Friday, January 27, 2012

Come on over to and my brand new website!

I am super excited about my revamped website,  That's where you'll find my Storymagician blog now, right under "Blogs/Media".  You can always find my blog at too.

I've enjoyed connecting with students, librarians, teachers, readers, and other writers here.  Thanks for visiting.  

Now all things "Storymagician" will be in one spot,  See you there!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thank you, Stillson Elementary Creative Writers, for skyping with me today!

Dear Stillson Elementary Creative Writers,

It was such fun meeting with you today through Skype.  I am so inspired that you are seriously pursuing your writing by meeting and talking and thinking and WRITING!  Say hooray for yourselves!

I wanted to share that my NEW website should be up by next Wednesday.  Check then and you'll see a brand new, dynamic site.  Under the MEET MARSHA tab you can read a bit about my life and how I started writing.  There's also an ASK MARSHA section.  If you want to know more about where I get my ideas you can click my books under MAGICAL WRITINGS.  I share a bit about each book.

Remember to try to write a little every day, even if only for five minutes.  And remember to read the best books you can find, as well as write the best stories you can write.  Good writing has a rhythm, a flow.  When you read wonderful writing, it will get into your mind and your "bones" and it will help you become a better writer.

And just for you, here's an early draft of ROAR OF A SNORE.  If you read the book, you'll see there were LOTS of changes...for the better, I think.

Have fun writing wonderful stories!!  And thank you, Ms. Merconti, for making it all happen!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Skyping with Geary Elementary

Yes, that's me on the wall, both the child me (from many years ago) and the current me. I use three screens: Keynote for the slideshow, Skype so I can see the students, and Photo Booth so they can see me. Some issues doing it this way, like I don't know WHERE to look, but it works quite well.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanks for skyping, Geary Elementary. "Story starters"below.

Thanks for the fun Skype chat on Wednesday, Geary Elementary.  It was good "seeing" you!

Have any of you started your own Scribbles and Scraps file yet?  It can be a file folder, an envelope, a box...anything you want.  You can name your file "My Great Idea File" or "Scribbles and Scraps" or "Story Seeds" or make up your own name.  It's a great place to keep story ideas that may someday become wonderful stories.

In my writing funshops, I enjoy sharing story ideas with students.  Story seeds, I sometimes call them.  Below are a few.  See what fun stories you can come up with from these story seeds.

1) Some time ago I visited the Galapagos Islands, a group of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador in South America.  On the Galapagos, you find strange and unusual animals. Some, like the marine iguana and the Galapagos tortoise, are found nowhere else on earth.

One of my favorite animals on the Galapagos Islands is the blue-footed booby. 

In this photo he appears to be amazed by his own feet!
They are pretty amazing. Bright blue. 
This one photo is enough to begin the storytelling process. 
What if he didn’t like his blue feet?  Can you tell that story?
Or what if he loved his blue feet so much, 
he became vain and boastful.  Can you tell that story?
This blue-footed booby is your first story seed.

2) Here's your second story seed:
Look at the baby sea lion in the picture below.

He appears a bit lost.
Thankfully he knows how to read signposts!

I wonder where he’s going.  
What could you write about this?  
Is the sea-lion lost or on an adventure?  
Where do you think he's going?  To find his mother?  To find a friend?  To go for a swim in the ocean? To hide from a Galapagos monster?  Yikes!

If you want to stay closer to home :-), you might like to write about a pet of your own or a pet that belongs to a friend.  Remember how I asked during our Skype chat how many of you had pets or knew a pet?  Remember how I told you pets are a good place to get ideas for stories?  
You might have a great story about your pet to write.  Fantastic! But I'd also like you to consider the third story seed below.
3) Write two letters.  
In the first you are writing a letter to your pet.  Just a few paragraphs.  It might start like this: 

Dear Twinkie, Since you’re a cat and can’t come to school, I’m going to tell you what it’s like around here.
In the second letter your pet is writing to you about things that are happening at home.   Just a few paragraphs.
Dear Sally, Since I’m a cat and you’re not, I think you should know why I scratched up your bean bag chair last night…
There you have it, Geary Elementary Story Magicians.  Three story seeds to lead you into three stories.  Have fun!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Skyping through the fall and winter, in my cozy home

Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Mary Beth Hudek and her delightful 2nd grade class.  They attend Madison Elementary in Middletown, Ohio.  I told them a bit about my picture books, answered the students' great questions, and showed them my garden and office (By moving the monitor.  Mary Beth, don't tell about the accident I had while moving it!  Actually, I spilled my tea, but the students checked out the garden while I cleaned up and soon we were on track again.)  Note to self:  No tea on my desk while skyping, even if I do have a bad cough.

One of the students took photos of the event, which you'll see below.  Great pics!  The students were reading and thinking about their questions in the two last photos.  They were most insightful.

Thanks for a wonderful visit across the miles!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Skype visit makes Read Aloud West Virginia statewide news

In June 2011, I chatted with second, third, and fourth graders in a rural part of West Virginia via Skype.  Tina Riley, Technology Integration Specialist extraordinaire for Roane County Schools, had worked a year on the project, researching 16 authors.  I was the lucky author she selected to skype with and we had a grand time.  

In September, Tina contacted me again by e-mail, with the subject heading "News...better than I imagined".
One of the teachers at Reedy Elementary is also part of the Read Aloud committee for West Virginia.  She contacted the state director about our Skype visit.  The next thing Tina knew the visit had made statewide news.  You can read the entire story at  I'll also post it below.

