Friday, December 18, 2015

Season's Greetings!

Snow Study III by Michael Lindstrom - Oil on Panel 9 X 12


Every year I take a winter break near the Christmas holiday. This will be my last blog post of 2015; I'll be back on Writ of Whimsy in January.  

We're looking forward to spending a very special Christmas with my parents, our sons & daughter-in-law, and other family members as well.

Hope you have the happiest of holidays!
(If you'd like to view my recent quarterly newsletter, click here.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Droll - (n.)
curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.
Example: The mischievous Christmas elf was a droll little creature.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

An Invisible Thread
Christmas Story

by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski,
illustrated by Barry Root

Flap Copy Description:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of An Invisible Thread comes the true, heartfelt, and extraordinary story of how one woman’s decision to help a boy on the street changed both of their lives forever.

New York Times bestselling author Laura Schroff tells the remarkable story of her lifelong friendship with a boy named Maurice who she met on the street while he was asking for change in her book, An Invisible Thread.

Now, in this sweet picture book, Laura retells the first Christmas that she and Maurice spent together. She shares how Maurice gave her a small white bear and, as she later learns, the only thing he had that he could truly call his own—to show her how grateful he was for their friendship. This heartwarming tale captures the true meaning of the holidays and will be one you’ll want to share with your family year after year as a reminder that a gift from the heart is always the best present under the tree.

My Thoughts:
This true story about the power of kindness will not only warm your child's heart, it will warm yours - I know it did mine. What I most admire about An Invisible Thread is the section at the back of the book where the author lists suggestions on how to encourage kindness in our families. Brilliant!

I chose to feature An Invisible Thread during this holiday season, since kindness is something we can all afford to give one another - not only now, but all year long.

Click on the link below if you'd like to learn about organizations making a difference for children and their families.

Remember: the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Yuletide Inspiration from Dylan Thomas

Since one of my current works in progress is set in Wales - Journey to Snowdonia -  I've done a fair amount of research on that country. And while this little book by Dylan Thomas is a familiar tale to children in Great Britain, it is somewhat unfamiliar to those of us in the States.
(I've discovered one of the biggest joys in being a writer is doing the research that is required to create my stories!)

A Child's Christmas in Wales not only informed and inspired me, it put me in the holiday spirit. So much so, that I'm anxious to read another Christmas story. If you, too, are looking for a yuletide tale to read this month, here's an extraordinary list of classics to choose from:

A Letter From Santa Claus, by Mark Twain

The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen

The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry

Papa Panov's Special Christmas, by Leo Tolstoy

Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

So, grab one of these books, a cup of hot cocoa, and a holiday cookie... Enjoy!

And one more item that may interest you....My quarterly newsletter will be sent out next week; it includes highlights of my recent author activities. To sign up to receive it, click here!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Docent - (n.)
a person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis, in a museum, art gallery, or zoo.
Example: Penelope was so passionate about animals that she was a delightful little docent at the zoo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Miracle on 133rd Street
Written by Sonia Manzano
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Amazon Description:
An urban family’s dilemma becomes a community celebration in this delectable holiday treat from Sonia Manzano, also known as “Maria” on Sesame Street.

It’s Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But, oh no! It’s too big to fit in the oven. Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.

Sonia Manzano from Sesame Street and two-time Caldecott Honor-recipient Marjorie Priceman have cooked up a Christmas tale about how the simplest things—like the tantalizing smell of Christmas dinner and the sharing of it—can become a holiday miracle.

My Thoughts:
This delightful picture book by Sonia Manzano lovingly embraces life in New York City during the holidays. The different customs and cultures captured by the cast of characters in Miracle on 133rd Street are a wonderful reminder that we all have important things in common - like family, friends, and food - and if we believe that, a miracle just might happen! The whimsical illustrations in this book add to the charm of Miracle on 133rd Street; it's a wonderful holiday book for any child.

Click here to learn more about the actress/author Sonia Manzano.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Fan-tastic Friday (It's a Giveaway!)
        *     *     *
Since we're now officially in the holiday season, I've decided to make today "Fan-tastic Friday" here on Writ of Whimsy.
Not one, but two contests!

Contest #1
I've been planning a giveaway for some time, but along the way another great opportunity presented itself: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has just revealed a new event for recently published books. You'll find a book launch party for The Tale of Willaby Creek here - with its great contest. Merely leave a comment in my guest book and you're eligible! (Check out all the other books here.)
Contest #2
Now, here are the details for my blog contest/giveaway: Pictured above are the two books I've had published with their matching bookmarks; they will be a big part of my blog's giveaway today. In addition to those items, one lucky winner will receive a $50.00 gift card from Amazon. (The Rafflecopter details are listed below.)
                                            Happy Holidays!

                  Click here to see the list of the lucky winners!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mudlark (n.)
a person who scavenges in river mud for objects of value.
Example: The two mischievous mudlarks enjoyed exploring near the River Thames.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SCBWI Book Launch Party!

