: Session 1

The sound of crying echoed through the park. It was Bob… again. The giraffe was too skinny, and it made him look awkward, even ugly. Bob was a smart giraffe, and he dreamed of being popular. But that didn’t matter to the other giraffes. They teased him relentlessly.

Bob had issues at the park. He was skinny and thin, and no one liked him. This was a serious issue because he had nowhere else to go. His solution was to eat all the leaves in the park, which would make him bigger.

He found Mark the bird in a tree, and Bob scared Mark out of the tree, causing him to fall into a huge pile of leaves. Bob ate all the leaves around Mark. Then Bob found and rescued Mark out of a snake hole.

Mark tried to fly, but he fell back to the ground because he had injuries on his wings. So Mark rode on the comfort of Bob’s back, and the two became friends. Mark encouraged Bob on their journey, and Mark helped Bob eat some of the leaves in the park.

Bob the giraffe started to get full. He kept trying to eat more leaves. Bob felt that he needed to keep eating so he wouldn’t get kicked out of the park. Bob kept eating, but he thought he might not be able to eat any more leaves. Bob didn’t want to leave the park, the other giraffes, or the safety of his home.

While Bob was sleeping, the other giraffes snuck in with rainbow ski masks, ready to sabotage his leaf-eating endeavor. The mean giraffes summoned the giraffe lightning god with their ancient chants, and the god struck the driest tree.

Bob awoke with sharp stomach pains but soon realized he had bigger problems: The forest was ablaze. He stood up with a jolt, and he had to save his leaves to be accepted by the others.

After a tireless day of working, he managed to salvage most of the leaves, but the evil giraffes were not done yet. As Bob was trying to save the leaves that weren’t on fire, the other giraffes started hiding them from him. Bob hid the leaves that he found in a basket, and then he put the basket in a stream.

After the leaves he found were safe, he went out looking for the stolen leaves. All he found was a squirrel’s stash of acorns.

Bob rushed around the park, asking the other animals for help. Everyone was too busy running from the fire to help him.

Bob was very sad because he couldn’t find any more leaves to eat. He looked around one last time, and just when he was about to give up, he found a leaf. This encouraged him to keep going and persevere so that he could stay in the park.

Bob suddenly had a genius idea. He ran all around the world to find animals to help him achieve his goal. Once Bob had gathered all the animals he needed, the elephants started sucking water out of the pond and spraying it all over the fire. They put it out!

Then Bob called the police to arrest the giraffes that were mean. It turned out that the police officers were rhinos and zebras.

With the help of his new friends, Bob found all the hidden leaves. He took the leaves over to a restaurant and ate them all. After he was finished, Bob looked great!

With the other giraffes in jail, Bob ran for senator of Florida. He became the first Girafferican American senator.

Bob went back to the park to visit the bad giraffes after they got out of jail. Bob made friends with the elephants, rhinos, and zebras. He was no longer bullied and was happy being the world’s fattest giraffe.

Prepping for a Book Launch

Today, I’m wearing my “publisher” hat as I prepare for the release of the new book series by Lisa M. Bolt Simons: Choose to Win! Lisa wrote three books for my publishing company, Lake 7 Creative, LLC, based on a concept I developed but didn’t have time to write.

The Choose to Win Series

She did a fabulous job blending the Choose Your Path formula with three sports titles, Goal-Minded, Out at Home, and Save the Season. Now, I’m scrambling to get ready for the October 11 release date. Essentially, for a small operation like Lake 7, that preparation boils down to two key components:

A. Get the Author Marketing

It’s no secret that a book’s success usually depends on the author, and that’s doubly true with small presses. We don’t have the budget or the staff to make much noise—so I’m depending on a lot of help from Lisa. To that end, I gave her a copy of a book I wrote called 30 Days of Book Marketing. It’s intended to give busy authors a relatively small task each day to get the marketing train moving forward.

30 Days of Book Marketing

Along with that, I gave her a short “to do” list. It includes the following:

  1. Actively promote the books on social media leading up to the release date.
  2. Create and/or update her Amazon Author Central page.
  3. Try to line up 20 Amazon reviewers for each book.
  4. Find 10 blogs to which she’d like me to pitch her books.
  5. Prepare to pitch press releases to her local media.

