Apr 072014


Hansi and the IcemanHansi and the neighborhood children delight in gathering ice chips from the horse-drawn ice wagon as the iceman brings ice for Oma’s icebox. But when Hansi’s grandmother buys an electric refrigerator, he wonders about the changes ahead—no more ice for Oma’s icebox and no ice chips for Hansi and his sister Elizabeth.

Hansi and the Iceman is sure to spark memories for sharing across generations.


Apr 072014

Nature offers little treasures right before our eyes–like this bird’s nest perched on a wreath on my glass front door. Standing on a stool, I saw that an egg was added each day.  Now, as the mother house finch sits on her nest, I try to give her space.

What gems await your notice? Look closely. Focus. Then capture a few key words on paper.


Wreath-top Nest


 A mother finch



until she finds

a fading wreath

still hanging on a door.

She twitters,


gathers grass,

     soft leaves,

     and fur

to weave into a bed.

Day by day,

blue eggs appear—


     and two,

     then three,

     now four.

At last, she nestles

in her wreath-top nest

as her tiny heart

     hums lullabies

to young ones curled in eggs.

Jun 222012

Rhythms and play of sounds in poetry call attention to words and invite physical response—clapping, tapping—all exploration of language.

Even young children who have heard poems can tell about an idea, an image, or a happening as someone else records. As a grandmother, I began sending poems to my young grandson before he was a year old. Imagine my delight when he sent me his first poem. Recently, I sent him a poem about geese I saw in an unexpected place.  Here is my poem:

Goose Dreams

In the middle of town,

three quiet geese

sit in the shade

of a maple tree

and dream

of a rippled lake.


And here is Jonathan’s 3 1/2-year-old response (with Mom’s typing):

The geese love to swim
When they are done they walk in a line
The babies walk behind their mom
One after another

Having nudged poems out of first graders (to twelfth graders) as well as my own preschool sons years ago, I know that children have poems in them. All they may need is some poems to hear, a prompt, and someone to appreciate their creative ideas.

Share poems!


May 262012


    The Picture Man

     a One School—One Book selection

     paired with your school’spicture day.



Are you interested in a book that speaks to students across grade levels?

  • Touches the heart, engages curiosity about technology, and promises to bring a smile?
  • Supports K-5 Common Core and Essential Standards?
  • Links to social studies, language arts, writing, science, and art?
  • Blends simplicity and depth?
  • Would be an appropriate One School—One Book selection?

The Picture Man opens discussion and exploration that can be used in teaching required skills, from comparing/contrasting (picture man photos/school or studio photos) to integration of media (art and text).  It opens ideas for writing, sparks curiosity about culture and lifestyle as suggested by photographs, and even links to science and the study of light and lenses—numerous topics for students to research and share with classes.  (Find ideas for teachers on the Study Guide.)     

What is One School—One Book?

One School—One Book offers students within a school the opportunity to read the same book and share learning experiences across grade levels.  Lessons and activities are adapted to individual grades in keeping with Common Core’s graduated skill objectives.

Activities can involve multiple grade levels (Grade 5 and K reading together, dramatic presentation for other grades, visual displays of class projects in common areas, etc.).

One School—One Book can include a visit from the author, who can share behind-the-book insights, build on information in the book, and respond to students’ questions.

At the project ends, books could be given to the students or sold to students for a portion of the cost, thus providing seed money for the next year’s selection.

Why use The Picture Man for One School—One Book?

  • Most children enjoy getting school pictures and seeing themselves in other photos
  • The book includes simple poetic prose in the story (fiction) and more complex text in end notes (non-fiction).
  • It engages curiosity about inventions and photography.
  • It can be adapted easily to dramatic presentation and other written response.
  • It introduces numerous areas for research.
  • It links to studies across curriculum.
  • It can engage students and families in exploring personal and cultural stories.
  • Between June 1 and December 1, it can be purchased at much-reduced rates.
  • The author is willing to work with your school.

*A Suggestion:  Pair with school picture day.  Stir interest in the book by placing childhood photos of the staff on a bulletin board where students can guess who is who.

Sources of Funding for One School—One Book

  • Title I
  • Arts Council Teacher Project Grant
  • PTA
  • Community Businesses
  • Civic Organizations
  • Educational foundation grants
  • www.donorschoose.org


Special Offer from the author: 

Is your school interested in classroom sets or larger sets of books for a One School–One Book study?  If so, I can offer you  books for much reduced rates. Special Rate on The Picture Man $3.50 to $7.00, based on quantity (Retail hardcover, $16.95)Let’s discuss ways to work within your budget Read about Special Offers on all titles.


Special Book Rates for Schools

Addie Clawson
Dresses, Dreams
Jack Tales
Mama’s Wreaths
Orville Hicks
Picture Man
Walking Ribbon

To order books or plan an author visit, contact Julia Taylor Ebel


May 262012

I enjoy providing programs for schools, libraries, and community organizations.

School-wide author visits include multiple sessions that draw from my writing experience in keeping North Carolina stories in a variety of ways. Also, I can work with a class or a grade level as well as an entire school. (More under Workshops.)

