Playing In The Sandbox: Canva

I really love YouTube self-help videos.

I’ve fixed the door latch on a microwave, figured out what was wrong with my dishwasher so I could tell the appliance guy what part to order, and decided which computer would be my next purchase.

I also love Canva. I love design, and color – for me, playing with Canva is like being a kid again with a blank sheet of paper and fingerpaints, or creating something cool in a sandbox. So when a friend confessed that she didn’t get Canva and another piped up that it made her cry, I decided to make a couple of self-help videos, and I’m sharing them with you all here.

Whether you are an educator looking to create a cool poster for your classroom, or a writer wanting to make a series of marketing items, I hope these will be helpful to you.

Small caveat: I was a Canva Beta user, so I’ve been playing with it for a while. When they offered the Pro version, I leapt. Some of the details may not be quite the same if you don’t have the Pro version, but most of them will still be available to you.

I would love to know what else you’d like me to explore!

The Simple Basics

Resizing Posts or Banners

One of the features I like the best is the “resizing” feature. You can create a single post (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) or banner/header, and then resize it in seconds. This shortens your work considerably. Here’s how you do that:


The Magic of Background Remover

This is probably the coolest thing in Canva (that I’ve discovered so far…). You can take a picture – even a complicated picture – of something and remove the background so that you can then reuse that image in new ways in Canva. As an example of what I mean, here’s a marketing image I made. The photo was taken on the surface of my carpet – ugly for sure. By removing the carpet, I added a new background, and:

This is a complicated photo, right? Lots of edges and corners. But Canva did it all for me. I could also have added text to this if I’d wanted, but I didn’t need it.

Here’s the video tutorial to using background remover:


Finally, here’s another short video on making things “move”:

Again, let me know if there’s anything else you want to learn – I love Canva!

Special Coaching Offer!

Are you writing a spooky middle grade novel this November? I have a special coaching offer just for you!

As you know, I’ve written two acclaimed spooky middle grade novels, and am a member of the Spooky Middle Grade Authors group. I’m also a book coach!

I’m offering a chance for you to craft a working plan for your spooky MG novel. I’ll read and comment on your 500-word synopsis, guide you through crafting a two-page outline, and discuss your project in a 15-minute Zoom or phone call. All this in a two-week window and for only $210.


Please contact me before October 15 to get in on this one-time offer. A limited number of spots are available, so don’t wait.

Jump-start your spooky middle grade novel with me!


Contact Me Here!

3 Ways to Bring Books Into Classrooms

This post is for both educators and writers. I hope it will be useful!

Text Sets

I had never heard of Text Sets until my friend Deb Gonzales directed me to Barb Rosenstock’s website. Barb has made Text Sets for her books, and they are an awesome teaching tool.

Text Sets provide, in two pages, book titles (fiction and nonfiction) and links to material that enhances and enriches the reading experience of a book. Here’s a screen shot of a small portion of the text set I’ve made for CARRY ME HOME:


And here’s a link to the pdf Text Set for CARRY ME HOME. Note that because of the live links embedded in the document, it’s easier to use on line, but can be downloaded and reproduced as well.

Teacher Guides

I’ve made downloadable pdf Teacher Guides for all of my books. Unlike Text Sets, Teacher Guides provide suggested activities. Early on my guides were lengthy – now I find that again, two pages is just about right.

Some of the kinds of things that can be included in a Teacher Guide are:

  • puzzles/games
  • science activities
  • vocabulary work/textual discussion questions
  • thematic discussion questions
  • character/plot analyses
  • critical thinking analyses

And so on. Here’s an example of the Teacher Guide for my picture book VOLCANO DREAMS.

Video/Audio Snippets

I’m about to start making video and/or audio snippets of my work. When I was teaching – 8th and 9th graders – I often read aloud to them in class. I don’t think we should ever stop reading aloud, honestly. Listening to a reading touches a different part of the brain, and enhances comprehension, particularly for auditory learners.

I made one video for my publisher this past spring, and an audio recording for TeachingBooks, and I read aloud from my books for both of these. My new goal is to offer very short read-alouds of portions of my books and post them on line. I’ll keep you informed, with links!

What suggestions do you have for ways to bring books alive in classrooms? Please share! With thanks!

Giveaways of CARRY ME HOME

A couple of giveaways of copies of CARRY ME HOME are running right now. First, this one ends at midnight on September 14, and these three copies are signed by me:


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Carry Me Home by Janet Fox

Carry Me Home

by Janet Fox

Giveaway ends September 14, 2021.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway


And over at, my publisher, Simon & Schuster, is giving away five copies, ending September 27. If you’d like a signed bookplate for one of these copies, contact me.

Contact Me For a Signed Bookplate

And you can always order signed copies from my indie bookseller, Country Bookshelf.

Order a Signed Copy of CARRY ME HOME

If you’ve read CARRY ME HOME, would you consider writing an honest review? I appreciate you!!

