Books and Board Games – for Bird Lovers

Two things I love are books and board games. But I also love card games, dice games, even games where you try and bounce ping pong balls into a pattern.

So, while books and board games has nice alliteration, I’m open to all kinds of games.

This perfect pairing of books and board games is all about another one of my favorite hobbies: BIRDING!!

I have lots of books on birds, but I tried to limit the recommendation to three. And because I write for young (and young at heart) readers, these books work for all age groups.

Drum roll please! They are:

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate.



Counting Birds: The Idea that Helped Save our Feathered Friends by Heidi E.Y. Stemple

(Did you know Heidi is the little girl in the classic book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen?)

The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow by Jan Thornhill

Each one of these books is a great way to celebrate your love of birds and learn something new. Now, once you finish reading them, you’re going to want MORE BIRDS. What better way to have fun with feathered friends than to play a board game all about birds?

That’s right, I’m talking about the award-winning Wingspan by Elizabeth Hargrave. 

(Yes, I know who created this game! That’s not always true for every board game, but Elizabeth Hargrave is one of my heroes!)


Wingspan can be a challenge for younger gamers to learn if they haven’t played engine building games before. But it’s really beautiful to look at even if you don’t quite grasp the game mechanics the first time through. And, it’s a wealth of information about birds. There are several expansion packs available and many people make custom upgrades for your gaming experience.

I’ve had this game for a few years and I am proud to say that the first time we played, I won! My favorite card was of course, a red-tailed hawk.


I’m not going to provide a how-to-play tutorial here. Instead, I recommend checking out “Watch It Played” on YouTube. Also, BoardGameGeek offers a lot of great recommendations and Q&A.

Once you decide you want to buy a game, please look around for a local board game store! 

For more book recommendations, I ALWAYS recommend visiting and buying from your local bookstore. One way you can buy online and support a local store is by shopping through

The Best Critique Comments I’ve Gotten This Month

I’m so lucky I have amazing critique partners. They are generous with their time and expertise and so honest about what parts of the story need work. They are also really, really interested in helping me make my work better. And they never forget to leave a kind comment!

I participate in webinars and group critique events frequently. I have found that even when my story isn’t the one being critiqued, I can learn something from comments made on other people’s work!

So here are some critique comments I’ve received recently that helped me. I hope they can help you!

  • From my 13 yr old on a manuscript about owls and the power of an caring teacher:

“I loved how sad you made me feel here. But I want to feel happier at the end.”

Are you giving readers the emotional reward they want?

  • From an adult critique partner on the same story:

“Your story has me thinking about perspective. So far your story is third person omniscient. Here it switches to [the main character’s] perspective, which is a little confusing. I’d keep it in 3rd person. I’ve edited to show you what I mean.”

Have you shifted perspective without realizing it?

  • From an adult critique partner on a story about a traumatic event:

“This is nice, a bit of levity after a serious thing just happened.”

Especially when you write for younger readers, are you giving them some solace after tough moments?

  • A really important piece of feedback from the same critique partner on the same story:

“Overall, I felt like it was a prematurely sweet ending. You presented this heavy topic, [character] bringing in something dangerous that could hurt people. But then the next day, he’s coloring next to his best friend and smiling. It doesn’t seem realistic and feels contrived…Also, I keep wondering and WHY [character did this]?? You need to have a clear idea about this, what was his intention? You don’t mention it at all but I think it’s important.”

Readers need to be satisfied in the story. But sometimes you can’t fit everything you want to say into the story and still make it a readable story. I made some tweaks to the story, but I think the best way to resolve this would be to write up my back matter and have it ready when I send it to my agent or editor. 

Hopefully some of these critique comments will help you strengthen your stories. I know they are helping me!

You may know I provide editorial and critique services both independently and on Reedsy. If you’re writing a story or book and would like proofreading, copyediting, critique, or feedback please get in touch!