Inaugural Book Event!
Today's the debut of an SCBWI book event: A tri-annual Book Launch Party.  They've got a great marketing program, including running ads in many industry publications, contacting bloggers, librarians, & reading associations.
Photo art courtesy of SCBWI.
I'm thankful for this opportunity and elected to feature my middle grade adventure fantasy novel, The Tale of Willaby Creek, since it was released earlier this year. Click here to view my book's launch party!

Click here to view all the featured titles by so many SCBWI members!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Curiosity House
The Shrunken Head
by Lauren Oliver &
H. C. Chester

Flap Copy Description:
Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

My Thoughts:
Step right up, boys and girls! This latest middle grade novel by Lauren Oliver will tantalize, terrify, and take over your imagination. Yes, Curiosity House - The Shrunken Head, is full of freaks, fallacies,  and fun, and will keep you mystified as you attempt to solve its strange string of murders. Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max are the truly odd, yet audacious children, who track down the despised and despicable villain. (Aren't those the best kind?) And bonus, this well-written and scintillating story could be the first in a series! If you enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society Series, by Trenton Lee Stewart, you'll love Lauren Oliver's Curiosity House - The Shrunken Head.

Click here to learn about the accomplished author, Lauren Oliver.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

A Silver Lining - Thanks, Chelsea Cain!

Each autumn I anxiously look forward to the Authors and Illustrators Dinner here in our hometown - it's a formal fundraiser benefiting our local library. Recent keynote speakers have included: Nicholas Sparks, Judy Schachner, and Diana Gabaldon.

The afternoon of this year's fundraiser, the plane carrying the keynote speaker - British thriller novelist Lee Child - was grounded in poor weather on the East Coast; he would be unable to make it to the event in time. With only a few hours to find a worthy replacement, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library was on pins and needles with what to do.

Then they contacted the New York Times best selling novelist, Chelsea Cain in Portland, Oregon, and she agreed to speak. The fundraiser would go on. While you would expect a seasoned author like Chelsea Cain to be able to pinch-hit, it was the way in which she did it that was so amazing. She hit a home run. She stepped up to the podium and right from her first comment, "Hi, I'm Lee Child," she had the audience hanging on every one of her hilarious words and amazing anecdotes. And her effort didn't stop there. Since she had only learned about the event a couple of hours before she had to be at the hotel, she was only able to bring a small handful of her books. (They had stacks of books by Lee Child!) That didn't stop Chelsea. She stayed after the event speaking with people in the foyer as they purchased the books by Lee Child. She even posed for several photos, and then signed my book: Lee Child and Chelsea Cain. She said, "I know Lee Child; he won't mind." What a character!

Chelsea spent several minutes with me; when she learned that I'm a new author, she said, "Go for it. This business is full of people that had the guts to go for it. Don't listen to the voice of reason saying you'll never make it. If I'd listened to those voices I wouldn't be here now."

There are several lessons I learned that night, not the least of which is that there really are silver linings in life. As people were departing the Hilton, we heard comments like: "She's one of the best speakers we've ever heard." They were right. She's also a very special human being. She turned what could have been a disaster, into a delightful and extraordinary evening. An evening that I know I'll always remember.

This Thanksgiving weekend I'm grateful for my family, friends, and so many other blessings. I'm reminded that a blessing can often be found from a bad situation if we only keep our hearts and minds open to it.
                            Have a safe and joyous weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Soporific - adj.
tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.
Example: The Thanksgiving turkey had a somewhat soporific effect upon the family members.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Written by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by Archie Preston

Amazon Description:
Thankful, by bestselling and award-winning children's author Eileen Spinelli, combines charming rhymes and whimsical illustrations to convey the importance of being thankful for everyday blessings. Like the gardener thankful for every green sprout, and the fireman, for putting the fire out, readers are encouraged to be thankful for the many blessings they find in their lives. Spinelli exhibits her endearing storytelling with this engaging poem, reminding children how blessed and special they are.

My Thoughts:
Eileen Spinelli and Archie Preston have collaborated to create their picture book in rhyme, Thankful. The warm colors of Mr. Preston's illustrations, coupled with the inspiring words of Ms. Spinelli make this book for children a keepsake classic - perfect for this holiday season.

Click here to learn more about the author Eileen Spinelli.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Building a Multi-Author Book Event

In the last fifteen months I've had two children's books published, and while those events were wonderful, they were also both learning experiences. The need to market my books was something I'd planned for, but for which I was not thoroughly prepared.
Photo Credit:  Courtesy of the Public Domain

 However, I soon learned a few things about promoting my books. I blogged about Marketing Strategy last year here on Writ of Whimsy.

Recently I've discovered that building a multi-author book event can be a great way to go. There are several advantages to teaming up with author friends, even when each of you writes in a different genre:

1- A mixed-genre event can draw a wider variety of visitors to your book event. People who may not have known about you, might purchase your book while supporting the other author(s).

2- Any incurred expenses are shared equally by the participating authors.

3- The authors can have a discussion on any number of topics related to their books, rather than just reading and having a Q & A.

4- A book event with multiple authors creates a more dynamic and enjoyable experience for its visitors.

