Kindergarten Care Packages

What’s inside Mrs. Steel’s care package? I sent these to my students and a few kiddos from my church. If you got one of these packages, Let’s open them together. If you didn’t get one, come join us to see what’s inside. Perhaps you have some of these things at home and can do the activities with us.   I’ll be posting activities in the next week here on this blog page.

The first chapter of the corresponding E-Book will be available in a few days. But if you have yarn, watch the second video called Finger-knitting with Gordon and you can get started.

Scroll Down to leave us a comment! Gordon would love to hear from you.

Video 1: Care Packages with Gordon

Video 2: Fingerknitting with Gordon

Video 3: Bunnies with Gordon

Craft Fair Entrepreneur

Opening new doors in Wheaton

The trees were in full color the first autumn we moved to Wheaton. I drove down the tree-lined streets with my sunroof open, giggling with joy. In the past ten years, I’ve fallen in love with this town’s darling homes with well-cared for lawns and decorated porches. Our family has enjoyed evening concerts and Shakespeare in the park as well as the Friday night car shows. There’s just something about Wheaton, that makes me feel like I belong. So, it’s with a happy heart that I embark on a project inspired by this, my new hometown.

There is a group of women on FB who seem to know everything about this little town. If I am in need of a great place to eat or advice on which Dr. to see, or even, where to take my kids for a few hours of fun, this group has the answer. Recently, I asked them what businesses or shops have the best doors to open. The thread grew and grew with recommendations of places that have offered lovely experiences. Though, I am sure there are many lovely doors to open in Wheaton, I’ve chosen ten that rose to the top of the list.

Over the next few months, I will sketch and paint pictures on canvas of these doors. Eventually, I will display the doors and invite you to come visit them.

I am working on renderings and have a few doors sketched for you to see below. But, come back for an update as I will be putting links to the shops or ministries below.

For now why don’t you go open these doors in Wheaton:

#1. Ktizo Tea

#2. Tasting Devine

#3. Prairie Path Books

#4. The Popcorn Shop

#5. Starbucks on Main

#6. Moores Toys & Gadgets

#7. Wheaton Meat Market

#8. The Wheaton Public Library

#9. The Compass Church of Wheaton

#10. Suzzette’s

Craft Fair Entrepreneur

Thanks to our vendors and hosts

Thank you to the vendors, The Wheaton Sports Center, and my amazing team members. It took all of us to pull off this terrific show. Here’s my open letter to you all.

The Wheaton Mom’s Holiday Artisan Market was a huge success. Not only did our vendors have great traffic and sales, many of them commented on the sense of community they felt throughout the day. The organizers of The Wheaton Mom’s Holiday Artisan Market are grateful to The Wheaton Sports Center for providing such a beautiful facility and amazing staff to help us.  We were excited to learn that over three hundred people came through your doors for the first time in order to shop at our Market. We also want to thank the hundreds of members of the Wheaton Sports Center who shopped with us. We were delighted to expose you to the amazing local work of our vendors. 

Our team worked together to find quality vendors with an Artisan flair. We send a heartfelt thank you to our 20 vendors. Your beautiful Artisan works caused many to comment that this was the nicest “craft fair” they’d been to this year. We know how much time, effort and love went into creating your beautiful products. Thank you for sharing them with your community. 

Finally, as the director of this event, I want to thank my team. Carrie Potts, your work ethic and organizational skills blew me away. Thank you for working harder than any of us to make this show a success. Wendy Geiser Partain your experience gave us much needed insight into how to care for our vendors and create a vendor hall that flowed for our shoppers. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I believe this event will continue to be a year-round success as a result of the ground work we laid as a team. 

Below are all our vendors names and if possible, their websites or shops. Please visit each of them to find unique well crafted gifts for your holiday season. 


Joleen Steel

The 2019 Wheaton Mom’s Holiday Artisan Market Vendors:

Wendy Geiser Partain

Four Brothers

Jacqui Zurawski’s EZ Angel Designs:

Joleen Steel Https://www.readingwritingtea and

Meg Seward

Clapham School

Stephanie Thomas handmade at:


Amy Song

Lisa Tyler’s Two Hearts Baking Co.

