Monday, December 31, 2012

Here Comes 2013!

Looking Forward to 2013

Angel (my sister’s dog, in the chair) and Baxter (my dog) are looking forward to 2013. Here they are dressed in their holiday best. Angel loves it. Baxter tolerates it. Hoping 2013 finds you at your best, and that you love it more than tolerate it!

Happy New Year!

Happy 2013

Wishing you straight trails, glowing sunsets, and warm campfires.

Rob Sanders

Sunday, December 23, 2012

To One and All

A Cowboy Christmas Blessing

May all your Christmas trees tower tall.
May all your guests have a boot-stomping ball.
May all your chow be served pipin hot.
May all your horses gallop and trot
May all your evenings be starry bright
And may all your cattle sleep well tonight.

Rob Sanders

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It All Adds Up!

One Week in the Life Of An Author

Number of classes I visited.

Times I read Cowboy Christmas.

Books I signed for teachers and students

Number of schools I visited.

Number of performances I attended of
Cowboy Christmas—The Musical.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Springfield Memories

I’m back from a book-signing event at the Barnes & Noble in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri. My dear friend, Betty Swadley, helped organize the event. Betty and her husband, Rev. Paul Swadley—aka: Swad—pastored the church I attended as a teenager and college student. They also know everyone in Springfield—including Renee Hunt, the customer relations manager at Barnes & Noble.

I read the book at the beginning of the signing and all fifty books were sold out before the event finished. (Thank goodness my aunts, uncles, and cousins had pre-ordered all of their copies ahead of time.)

This is my Aunt Becky and my cousins Donna Sanders Tiefenbrunn and Linda Sanders Garges.

Here I am with Mrs. Janet Henley, my third grade teacher at Bingham Elementary School. I write about Mrs. Henley (who prefers to be called Janet) every year with my students. She was the first teacher to read a chapter book to us (Little House on the Prairie) and the first to take us on a field trip (to the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum in Mansfield, MO). How great to reconnect and catch up with Mrs. Henley—I mean Janet!

My youth minister and his wife (Jack and Winnie Tuckness) were there with their three grown children and seven grandchildren. My cousins from the Raney side of the family—Jacqua Garrison and Dawn Lindsay—were there, too. Along with other South Haven friends. My best gal pal from Springfield, Lauri Massey, attended with her partner, Mickey, and their son, Ethan. And, of course, my sister Pat, was there every step of the way.

This is a picture of me and my twin-cousin, Linda. We were born two months apart (I’m older) and grew up together. The hat is a loaner from Linda’s husband, Mark.

Aunt Becky hosted a Sanders’ family reunion and thirty plus aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins joined us. I was humbled and honored at the effort they made to attend the book signing and the reunion. It’s been years (up to thirty or more) since I’ve seen some of these family members, and I had forgotten the warmth of their love, and the genuine, sincere way they conduct themselves and lead their lives. Thank you one and all.

On Sunday, Pat and I visited our Aunt Shirley (our mom's only remaining sibling) and Uncle Jack. Pat took me for a birthday lunch and to see family friends perform in The Nutcracker. Then Cousin Jacqua and her busband, Kevin, hosted us for dinner and a birthday cake. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like . . . COWBOYS!

Cowboy boot ornaments and candy canes greeted the teachers at my school today. They were clickin’ their heels with delight! Yee-haw!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


When I completed graduate school, the contract for the job I’d had for the previous two years also ended. I worked for the next year at the seminary (yes, seminary—long story) I had attended. I worked in public relations developing brochures, writing news releases, creating displays, and making minimum wage. When I moved on from that job, my co-workers took me for a going-away luncheon at a nearby Chinese restaurant. At the end of the meal came the fortune cookies.

My co-workers each gave me their fortune cookies, insisting that I would need all the good luck and fortune I could get as I moved on to my next career. I cracked open one cookie after another, reading each fortune as I went.

          Your road will be paved with success.
          An exciting destination awaits.
          New friends and new challenges are in your future.
          Miles separate friends, but they do not end friendships.

I was amazed that each and every fortune had special meaning to me. Sometimes I am a hopelessly na├»ve Midwesterner, and this was one of those times. I didn’t realize until the last cookie, that my co-workers had placed fortunes they had created for me in the cookies. Then I read the last fortune—You need to get back to work if you expect to be paid.

The laugh was on me, but the sentiments of those fortunes lingered in my mind long after I had moved.

