Friday, November 16, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Yuly Hoffens Elis receives my book donation at Xela Aid in San Martin, Guatemala
An Amazing Adventure!

My trip to Guatemala was beyond anything I ever could have imagined! There are many reasons for that, but the main reason was the Guatemalan people, for sure.

Prior to registering for this extraordinary trip (which was a collaboration between Art Ambassador for a Colorful World and Xela AID) we began sponsoring this little girl. Her name is Catarina. When we decided we wanted to pledge to support a child in Guatemala, Catarina's biography stood out to me because she stated she liked to read, and wanted to become a teacher so that she could provide for her family. The other factor in making our decision was that we were hoping to support a girl - since we have three awesome, grown sons already! To say that we hit it off with Catarina would be a gross understatement. She's absolutely wonderful in so many ways: Kind, considerate, appreciative, and so intelligent. We're honored she is in our lives.

Since Catarina likes to read, we gave her these two books in Spanish: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle and An Old Gray Cat, by Tono Malpica. (I bought the latter book in a tiny bookstore in Antigua, Guatemala.)

While Catarina loves to read, she discovered for the first time that she also loves to paint! My husband Michael, is so smitten with this lovely little girl - and so am I. We hope to return to Guatemala in 2019 to see her.

I was honored to be pictured with these women & little girl who live in San Martin.
The Mayan people are hesitant to be photographed, believing that a piece of their soul might be stolen. However, I was able to "visit" with these three for some time, while Michael painted nearby. They were actually anxious to be photographed!

All of the beauty, color, and love of the Guatemalan people filled my senses while I was there. I have completed an outline for a middle grade novel inspired by Catarina. The picture on the left is of me writing the very first sentences of the new book (albeit it the first draft), while sitting in the Xela AID center in San Martin, Guatemala.

I did more research for the proposed MG novel while we were at Lake Atitlan in Jaibalito, Guatemala. If you are interested in receiving updates to this current project, click the link, then scroll down that page to register to receive my author quarterly newsletters:  

Lake Atitlan - Jaibalito, Guatemala

There are so many positive things I took away from Guatemala, far more than I gave. (If you've ever done any volunteering, you know what I mean.) However, during this season of thanksgiving I'm reminded that not only do I have so much to be thankful for, but so do the people of Guatemala. Their dignity, work ethic, kindness, and love brought me to tears while I was there. Prior to actually meeting a person we all sometimes make negative prejudgments - I know I did about Guatemala. However, I now see that country as a hidden jewel among other more affluent nations. I was honored and blessed to meet so many extraordinary people while we were there. The Mayans of Guatemala, in there traditional colorful clothing, are the most stunning people. We're already planning to return to that beautiful country, with its deep valleys, soaring volcanic mountains, and historic cathedrals and architecture. Then, too, there is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua! All in all, Guatemala truly is the Land of Eternal Spring.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Embarking on an Art Adventure!

As I mentioned on Monday, I'll be travelling to Guatemala with the non-profit organization Art Ambassador for a Colorful World next week. The opening sentence of the organization's mission statement is something I whole-heartedly support: "We believe art has the power to change the world." While my husband is an oil painter and will contribute his talent, I plan to donate the books on the left to the school in the remote Guatemalan Highlands that educates the Mayan children living there. We are over-the-top excited for this trip!

I've also volunteered to promote literacy with the children and to work with ESL students (through an interpreter). In addition to those activities, I'll keep busy by: learning to weave a basket, taking loads of photos, hiking in the highlands, and writing and sketching in my journals. (Maybe Guatemala will even inspire me to write a new story!) This unique trip is an extraordinary opportunity to grow, and to give.

The organization Xela AID is the group that has partnered with Art Ambassador for a Colorful World to host the participating artists. They are committed to the people in central Guatemala and have worked there tirelessly for 25 years. Since they're so familiar with the Guatemalan Highlands we are confident we'll have a great experience.

Because we won't return from the trip until the middle of November, 
I'll be taking a break from blogging - but I promise to post a lengthy account of my trip, including several photographs, after I return! 

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Pasquinade - (n.)
a satire or lampoon, originally one displayed or delivered in a public place.
Example: The senator delivered a political pasquinade of his opponent at the rally.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

The Only Road
by Alexandra Diaz

Flap Copy Description:
Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.
Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life.

My Thoughts:
When my husband and I began planning a trip to Guatemala (scheduled for October 29th - November 13th), I immediately started searching for a middle grade novel that was set in that Central American country. I couldn't have discovered a more remarkable - or relevant - story than The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz! The extraordinary book tells a tale of sacrifice, courage and danger as a young boy and his cousin leave Guatemala after being threatened by their town's resident gang, The Alphas. While the book takes the reader on the children's journey through Mexico and finally into the U.S., the culture and condition of Guatemala is felt with every turn of a page. In 2017 The Only Road was a Pura Belpre Honor book. This middle grade novel is a must-read for young readers, especially in light of the struggle our country currently faces regarding immigration reform. No matter who you are, you'll see the subject of immigration in a whole new light. I highly recommend The Only Road to readers aged eight to twelve!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Champions of Creativity

Ursula K. Le Guin

This Sunday would have been the eighty-ninth birthday of the iconic author, Ursula Le Guin. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Wordstock Book Festival in November of 2015, in Portland, Oregon.

Since Ms. Le Guin and her husband, Charles, moved to Portland, Oregon in 1958, her legion of Pacific Northwest fans consider her their own. However, the truth is, Ursula had a colorful tapestry of places where she resided and experienced life. She was born on October 21, 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her father was an anthropologist and her mother a writer. Consequently, she grew up in an intellectual environment that included family friends that included: scientists, writers, Native Americans, and college students. Ursula had stated that her dynamic childhood was something for which she was extremely grateful. She wrote her first fantasy story at the tender age of nine!

After graduating from Berkeley High School, she studied at Radcliffe, Columbia, and then won a Fulbright grant to continue her education in France. From 1951 to 1961 she wrote five novels - all of which were rejected by publishers! During that time she also wrote poetry and short stories, some of those stories were published. It wasn't until 1964 that she had the first story of her Earthsea fantasy series published: "The Word of Unbinding." She went on to write and publish numerous fantasy works, becoming an iconic fantasy children's book author.

When she was asked about what had influenced her writing, she responded: "Once I learned to read, I read everything. I read all the famous fantasies - Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, and Kipling....this stuff is so beautiful, and so strange, and I want to do something like that."

Indeed she did just that.

Ms. Le Guin's literary works often blended fantasy with science fiction, but she always bristled at being pigeon-holed into any one genre. She was a tough-minded feminist whose works often included themes of environmentalism and anarchism. She wrote numerous titles during her long life, not only for children, but for adults as well. Ursula won numerous awards during her illustrious career - too many to mention.

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Naif - (n.)
a naïve or ingenuous person.
(adj.) naïve or ingenuous.
Example: The newspaper reporter was nothing more than a naif regarding his account of the story.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

When You Grow Up to Vote
by Eleanor Roosevelt
with Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Grace Lin

Flap Copy Description:
In the voice of one of the most iconic and beloved political figures of the twentieth century comes a book on citizenship for the future voters of the twenty-first century. Eleanor Roosevelt published the original edition of When You Grow Up to Vote in 1932, the same year her husband was elected president. The new edition has updated information and back matter as well as fresh, bold art from award-winning artist Grace Lin. Beginning with government workers like, firefighters and garbage collectors, and moving up through local government to the national stage, this book explains that the people in government work for the voter.
Fresh, contemporary, and even fun, When You Grow Up to Vote is the book parents and teachers need to talk to children about how our government is designed to work.

My Thoughts:
Reading the words of our nation's most extraordinary First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was extremely inspirational. When You Grow Up to Vote was a reminder that our most sacred duty as U.S. citizens is to VOTE! What a wonderful way to educate children about the local, state, and federal positions that they will be called upon to vote on one day. The lovely artwork by Grace Lin perfectly illustrates the book; it is contemporary and classic at the same time. I highly recommend this unique book to readers aged eight to twelve!

Click here to read a biography about Eleanor Roosevelt.
Click here to learn more about the illustrator, Grace Lin.