Building a book event with multiple authors is not without its challenges - especially when it comes to promoting the event. However, that challenge can be conquered with a bit of creativity. Here's the flyer for a recent book event I participated in with two mystery authors:

This opportunity came about because I'm friends with Carolyn J. Rose, an author of numerous novels. While participating in the event I got to know Ellie Alexander - a lovely local novelist I'd only recently met.
It was difficult to see where we could tie our very different books together; but a dear friend who helps me out with publicity - Candace Robinson of CBB Book Promotions - came up with this clever slogan: The Bear, The Baker, & Bigfoot . All three of us loved her idea!

We had an engaging talk about our writing techniques, as well as our journeys as authors. The visitors at the event were treated to a diverse discussion on what being an author means to each of us.

This is a great example of how, with just a bit of imagination, an extraordinary book event can be built with a variety of authors.

Tomorrow I'm teaming up with my author friend, Kriston Johnson, for another exciting book event! Imagination was again needed to find a bridge for our MG & YA books that would be a creative way to promote our event. It was accomplished with our shared love of fantasy novels:

It seems I enjoy marketing my books almost as much as writing them. It's an added bonus when you participate in a book event with a friend. If you live in the Portland/Vancouver area we'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tombolo - (n.)
a bar of sand joining an island to the mainland.
Example: Coronado Island is connected to San Diego, California by a tombolo.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner...with an Interview & Giveaway!

Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?
by Liza Gardner Walsh
Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell

Book Description:
Everyone knows fairies love spring flowers and summer sun, but what happens when autumn comes and the days get shorter and colder? Now, Liza Gardner Walsh, acclaimed author of the Fairy House Handbook and Fairy Garden Handbook, explores the matter in a charming children's picture book of rhyming questions. Combined with delightful illustrations by Hazel Mitchell this whimsical book will help children discover just where fairies go when it snows and offer a subtle lesson about the importance of helping one another.

Today I'm thrilled to have both the author - Liza Gardner Walsh - and the illustrator - Hazel Mitchell - as my guests on Writ of Whimsy!
We'll be discussing their delightful, recently released picture book:
                Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?

Before we dive into the interview (and the giveaway!) here is a brief bio/background of each of these talented and accomplished artists:

Liza Gardner Walsh
is the author of four books, Fairy House Handbook, Fairy Garden Handbook, Haunted Fort, and The Maine Coon Cat. She is a high school English teacher and has worked as a children’s librarian, writing tutor, museum educator, and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College. 
Hazel Mitchell
Drawing, reading and horses were my big passions as a youngster. After I attended art college in my home country of England, I ran away to sea and joined the Royal Navy. Now I'm doing what I've always dreamed of - illustrating and writing children's books.

Welcome to Writ of Whimsy, ladies! I'm so excited to be able to interview both of you. I hope you don't mind, but I'll be bouncing back and forth between you two with questions. So, here we go!

VL - Since I've already purchased and read the book, Liza, I just want to say how much I love it! When did you start writing picture books?

LGW - Oh my goodness, thank you so much! This is actually my first official published picture book, although I have written several other non-fiction books for kids.

VL - Thanks, Liza. Hazel, I've admired your illustrations for some time; however, your work on this book is extraordinary. How long have you been illustrating books for children?

HM - Thanks so much, Victoria! I illustrated my first book (How To Talk To An Autistic Kid) in 2010 and have been lucky to be working on one book or another ever since! Before I illustrated for children I did commercial art work and graphic design.

VL - Gosh, I didn't know that, Hazel. I'll have to take a look at that book, too. Liza, what inspired you to write Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?

LGW - I have led a number of fairy programs over the last few years and one of my favorite parts is listening to the questions children ask about the unknown possibilities in the fairy world. I have developed that habit too and one day, while I was walking in the snow, I wondered if the fairies hung around during the winter and those questions formed the framework of the book.

VL - I love to hear where authors find their inspiration. Thanks, Liza. So Hazel, you're the first illustrator I've interviewed! Could you briefly explain the steps you took in creating the illustrations for this book?

HM - Illustrators can be tricksey! The first thing I do when I am asked to illustrate a book is read through the manuscript several times to get a feel for the language/mood/character/setting. I think about what age of child it is aimed for and if the words are suggesting a particular style. Sometimes I make a mood board for the book. I think about where the page turns in the book might be. Usually I will begin with sketching the main characters and decide if they are human or animal! Sometimes I use models. With 'Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?' it was pretty easy...they were fairies! When the characters are shaped I create 'thumbnails', very small drawings that are really just little scrawls of what's happening on every page, at this stage everything can change. Next I will work the scrawls up into bigger sketches of each page, still very loose and sketchy. If I'm happy with them I'll then send then to the art director/editor and they'll give me their this stage the author will usually see them too and pass any comments to the editor. (Not to me directly.) We might have another revision (or two!)...and then it's on to the final art, which can take anything from a couple of months to a year depending on detail and length of book. There will be a final check over that everything is ok, maybe a few tweaks and VOILA! It's a book!

VL - Thanks, Hazel. I loved getting a behind the scenes description of how you approach your work. Now another question for Liza. I know writing a picture book in rhyme is not easy, at least not to do well. Your text in rhyme in this book is exquisite; what is your secret?

LGW - Thank you again! I adore poetry and like to read poems before I write. I majored in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry in college and to this day, I spend much of my time making silly rhymes about our daily life - often to the horror of my family, I even add a tune!
When I was working on this book, there were a few clunkers and so I just kept going over it until I could get it just right. As with most writing, revision is the secret!

VL - I love the word clunkers, Liza. But I agree, they're not cool in our writing. So Hazel, what advice would you give novice illustrators of children's books?

HM - Know your craft. The basics of drawing and creating art are essential. And then you need to supplement this with a good understanding of children's books and how they work in today's market. If you can study at a good college in children's illustration, that's a great place to start. There are part-time courses and some fantastic books on illustrating for children. I would suggest you join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and go to conferences that are held by the SCBWI; the Highlights Foundation in PA also has wonderful courses. Harold Underdown (children's book editor) has a  website that has great information for those just getting started and for those who are working in the field. Most importantly READ a great many books and keep up with what's new from publishers. And DRAW! Always DRAW!

VL - Thanks for those great tips, Hazel. So Liza, what one thing would surprise me about you?

LGW - I am not a terribly surprising person but kids are often quite shocked that I have never seen a fairy.

VL - It sounds like your stories are super believable, Liza!
Hazel, I know you reside in Maine, but hail from Great Britain; what brought you to the States?

HM - Easy question - my husband is American and I moved here in 2000 to be with him. I do love Maine, it reminds me very much of Yorkshire where I come from in the UK.

Well, thanks so much for your time, Liza and Hazel. Your answers were fascinating, as well as informative. I wish we could chat all day!

                                    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Liza and Hazel are offering a special giveaway today! One copy of Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? as well as this whimsical Fairy Kit to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post.
                                               Good Luck!
                                               (The winner to be selected by Liza and Hazel.)

Here are the online links where you can visit Liza Gardner Walsh:
Here are the online links where you can visit Hazel Mitchell:
Website     Facebook     Twitter  
Here are the buy links for Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?:
Thanks for stopping by Writ of Whimsy!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Champions of Creativity

               Astrid Lindgren

For some time now I've wanted to feature a post about this iconic and enormously inspirational children's author. Like so many children, I grew up reading Pippi Longstocking books, and loved them. However, it wasn't until I was an adult - and learned of Ms. Lindgren's personal life - that I became a true fan not only of her work, but of her life. Since tomorrow marks her birthday, today is a good time for this post.

When I began to seriously research Astrid Lindgren's life, I quickly discovered a wonderful website dedicated to everything about the author. So much so, that any attempt on my part to honor her would pale in comparison. Therefore, I'll just tell you why she's been so inspirational to me. (That website's link is at the bottom of this post.)

As I mentioned above, Astrid (Ericcson) Lindgren was born on November 14, 1907, on a farm in Nas, near Vimmerby, Sweden.

Astrid Lindgren's childhood home.

The Ericcson family home is still intact and is open for guided tours year-round.The Lindgren family recently announced that Astrid's Stockholm apartment (where she wrote Pippi Longstocking) will also be open to the public - as a museum - beginning tomorrow. Click here.

After Astrid Lindgren graduated from school she found employment at a newspaper in Vimmerby. She was in a relationship with the editor, and then became pregnant in 1926. Although the man proposed marriage, Ms. Lindgren declined. She moved to Stockholm, became a typist and a stenographer, and soon thereafter gave birth to a son - Lars - in Copenhagen, Denmark, leaving him in the care of a foster family. She continued to work in Stockholm, and although she made very little money, spent most of her weekends traveling to Copenhagen to see her son. Eventually she was able to bring Lars home to live with her in Stockholm. She married Sture Lindgren in 1931 and three years later had a daughter - Karin. Like so many authors before her, Ms. Lindgren made up a story for her daughter when the child was sick - that story was Pippi Longstocking. The book went on to be translated into sixty languages, and is still a popular classic today. Astrid Lindgren wrote numerous other books, essays, and magazine articles. She also received many prestigious literary awards during her lifetime.

Astrid Lindgren was well known both for her support for children's and animal rights and for her opposition to corporal punishment. In 1994, she received the Right Livelihood Award, "...For her commitment to justice, non-violence and understanding of minorities as well as her love and caring for nature."

Throughout her life Astrid Lindgren strove to make good decisions, even when it was difficult to do so...and would require a sacrifice on her part. I think that's what I admire most about the amazing woman. Before her death on January 28, 2002 she was nearly blind.

(Click here for the link I promised to the website on Astrid Lindgren.)

A childhood without books - that would be no childhood at all. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.  ~ Astrid Lindgren

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Fealty - (n.)
intense loyalty; fidelity
Example: Each year on November 11th we're reminded to thank all U.S. veterans for their fealty to our country.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

On a Beam of Light
A Story of Albert Einstein
Written by Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

Amazon Description:
A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe.

My Thoughts:
What I found most meaningful in this delightful picture book was how the author revealed the strange childhood of the famed physicist. Ms. Berne went on to include a bit more about Einstein's personal life when she mentioned his hobbies of sailing, bicycling, and playing his violin. While his scientific achievements are included in this well-written book, it is the curiosity and imagination of Albert Einstein that I took away from it. In addition to that, the light-hearted illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky are just lovely. And, for the more serious mind, at the back of the book there is a detailed list of the iconic scientist's experiments, discoveries, and political persuasion. There is a even a book list for readers who would like to learn more about the man who lived life so wholeheartedly. I highly recommend On a Beam of Light - A Story of Albert Einstein to children of all ages!

Click here to learn more about the author, Jennifer Berne.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
The Wellspring of Curiosity

Somewhere along my path as a poet/writer, I discovered I've always had a story floating around inside my soul - usually numerous tales. However, I've met writers who claim to have difficulty discovering an idea worthy to be developed into a book.
Why is that? There are probably numerous reasons, but the one that I believe is the missing ingredient to inspiration is: CURIOSITY.

Curiosity is a trait that is found in children in abundance, and also in adults who have maintained a childlike outlook on life. So why do some adults so quickly discard that mindset? One reason is that it doesn't seem sophisticated enough for the likes of an intellectual or an author.

However, if we writers want to pen something that is not only worthy of publication, but will also satisfy our own soul, it behooves us to tap into the wellspring of curiosity. Only then will we find a subject that is important to us, and will therefore matter to our prospective readers.

Below is a list of quotes on curiosity by some truly gifted people: 

"Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." ~ Walt Disney

"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. " ~ e.e. cummings

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein

"Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind." ~ Samuel Johnson

"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people." ~ Leo Burnett

This topic has always interested me, but when I read the new book: Big Magic - Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert, I was reminded of the importance of curiosity. It's a must read for all writers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bailiwick (n.)

one's sphere of operations or particular area of interest.
Example: The English teacher refused to teach mathematics; it just wasn't in her bailiwick.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

by Katherine Applegate

Flap Copy Description:
In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

My Thoughts:
The recently released middle grade novel by Katherine Applegate - Crenshaw - took me completely by surprise! While the book does include an anthropomorphic cat - as well as magical elements - it is a dramatic and poignant story that is sure to inspire a variety of readers. This entertaining and heartwarming tale will remind you not only of the importance of being resilient, but of being grateful. Ms. Applegate shines a light on the very real problem of hunger in our society - in fact, her new novel has spawned the Crenshaw Food Drive. I highly recommend Crenshaw to readers from the ages of eight to twelve!

Click here to learn more about the author, Katherine Applegate.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
    The Fringe Benefit of Fear

As a child I had a wild and wonderful imagination. Probably due to the numerous novels that opened my mind to all of the extraordinary possibilities the world had to offer.

Unfortunately, my imagination also opened my mind to more than a few fears. The list of my phobias included: fear of the dark, fear of social interactions, fear of receiving a poor grade, and fear of failure, to name just a few. Consequently, like so many children, I built a world for myself where the possibility of encountering those dreaded situations was limited. However, all that that accomplished was to limit my life.

As adults we tell ourselves, "Grow up; you're not a kid anymore." However, while our brain would agree with that, our heart might still harbor latent childhood fears. I only overcame my fear of the dark in the last ten years! While I never really thought that nyctophobia would make any difference in my life one way or the other - overcoming my fear of the dark has made a difference. Fear of any kind wraps a harness around your heart. Every time we overcome a fear, our hearts become a bit more brave. The other thing I've learned from my fears is that fear is a cousin to failure. Think about it: If you fear something, you stay away from it; you don't even try to conquer it. Consequently, you fail by default. That's not a very positive way to live life. When we overcome our fears we discover who we were always meant to be. Using our imagination allows us to have faith for the future, so much so, that we can actually change the course of our lives.

When I became a full-time writer I began to use my imagination again. I don't think it's any coincidence that at that same time I began to see my fear of the dark dissipate. Using one's imagination is one of the most powerful forces on earth, and should never be underestimated.

The fringe benefit of fear is the opportunity to find our courage.

                          Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cadaverous - (adj.)
resembling a corpse in being very pale, thin, or bony.
Example: The adolescent's appearance was cadaverous, due to marvelous Halloween make-up.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Took: A Ghost Story
by Mary Downing Hahn

Amazon Description:
“Folks say Old Auntie takes a girl and keeps her fifty years—then lets her go and takes another one.”   Thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson doesn’t believe Brody Mason’s crazy stories about the ghost witch who lives up on Brewster’s Hill with Bloody Bones, her man-eating razorback hog. He figures Brody’s probably just trying to scare him since he’s the new kid . . . a “stuck-up snot” from Connecticut. But Daniel’s seven-year-old sister Erica has become more and more withdrawn, talking to her lookalike doll. When she disappears into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? Has Erica been “took”?

My Thoughts:
Since Halloween is creeping up on the calendar I thought I'd feature a book review with a bit of spine-tingling intrigue - Took definitely fits the bill! This is the first novel I've read by Ms. Hahn, and was thoroughly entertained by her well-written ghost story for young readers. She is such a great storyteller that I found myself believing the outrageous tale she'd spun. If you have a child who enjoys scary stories, don't miss out on Took: A Ghost Story.

Click here to learn more about the author, Mary Downing Hahn.

