Monday, April 24, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Are You An Echo?
by Misuzu Kaneko

Flap Copy Description:
In early-1900s Japan, Misuzu Kaneko grows from precocious bookworm to instantly-beloved children’s poet. But her life ends prematurely, and Misuzu’s work is forgotten. Decades later her poems are rediscovered—just in time to touch a new generation devastated by the tsunami of 2011. This picture book features Misuzu’s life story plus a trove of her poetry in English and the original Japanese.

Big Catch:

At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

My Thoughts:
This beautiful book was translated from Japanese and features the poetry of Japan's most celebrated children's poet - it is exquisite. The collaboration of David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi took years to complete. The colorful illustrations lovingly depict places where Kaneko lived as a child, and where her life ended all too soon. I highly recommend Are You An Echo to readers aged eight to eighty. (The subject of suicide is briefly hinted at in the poet's biography.)

Click here to learn more about the poet, Misuzu Kaneko.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

The Olympic National Forest
Nature's Wisdom & Strength

There are numerous blog posts, articles, and even books devoted to the subject of a writer's muse: Whether there is validity to a muse or not, and if so, where and how to find it. I've always known who my muse is, and where my inspiration primarily comes from: NATURE. However, I not only find inspiration to write from the great outdoors, I find wisdom and strength, to deal with all of life's challenges, there, too.

I first learned this personal truth while attending a camp for Campfire Girls in the Columbia River Gorge when I was about ten-years-old. The swimming lessons, artsy crafts, and songs around the campfire were all great, but it was my own personal walks in the woods that touched me in a way I'd never known. The gentle breeze through the tall evergreen branches, the enchanting call of a colorful loon from the lake, or even a rascally raccoon racing across my path, were all gifts from Mother Nature. They reminded me that I was not really alone in the dense, coniferous forest. They were all my friends, each one.

To this day, when I need to clear my mind, or search for wisdom, it is to the forest that I go. Thankfully, I leave near a wooded area that is home to many little critters below its broad cathedral-like canopy. I've always felt small, even protected below the giant guardians, so it's no wonder that I feel closest to God in the woods as well. Time seems to stop while I meditate on my blessings, my life, and also my problems.

It is because of my bond to trees, and the critters that live near them, that every tale I've ever written includes the hidden hinterlands we call forests & the community of creatures that mystically reside in them.

I've yet to meet a human being who is as wise as a towering evergreen or as loving as a mother bear.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plangent - (adj.)
(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.
Example: The plangent prayers emanating from the ancient mosque drifted over the Holy City.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

by Tahereh Mafi

Flap Copy Description:
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My Thoughts:
It was a thrill to meet author Tahereh Mafi at the SCBWI Conference in New York City - and to have her sign my copy of Furthermore! There are numerous aspects of this middle grade novel that I admire, not the least of which is the beautiful writing of Ms. Mafi. However, it is her quirky protagonist that hooked me right away. The character arc of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is exquisite. If you love whimsical tales of magic, don't miss out on Furthermore. I highly recommend this middle grade fantasy novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Tahereh Mafi.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
New Life Always Returns

One of the most important lessons I've ever learned is that there are spiritual cycles in life - much like the seasons. If things don't go my way it's important that I persevere...because new life always returns.

When I look back on my adult life I'm amazed at all the changes that have occurred. My relationships, my career, and some of my beliefs.

Most, if not all, of those changes occurred after a traumatic challenge in my life. There were times I truly wanted to give up. I'll leave it at that. However, I am so glad that I had the fortitude (stubbornness!) to continue on. Had I not, I would not have lived to see myself as an author, met my present husband, or learned so many valuable lessons.

If you're down, or struggling in any way right now,  remember:

New life always returns. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cabal - (n.)
a secret political clique or faction.
Example: The conservative cabal had frequent clandestine meetings.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

I, Galileo
Written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Flap Copy Description:
Galileo's contributions were so numerous—the telescope! the microscope!—and his ideas so world-changing—the sun-centric solar system!—that Albert Einstein called him "the father of modern science." But in his own time he was branded a heretic and imprisoned in his home. He was a man who insisted on his right to pursue the truth, no matter what the cost—making his life as interesting and instructive as his ideas.

