What Your First Bird of 2023 Means for Your Year

The start of a new year is fun for birders like me – it means I can count and celebrate seeing birds for the first time that year!! Lots of birders love to celebrate their first bird of the year, and every year the American Birding Association picks a bird of the year. (The Bird of the Year for 2023 is the Belted Kingfisher!)

Do you remember the first bird you saw in 2023? Think hard because I believe that first bird sets the tone for your year. Mine was a Carolina Chickadee, a friendly and sociable bird. I’m thrilled it was my first bird! Here’s a little guide to what your first bird means for 2023.


Take the Quiz! What Kind of Wildlife Scientist Are You?

What kind of wildlife scientist would YOU want to be? Take the quiz and find out!





Animal Allies is an NSTA Best Book of 2022!

I’m so excited to share that Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Science is an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 chosen by the National Science Teaching Association!!

@elizpagelhoganauthor Thank you to the NSTA!! #science #sciencetok #scienceteacher #scienceteachersoftiktok #books #booksoftiktok #kidsbooks #kidlit #stembooks #Canva ♬ Inspirational Epic – Yevhen Lokhmatov

Have You Ever Seen A Saw-Whet Owl?

Every fall in North America, saw-whet owls migrate south. Project Owlnet is a community science program that gathers data on this tiny, adorable, and angry owls. We are lucky to have a Project Owlnet location nearby and each fall, our family goes to volunteer and help capture, band, and release the birds. I recently put up a video of our 2022 experience.

Here’s Part 1: On a moonlit night in November… 

Part 2: How many owls in the net?

Part 3: You won’t believe how we weigh them!

Part 4: Let them fly!

boy holding a saw-whet owl

Animal Allies is a finalist for the Russell Freedman Award for Nonfiction for a Better World

I’m so excited to announce that Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research is a finalist for the Russell Freedman Award for Nonfiction for a Better World presented by the SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund. The Russell Freedman award is given to a work of nonfiction that contributes to our understanding of how to make our world and society better.


Here is the full list of finalists. These are incredible books written by talented authors, and I’m honored to be on the list. The winning book and honor book will be announced December 1, 2022, so stay tuned!

-Patricia Newman—A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn

-Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan—Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research

-Chana Stiefel—The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs

-Jetta Grace Martin—Freedom! The Story of the Black Panther Party

-Madison Furr—The Little Book of Joy

-Rebecca Hirsch—Where Have All the Birds Gone? Nature in Crisis

-Marc Zimmer—Science and the Skeptic: Discerning Fact from Fiction

-Marta Magellan—Just Wild Enough: Mireya Mayor, Primatologist

-Sara Echenique—Hispanic Star: Roberto Clemente

-Nell Cross Beckerman—When the Sky Glows

-Kathlyn Kirkwood—Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day

Is Canva Pro worth it for writers?

There are so many things to think about when writing books. Character, plot, setting, voice, POV, tense, adverbs, cliffhangers, villains, heroes, and more!!! But once you get the story written, the manuscript sold, and the book published (easy peasy) then comes the hard work of getting the word out about your book and connecting with your audience. That’s where social media comes in. You need a website and accounts on a few platforms so you can share good news. But you can’t just post some words and hope people like your content. You need to get creative. You need to attract attention. You’re right back at the beginning of writing that story – you need to hook people!

I’m a pretty basic social media poster, I snap a photo and share it. My friend asked me what I’ve shared on my stories lately. My what?

But I did start one new thing, I got Canva Pro.

To test it out, I decided to have some fun with my favorite photo subject, Beckham the dog. We bought Beckham some new ties to wear for Homecoming, and he looked so good I snapped some shots. Then I learned how to delete the background of the original photo and placed Beckham in some silly backgrounds. I shared these photos on my Insta, FB, and Twitter, and asked people which one they liked best. Can you guess which one people picked?


If you said Beckham in the Board Room, you’re right. It was pretty easy to create all of these on my iPhone.

So, is Canva Pro worth it?

I would say yes, Canva Pro is worth it in terms of fun. I need to think about how to use it to do a better job of sharing my books with readers. I’m not a public relations professional, graphic designer, or marketing expert.

If you have ideas on how I can use Canva Pro to be more creative and make people smile, laugh, and check out my books, let me know!

Writing a Novel and Tracking Word Count

I have written a few novels now, some for NaNoWriMo, but many on my own schedule. I have learned a few things.

  1. I think it’s really smart to start with my pitch.
  2. I do better if I have the story outlined before I start writing.
  3. I like to set daily word count goals.

I am someone who likes to measure my productivity in terms of steps per day, miles per week, books read per month – and definitely words per day. It helps me stay accountable and gives me feelings of success! Achievement! It’s setting a SMART goal. I can measure when I’ve achieved my goal. It also helps me be reasonable about predicting how long it will take me to do something. If I set goals too high, I won’t reach them, and that feels bad.

These tools are also useful to make sure I’m not writing too much or too little for the kind of book I’m trying to write. The publishing industry has word count standards for different audiences. I don’t want to be 35,000 words into my project but only a third of way into the story for a YA book. I need to make sure I’m at the halfway point by 35-45,000 words or else I’m doing something wrong – and I’d rather avoid those mistakes earlier than have to do some heavy lifting to correct them during my revision process.

I typically use my own homemade word count tracker in Numbers. It looks like this:


I like my homemade word tracker. I’m really comfortable with it. I color code the weeks and I didn’t schedule writing time on weekends. But, if I fall behind sometimes I will write on weekends to catch up.

But I recently found out about a new feature in Scrivener called “Writing History.” If you don’t use Scrivener, I highly recommend it. I’ve been using it for years, but honestly it’s so robust I have barely scratched the surface on all of the features. Sometimes I watch a video or read a blog post to try and learn about something I don’t yet know even exists – for instance, I learned how to switch to “compose” mode (that is a no distractions mode) and upload a custom background that helps set the mood for your story.

The new feature I just learned about is “Writing History.” I don’t know all of the details of how it works, but it shows my positive and negative word count for a project by date. Here’s a screenshot of Writing History (for a different project than the screenshot above).

I’m not entirely sure how it tallies words written and deleted, but if this is accurate, it’s a nice way to see how productive I am on certain days.

Here’s my homemade word count tracker for the same project. For a day like May 11, my word count and Scrivener’s word count are the same! But it’s a little different on some other days.

In the end, the word count tracker is just a tool to keep me moving and help me feel confident I’m making progress in my story. But, an outline is just as helpful in a different way. I use the two tools to make sure 1. I’m hitting the word count for each particular kind of book (YA, MG, etc.) but that I’m also hitting recommended plot points at the recommended number of words/pages into the story.

Some people don’t like thinking of books as projects where you want to be at a certain story spot within a certain number of words, but I don’t mind. I like having those guideposts, and these tools help me get there.