Friday, October 23, 2015

An Interview with Author Carolyn J. Rose

A Most Extraordinary Lady

As storytellers, we all have people who have been instrumental in our development as writers. My guest today is mystery author Carolyn J. Rose; she is definitely one of those special people in my life. I met Carolyn during my first creative writing course at Clark College (after my departure from dental hygiene).

Right from the very first class I knew she was special. Not only did she inform and inspire her students, she did it with humor and humility. For that reason, I'm thrilled that Carolyn has agreed to allow me to interview her today on Writ of Whimsy - it's long overdue!

But first, here is the cover image and back cover description for Carolyn's latest mystery novel, No Substitute For Myth:

Is Bigfoot prowling around Reckless River, Washington? Has Sasquatch come to the city?

Barbara Reed doesn’t know if she believes the legendary creature exists, but evidence is stacking up. Something big is scavenging for food in city parks. Something tall and heavy left footprints across a dirt parking lot. And something huge and hairy careened into her one night on the riverfront trail.

Did that same creature kill a man and drag his body into a swamp? Or was the killer human? Will justice be undermined by media frenzy, a tide of tourism, and hundreds of hunters?

With help from the usual suspects, Barb, her drug-cop boyfriend, her pearl-powered wealthy neighbor, and Cheese Puff, her less-than-loyal dog, set out to solve a mystery, catch a murderer, and bust a few myths along the way.

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Welcome to Writ of Whimsy, Carolyn! Thanks so much for taking the time to participate in this interview. This is a surreal experience for me; I never would have thought I'd be interviewing my teacher.

CJR - Don't think of me as a teacher, think of me as someone who distilled what I'd learned and passed it along with the hope some of it would be helpful. And think of me as someone who egged you on to write, write, write.

VL - You definitely did that! I'd like to begin by having you give us an overview of your early beginnings and history as an author, Carolyn.

CJR - When I was ten I started writing stories for myself and one of my cousins. I also started telling myself that one day I'd be a "real" writer. When I was 16, I sold a poem to Seventeen and won a community writing competition.

Then I lost momentum. I went off to college, went into Volunteers in Service to America, got a job in television news, got married, got divorced, got another job in another state, got married, moved again, and again, and again. Well, you get the picture.

I didn't have a lot of time or energy to write until the early 1990s when I carved out a couple of hours a week, took classes from Elizabeth Lyon (author of Manuscript Makeover and several other books on writing craft) and started a mystery. It was a learning book and, after a few years of tinkering with it, I tossed it. After that I wrote three mysteries set in TV newsrooms - all now out of print and going to stay that way because they were also learning books.

During the late 1990s, my husband (Mike Nettleton) and I wrote as a team, producing five books: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Death at Devil's Harbor (originally published as The Big Grabowski), Deception at Devil's Harbor (originally published as Sometimes a Great Commotion), and Drum Warrior (originally published as The Hermit of Humbug Mountain). Starting around 2001, we published them through several small presses: Deadly Alibi Press, SynergEbooks, and Krill Press. A few years ago we got our rights back. We revised the books and published them on our own.

In 2001, shortly after we moved to Vancouver, the news operation I worked for folded. It was a financial blow, but being laid off gave me time to focus on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I abandoned my career as a TV news producer and assignment editor and got certified as a substitute teacher. Then I wrote a project on my own, a dark mystery set in the Catskill Mountains. It became Hemlock Lake and, after years of querying agents and then publishers, it was released by Five Star in 2010.

When Five Star turned down a second book, I decided I couldn't face more years of querying and rejection, so I jumped into independent publishing with An Uncertain Refuge. My sales encouraged me to keep going with sequels to that book and to Hemlock Lake, as well as a love story, A Place of Forgetting.

My most successful book has been No Substitute for Murder, a cozy based in Reckless River, Washington, a town much like Vancouver. It features amateur sleuth Barbara Reed, a substitute teacher. Despite the fact that I do very little promotion and have never participated in free download programs, nearly 40,000 readers -  some as far away as South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil, and New Zealand - have downloaded the book. Many have written to tell me how much they enjoyed the characters - especially Cheese Puff, Barb's entitled dog. That connection with readers means more to me than the paychecks.

In November I will publish book #20. No Substitute for Mistakes, the fifth in the Subbing isn't for Sissies Series.

VL - Gosh, Carolyn, I'm learning so much about you that I never knew. You've been in this business for quite a while. Could you tell me a few of the significant changes you've seen in the world of publishing in that time?

CJR - The rise of indie publishing is the big thing. Competition for readers is increasing all the time. I think it's wonderful that writers can write the books they want to write and put them out there without going the traditional-publishing route. A good story told well will find an audience.

But at the same time, I think there's a lot to be learned from the process of searching for an agent or publisher. It can be time-consuming and painful, but the feedback can help polish your pitch and your work.

I also think anyone who wants to roll on the indie road should make a supreme effort to upload a manuscript that's well-formatted and as free of errors as possible.

VL - Great advice, Carolyn. Since you've been traditionally published, as well as independently published, could you give us some insights on what you've learned from both experiences?

CJR - Years ago I had experiences with two agents. Both gave me sound advice about character development. I didn't realize how much one of my characters moped and moaned until Agent #1 pointed it out.

But Agent #1 was terrible at keeping in touch and often seemed to drop off the map for months, so I ended our association. I queried again and found Agent #2 who sold one of the books Mike and I wrote together. We were walking on air for months, waiting for a contract. Then we learned the division that wanted the book had folded before the contract was negotiated. Discouraged, we stuck with Agent #2 for another year until she told me she couldn't represent Hemlock Lake because it was a rural book and she was a city girl. Because the themes of the book are universal, I'm still puzzling over that.

Meanwhile, we'd "sold" several books to small presses. I say "sold" because there was no money up front, only royalties on sales. We liked the publishers and got a lot of guidance about covers and blurbs and promotion. We also learned exactly how hard a small-press author - and almost every other author who isn't already published - has to work to make even a tiny ripple in the publishing pond.

It was valuable experience and helps me now that I'm "on my own." I miss not having the support and guidance of an agent or publisher, but I don't miss the feeling that the book is no longer completely mine.

VL - Carolyn, how have you managed to write so many books, while still substitute teaching?

CJR - B.I.C. Backside in chair. I take time, I make time, and I try to use time wisely and not think about household tasks that ought to be done.

Also, the great thing about being a substitute teacher is that when the final bell rings, and teachers go to a staff meeting or pack up a load of papers to take home to grade, I skip out the door (sometimes literally) and come home to walk the dogs, get a snack and write. Plus, there's no work in the summer, so I can buckle down and write 6-8 hours a day.

VL - How do you maintain such consistent motivation to write?

CJR - Part of my motivation comes from the kid inside of me who wanted to be a writer. And part comes from my characters. They pop up in my dreams with ideas for what they want to do next. They're a pushy bunch and right now are helping me with No Substitute for Motive, the 6th book in the Subbing isn't for Sissies Series.

Thanks for this informative and inspiring interview, Carolyn! I'd also like to thank you for your friendship and support; I know you've offered the same to numerous other writers in our community. You're the best.

Here are the links where you can visit Carolyn J. Rose:

     Website   Facebook   Blog   Amazon   B & N   Kobo

Carolyn's next book is the 5th in the Subbing isn't for Sissies Series - No Substitute for Mistakes - and will be available in November!


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Windbaggery - (n.)
lengthy talk or discussion with little or no interesting content.
Example: While the white-haired grandfather had a good heart, his conversations were really nothing more than windbaggery.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick

Flap Copy Description:
Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

My Thoughts: 
The latest creation by Brian Selznick - The Marvels - just may be his best! While his extraordinary illustrations are once again exquisite, his imaginative and inspired story was so unique and thought-provoking it actually brought me to tears. Set in an old English mansion - in different time periods - we follow Joseph Jervis through his mysterious family's odd history. This well-written and thoroughly researched novel is worth every word of its 600+ pages. I highly recommend The Marvels to readers aged eight to eighty!

Click here to learn about the multi-talented author, Brian Selznick.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

The Deeper Meaning of Fairy Tales

As a young child I was, thankfully, allowed to read all sorts of fairy tales and fantasy stories; my parents (and grandmother), to my knowledge, never thought to limit my literary appetite.
That freedom to read whatever I desired was an extraordinary gift they gave to me; it allowed my imagination to thrive and grow, and thus, gave me the tools to develop my problem-solving abilities for the rest of my life.

Bruno Bettelheim said in his book, The Uses of Enchantment - The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, "Fairy tales are important to the child's development because the main characters - many of them children themselves - demonstrate the tenacious ability to triumph over adversity in a world of giants and cruel parents." While the book is written from a psychologist's point of view, and is therefore a somewhat clinical look at how a child's psyche develops, one of its main points is that children use their imaginations more than logic when navigating through their personal problems.

Mr. Bettelheim went on to say that C. S. Lewis felt that fairy tales are "spiritual explorations" and hence "the most life-like" since they reveal "human life as seen, or felt, or divined from the inside."
(Many thanks to our friends, Tim and Pam, for loaning me this book!)

In a paradoxical way, traditional fairy tales are more truthful than most other children's stories; they reveal both good and evil in the world. However, no matter how violent the story, they almost always reveal a protagonist that, in the end, survives. That element tells the child, that they, too, can work through - and survive - the anxieties that they face.

As a writer one of the ways I like to engage young readers is to speak to them as an adult. That includes the vocabulary I use, the characters I develop, and the scenes (some including a death) that I write. That being said, I always include at least one anthropomorphic animal, magical elements, and whimsical settings. While the details of my stories are of a fantasy nature, the themes and subjects addressed in my books are as real as any human experience could be.

E.B. White once said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”

Fairy tales allow the writer to create a fantasy story that is full of life's complex truths, while being wrapped in a "once upon a time" existence in a magical, faraway land where imagination rules supreme.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Noosphere - (n.)
 a state of interconnected awareness among all minds, resulting from humanity's biological and cultural evolution.
Example: The pacifists hoped that in time, a more harmonious noosphere would bring about peace.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Firefly Hollow
Written by Alison McGhee
Illustrated by
Christopher Denise

Flap Copy Description:
Firefly. Cricket. Vole. Peter. Can four creatures from four very different Nations help one another find their ways in the world that can feel oh-so-big?