Chelsea Medina with Slap Your Name On It at:

Emily Supica http://Emily Jane Studios on fb

Carrie Potts

Gabi Reczek

Jan Engle. at Engle Soft Sculpture on etsy and FB

Sites to be added soon:

Angela Owens 

Nancy Taylor

Sandy Durek

Jeanne Weseman

Karin Nether

Lucy Sanders



3 Golden Rules for Conventions

My father is an inspirational leader. Now in his late seventies, he works harder than most fifty-year-olds. Each year we go to conferences to speak and share our ministry with others. Dad is the first to arrive and the last to leave our vendor booth. Just when our feet are killing us and our will to continue is fading, Dad cheerfully encourages us and then reminds us of his three golden rules: “Don’t sag; Don’t lag; Don’t brag.” His pep and vigor always motivates the team to work hard till the end.

Here are my father’s three golden rules for conventions:

#1. Don’t Sag

You’ve seen them, the vendors who sit behind their booth scrolling aimlessly through their phone, looking like they wish the floor would open up and end their suffering. These are the breakers of rule number one. It’s possible they began well, but these rule-breakers have no stamina for long days standing on cold concrete. They seem to think that their fancy booth display should be the magnet that attracts hundreds to them, when in fact their own sag is sending the message, “Do not approach, I am not worth talking to.” Now in the sagger’s defense, it is incredibly difficult to maintain a cheerful, ready disposition when people seem to barely look at the sparkly banner that took hours to design. 

My father would say, “Your sign is nothing without you. Stand up, direct your gaze to people walking towards you, smile and say something.” 

What you say is crucial. That brings us to rule number two. 

#2. Don’t Lag

Now that you’re standing up and making eye contact with people you need to engage and be engaged. Resist the urge to “bark.” Yeah, you know those people at fairs who stand at their booth and yell, “Get yer popcorn.” I’m serious about this. I’ve seen it happen. Usually it’s a bit more savvy, but this is not what don’t lag means. Instead, make eye contact, smile and say, “Good morning. Are you enjoying the convention?” If all you receive is a cursory nod or grunt, no fear, stay standing and greet the next person. When they slow their pace and respond, ask another question such as, “What are you looking for today?” If you are selling self-help books and they say, “car parts,” respond with good humor with something like, “I don’t have car parts, but I do have (insert product name). May I share about (insert company or product) with you?” If they say yes, it’s time to share your resources in a succinct, clear way. The lag is almost behind you don’t screw it up by oversharing. Keep it short and then ask one last question, the close. The close is something different for every company, but don’t shrink away from it. Just beware the brag.

#3. Don’t Brag

This is a feisty little rule that will sneak in at the last minute if you don’t watch out for it. This is especially true if you’ve been standing all day and feel that maybe you’ve not made enough connections or accomplished your company goals. Suddenly, you find yourself sharing how your company beats the competition and nobody does it better than you. Pausing, you pant just a little and say the dreaded words, “Do you want to buy something?” All your hard work of not sagging or lagging goes up in a puff as your audience walks away empty handed. 

My father has encouraged us to avoid the brag by remembering we are not sales people. We don’t merely want to sell the stuff we came with. We want to connect in meaningful ways with people in order to give them the opportunity to use our resources to enrich their lives or the lives of others. Okay, I know, by the end of day two your feet are burning and you really do want to just sell the stuff you came with. Just wait, because day three of every convention is why you’ve been following these rules. On day three, you must diligently avoid the lag, sag, and brag. 

For us, day three is the busiest day of a convention. People have heard us speak in our breakout sessions, or made a connection with us at our booth, and now they want to go home with something that can help them do the work they need to do. One convention we were so busy the vendors around us kept asking if we were the keynote speakers. They’d been lagging and sagging all weekend and couldn’t figure out what was happening at our booth. If we’d had the time, we would have shared our golden rules with them. 

So when is your next convention? Are you ready to practice the three rules? Yes, you may accomplish some company goals, but the biggest reward just may be that you walk away with dignity and perhaps a few new friends. 


The Princess and the Bucket

So beautiful

Maggie Rowe

“Mormor, what is that bucket on your porch?”

 It’s for making ice cream, child.