Write a Review of CARRY ME HOME

Self-care For Writers (& Everyone Else)

These two years have been so difficult for so many. And every day life throws another curveball into the mix, from weather nightmares to military nightmares to ethical nightmares to health nightmares.

For parents and teachers, this new school year is a mixed bag. Everyone’s thrilled to be back in the classroom (where that’s possible), but the lurking issues around Covid make it difficult to relax.

For writers, add the stress of the mixed-up publishing industry: mergers, overwhelmed editors and agents, shipping issues, and booksellers struggling with Covid, or storm or fire damage.


Time For Some Self-Care: Personal

I see the insecurities appearing in my coaching clients. Some have struggled with serious writer’s block, others with serious health problems, and still others with the pain of rejection. A lot of what I do is try to help my clients through these painful moments. Sometimes that means reconnecting with the important stuff: yourself.

So, take a deep breath. Place your feet flat on the floor to ground yourself. Place your hands in your lap, and let your shoulders relax. Sit still with your eyes closed for thirty seconds.

Now – what do you hear? Is the air around you warm or cool? Can you empty your mind of thought and just be in this moment with your sensory channels wide open?

Now, can you get up and take a walk, preferably outside in nature? (It goes without saying – leave the cell phone at home.) Let your mind rest.

Self-Care: Writerly

If you are having trouble with your current manuscript – if you are feeling stuck or hopeless or like it’s just not good enough – here’s are two exercises:

  1. Write, on one page, in a couple of paragraphs, exactly WHY you are writing this current work-in-progress. What are you trying to say – about yourself, the world, your character? What drove you toward this idea? Why is it important to you, right now?
  2. Write a backstory scene, with your main character, that goes to the heart of her internal conflict. What brought her to this place in her life, emotionally? What underlies all her dreams and wishes, as shown in that scene? For example, if you have a young character who has lost a parent, write the scene of that loss, that tragedy, from the point of view of that young character.

As a book coach, I give the writers I work with exercises like these. My Story Heart Workbook also contains a series of short exercises designed to get you thinking more creatively about your manuscript.

The Importance of Connection

One of the reasons I think so many of us are struggling now is that Covid, on top of the world’s politicized issues, has created deep divides. Many of us are alone, or isolated, and have lost connections.

One of the themes in CARRY ME HOME deals with connection. My main character Lulu is isolated by her fears. It isn’t until she realizes that she has an entire community around her of people who care (whether she knows it or not) that she can finally lean on someone else for help.

So my last suggested exercise: contact someone you haven’t seen in a while. Send them a note, an email, an actual letter, or make a phone call – and just say, “Hello! How are you?”

And – please let me and everyone here know if you have self-care exercises to share. With love and thanks.

Practice Kindness

Practicing kindness makes you happier, healthier, and more connected to those around you, but according to a recent survey from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project, 80% of children in this survey believe that parents are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others. How do we develop these social emotional skills in a way that will resonate with our young audiences? And how do we teach kindness to others as a priority, not an option?

Kindness doesn’t have to be complicated. In Carry Me Home, Lulu discovers genuine kindness can be found in even the most simple gifts. In the Shaker Hymn Simple Gifts, Lulu connects with her lineage, but also with a deep sense of love and caring. Lulu takes us on her journey to show us that the smallest acts have the deepest impact.

Simple Gifts

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down to where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right.
‘Twill be the valley of love and delight (pg. 65).

Now it’s your turn to positively impact the lives of those around you through a simple gift. Using the Carry Me Home Activity Guide, facilitate your own public service project offering hope, kindness and encouragement to those who are experiencing the heartache of homelessness. Gather your kind crew and make a difference in the life of someone in need by offering them the simple gift of a Blessing Bag made possible by your organizational efforts.

Blessing Bags

Each Blessing Bag will contain Lulu and Serena’s basics for good hygiene, but also the Simple Gifts lyrics bookmark, an Origami Crane craft card, and the Blessings Cards. Be sure to write your hopes and blessings for the recipient of your bag on the back of the Blessing Card print out. Write a note reminding your bag recipient that there are people who care and want to help. (Note that all of the above links take you to downloadable images.)

There was an old Japanese belief that anyone who made a thousand paper cranes by folding them in the origami way could make a wish and that wish would come true, so the girl began making paper cranes, wishing to get well (pg. 14)

What is your wish for those in need? How are you extending kindness– simply? Remember that kindness benefits those who receive it, but also those who give it.

Giveaway of Carry Me Home

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Carry Me Home by Janet Fox

Carry Me Home

by Janet Fox

Giveaway ends September 14, 2021.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Make A Difference

One of my writing heroes is Linda Sue Park. For one thing, she writes so beautifully – simple, clear, pure, and filled with emotional weight. (She’s also skilled at teaching writing craft, BTW.) But for another thing, she recognizes the importance of words and their potential impact on the world.