Fortunes are still important me. But now it seems many fortunes you find inside those crunchy cookies aren’t fortunes at all. Often they are just quotes, or a statement of fact. Every now and then, however, I find a fortune worth holding on to. Shortly after signing my contract for COWBOY CHRISTMAS, I started saving fortunes that I wanted to come true. My collection includes these:

Opportunity is knocking at your front door.
Right now there’s an energy pushing you to stay on your path.
Nothing happens unless first a dream.
A new business venture is on the horizon.
You will soon receive an offer you cannot refuse.

Of course, I’ve probably thrown away four fortunes for every one I’ve kept. Who wants to hang on to a fortune you don’t want, or hope won’t come true? But holding on to the good ones . . . now that’s the key. A positive thought hidden inside a fortune cookie takes on special meaning when you want that fortune to come true. Then the forutne becomes a mantra, wish, hope, dream, goal. Once you start thinking those positive thoughts—or “putting them out in the universe” as my friend, Sharon, likes to say—you start acting and living in the truth of those fortunes. What you believe, is what you become.

If you could write a fortune today to describe the next step you want to take along your writing path, what would you write? What would your hope, dream, wish, or goal be? Write it down. You can even stick it inside a fortune cookie if you want. Then start living your new fortune. And keep writing.

This is a photo of my Shrine to the Sacred and Silly above my desk.
In the back right-hand corner you can see my fortunes sticking out of a small, white urn.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Here I am autographing book after book at the Barnes & Noble, South Tampa store (home of my PB&J critique group). We sold out of books and I ended up signing twenty-eight book plates for books that were ordered.

This is a cool fifth grader named Taylor. Taylor is an almost-black belt in Karate, loves science, and is an avid writer. We met at his elementary school last year when I led a writing camp for kids. His dad brought Taylor to the signing today. Who says older kids don’t read picture books?!

Here I am with my ole teaching pal, Lori Ritenor. Lori and I taught together six or seven years ago when we both first moved to Tampa. Lori was one of the many writing, teaching, and SCBWI friends that stopped by today.

To top it all off, the Barnes & Noble store has declared this week COWBOY CHRISTMAS WEEK and the employees will be dressing in cowboy gear and wearing pins featuring the book all week long. Much thanks to Beth Gaffney, Customer Relations Manager!

Read All About It!

Featured in

YEE-HAW! Cowboy Christmas is featured in the Sunday, December 2, New York Times Book Review. Cowboy Christmas is the first book in “Bookshelf: Holidays in America,” and the review includes a wonderful two-page spread from the book. You can check out the review at

The text of the review reads:

Three cowboys, Dwight, Darryl and Dub, along with their chef, Cookie, are waiting for “Santy Claus.” But how will he find them out on the range? Hearts a-worrying, they sit around the campfire, recalling Christmases past. Full of corn-poke phrases like “knee-high to a grasshopper” and “darn tootin’,” the text is sure to elicit a giggle, and the simple story, complete with its jingling-bells ending, is the cheery kind children seem to cling to this time of year. Older children will notice that Santa isn’t quite who he seems, but younger siblings will believe.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another Fun Day!


Today I participated in Written Inspiration: A Childrens Book-signing Event at the Hern Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Of course, my trusty cactus, hat, and boots went along for the trip.

Kids who visited my table made COWBOY CHRISTMAS bolo ties.

Best story of the day:
Two young boys and their mom rushed over to my table. We checked your book out from our library last week, and weve read it eight nights in a row for bedtime. 

I asked the boys what their favorite part of the book was. One responded, Its about cowboys and Christmas. (That about sums it up, doesnt it?!) 

While the boys were busy, Grandma snuck away and bought them a copy for Christmas. Of course, I autographed the book and added a big YEE-HAW!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What a day!

at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

Cowboy Hapi and his best gal, Patty, greeted folks with toe-tapping music.

There was a spread of vittles.

Balloons floated at the festivities. (Thanks to my Canadian critique pal, Aimee.)

There was talkin.

And book readin.

And book signin.

The books sold out, the cookies were chomped down, the kids were hilarious, my friends were so helpful, and we laughed and had a blast.

Thanks to my PB&J critique group, my sister, Pat, and the staff of Inkwood for helping create a humdinger of a shindig!

Friday, November 2, 2012


Some of the sweets for tomorrow's event. Come enjoy the hoedown!

You are invited to the launch party for Rob Sanders


Saturday, November 3
2:00-4:00 p.m.
Inkwood Books
216 S. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, FL 33609

Book reading and signings
Music by the Crab Grass Cowboys
Sweets from Crumb de la Crumb
Door prizes and fun!