“But why does it have flowers in it, then?”

There’s a story in that bucket with the flowers, child.

“What kind of story? A true one?”

So very true, my little. Truer than any fairy story in a book.

“Does it have a princess in it?”

Not a princess, no. But the girl in the story was everything a princess should be – brave and loving and loyal. So loyal. And sometimes a little headstrong.

“What is that?”

It means this girl – her name was Laurel – was stubborn sometimes. When she made up her mind to do something there was no telling her not to. Even if the thing was a little dangerous and scary.

“What did she do that was scary, Mormor?”

She hitchhiked, child. She only did it once, but it wasn’t…

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Are Writers Conferences Worth It?




The answer is yes. Yes, conferences are worth the money and the time it takes to go. Conferences are the place to find out just how much you have to learn as a writer or an illustrator. If you want to grow go to a conference. I’ve been to two this year, and I have a third one in June. Here’s what I’ve learned so far at each conference.

I. The Ashville Christian Writers Conference

This conference was held a the beautiful Billy Graham Cove. I was blown away by the soaring wood-beamed ceilings and house size chandeliers in the dinning room. The food and accommodations were five star and opportunities to find a serene spot to read or write or draw were in abundance.

I learned two things at this conference:

1. How to write a 25 word pitch. This was incredibly helpful and though I am still working on the nuances of my pitches, I am able to clearly articulate each project in a simple, memorable way. If you don’t have a 25 word pitch you need one.

2. Pitching to editors is not scary. I thought I’d be terrified and that editors would scoff at my stories or worse, tell me I should just quit. Yeah, I always think the worst. I pitched to at least five editors and each one was gracious and patient. I felt like a new born puppy trying to open it’s eyes for the first time, but I learned so much. I even had an agent from Hartline Literary agency ask for a proposal. (I’m working on it!)

I learned a lot more than that, but you’ll just have to join me next year to discover more.

This is me with my friend Maggie Rowe and then her with a bunch of famous people.




II. SCBWI’S Marvelous Midwest Conference

This conference was less than ten minutes from my house in Naperville, IL.  This conference was held at a Marriot. The food was a B+. I didn’t stay the night as my own bed is my favorite. The Lobby had soft couches and comfy chairs for chatting with people and lots of sturdy tables for setting up computers or laying out art work.

Here are the top three things I learned at this conference.

1. My 25 word pitch needs work. I went to a session called high concept and discovered my pitch lacked a little luster. In fact, what my pitch really lacked was a strong hook with a unique twist. Honestly, I came home trying to decide if Una the pig could pull off a story line where she is saved from the clutches of the evil farmer by a mafia boss pig named Brutus who trains her to be his right hand pig so together they can burn down the slaughter house, free their families and take over the farm…. NAW! That’s crazy. Hmm..

2. Illustrators have portfolios. Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why you go to conferences. I have this website with my stuff, but all the illustrators I met at this conference also have a physical portfolio. I went out yesterday and bought a portfolio and am beginning to build it.

I titled this picture: “Courage, dear heart.” After one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.  It takes courage to begin this process. But I’m certain the outcome will be useful and beautiful.

“Courage, dear heart”

3. There are Christian editors at the SCBWI conventions. Linda Howard from Tyndale was there. I went to as many of her sessions as I could and gleaned all I could from her talks on what Christian editors are looking for, and how the Christian market is doing. I also loved her talk on marketing your own books. She suggested we need a blog and we should write about “stuff”.  Okay, we should write things that reveal who we are as a writer and illustrator. Things other people might want to read.

Here’s the link to SCBWI if you are not a member, you should be. Https://  If you are a member come find me: Joleen Steel

I have one more conference this year. I just hope I can figure out poor Una’s story before I go, she really is too nice of a pig to work for Brutus.


E4E9D1C2-C5CF-4E2F-B36E-0C985B5CBAC5Joleen Steel is a Canadian illustrator and author who lives in Warrenville, IL with her husband Dave and their youngest son Matt. Joleen teaches kindergarten at a classical Christian School and writes for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. As the Executive Director for Camping Stick Kids (, Joleen illustrates and writes the ministry’s books and curriculum. Camping Stick Kids has been featured on Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey.