Friday, January 19, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

By Frances Trego Montgomery - 1903
Vintage Children's Books

I'm not sure when it started, or why, but I'm obsessed with vintage children's books. You might say, "Duh! You write stories for kids!" Well, I was bitten by the bug for these books long before I began to write my own children's books.

The book pictured above, is one in a series of books about a mischievous and short-tempered goat, named Billy Whiskers. It's on record that as a child, JFK couldn't get enough of these books. The prolific author, Ms. Montgomery, was an extraordinary lady who died on a cruise liner while on an around-the-world tour. She had planned to write a book about her travels, but died quite unexpectedly.

As with most vintage children's books, it is the colorful and captivating illustrations that catches the collector's eye right away; Billy Whiskers Kids is no different. I was delighted to have received it for Christmas!

Last month I also received this trio of tiny books, for my birthday, from my dear daughter-in-law, Jessica. (Does she know me, or what?)

From left to right: The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde; Fifty Best Poems of England; and The Gold Bug, by Edgar Allan Poe

While only The Happy Prince is what you'd call a children's book, it is the unique size of each leather-bound book (2" X 3"), published in the 1920's, that makes the set so special.

One past time that I thoroughly enjoy is wandering through vintage bookstores seeking for yet another treasure to add to my collection. This past month, I was truly blessed with the above books.

The reason I felt led to blog about this subject is due to the fact that I find perusing through these vintage books inspirational, as well as informative. As authors, it is imperative that we educate ourselves to the history of children's books. While some of the subjects featured in decades past may seem surprising, they actually reflect the norms of society at the time. It behooves us, to be relevant - to reflect the state of our world.When you learn how the subjects featured in books for kids has evolved over the last century, you quickly realize that the positive changes the Kidlit industry is currently going through also reflect the changes our world is going through.

I ask myself frequently, "Am I relevant as a writer?" The truth is, I know I can do better. How about you? Are you relevant in your writing?

Then there are those classic books that stand the test of time:

Heidi is the first novel I ever read - it holds a special place in my heart!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Hamartia (n.)
the tragic flaw that leads to the downfall of a hero or heroine.
Example: The famous politician's hamartia was his penchant for pretty girls.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

The War I Finally Won
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Flap Copy Description:
When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

My Thoughts:
This companion book, The War I Finally Won is just as captivating, as the Newbery Honor Book, The War That Saved My Life. One of the elements I most appreciate in Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's books is the authenticity of the settings - it's obvious she does her research. Additionally, the character development and voice are wonderful. I highly recommend this middle grade novel to readers of all ages!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
Redeeming the Time

When I began writing full time, ten years ago, I realized quite quickly the importance of managing my time. I set up a schedule of writing, blogging, social networking, reading, etc. I knew that to be an author would take more than just "putting pen to paper." In addition to that, since writing is a solitary activity, it was important that I keep disciplined & busy - the way I had for so many years in my healthcare profession.

In the last three years (since having my books published) my time has become even more scheduled. No one tells you that once you're a published author additional demands will be placed upon you. Some of these necessary activities further your career as an author, while others, even though well-meaning, merely serve to steal your time.

How can we, as full-time authors, make the most of our time?

This might sound a bit bizarre, but for me, listening to my intuition is key. The further I go along my journey, the more I realize that every writer's path to publication is unique. Attend any SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) workshop, retreat, or conference, and you will be sure to hear all sorts of amazing accounts from talented authors as to how they finally received representation from a literary agent, or had their book published independently.

Some wait twenty years before landing a book deal.
Some are published soon after completing their manuscript.
Some get published traditionally; some independently.
Some have a degree that pertains to their writing; some do not.
Some have known their entire lives they want to be an author.
Some, like me, found their calling after years in a previous profession.

My point is, there is no one road map along the path to publication. Consequently, the choices we make each day might seem strange to another writer. That's why I rely so much on my intuition. I learned many years ago, the hard way, that not to trust my gut was unwise.

And, whether you write in the morning, or write in the afternoon, or write in the middle of the night, stay on a schedule. Then, once you're published, make sure you're strong enough to say "no" when you must.
Guarding your creative time - and the time with your family & friends - is the only way to be happy, productive, and successful as an author.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bibliosmia (n.)
the smell of a book.
Example: Bibliosmia wafted from the library's bookshelves up to its beams.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

by John Lennon
Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Flap Copy Description:
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace. Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization, Amnesty International.

My Thoughts:
What better way to kick off 2018 than by featuring the powerful picture book, Imagine. While John Lennon wrote his immortal lyrics over three decades ago, the message is one that is timeless, & deeply resonates today. I highly recommend Imagine to readers aged four to seven!

Enjoy Imagine, as performed by the legendary John Lennon.

Click here if you'd like to make a donation to Amnesty International.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Life Goes On

The grief and pain I felt when my sister passed away a year ago, was a sadness I'd not felt for a long, long time. Unfortunately, last month I experienced that same pain when my father passed away the day before my birthday. What I've come to realize is that it's important to embrace that intense pain as a part of life. For a person of faith, believing you'll see your loved one again does bring a bit of solace. Because whether I'm ready to proceed or not, life goes on.

Recently, I had the epiphany that grief can be a gift. Yes, a gift. Never before in my life have I valued each new day the way I do now. Or valued my family and friends in the way I do now. I acted like there would always be a tomorrow; like my loved ones would always be there; that life as I know it would endure. It's an easy trap to fall into, and one that each of us must battle.

This insight naturally pertains to my life as a writer, as well. Last week, while on a working vacation in the Columbia River Gorge, I was barely able to type as fast as my story's scenes appeared in my mind. (No wonder: A father and his young daughter are the main characters in my work in progress.) I am so thankful that the very last time I spoke with my father, on 12/7/17, I was able to tell him a bit about my book. I also informed him that it would be dedicated to him, and my mother. It was the last time I would ever see my father smile.

While I only recently realized that grief can be a gift, other authors - more enlightened than myself - have known it, and embraced it for a long time:

So, while I've never been a proponent of making New Year's resolutions, I have added an item to my list of goals for 2018:

Live each day, and love each, like it will be my last.

Happy New Year!