Yall come!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cowboy Christmas at Inkwood Books

Inkwood Books (on Armenia Avenue in Tampa, Florida) has a great COWBOY CHRISTMAS display right smackdab at the front counter. Next Saturday, November 3, Inkwood will host the COWBOY CHRISTMAS book launch. If you’re within driving distance of Tampa, come on over! We’ll have music, refreshments, a reading, autographs, door prizes, and more!

Picture This! Update

Have you ever heard someone say that you should have your website, blog, and everything else in place before your book releases because you’ll never have time afterwards? Well, it’s true! My days are being spent in promotional activities and with other writing projects. I promise I’ll get back to posting on Picture This! So hang on, my friends, good things are coming soon!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Winners!


The drawing for autographed copies of Cowboy Christmas has just been held, and I’m happy to announce the five winners—all of whom promoted the release of Cowboy Christmas this week.

The winners are:
Joyce Ragland
MF Atkins
Lauri Meyers
Laura S.
Robyn Campbell

Winners, please email me at include your full name, your mailing address, and how you would like the book to be personalized. THANK YOU! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thank You! Thank You Very Much!


What a wonderful week! Thanks to everyone for helping launch Cowboy Christmas in such an outstanding way. Thanks to . . .

. . . my principal who made an announcement in faculty meeting the day of my book release and who has the Cowboy Christmas promo items on her door. Thanks, DM!

. . . the teacher who downloaded the Nook version of Cowboy Christmas to read to his preschool son, but showed me first (knowing my lack of techno savvy-ness). Thanks, Jim!

. . . the indy book store owner who is trying to schedule an event with me, but who had already ordered Cowboy Christmas after reading about it in the Random House catalog. Thanks, Krista!

. . . my editor who sent me the Publishers Weekly review of Cowboy Christmas hot-off-the-press, and then emailed back to say the cover of the book was included in the review—a super honor. Thanks, Diane!

. . . our receptionist at school who posted about the release on Facebook so friends at other schools would know about Cowboy Christmas, then ordered a copy of the book to display on her desk for parents and students to see. Thanks, Carrie!

. . . my niece-in-law who single-handedly located a book store in her community to host a book signing and promised to produce a crowd for the event. Thanks, Leah!

. . . to all of you who have Tweeted, blogged, posted on Facebook, sent emails, and promoted the release of Cowboy Christmas in ways I couldn’t even imagine. Thanks, Penny K., Joyce R., MF Atkins, Gail H., Lauri M., Leslie Z., Laura S., Robyn C., Leslie G., Susan B., and Carrie S.!

. . . and the countless number of people who have emailed, called, and contacted me this week with congratulations, posted to say you’ve received your copies of Cowboy Christmas, and placed an order. Thank you one and all!

Friday, September 14, 2012

How Sweet It Is!

How Sweet It Is!

Cookie is celebrating the release of Cowboy Christmas with some sweet recipes. Mix up a batch, sit a spell, read a good book (preferably Cowboy Christmas), and enjoy a tasty treat.

The recipes include:
No-beans Molasses Sugar Cookies

Cow Patties


It’s not too late to spread the news about Cowboy Christmas. Post a comment and let me know how you promoted my new release and you’ll be entered in a contest to win an autographed copy of Cowboy Christmas!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Spreading the
Cowboy Love!

This is the fantastic promotional postcard designed by the one and only Donna Farrell. I’ve already had the opportunity to hand these out at a writer’s workshop last weekend and at school.

And check this out, pardner . . .

 Donna also designed these round promotional items that I’m making into ornaments to share with principals, teachers, librarians, and more.

 They look great on a tree, don’t you think?!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cowboys At School?


This is the display for Cowboy Christmas that’s up in my classroom at Mintz Elementary, Brandon, FL. I love that students are already coming up to me and asking, “Are you the author?” or “Are you the guy who wrote Cowboy Christmas?” I answer, “Well, yes, I certainly am!”

All of our students are becoming familiar with the book already because our music teachers, Mrs. Cooper and Mrs. Witschen, have chosen to present Cowboy Christmas—The Musical as our holiday program! The musical includes songs with freshly cowboy’ed-up lyrics that will be sung by The Tumbleweed Chorus, and a cast with Dub, Darryl, Dwight, Cookie, and Santy Claus.

Here’s the link to Cowboy Christmas—The Musical: 

Feel free to share the link (and the news of Cowboy Christmas) with a classroom teacher, drama teacher, music educator, or librarian. YEEHAW!

A Present!


 What do you do when you receive a box full of advanced copies of your new picture book? You rip into that box that a kid at Christmas, look at each copy one by one, and then . . .