My Life as a Writer, or a Writer’s World of Work

sketch of earth with orbiting satellites


This little sketch of the Earth with tiny satellites orbiting it is a model of my life as a writer. Well, it’s the model my husband suggested to me. We were at breakfast and I was telling him about the projects I had sent to my agent, the one I was working on now, and the ones I had lined up to work on when this currently project was done.

“These are all things you’ve been working on for awhile,” he said. “You work on them, leave them for a bit, then come back to them.”

“That’s true,” I said.

“This is how I think of your work. It’s like you’re a little writer in a spaceship, orbiting the earth. You come to an asteroid, that’s your project and work on it. Sometimes you get a call from mission control. You have to move on to the next one. But that other one is still out there, waiting for you to return. And you always do. You keep going around and around.”

“But I finish things,” I remind him.

“Yep, you do, and then new projects get launched into orbit.”

I laughed, because I loved this analogy. I don’t know if I’d ever be brave enough to go into space for real, but it takes a certain amount of bravery to be a writer, because you do have to trust yourself, launch yourself into space, handle the inevitable beeps and whistles and warning sirens, fix problems, and then send your projects off and hope they land.

It’s OK if you have to set aside a project for awhile. It will be there, waiting for you, when you swing back around the world.

Organizing Your Thoughts As a Writer

I had a great time presenting at the Outdoor Discovery Center at Crooked Creek in February. I spoke to an audience of both teens and parents, and I think it was a really interesting mix of perspectives. The teens had a lot of questions about writing and animals, and the adults even had some questions about writing! I was thrilled because many times, adults want to try writing but aren’t sure how to start.

One adult asked me a great question. She asked, “Do you have a specific way for organizing your thoughts?”

I loved this because I think writing can be overwhelming, and any kind of organization can make things easier. If I don’t use some kind of method, I would lose track of a lot of the things I’ve written.

Here’s what I suggested:

  1. Use headings. These headings are the category of the kind of writing you’re doing at that moment. Whether you use a notebook or type notes on your phone or computer, give each page or file a category, like “emotions and feelings” or “memories” or “dialogue.” Other headings can be “life event” or “questions to answer.”
  2. Create a table of contents for your notebooks. That means reserving the first few pages of every notebook to jot down page numbers and the headings (and longer description if desired) of the content of those pages.
  3. Date your entries. I always try to date my handwritten notes. Luckily my computer or smartphone automatically dates my entries. But be careful -when you edit a file, the dates will be updated! You can always check the dates of previous versions of a file by using the “revert” feature.

These are some of the ways I organize my thoughts before I start writing the actual book.

If I had more time to talk with this person, I’d go into discussions about outline and using Scrivener. I use this software for keeping track of characters, timelines, locations, outlines, and drafts.

But if she wanted to know more about how I organized my approach to interviewing scientists for Animal Allies, I’d talk to her about my prepared questions, recording our calls, and taking notes while talking.

So now I want to know how you organize your thoughts when you’re getting ready to write! What are your favorite methods – or are you more of a freeform writer? Do you use prompts? Color-coding? Binders???

ideas for stories, organizing ideas for writing

Tools of the Trade

Tech Tips for Writers: Historical Weather and a Research Challenge

When you’re writing a story, setting is key. And weather is a part of the story. It’s valuable in nonfiction, historical fiction, or any story. When I write about the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, it’s important for me to note it was snowing in April.

But how do I know that? How can I find out?

I used to use the app Dark Sky, but this app has been integrated into Apple Weather. So now, if I need historic weather information, I turn to Weather Underground.

On the desktop website, enter the city where your story takes place, click on “history” and enter the date you need.

But Weather Underground only goes back to the 1930.

A Research Challenge

So let’s say we are writing about the Johnstown Flood, which happened on May 31, 1889. There is a lot of information online about the weather on the day of the floor. But our story starts one week before the flood. What was the weather like on May 24, 1889?

Can you figure this out? I haven’t been able to find easy to access historical weather data for this specific date. If you can find it, share your results!

Johnstown today

Johnstown in 2018

Memorial to the unidentified lost in the flood

Near where the South Fork Dam was

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