Friday, May 25, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
How Birds Inspire Me

In each of the three books I've written and had published a bird is prominently featured. In The Scandinavian Santa it was Lars, a golden eagle; in The Tale of Willaby Creek it was Oliver, a great horned owl; and in my most recent creation, Journey to Snowdonia, it was Gwendolyn, a shapeshifting European bullfinch.

So, why do birds inspire me?


Of course, one of the reasons is my lifetime dream of flying. (A desire I probably share with many people!) However, it's much more than that. The fact that birds have a sky-high view of the world is a feature that I believe gives them a quality of being wise. They see the big picture; they can make quick decisions made on the overall situation they're in.


Another reason that birds inspire me is that their ability to fly makes them seem almost magical; a feature that works quite well when writing a fantasy story for children, and why I always include them.

By the way, 2018 is being celebrated as The Year of the Bird since this year marks the centennial of the landmark conservation law the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Unfortunately, billions of birds are at risk due to the United States Department of Interior recently reinterpreting the MBTA, slashing safeguards for birds. Click here to learn more.

A seagull gazes out upon the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast.

To those of you in the U.S., have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Obsequious - (adj.)
obedient or attentive to a servile degree.
Example: The tyrannical queen's castle was full of obsequious servants.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

Brave Red, Smart Frog
by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason

Flap Copy Description:
There once was a frozen forest so cold, you could feel it through the soles of your boots. It was a strange place where some kisses broke enchantments and others began them. Many said witches lived there -- some with cold hearts, others with hot ovens and ugly appetites -- and also dwarves in tiny houses made of stones. In this icy wood, a stepmother might eat a girl's heart to restore her own beauty, while a woodcutter might become stupid with grief at the death of his donkey. Here a princess with too many dresses grows spiteful out of loneliness, while a mistreated girl who is kind to a crone finds pearls dropping from her mouth whenever she speaks. With empathy and an ear for emotion, Emily Jenkins retells seven fairy tales in contemporary language that reveals both the pathos and humor of some of our most beloved stories. Charming illustrations by Rohan Daniel Eason add whimsical details that enhance every new reading.

My Thoughts:
This enchanting collection of retold fairy tales is wonderfully illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason in a whimsical style. The charming little book would be a great way to introduce classic stories to a budding reader - or used to real aloud to a child at bedtime. I highly recommend Brave Red, Smart Frog to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author, Emily Jenkins.
Click here to learn about illustrator, Rohan Daniel Eason.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Hitting the Right Note

Since I have a bit of a musical background ( I played the clarinet in school & years later, the flute), I've often thought about the similarities between a music composition and a novel. I've realized that both the composer of a concerto and the author of a novel use specific rules to compose their creations.

Are there elements I can learn from the music world to create a story that sings?

I believe so.

Here's a short list of music terms & the corresponding literary term:

Movements (three in a concerto; four in a sonata or symphony.)
Acts (three in most literary novels.)
*   *   *
Soloist (an individual instrument that is featured to play the melody line.)
Protagonist (the leading character through which the reader understands the story.)
*   *   *
Time Signature (beats per measure; one beat per particular note.)
Pace (Simply stated, how fast a story unfolds and proceeds.)
*   *   *
Practice, practice, practice!
Write, write, write!

As you can see these two art forms have some interesting similarities.
But, how does that help me hit the right note when writing my story?

As I've pondered this question I realized that when I was an active member of an orchestra I'd never have thought to disregard the rules. I knew that my ability to properly play my clarinet according to the notes, etc. on the page directly affected the success of our performance. All musical notations had to be adhered to - no exceptions.

Do I pay the same attention to the rules with regard to crafting a story?

I believe I do when it comes to the big elements of writing. But, do I pay the same attention to elements that are a bit harder to evaluate? Like dialogue, character development, the use of humor, etc. If I'm honest, I believe I can do better. This quote is simple, yet so powerful:

"It's the attention to detail that makes the difference between average and stunning."  Francis Atterbury

If this is the Golden Age of publishing (as I've read), then only the very best manuscripts will get noticed. Those that are not only well-written & heartfelt, but those to which their authors have paid attention to detail.

I need to always attempt to hit the right note as a writer, like I did as a musician. The right word, the right scene, the right chapter ending, etc.

(Recently I picked up my flute again; that's what prompted this post!)


In an outline for a future middle grade novel, the famous composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi is featured for my story. Above is a video of his Spring Concerto from "Four Seasons." Listen and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Prevarication - (n.)
a spoken or written statement that is evasive; a lie.
Example: The politician's explanation for his misdeed was nothing but one big prevarication.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

The Lifters
by Dave Eggers

Flap Copy Description:
When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly but surely sink.

When Gran's friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows that she is extraordinary and brave, and that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their town--and the known world--out of danger.

In The Lifters, critically acclaimed author Dave Eggers establishes himself as a storyteller who can entertain and inspire readers of any age.

My Thoughts:
At first glance The Lifters looks like a light-hearted middle grade read...Wrong! This chapter book is fantastic on many levels - primarily for budding or reluctant readers. Here's a list of features that make the well-written and engaging story by Dave Eggers a winner:
*It is super funny!
*Quirky characters
*Short chapters
*Large font
*Small pencil illustrations on about half of the pages
*A map inside the flap cover (viewable when it's removed) - so cool!
*Most importantly: It's a fantastic story!

While it may seem that this book is not challenging enough for an avid reader, that's not the case. Due to the great character development, satirical humor, and puzzling plot, it's complex enough for all readers. I highly recommend The Lifters to readers aged seven to twelve.

Click here to learn about the award-winning author Dave Eggers.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Salmon River - Wildwood Recreational Area - Brightwood, OR 
Writing Retreats

The photo on the left was taken in the summer of 2014 while I was on a writing retreat with a critique partner. I'm so excited to be going back to that area in July with my critique group!

The benefits from a writing retreat, especially one that is near a natural setting, are endless. They not only inspire your creativity, they refresh and invigorate your soul. Since I always include natural settings in my stories, spending time in the out of doors is invaluable. (It's perfect when I can do it near my story's actual setting for inspiration and accuracy.) Without exception, the personal summer writing retreats I've been on have been the most productive creative time I've ever spent.

There is no shortage of spectacular places in the Northwest to plan a retreat. (We'll be in one of the lovely rental cabins available on Mt. Hood in Oregon.) However, you can plan a retreat anywhere. 

My two critique partners - Kriston & Deb - in my backyard last summer
Since summer is on the way, now is the time to plan a retreat with your writer friends. Whether it's out in the woods, in a park, or in your own backyard, the benefits are well worth the time it takes to coordinate your retreat. Best of all, you'll no doubt have a blast, like we always do.