. . . you put on your best cowboy shirt and pose for a picture!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Publishers Weekly Review!


September 10, 2012 issue of Publishers Weekly (circ: 21,000):

Cowboy Christmas
Rob Sanders, illus. by John Manders. Random/Golden, $10.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-86985-3

For three cowboys out on the range, Christmas is looking mighty lonely. “‘No presents,’ said Dwight. ‘No stockings,’ added Darryl. ‘No Santy,’ groaned Dub.” As the cowpokes reminisce about the Christmas trees, cookies, and horses dressed as reindeer of their youths, camp chef Cookie suggests they create their own versions of those traditions. The results aren’t great (“charred sugar-molasses-bean cookies” are as bad as they sound), but a surprise visitor gives the cowboys a Christmas to remember. Sanders’ humorous, clipped prose and Manders’ loose, campfire-lit artwork are just right for the story’s down-and-dirty setting. As Dwight puts it, this one’s “a rip-roarin’ good time.” Ages 2–5. (Sept.)

Win a Copy!


This is Cowboy Christmas Celebration Week! Have you hugged a cowboy today? Wrestled a longhorn? Eaten beans and cornbread? I’m giving you fair warning—get your cowboy duds on, and get ready for a rip-roarin’ fun week!

While you’re at it, why not share the good news about the release of Cowboy Christmas? Write about it on your blog, post it on Facebook, call your local bookstore, share the news with your favorite librarian, or anything else that your clever little brain can dream up.

Post a message on Picture This! any time this week and tell how you shared the Cowboy Christmas news. You’ll be entered automatically in a drawing for an autographed copy of Cowboy Christmas. Five lucky winners will be chosen at random—so come on cowpunchers, spread the Cowboy Christmas news and then tell us about it!

'Twas the Night Before . . .

HAPPY Cowboy Christmas Eve!

 Do you have your boots shined, your bandanna tied just right, and your Christmas cactus up and decorated?

Well what are you waitin’ for?

Cowboy Christmas releases tomorrow, there’s no time to dawdle!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Join in the Process

Week of August 26, 2012: A Canon of Picture Books
Friday, August 31—Join in the Process

Today’s post is short and sweet (or at least short). I want to know what characteristics you look for in quality picture books. What inspires you? What intrigues you? What characteristics do you think are present in picture books that withstand the passage of time and are popular with one generation after another? What makes a picture book appreciated by both critics and children?

Post your thoughts below. Our ideas might contribute to our own canons of children’s picture books. Our ideas will certainly challenge us to improve our writing and strive to make our picture books be among the best

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Developing My Criterion

Week of August 26, 2012—A Canon of Picture Books
Thursday, August 30—Developing My Criterion


Have you heard the phrase, “Fake it, ‘til you make it”? That might very well describe my process of developing a criterion for selecting a canon of picture books. I’m trying to figure out things as I go along.


Here’s another phrase you may not have heard: “The process is more important than the product.” As I’ve been researching qualities of the best of the best picture books, as I’ve scoured the books on my shelves and looked a best sellers and award winners, as I’ve \given brain-time to consider what makes a great picture book great, I’ve been learning. This process of learning may be more important than the end product of a list of books. Who knows? Time will tell.

I have developed a first draft of my criterion for stellar picture books. Since this is a first stab at it, I’ll probably need to revise as time goes along. But, for now, below is my criterion for selecting titles to include in my canon of picture books. Consider this a rubric a way by which you judge a book.

Rob’s Criterion for Picture Books to Include In THE CANON

r A unique concept
r A book that is centered on children

r A book children will want to hear or read over and over
r A book an adult won’t mind reading over and over
r Memorable
r Meaningful
r A book that sparks questions, thinking, and conversation
r A book with meaning, but not with a moral
r A book the celebrates the different and unique

r Characters who are lovable, relatable, and memorable
r Characters who are human and flawed

r A book with universal appeal
r A book that introduce kids to new and exciting adventures, experiences, and worlds
r A subject that is unique, or a familiar subject addressed in an unique way

r A book with simplicity, but that is not simple
r A book that limits words to only the best ones
r A book with rhythm, pattern, and repetition
r A book with rich vocabulary

r A story that leaves room for the pictures
r Stellar illustrations that tell the other half of the story
r A collaboration that brings together text and art

Do any picture books have all of these qualities? I don’t know. But if such books do exist, they are probably few and far between. More likely, picture books that rise to the level to be included in my canon or yours, contain many, or at least several, of these qualities.

It’s Your Turn!
r Join the conversation. What other qualities or criterion for selecting outstanding picture books would you add to the list? Add a comment below.