My Thoughts:
In I, Galileo, we meet the astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician through his own words. Author Bonnie Christensen also adds pertinent facts on every other page. The jewel-toned illustrations are exquisite, and seem to bring Galileo's medieval world alive. This beautiful book includes lists of the scientist's experiments, inventions, and discoveries in the end pages - as well as a glossary and chronology of Galileo's life. I highly recommend I, Galileo to young readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Bonnie Christensen.
(Sadly, Bonnie Christensen passed away in January 2015.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
How My Family Tree Inspired My Middle Grade Fiction

Inspiration to write can come from all sorts of places. A photo, a memory, a sunny spring day - and on and on. However, I never imagined that my own multi-faceted ancestry would be the source for so many of my stories!

What is so surprising is that while I only recently received my DNA results ( the stories that have kindled in my mind have all come from those regions of the world where my ancestors originated.

My results: Scandinavian: 57%; British: 23%; French/Italian: 20%
(While the countries mentioned are no surprise, the percentages are!)

Why is this important?

As writers we are constantly encouraged to "write what we know." While I cannot claim to know an exhaustive amount about the countries of my origin, I am extremely interested in learning more. In fact, I spent six months researching the countries of Scandinavia before writing The Scandinavian Santa. Not only was it an informative task, it was extremely satisfying and fun. It even reconnected me to a long lost cousin on the Scandinavian side of our family.

My upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia, is set in England & Wales. After visiting Great Britain in 2014, I returned inspired to learn more about my background. In the process, old family photos from the British side of my mother's family - the Tusons - were unearthed. Seeing my English ancestors in their nineteenth century clothing was fascinating. It didn't take long for Journey to Snowdonia to come into focus in my mind. (It is set in the mid-nineteenth century.)

If you're having a tough time getting inspired with a new story, you have to look no further than your own family background. You'll be surprised by all the ideas that begin to tumble into your mind!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Demesne - (n.)
land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use.
Example: The dark forest was the demesne of the devious lord.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

Amazon Description:
With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms "migrants" and "refugees" but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

My Thoughts:
During these turbulent times we're all living in, Francesca Sanna's, The Journey, is a very important read for children. The beautiful book opens a window to the world of refugees, allowing young readers to better understand what people from challenged places of our planet must endure - and why they deserve our compassion and assistance.
I highly recommend The Journey to young readers of all ages.

Click here to learn more about author-illustrator Francesca Sanna.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Cover Image by Michael Lindstrom - Copyright 2017

It's always exciting to reveal a cover for a new book, but especially when it's your own! My husband, Michael Lindstrom, delivered big time with the cover art for our upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia.

This is the second book in our series of Lindstrom Wintertime Tales.

Here is the flap copy description for Journey to Snowdonia:
Henry and Harriet are proper children, who live in a proper house, on a proper street, in Victorian London. But when their father, Mr. Charles W. Smithwaite, decides to take the family on a winter holiday in Wales, the siblings go on an outing that is anything but proper. Whilst their father & mother are busy with their society friends, Henry & Harriet venture away from the country manor, into the ancient Gwydir Forest, deep in the land of Snowdonia. Then, when a mishap occurs in the mysterious woods, they discover the magical powers of the amazing creatures that live amidst the misty mountains of Wales. But most importantly, they learn about trust, and about kindness, and about the necessity for courage when confronted with an adversary. A magical tale of whimsy & wonder, sure to delight readers this holiday season!

We'll be promoting our children's book later in the year, so stay tuned!

If you'd like to read my recent quarterly newsletter, click here.

This is my last post until April - it's time for a spring break. I'm anticipating spending quality time in my soggy garden!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Haimish - adj.
possessing the warmth, comfort, and informality associated with somebody's own home.
Example: The antique furniture added a haimish feeling to the otherwise formal room.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Inquisitor's Tale
by Adam Gidwitz

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

My Thoughts:
The Inquisitor's Tale was recently recognized as a Newbery Honor Book - not a surprise! This upper middle grade novel is well-researched and well-written - a thoroughly imaginative adventure of history, friendship, and diversity. A unique and entertaining story of mystery and magic - one not to miss! I highly recommend The Inquisitor's Tale to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Adam Gidwitz.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Bringing Your Beloved Story to Life
                        Part III
This post is my third and final post dealing with the subject of publishing your book independently. Today's discussion will deal with the actual process of bringing your book to life.

If you'd like to read Part I - an introduction - click here.
If you'd like to read Part II - choosing a printing service - click here.