Firefly doesn’t merely want to fly, she wants to touch the moon. Cricket doesn’t merely want to sing about baseball, he wants to catch. When these two little creatures with big dreams wander out of Firefly Hollow, refusing to listen to their elders, they find themselves face-to-face with the one creature they were always told to stay away from…a giant.

But Peter is a Miniature Giant. They’ve always been told that a Miniature Giant is nothing but a Future Giant, but this one just isn’t quite as big or as scary as the other Giants. Peter has a dream of his own, as well as memories to escape. He is overwhelmed with sadness, and a summer with his new unlikely friends Firefly and Cricket might be just what he needs. Can these friends’ dreams help them overcome the past?

My Thoughts:

Rarely have I read a newly-released children's book and immediately thought, this will be a classic. However, that is just what I thought upon finishing Alison McGhee's Firefly Hollow. Ms. McGhee has penned a beautiful novel with a delightful cast of characters; I'm sure its powerful message of friendship, loss, and sacrifice, will long be with me. In addition to that, the illustrations by Christopher Denise are exquisite, and bring this whimsical tale to life perfectly. I highly recommend Firefly Hollow to readers aged eight to eighty. Bravo, Alison McGhee!

Click here to learn more about the author, Alison McGhee.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

The Power of a Writer's Words

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
― Emily Dickinson

While all writers of fiction hope to choose their words in such a fashion as to reveal their story to readers in a wonderful way - can, and do, our words do more than that? Can they, in some small way, contain the power to build a better world?

In the wake of the massacre in Roseburg, Oregon, I've found myself feeling helpless. This is not the first time. Whether it be the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the shootings at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, or the plight of the Syrian refugees, tragic events in our world cause me to wonder: What can I do to help better our world?

The only answer that echoes in my mind is: I can give the generation of tomorrow hope - through writing stories that inspire them, and hopefully, cause them to question the status quo in our world.

The famed composer, conductor, and author Leonard Bernstein once said, "The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. It can affect people so that they are changed...because people are changed by art - enriched, ennobled, encouraged - they then act in a way that may affect the course of the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.

Throughout history authors, poets, artists, and musicians have been the prophets; they've been the ones to raise their voices for justice.

In some small way this post is me raising my voice.

Photos courtesy of the Public Domain

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Hypergraphia - (n.)
a behavioral condition characterized by an intense desire to write.
Example: Some authors don't just love to write, they can't help themselves: they have hypergraphia.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

by Pam Munoz Ryan

Flap Copy Description:
Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. 

My Thoughts:
This beautifully written and uniquely crafted novel is one of those stories that I'd hoped would not end! For me, its two main attributes are its extraordinary plot development and its cast of characters. Echo is one of those books that cannot be put in a box; its independent, yet interwoven story lines, emerge as a colorful tapestry in the final chapter. Exquisite! I highly recommend Echo to readers from the ages of eight to eighty. Bravo, Ms. Ryan!

Click here to learn more about the author, Pam Munoz Ryan.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Champions of Creativity

   Lewis Carroll

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so today I'm focusing on the author of that beloved children's classic.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on January 27, 1832; he was later known to millions as Lewis Carroll. The Englishman wore many hats in his lifetime, including: author, poet, mathematician, logician, photographer, and deacon in the Anglican Church.

Carroll was from a family that included a long line of clergymen. He was educated at home; as a testament to his gifted intellect, he read such books as Pilgrim's Progress at the age of seven! He wrote poems and short stories as a young person, and was a gifted storyteller and mimic as a young adult - even though he struggled with a stammer.

Lewis Carroll was later educated at Oxford University receiving a degree in mathematics and first-class honors - placing first in his class. He became a Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church/Oxford which gave him a certain amount of financial security. In 1856 Henry Liddell became the new dean at Christ Church; Carroll was to become close with the dean, his wife, and their three daughters: Lorina, Edith, and Alice. (It has been debated for decades whether or not young Alice Liddell was the inspiration for the protagonist in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, even though late in his life Lewis Carroll denied that his character was based on any real child.)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 and became an overnight sensation. It brought Carroll fame, and with it, significant changes to his life - such as receiving loads of letters from adoring fans of the book. Even Queen Victoria was quite taken with the novel.

One of Lewis Carroll's own illustrations of Alice.
In 1871, a sequel - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There - was published. That darker story also includes Carroll's famous poem: Jabberwocky.

Throughout his life Mr. Carroll juggled the roles of author, mathematician, poet, logician, and photographer. Amidst these endeavors he unfortunately dealt with migraine headaches and "seizures," according to his personal journal.

Lewis Carroll died on January 14, 1898 of pneumonia, following influenza. He was 66 years old. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland became extremely influential in popular culture and literature - especially in the fantasy genre. Carroll's children's classic has been translated into 174 languages, and has never been out of print.

"One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others." Lewis Carroll

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This past summer I was lucky enough to find this rare copy of both stories by Lewis Carroll in an antique store on the Oregon Coast. It seemed fitting that this edition was published in 1915 - fifty years after the first book was published, and exactly one hundred years ago.

Since my current novel in progress includes a secondary character obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, I just had to buy this book. Research, right?