Monday, February 29, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

TREE: Seasons Come, Seasons Go
By Britta Teckentrup,
written by Patricia Hegarty

Amazon Description:
Explore the beauty of the changing seasons in this timeless peek-through book with beautiful artwork from Britta Teckentrup and accompanying rhyming text. Following the life-cycle of a tree through spring, summer, autumn and winter, children will easily learn to recognise the signs of the seasons...

Back Cover Description:
Peek through the holes in the tree to find a busy world of nature at work through rain and shine, wind and snow.

My Thoughts:
This delightful picture book is sure to thrill any youngster, while educating them about the seasons at the same time! The little horned owl is ever-present as you turn a page, until late winter when he hides inside the tree. Then, when spring reappears, he magically peeks out. A charming and creative book, with whimsical drawings. I highly recommend Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go to all little readers!

Click here to learn about the talented illustrator Britta Teckentrup.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Excitement Ahead!
After leaving hints here on Writ  of Whimsy regarding an exciting opportunity presented to me (and to my husband), I am finally ready to announce the great news!
Photo Credit: Public Domain

Last December we met an amazing power couple while selling copies of The Scandinavian Santa in a booth at ScanFair in Portland, OR. Doug and Liz took a liking to our book; it's always so nice to receive positive feedback. However, they are both accomplished musicians, and asked us, "have you ever thought of bringing your book to life?" While my first impression of Doug and Liz was super positive, my initial reaction to their question held a bit of skepticism. (That was only until I did some research and learned a bit about them!)

Elizabeth Byrd, B.M - cello performance/teacher/composer/tonal vibration therapist. Trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts and The Julliard School. Co-President of the Oregon Cello Society. Cello teacher at Clark College, Vancouver, WA. As a concert cellist and teacher, she has traveled, performed and taught throughout the world; She has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, London Festival Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, and Internationally with the famed Mantovani Orchestra...

Douglas Webster has performed on stages across forty-six of the United States and throughout Europe as soloist with symphony orchestras, opera and in solo recital. As an actor, he has appeared on Broadway, National tour and in regional theater. He has received the Portland Drammy Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Les Misérables) and the Phoenix Theatre Encore Award for Best Actor (Les Misérables) and Best Supporting Actor (The Light in the Piazza). He was honored to join the ranks of the Indiana University Singing Hoosier Distinguished Alumni in 2008. Winner of the Joy In Singing and Concert Artists Guild International Awards, his recordings include erudite chamber music interpretations to high-camp Disney tunes. His first recording job was singing Prince Charming on the Grammy-nominated A Disney Spectacular with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops for Telarc Records...

Needless to say, I am no longer skeptical, but am completely overwhelmed that these two amazingly talented and accomplished artists are interested in bringing our book to life! While the four of us are still working out the details, their idea is to produce a multi-media concert on a small stage that would include Doug narrating the book, Liz composing and performing an original melody (cello, etc.) for the book, and Michael's paintings/illustrations being projected on a screen in a creative fashion. (They have both been involved with multi-media productions/performances similar to this before.) There has already been a bit of interest shown for the project by a venue in Portland, Oregon for the 2016 holiday season, although not confirmed.

As you can imagine, I'm still pinching myself that we've been given this exciting opportunity for our book, The Scandinavian Santa. Earlier this year I was a bit bummed that the release of our current work in progress - Journey to Snowdonia - would have to be postponed until the holiday season of 2017. Now, I'm extremely thankful! There is so much to learn, and to do, in planning for this multi-media production slated for the winter holiday season late this year. I'll be sure to post updates as we assist with this creative collaboration.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

 Stevedore - (n.)
a person employed at a dock to load and unload cargo from ships.
Example: Sadly, the stevedore stole goods from the docks to feed his family.

By the way, today is World Read Aloud Day! To learn more about the importance of reading aloud to a child - or to anyone - click here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Magisterium - The Iron Trial
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Flap Copy Description:
Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come...  

My Thoughts:
Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have collaborated to create a wonderful new series! This first book in the Magisterium Series is full of magic and mayhem; it's a great read for any lover of fantasy novels. What I felt was its strongest attribute was the character development. The protagonist, Callum, has been physically challenged from the time of his unusual birth. This element is woven into the plot of the story, and the reader is not fully informed about its relevance - even upon the novel's conclusion. The other characters are complex and diverse as well, which puts The Iron Trial on a growing list of diverse books for children. I highly recommend it to readers aged eight to fourteen.

Click here for an interview with Cassandra Clare & Holly Black.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Champions of Creativity

               Charles Dickens

Earlier this month marked the 204th birthday of Charles Dickens. He is famous for writing such books as A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist to name just a few. Since he is one of my all-time favorite authors, I've chosen him as the focus of Champions of Creativity today.