Her novel, A Long Walk to Water, is based on true stories of the difficulty of obtaining water – essential to life – in north/central Africa. After she wrote it, the power of her story became clear, as children across the globe responded to the need for easy access to water.

If you’ve never seen Linda Sue’s TEDx talk, it’s worth a watch:


Change the World

Using insight and a dose of magic to change the world, one book at a time.

There’s a reason I love that phrase and use it as my personal motto. I aspire to write a book that could make a difference, to impact the world in the way that A Long Walk to Water does.

This is my fervent hope for Carry Me Home. That my book would (a) give voice to the need for remedies to homelessness, and (b) give Lulu her voice, to reach out for the help that she wants. And in addition, to encourage kids, wherever they are and in whatever circumstances, to know that help is out there.

A Very Important Moment: Now

At the very moment I write this post, people across this country are dealing with possible eviction from their homes, due to repercussions from the pandemic. We cannot not fault the landlords; they have bills to pay, too. The problem is that for too long we’ve ignored the problem of affordable housing.

I say when I am signing my book, ‘Everyone should have a home’, and I truly believe that.

All of Us: Let’s Do It

Those of us who can – we all need to raise our voices in alarm that some among us have 4 or 5 luxurious homes, and some sleep in their cars.

Among other things, the very people we rely on all the time – waitstaff, delivery people, cooks, grocery clerks, store workers, skilled laborers, hospital workers, home healthcare workers, and more – all those folks are being shut out of affordable housing. This is not about people who can work but don’t, but about people who want to work but can’t.

Can’t, because they can’t live where the work exists. I see this first-hand in the restaurants and stores in my small city in a rural state, where businesses simply cannot get help and must close early, or entirely.

For every copy of Carry Me Home that is pre-ordered from my indie Country Bookshelf, I will donate my percentage earnings to our local non-profit for the homeless, HRDC.

Pre-order a Signed Copy of CARRY ME HOME

Please help me support measures that support affordable housing. Please help me raise awareness about the homeless. Share this message, if you can.

Most especially, let’s think about the children. With deepest thanks.

Fun Stuff: Give-Aways

I have some spiffy new bookplates!

They’re small enough to fit on the book’s endpapers but large enough for really generous personalization. If you’ve bought any of my books and would like one of these, let me know with personalization details and I’ll get one out to you.bookmarks

And for Carry Me Home – I have these sweet pins of paper cranes, plus bookmarks. Pre-orders are being taken now at my hometown indie Country Bookshelf – in the notes when you order just let them know how you’d like the book to be personalized and I’ll throw in other fun stuff for you. The book is out August 24 and will ship to you right away.


Pre-Order CARRY ME HOME Here

Have Others of My Books??

For those of you with either of my Rookskill Castle books (The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, or The Artifact Hunters), in addition to a signed bookplate I’ve got:

  • Magnets
  • Bookmarks
  • Pins
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers

Let me know you’ve given any of my books an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads and I’ll send you an entire package of goodies.swag goodies

If you are a teacher or librarian (just let me know), I have other give-aways, including:

  • Card packs with QR code leading to an audio spooky short story
  • Mini-lessons for several of my books

Just click here to contact me regarding any of the above:

Contact Me

Please do remember to “help-an-author” and pre-order Carry Me Home. With my thanks!

Coming Soon: Carry Me Home

In one month, my next novel Carry Me Home, comes out. That’s my ninth book out in the world!

I have 2 ARCs to give away, with some swag! The first 2 commenters here with snail mail addys, win those ARCs!

I really love and am proud of this book and of Lulu, the twelve-year-old girl who is my main character. And while it sounds like a sad book – Lulu, her sister Serena, and their father living in a car – it has a positive ending.

Kirkus said: “Fox offers a message via Jack when he learns about Lulu’s life: “No one should have to live in a car.” Cranes…represent wishes granted and a kind of grace, leading to a satisfying, redemptive conclusion nicely pitched to a young audience.”


…is an issue facing so many right now. Between the pandemic and loss of jobs and housing costs, so many people can’t afford a place to live. This isn’t right.

I’m hoping that Carry Me Home raises awareness. That kids who read it will learn to understand what it means to be homeless, and if they are homeless that they find ways to seek support.cover of book Carry Me Home

But the novel is not just an “issue” book. It’s also a story about friendship and family, and the strength of one young girl in taking care of herself and her sister in the only way she can.

Preorders and Reviews

…help an author enormously.

If you are planning to buy the book, I’d love it if you’d preorder it. And I’d love to sign it to you, to someone as a gift, to your teacher or your school, and if you order from my indie, Country Bookshelf, I can do that.

And here’s a special offer: if you are willing to write an honest review, let me know in the comments and include your snail mail addy, and I will send you a bookmark and a pin and some other swaggy gifts.

Plus: I have 2 ARCs to give away, with some swag! The first 2 commenters here with snail mail addys, win those ARCs!

Thanks for all your support!