That’s her job. As for me…

B. Get Book Reviews—and Lots of Them!

Obviously, telling the author what to do is the easy part. This—garnering book reviews—is the hard part. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a fair amount of money, and the odds are stacked way, way, way against us. But it’s so essential to a book’s success, that it’s well worth the effort.

  1. Pre-pub reviews: I sent advance review copies (ARCs) to the major pre-publication reviewers several months ago. Now, I must prepare those reviewers’ follow-up packages to ship out the moment the finished books arrive. (Most of the reviewers require finished copies before they’ll publish a review.)
  2. Blog reviews: Along with Lisa’s 10 blogs, I intend to pitch 30–50 more. Bloggers like to have plenty of lead time, so I’m already behind on the pitches. So if we can get anywhere close to 20 reviews, I’ll be thrilled.

That’s what I’m working on this week. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

My First Endorsement Deal . . . Sort of

I’ve done a lot of public speaking and keynote addresses over the years, but I’ve never been asked to do a radio commercial before. So I was tickled—and kind of intimidated—when asked to record a 30-second spot for the Young Writers Conference in Marshall, MN, an event at which I’ll be providing the keynote address.

I was given a rough script and instructions to see if I could get help from a local radio station. Fortunately, the folks over at KBEK 95.5 FM were more than happy to oblige.

A gentleman named Shawn gave me a tour of the station and then sat me down in front of a microphone. I read my script twice through. Then he showed me all sort of “radio secrets,” like decreasing the volume on the “p” sounds and deleting my breaths in between sentences.

Finally, after a few experiments at background music, Shawn found the perfect, whimsical number.

All told, the process only took about 20 minutes to put together. Here’s how it turned out:

If you happen to be in Southwest Minnesota, keep an ear on the radio. As of Monday, this spot is live!

A Day at the ITEM Fall Conference

Ryan Jacobson at the ITEM Fall ConferenceSome of my favorite author events are those in which I get to spend time with other authors. Last Friday was just such a day: I was an invited guest at the Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota (ITEM) Fall Conference, along with a dozen or so other authors and illustrators.

The annual event attracts media specialists from schools across the state, so it was a chance to promote a few of my books and—more importantly—to shamelessly plug my services as a guest author.

All in all, it was a great day. I saw some old friends and made a couple of new ones. Plus, I garnered interest from several schools that are considering an author visit. It’s shaping up to be a busy year!

Barnes & Noble Appearance a Success!

Ryan Jacobson book signing with a bald eagle at Barnes & Noble

My book signing at Barnes & Noble on Sunday was a wonderful event! I had a chance to hang out with fellow author Christie Gove-Berg (and went on a failed adventure to find chicken strips at a restaurant that turned out to be closed). I got to rub elbows… er… wings with a real-live bald eagle for two hours. Best of all, the day provided an excellent opportunity to chat with some book-loving fans.

Thank you to everyone who came to see us on Sunday!

Book Signing at B&N This Sunday

Summers are usually pretty slow for us children’s book authors, but now that school’s back in session, it’s time to get to work. My first big event of the school year is actually a rare book signing. (I don’t do many of those because I live so far from any bookstores.)

This Sunday, September 27, I’ll be a guest at Barnes & Noble in Roseville, MN. The theme for this event is “bald eagles,” so I’ll be promoting my new children’s book, Eagle in the Sky.

Eagle in the Sky

My friend and co-author Christie Gove-Berg will also be on hand, with her book, Esther the Eaglet. (Side note: I was the editor of that book.) But neither Christie nor I get top billing at this event. No, that honor goes to the real-live bald eagle that will be with us, courtesy of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota!

Esther the Eaglet

It should be plenty of fun for all ages, so I hope to see you there. For more information, check out the Barnes & Noble event page.

Free Coloring Page (Eagle in the Sky)

Bald Eagle Coloring PageCelebrate Independence Day with our National Emblem! Share the spirit and enthusiasm of the holiday with young nature lovers by downloading this free coloring page. It comes courtesy of Christie Gove-Berg’s and my newest eagle books: Eagle in the Sky and Esther the Eaglet.

To download the coloring page, click here.