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. Charles was the second of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Mr. Dickens worked for the Royal Navy pay office and was transferred several times, thus, the family later lived in London, Sheerness, and then in Chatham, in the county of Kent.

Charles enjoyed playing out of doors, but he also loved to read. Two of his favorite books were: Robinson Crusoe and The Arabian Nights. Up to the age of eleven, his life appears to have been quite happy. In 1824 Mr. Dickens was transferred back to London, leaving behind debts - due to the family living beyond their means. John Dickens was subsequently sent to debtors' prison in Southwark, London by his creditors. Since the practice at that time was for a prisoner's family to live nearby, Charles ended up boarding with a variety of colorful characters. It was at this time that the twelve-year-old boy was forced to leave school and work at Warren's Blacking warehouse (which manufactured boot polish) to pay for his room and board, and to help support the family. The conditions were horrible, and it is believed - and quite rightfully so - that the strenuous, and often harsh working conditions put upon the young Charles influenced not only his later writings, but his socio-economic and political views as well.

A few months after the imprisonment of Mr. Dickens, Charles's father inherited a large sum of money. That allowed him to pay off his debts, and he and his family moved into the home of a family friend. However, Mrs. Dickens felt that there was no hurry for Charles to leave his work. His mother's lack of desire to see her son join them was to forever leave a mark on him, and how he felt towards women. Charles was sent to Wellington House Academy where he remained until 1827.

Upon leaving school, he went to work as a clerk in a law office, and subsequently entered the world of writing by penning political pieces and sketches. Later, some of those were published as the famous Pickwick Papers, which while they were not successful at first, they later became quite popular.

In 1836 he married the daughter of a newspaper editor, Catherine Thomson Hogarth, after a one-year engagement. That same year he began writing his first novel, Oliver Twist - it was published in 1838. Charles and Catherine Dickens went on to have ten children.

Despite his lack of any real formal education, he accomplished much during his lifetime. He wrote 15 novels, five novellas, and hundreds of short stories & non-fiction articles. In addition to his writings he edited a weekly journal for over 20 years, and  constantly lectured & performed (he was a great mimic). He also campaigned tirelessly for children's rights, education, and other social reforms throughout his life.

On June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke after a full day of writing; he died the next day. While his desire had been to have a very simple burial, he was laid to rest in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in London amongst other famous writers, historians, and scholars.

Charles Dickens has been honored in countless ways in England, and abroad. His numerous novels remain quite popular, and a few of them, including  A Christmas Carol, are regularly adapted to the stage. I'm sure that fact would have greatly pleased Dickens, since he loved the theater. Another popular novel by Dickens is The Old Curiosity Shop.

In July of 2014, I was lucky enough to visit this literary landmark. There is some debate as to whether or not this building was the inspiration for the novel by Dickens, or if it was built later. And, while it now houses a small shoe shop, it is still regarded as one of the oldest buildings in the Aldwych area. (I was a typical tourist on our visit to historic London!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Trammel - (v.)
deprive of freedom of action; restrict, restrain.
Example: The evil stepmother's intention was to trammel the child in the attic.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World
Written by
Vivian French
Illustrated by
Angela Barrett

Flap Copy Description:
From the author of the Tiara Club series comes a gently satirical fairy story for our times, illustrated by one of today’s finest artists, Angela Barrett. When a king and a queen promise to marry their daughter Lucia to the man who can show them the most wonderful thing in the world, suitors descend on the palace bearing gifts. Roses, jewels and exotic birds; dancing girls, wind machines and mythical beasts – but nothing feels quite right. As the last suitor leaves, his weapons of mass destruction rejected, the king and queen are exhausted. But when a shy, young man, who isn’t a suitor at all, steps forward, they finally understand what the most wonderful thing in the world really is.

My Thoughts:
This delightful fairy tale is both romantic and inspirational. The author reminds us of what is not only most wonderful in the world, but what is most important. The illustrations are exquisite, and bring to mind Venice, Italy - though the story's location is never specifically stated. The Most Wonderful Thing in the World is one of those picture books that is just so lovely, you'll want a copy of it for a keepsake!

Click here to learn more about the author Vivian French.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

    What's Love Got to Do with It?

A few weeks ago I posted about Why I Love Middle Grade Books. Since then I've wondered: Is it really necessary to love the genre you write in? For me the answer is a resounding YES! Below are a few of my reasons for feeling love - and passion - for my genre is necessary to be successful:

1- Development as a Writer
If you love a genre, that implies you read books in that genre. Reading loads of books in your genre (by talented and accomplished authors) is one of the best ways to develop your craft as a writer.