Smaller-group sessions have many possibilities:

  • A poetry workshop with a class or grade
  • A look at NC stories with 4th grade
  • A session on NC mountain folklore (drawing from Jack Tales and Orville Hicks
  • A session on writing stories (and/or poems) from photographs (The Picture Man and Addie Clawson:  Appalachian Mail Carrier a starters)
  • A 4th-grade talk on drawing from NC resources, with examples from Mama’s Wreaths and Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves.
  • A look at strong women.  March is Women’s History Month;  Addie Clawson features a noteworthy NC woman– a role model of courage and determination in the face of odds.
  • A discussion on stories that look at anchoring self esteem (Addie ClawsonMama’s WreathsDresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves)

Teachers can include literature, language, writing, social studies, and even  math and science in lessons with my books.  (Study Guides under Downloads.)

Contact me to discuss programs.

Mar 052012


When I visit schools, I often talk about Bonnie, my Golden Retriever mix who inspires poetry.  We have fun together.  As my son points out, Bonnie and I are a lot alike.  We both like to explore in the woods, we both like to dig in the garden, and we both love blueberries.  Sometimes we both get into mud, even if we didn’t intend to.  Oops!

Bonnie’s enthusiasm, her wagging tail, her mischievous nature, and her interesting diet (?) have all inspired poems.  Here is a small sample.  As you read them, think about what you would say about your own pet.



My yellow pup
ate up
the Encyclopedia Britannica

from “Silicate Minerals”
to “Singapore,”

leaving behind
a paper puzzle
of 24 pages.



Oh, my!
Oh me!
My pup just ate
a bumblebee.



A swift swipe
of a happy tail
wipes the coffee table clean
of dust
and collected treasures.



Bonnie and I
sit together
writing poems.

I hold the pen
as she rests her head
on my lap.

Feb 242012

I have just read some poignantly honest poems written by high school students in a class I visited. In fact, I read these several times. Beautiful–even if they are about painful subjects! Isn’t it interesting how the beauty of poetry can touch the heart and let us look pain and tragedy in the face without making the written presentation intolerable. Perhaps that is why Shakespeare’s tragedies, with the aesthetics of iambic pentameter, have endured all these years.

Free verse has beauty in its form too—and often in its brevity.  I know that the beauty of the free verse in Out of the Dust (Karen Hesse) made even the most painful parts of the story both more powerful and more tolerable for me. In free verse, rhythms are still critical; but young writers in search of a voice may find free verse, without the encumbrance of set rhythms with rhymes, particularly freeing.

Jan 122012

When we write in journal form, we often write without an outline as the ideas come to mind.  We gather and mesh our ideas in a first draft.   The first writing often will record events.  With each subsequent visit to that draft and the drafts that follow, we realize more and more what else we could have said and how we could have said it better.  Fortunately, we can take a different set of thoughts into each reading.

With later rewritings, our first ideas spark further recollections and emotional responses, so we write emotional responses to events.  Some of us consciously or unconsciously avoid revealing emotional responses. For others, however, the emotional responses can take over and overshadow the important concrete images and details.  We need a mix of the concrete (to wrap our minds around) and the emotional (to touch our hearts) to make our writing interesting, engaging, and lingering—while keeping the reins on the emotional parts lest the writing become overly sentimental.

Oct 212011

As I lead workshops on “Keeping Our Stories,” I am often intrigued by the stories participants of all ages share. At a recent workshop at the beautiful Sylva Public Library, I talked with my group about photographs and the way they lead us to stories by inviting us to think about what is happening both within and beyond the frame of the picture. I was delighted when one of the participants pulled out a photograph of her neighbor and her granddaughter–a perfect example of an image revealing a relationship, in this case, a sweet relationship.

A favorite snapshot of the paternal grandparents I never knew shows the two of them with John the mule between them. My father said that his dad was very tall. The picture shows me just how tall he was because it stopped at his shoulders. His head was above the frame. Tall, indeed. That picture leaves me wondering who held the camera and why my grandfather’s whole image wasn’t included, and why the photographer didn’t just step back a bit. I’ll never know, but I do see my grandfather’s height. My grandmother, who came just to his shoulders, was rather tall herself. I love that picture.

My book The Picture Man looks at photography as a keeper of our stories. Whether you read the book or not, why not pull out your own pictures and enjoy some family conversation over personal memories and stories of days past.

Aug 202011

Until I was 11 years old, my family lived in a house with a mimosa tree in the yard. Mimosa trees have smooth bark and V-shaped branching–perfect for climbing. In the mimosa’s gentle arms, I honed my tree-climbing skills and watched the world.

In summer, when pink tasseled blossoms covered the tree, the yard was a fragrant garden that smelled like a potpourri of flowers, watermelon, and sweet hard candy. Years later, that scent is still fresh in my mind and entwined with childhood memories.

A familiar scent still calls me to stop and notice, as when my dog and I walked past a mimosa tree one morning.


Two hummingbirds
on phantom wings
and dip
a fruity floral scent
of pink