Writing Narratives at Bowers School


I had another lovely visit at the Bowers School in Manchester, CT.  This time I talked about Writing Narratives.  I spoke a lot about personal narratives and told stories from my own life.  One story is called Pants Problem and it’s about a time when I wet my pants in gym class.  The students all giggled and laughed like it’s the most embarrassing thing ever.  But for the rest of the day little kids approached me to tell me their own pants-wetting story.  I replied, “Maybe you’ll write about it some day!”

I have workshops will all the students over the next two weeks, but today I worked with the first graders.  I know it’s difficult for the little ones to think of a good story from their lives when writing personal narratives.  I wanted them to learn that moments with strong emotions often lead to a good story.  And since the younger students often draw their stories out, I wanted to teach them how to draw emotions.  We did happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused, and proud.  I could have taken 100 photographs of all of their wonderful work!  But here’s one example.

Tomorrow I work with the Kindergartners!  I can’t wait to see what they draw!


A Duck-lightful Surprise

I love doing my thing at school visits.  When I present a large group presentation, I know I am putting my MA in Theater Education to work, because I can project, I can entertain, and I can read the crowd.  (And it’s pretty much the only time I’m using that degree.)  I also love doing writing and art workshops in classrooms and working more closely with the students.

But sometimes … sometimes I get a surprise.  During my last school visit at Whittemore Elementary in Massachusetts, I had a 20 minute long break.  I found myself a little chair to sit in and rest my voice.  Then my friend Meredith Charles, who is the drama teacher there, saw me in my leisure and invited me to sit in on her drama class with the Kindergarteners.  They performed a Wishy-Washy play, based on the Wishy-Washy books, in which things, animals, and people get dirty and Mrs. Wishy-Washy cleans them.

It was very sweet and fun, and I wanted in.  So when they did it a second time, I asked to be the duck.  I got the part!

I play a duck who gets washed in a classroom play.

I play a duck who gets washed in a classroom play.

I play the role of Farm Duck who has carelessly paddled in mud causing a huge mess.  (This is after Cow and Pig have rolled in the mud.)  Mr. Wishy-Washy has discovered our mishap and has put us in the tub, one-by-one, to clean us.  See my wings, see my vacant, yet slightly distressed eyes.  I am committing to this duck role.  Acting!

Taking a Bow


The audience erupted, much like they do at the end of Hamilton I assume, and the cast and I took our bows.

I had THE BEST time in that short 20 minute break.  SO MUCH FUN.  Big thanks to Whittemore School for having me, to Meredith Charles for hooking me up with the gig, and to the lovely children who allowed me to be silly with them.


Fan Mail

Who doesn’t love fan mail? It’s one of the best parts of the job. You’re at home. The mailman comes. Instead of a handful of bills and a flyer for 40% off chimney cleaning, you get a big envelope filled with love and appreciation. It’s kinda awesome!

Yesterday, I got just that. Let me share a few.

In addition to the action and energy here, I love that the artist has drawn himself in the art.  This means I’ve done my job.  I’ve created a character and a world that the reader wants to participate in.  Love it!



This young artist drew a ninja on her Thank You note, then added that it was much more difficult than she thought it was going to be.  :)




This my favorite.  This note speaks directly to my presentation, not my work.  Kids, like many adults, are often under the misconception that because a picture book is shorter  and intended for a younger audience, that it is, therefore, easier to make.  I stress to the students how hard I work on the writing, how many drafts I do, the time I put into it.  And then, I talk to them about all the different aspects it takes to compose art that helps tell a story.


I LOVE making books, but they are so much more difficult than even my biggest, best, and most complicated paintings. Like this one:

Pair of Koi    J. C. Phillipps 2015

Pair of Koi J. C. Phillipps 2015

Painting this was cherry cheesecake compared to making a picture book.

And whereas I never want to make it seem like making a book is an insurmountable task to any young artist or writer, I do want them to read a book and appreciate all the work, craft, and talent that has gone into it.

A note like this makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.

Character Development at Bowers Elementary

We played a game called Charlie Brown or Lucy when looking at character's voice

We played a game called Charlie Brown or Lucy when discussing voice

I had a wonderful author visit at the Bowers Elementary School yesterday. When they contacted me months ago, they said the students were interested in learning about character development, so I created a program just for them. The presentation talked about character analysis, voice, consistency, and character choices. I love to make the presentations as fun and inclusive as possible. I created a game called Lucy or Charlie Brown in which students come up to the front and are given a paddle on which one side had a picture of Charlie Brown and one side had a picture of Lucy. They students were then shown – with no context at all – a quote. They had to decide, based on the word choices and tone, if Charlie Brown said it or Lucy. They did a fabulous job with it!