2- Voice
The age bracket of middle grade specifically requires a unique voice. Therefore, I must not only read lots of books in my genre (light fantasy/magical realism), but also in the middle grade age bracket (8 - 12). While we all need a unique voice in our work, each age bracket requires its own voice as well. Example: Young adults are using language in a much different manner than middle grade children.

3- Quality of Writing
The biggest reason I believe I should love the genre I write in, is due to the fact that my joy and passion as a writer can only come to the surface when I'm having fun. (How many times has a professional athlete been told: "You need to find your passion again. It should be fun playing basketball," or whatever.) The quality of our writing is directly related to how much fun we're having. If I tried to write in a genre or age bracket that I wasn't interested in, I know I would fail.

4- Fulfillment
One of the things I always try to include in my manuscripts is a sense of the out of doors, as well as animals. This is a direct reflection of a passion I've had my whole life. If I was told I could not include those elements I would stop writing. While many writers make a living penning whatever they're assigned to write, I'm not one of them. I became a writer due to my love of stories. I've worked hard to become a writer who crafts quality sentences, scenes, and settings. But, that's not why I want to write children's books - I'm primarily a storyteller.
I find great fulfillment in crafting (and writing) fantasy tales for children.

While I'm sure there are numerous other reasons to enjoy the genre (and age bracket) you write in, these are just a few of my reasons for why love has everything to do with being a writer.

                          Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Effulgent -(adj.)
shining brightly; radiant.
Example: The little girl's face was effulgent with joy when she received her new puppy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Finding Winnie
The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
by Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Amazon Description:
Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie.

In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.

Harry Colebourn's real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey--from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England...

And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.

Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

My Thoughts:
The true story behind Winnie the Pooh blew me away! I had no idea what an interesting history the special little bear had. In addition to that Finding Winnie - The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear recently won the Caldecott Medal! Sophie Blackall's illustrations are just breathtaking - they seem to invite you into a bygone era. Needless to say, I highly recommend this special picture book to readers, writers, and illustrators from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the illustrator, Sophie Blackall.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

    Five Years!

It's hard to believe that it's been five years since I first scribbled out a post here on Writ of Whimsy - what a ride! Thanks to all my blogger and writer friends for making it a blast.

It's become my custom the last few years to celebrate my blog's anniversary by donating to a worthy cause, rather than the normal practice of featuring a giveaway. This year I've decided to make a contribution to an awesome children's charity with a fantastic purpose: Reading is Fundamental. If you'd like to learn more about RIF, or would like to join me in making a donation, please click on the link.

This seems like a good time to mention that over the years my use of this blog has evolved from reflecting my journey as a full-time writer, to that of being an aspiring author, and now as a published author. If you've followed Writ of Whimsy at all, you're aware that it features book reviews on Mondays, whimsical words on Wednesdays, and my own journey as a writer/author on Fridays. I've attempted to blend posts that would interest bloggers/readers/writers, with other weekly posts that act as an online journal of my own path as a writer.

I plan to continue with that format for the foreseeable future. However, I've also begun to occasionally use the Friday meme: Storyteller's Journey to post information & news about my books, and in some cases, author events I've attended. I also occasionally feature the meme: Champions of Creativity - I've found those brief biographies of authors, artists, etc. to be informative and inspirational; I hope they might also be for you. A few years ago I was posting under the meme: Writer in the Woods; I've been pondering the idea of again posting about my passion for nature, and the inspiration I receive there.

Blogging, for me, is like doing my school homework. It somehow makes me feel like I'm on the right track as an author, and helps keep my focus in the world of writing. (It's also my journal as a writer/author.)

Again, thanks so much for your support over the years - it's been so much fun! You're always welcome to visit me on Writ of Whimsy.

(If you'd like to receive my blog posts regularly, you may do so via e-mail or through Bloglovin' - see those options on the sidebar.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Umbrage - (n.)
1- offense or annoyance.
2- shade or shadow, especially cast by trees.
Example: The outspoken woman was always an unwelcome umbrage at parties.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Last Stop On Market Street
by Matt de la Pena

Amazon Description:
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

My Thoughts:
Matt de la Pena's Last Stop On Market Street recently won the 2016 Newbery Medal - and a Caldecott Honor! As I read the picture book, it was very apparent why. The unspoken themes of the delightful book are joy and gratitude, shared from the perspective of a grandmother to her grandson. I immediately thought: This is unlike any picture book I've ever read. Within its few pages are hidden some huge secrets to having a wonderful life - at any age - but sure to lighten the heart of young readers of all ages and ethnicities. In addition to an extraordinary story, Christian Robinson's whimsical illustrations illuminate the text in a delightful way. I obviously highly recommend Last Stop On Market Street to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Matt de la Pena.