Now Tina is arranging for three more West Virginia schools to Skype with me, this time with an honorarium and organized activities at each school.  She's also had contact with a college that's interested in learning more about Skype visits with educators and authors.

Congratulations to Tina Riley, a special person and tireless educator and all the educators involved in connecting students with authors and illustrators.  May the Skyping continue on.

Here's the wonderful news that was shared with all of West Virginia:

Roane students Skype with author Marsha Arnold

On one of the last days of the 2010 - 2011 school year, Reedy Elementary School’s second, third, and fourth graders hustled into Mrs. Hall’s fourth grade classroom to quickly find a seat.  Using web cameras and Skype at promptly 12:30, students dialed to begin traveling across the USA via the computer.  On the opposite coast in California, it was 9:30 in the morning and author Marsha Diane Arnold clicked on the phone icon as the computerized phone ring sounded in her home.  Students were thrilled to see a split screen come into view as they said hello to Ms. Arnold while at the same time being able to watch themselves!

Thanks to Roane County Schools’ Technology Integration Specialist, Tina Riley,  and the Read Aloud WV committee, Reedy Elementary School students were able to spend a twenty minute visit being able to talk with published children’s author, Marsha Diane Arnold.  After a quick discussion of the difference in the weather in both places (it was sunny in West Virginia) and a view of the rain in Ms. Arnold’s back yard, the group moved on to the reasons Ms. Arnold became a writer.  Ms. Arnold shared her “idea file”, where “jumbles of scribbles and scraps (napkins, envelopes, and check deposit slips to name a few) live”.  Ms. Arnold explained how to capture ideas while encouraging students to begin their own idea file. 

Ms. Arnold spend another part of their visit showing the process of creating a book by demonstrating how a story and it’s illustration evolve from those jumbles of scribbles and scraps.  She emphasized the rewriting process, showing samples of her own rewrites and explained illustration changes from early sketches to the final picture. It certainly gave the students something to think about as they were finally able to stand and one by one ask their questions of Ms. Arnold. From why did you decide to become an author to where did you get the idea to write the book, 
Roar of the Snore, to how many children do you have, Reedy Elementary students spend the last ten minutes sharing with Ms. Arnold.  As the twenty minutes rolled to an end, the students said their good byes and waved to Ms. Arnold. 

The “Skype An Author Network” virtual tour between Reedy Elementary School and Ms. Arnold was used as an pilot with the hopes to bring it to the other three county elementary schools in the next school year.  After spending almost an entire year  viewing the different authors, Tina Riley, Roane County Schools’ Technology Integration Specialist approached the Read Aloud WV committee for help to make this pilot happen.   Read Aloud WV Roane County Coordinator, Meg Goffreda offers this advice to other schools wishing to give it a try.   “ After had the experience of a virtual visit with an author and having authors visit our school, the discussion and interaction between the author and the students whether in person or on a screen is so very much the same. Once students understand how the technology works and we all know how quickly they are able to adapt, they’re more than happy to carry on the conversation as if the author is right there in the room with them.  It was an awesome experience that I would encourage other schools to try. Mrs. Riley’s many talents as our school system’s TIS enabled her to find the website, Skype An Author Network, and be able to set the entire project up for our school.  The site alone has thousands of authors who are willing to skype with libraries and schools across the country. While most of the time is a cost involved, some of the authors will provide the service giving twenty minutes for free.  Marsha Arnold was one of those special authors and due to her skyping with just one of our county schools, we’re hoping to bring her back for more than the free twenty minutes to do the same of the other Roane County elementary schools.  Most published authors have web sites so picking a book and then contacting the author to skype with your class is another option to look into.  Skyping is so simple.  All the directions for needed materials, how to set, and skyping the other party are all right there on the Skype An Author website.   Roane County Schools is so fortunate to have the many talents of our TIS, Tina Riley.  We would never have been one of the first school systems in the state of West Virginia to use the Skype An Author (  Our Read Aloud committee is excited to see what she shares with us next year!”


Saturday, September 24, 2011

150 Best Ks Books, THE BRAVEST OF US ALL goes digital, Kansas sesquicentennial and Book Festival

Dorothy Gale, Amelia Earhart, and Marsha Diane Arnold.  What do we have in common? We're all from Kansas!  Today Kansas is celebrating some of its "children" and stories at the Kansas Book Festival in Topeka.

It's an especially wonderful festival as this is also the year Kansas is commemorating its sesquicentennial.  The Kansas State Library selected 150 "Best" Kansas Books in celebration of 150 years, so this adds a glow to the festival, especially in my eyes as two of my books made the list.  Thank you Kansas librarians.

My parents' family, grandparents' family, and great-grandparents' family spent many years farming and surviving on the Kansas plains.  They knew dust storms, tornadoes, crop failures, and tornadoes.

Both of my books were inspired by my Kansas roots. Prancing, Dancing Lily, the story of a cow who doesn't fit in with the herd, was inspired by my father's Ayrshire dairy herd.

Helping my father feed an Ayrshire calf on "the farm".

The Bravest of Us All was inspired by my Grandmother Krehbiel's storm cellar, which she and her family used not only for root vegetables and laying hens, but to seek shelter from storms and tornadoes.

Check behind my father and that chicken to see my grandmother's storm cellar.

Illustrator Brad Sneed and I are delighted The Bravest of Us All is now available in digital form.  You can find the digital storybook "app" for the iPad and the iPhone on  iTunes.  Enjoy the story, all about tornadoes, sisters, family, fear, and courage.

Find the Kansas Book Festival at: The Kansas Historical Society, 6425 SE 6th Avenue, Topeka, Ks from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., today, September 24th.