Tuesday, January 15, 2019


*This originally ran on Writer's Rumpus, here.

The free online education offered during Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) challenges writers to read picture books for writing research. Each weekday of March features an educational online guest presenter who discusses mentor texts from a new perspective. Participants read mentor texts and blog posts to learn more about great writing.  As the Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) challenge inches closer, we thought it would be fun to do a blog mash up with a THINK QUICK interview right here on Writers’ Rumpus! We challenge you to THINK QUICK with us! Ready? Set? GO!
Illustration by Lori Nawyn

On Mentor Texts: Fiction or Nonfiction?

Carrie Charley Brown: Both! When it comes to ReFoReMo, it’s all about the story and/or the approach. Reading what’s already out there shows us what’s already been done. One may not think that fiction stories provide good fodder for research, but au contraire! For example, if word choice alone is studied intently in a fiction picture book, imagine the focused model that is exemplified when problem-solving the dull language in one of our own personal manuscripts? And how one author tackles a focused element may be completely different than another. Whether reading a stellar model (or not), we can learn how-to, or not-to, approach certain elements by reading both fiction or nonfiction picture books.

On Guest Presenters: Author or Illustrator? Agent or Editor? Book Expert?

Kirsti Call:  All of them! Authors, illustrators, agents, editors and book experts each have perspectives that are helpful for our ReFoReMo mission of reading and learning from stellar mentor texts. I love how individuals with different perspectives and professions help us see books in a whole new way. Speaking of perspectives…

On More Perspectives: Complicated or Mind-Expanding?

Carrie: Mind-Expanding! If two guest presenters coincidentally cover the same element or picture book, we welcome both. Just as everything in this business is subjective, it’s better to have wider exposure to expand our perspectives, too! Looking at the same picture book from two different points of view will allow us to have a greater understanding of writing styles, structures, and the layers needed to create something special.

On Reading: A lot or a little?

Kirsti:  A lot. I believe in reading while walking, waiting, lounging, bathing and “sleeping.” What could be better?

On Note-taking: Any Old Way or One Right Way?

Carrie: Any old way, but why not share your approach to help others? For example, I may read a picture book and write down the title, publisher, year, creators, as well as the structure type, the plot, and the theme. I may add a few sentences about what makes the book stand out as fresh or I may paginate with illustration notes so that I understand the interplay. Each picture book may stand out in different ways, or I may be trying to learn about one element that I lack in my own work and only take notes on that. Another person may use a standard template and never veer from it. By sharing what works in our ReFoReMo Facebook group, we can once again add to the note-taking process. Reviewing books is another great way to highlight stellar elements.

On Reading for Research: Necessity or Privilege?

Kirsti: Both! If we want to write well and read well, we need to read with attention to what makes the book great or mediocre.  And honestly, having the time to really research and ponder on the great books I read is a privilege.

On Visiting the Library: Wagon or Plastic Grocery Sack?

Kirsti: During ReFoReMo month, I’ve actually brought a rolling suitcase to the library… (I have a pic of this somewhere)…
Carrie: A wagon’s not a bad idea! I normally bring several canvas bags with strong handles, but honestly, I have hurt my back doing that!  They get heavy fast! Good thinking with the wheels, Kirsti!

On Sharing: Keep Research to Yourself or Share?

Carrie: While there is no one right way to research, we encourage others to share the discoveries they make. Our Facebook group is the perfect place to do so!

On Getting the Most out of the Month: Reserve Books in Advance or Wait Until the Last Minute?

Kirsti: I love reserving my books in advance and having them ready to read on each day our guest educators recommend them. We will release the reading list on February 12, allowing others to reserve books early.

On ReFoReMo: Do it or DO IT?

Carrie and Kirsti: DO IT! The reason ReFoReMo started was because we read many pictures in a short period of time as CYBILS judges and saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more we read, the more we learned about what works and what doesn’t. We wanted others to experience this also. The thing we have heard most from agents and editors in workshops, conferences and seminars is read, read, read! What have you got to lose? We’ll reveal the ReFoReMo presenters on January 29 and registration opens February 19. ReFoReMo begins March 1 and we’d love to learn with you!
Carrie Charley Brown eats, sleeps, and breathes children’s literature as a PK-8 school library media specialist, writer, and critique mentor. Kirsti Call reads, critiques and revises every day as a member of various critique groups, and blogs for several kidlit focused communities. Together, they coordinate ReFoReMo, which will celebrate its 5th annual challenge this year!


  1. After complete their study they all are here and enjoy their time. Because they know that after complete education in best way we can enjoy more as we want for us. That is the ever best time which they never forget.

  2. What a fun mashup, ReFoReMo mavens. Getting ready to gear up for on of my fave months!

  3. Can't wait. Now to find something with wheels large enough to hold my books but small enough to fit through the library door!

  4. This post has sent me into mentor heaven! Thank you, Carrie and Kirsti, for putting the pizzazz into my day. Looking forward to another year of fantastical ReFoReMo!

  5. You two are so cute together! Great post:)