Analyzing characters with an Outside/Inside worksheet

Analyzing characters with an Outside/Inside worksheet

I did some workshops throughout the day. With the Kindergartners, I did OUTSIDE/INSIDE worksheets. I read LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers and we talked about the outside of the character, Boy, and what he was like on the inside. I gave the students symbols to represent caring, smart, brave, calm, etc.

Acting out a student scene for a character development exercise.

Acting out a student scene for a character development exercise.

The second graders had a different task. We created two characters with opposite character traits, then I assigned them a short scene to write. Their goal was to try to shape the voice of their characters to inform the reader/listener of their character traits. This is a difficult task to accomplish in 30 minutes, but they did a great job! Here, I am reading a scene with a student about two video game characters and mine just went BOOM!

Silly Face Classroom Shot

Silly Face Classroom Shot

I had a fabulous time with all the Bowers students and I’m really looking forward to returning and working with the older grades! THANK YOU BOWERS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!

World Read Aloud Day

I'm Skyping with Kindergartners for World Read Aloud Day!

I’m Skyping with Kindergartners for World Read Aloud Day!

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Yay! I celebrated by speaking with 60 lovely and well-behaved Kindergartners, reading Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, making a horse collage, and seeing some fabulous student art. That’s my kind of party!

Ninja Brownies

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hanging with a lovely troop of Brownies.  I was a Brownie.  I wore the brown sash.  I sold the cookies.  The whole she-bang.

These lovely ladies had a ton of enthusiasm and we did something new: a ninja read-along.  Enough of them had bought their own books, so when one asked if she could read along with me, I said, “Sure!”







After reading, I talked about the process of making the book – ever so briefly. Then we made our own collage ninja. I was particularly charmed by this Ninja Cat. I think there’s a book there!


BIG THANKS to the Brownies for having me in. I had a great time with you all!

Forty-Six Skype Visits

Scenes from my Skype Author Visits

Scenes from my Skype Author Visits


In March, I signed up with Skype in the Classroom to do 30-minute Skype Author Visits.  It’s a virtual world, people, and this is the way things are moving.  Part of me loves this, because I really don’t like to travel very much.  But there is something very nice about going into a school, meeting children and teachers, and working with the kids.  Plus – when I go to a school they buy books and I get paid.  That’s always nice.  Skype visits are free.  Well, as of right now they are free.  If and when I ever become a big wig, I can charge.  Mwah-ha-ha, money, money, money.  But until that time, I’m fine with free.

Another bonus is that teachers send me these great shots of my big face on a giant screen looking silly, and shots of the fabulous collage creations the kids make after they speak with me (and sometimes before.)  I love that!

After 46 visits in 3 months, I have learned a few things about doing Skype Visits.  If you’re an author or illustrator or something who wants to know more about Skyping, check out my blog post.

Thanks for dropping in.  Enjoy the site!




Before and During at Duffy School


I love a nice, neat table set up with all the supplies needed to make art.  Look how clean and orderly …. ahhhhh.

Then I love the beautiful chaos that is created when the children come and draw, cut, and glue – making a magnificent mess of the best kind.  And art.  They’re making art, too.

I just completed a lovely 2-day visit at the Louise Duffy School and had lots of fun working with the Kindergarteners and First Graders on Illustration and The Simples Love a Picnic on Day 1.  Day 2 was all about Wink and ninjas with the Second Graders.  We made Dreaming Ninja collages and the kids drew whatever dream their ninja was having.  This artist ninja is just TOO CUTE!

BIG THANKS to Jill Dailey, the superb media specialist who has had me in time and again, and everyone at Duffy School!  It feels like a second home to me!  Go Duffy!


Ninja Fun at East Haddam Elementary

I had a lovely author visit at East Haddam Elementary!

Students make wonderful ninja collages.

Students make wonderful ninja collages.

Students (and me) pose with their ninja collages.

Students (and me) pose with their ninja collages.

I did two large group presentations, made LOTS of collage ninjas, read Monkey Ono to the pre-schoolers and convinced them that I traveled to their school via the toilet. It was a wonderful day at a wonderful school and the students could not have been more charming, polite, and excited about my books or my visit. THANK YOU to Mrs. Phillips, the media specialist there, and the PTO for organizing and funding my trip!

Ninja Attack at Squadron Line

Author J. C. Phillipps doing ninja poses.

Author J. C. Phillipps doing ninja poses.

I had such a great time at my author visit at Squadron Line on Monday.  Seriously – these people treated me like a world class author/illustrator!  My host, Jamie Sepa, was waiting for me at the front door.  NEVER has that happened before.  He escorted me to the library, saw to my every need, bought me lunch, took me from classroom to classroom, and even provided chocolate.  The students were energetic and charming.  The PTO was there and super kind and helpful.  And, to top it all off, they sold a bunch of my books.  Yippee!

Examples of ninja collages done by first graders.

Examples of ninja collages done by first graders.

BIG THANKS to Mr. Sepa and everyone at Squadron Line!  I had a wonderful time!