1- Allow plenty of time! Once you choose an approximate release date you'd like for your book make sure to allow enough time to complete all the steps necessary to bring your book to publication. A good rule of thumb is to allow 3-6+ months. (I began working with my book formatter in January for my upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia. It's set to be released in September of this year.)

2- Obtain a Book Formatter/Interior Designer - I strongly recommend that you choose someone that you can actually meet, since you'll want to work with her - side by side - when it's time to bring your book to life. Make sure you see several samples of her work.
If you've written a picture book or illustrated short story you'll need a formatter who is skilled with the Adobe InDesign program.

3- Final Check List - Before you ever meet with your interior designer/book formatter, make sure you've done the following:
**Read your entire book out loud...again!
**Use text to voice conversion to listen to your entire book.
**Complete final edit.

4- Obtain Cover Designer - Again, make sure you see several samples of her work. Once you've obtained this professional, work with her for your cover design. Plan ahead: This could take months!

5- Complete a flap copy description and back cover blurb - (or other text). Your cover designer will need those as soon as possible.

6- Purchase a barcode and ISBN number(s). Bowker is a great place to purchase both - click here to visit their website. Your cover designer will need the barcode, your book formatter the ISBN #'s.

7- Choose your preferred fonts for the chapter headings, cover, and possibly, the text of your book.

8- Contact your chosen printing company. (See last Friday's post.) Make sure to contact the company several months prior to your release date. I won't quote timelines for CreateSpace, Ingram Sparks, or Bang Printing, but suffice it to say, printing and shipping take quite a bit of time. (You'll want to allow time in case your proof isn't correct!)

Prior to meeting with your book formatter, make sure you're familiar with market standards when it comes to publishing. For instance, if your book is a YA novel, make sure its style and format, look very similar to other YA novels. Check such items as: cover design, title page, copyright page, table of contents, chapter headings, and fonts.

Once you've contacted your source for printing; obtained a cover designer, purchased barcodes and ISBN #'s, and completed all steps under "preparation," it's time to sit down with your book formatter.
Yes! I do mean "sit down" with her. Your book is too important not to be there while the formatter makes choices for your book. I can't begin to tell you how many details have been altered on my books as I've sat next to my book formatter. It took both of us to bring my books to life.

When your book is published it should look  - and read - like books from big publishing houses. You shouldn't place your name on a book that is anything less. The book will remain long after you're gone.

Once your book formatter has completed her work, it's time to order a proof. If you receive the proof and it needs changes, make the changes before you send to print. Once you have a great proof in hand, you and your book formatter - and possibly your cover designer - are ready to send in all your material to the printer. (Some cover designs are embedded by book formatters, while some are sent in separately by the cover designer.) Remember: CreateSpace, Ingram Sparks, and Bang Printing all have different requirements as to costs, timetables, formats, etc. It's important to work closely with your printer.

You'll need to decide what formats you'd like your e-book published in: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBooks; Barnes & Noble Nook; & Smashwords. If you're not familiar with those sites, click here. Most book formatters can also do the formatting for your e-book. If not, the three printing companies I mentioned under PREPARATION - #8 - can assist you.

Addition: Click here for an excellent article on publishing an ebook by the renowned speaker, professor, and literary guru, Jane Friedman.

NOTE: This three-part blog post (2/24, 3/3,3/10) is an overview of the material I've personally learned by independently publishing my own books. It is not meant as an exhaustive resource for self-publishing.
All the best as you tread your path to publication!

I'll be sharing a series of blog posts in a few weeks that will deal with "Marketing Your Book." That timing is great for me too, since my next children's book, Journey to Snowdonia, releases in September.

Look for the cover reveal of our "Wintertime Tale" next week!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ugsome - adj.
frightful; horrid; loathsome.
Example: The ugsome manners of the cave-dwelling trolls were disgusting.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Pen Pals
by Alexandra Pichard

Amazon Description:
An octopus and an ant are paired up to write letters for a school project in this charming picture book in the tradition of Dear Mr. Blueberry.

For an entire school year, Oscar the ant and Bill the octopus send letters to each other as part of a school project.

Oscar loves table tennis, and Bill loves modelling clay.

Oscar does judo, while Bill has a garden.

Despite their differences, the two new friends find shared interests…all leading up to one final surprise!

My Thoughts:
On of the things I love most about children's picture books is the way they usually present serious subjects wrapped in humor, silly stories, and delightful art. Pen Pals delivers big time on all counts! Topics dealing with differences in race, body type, and even culture, are subtly woven into this smart story by the author, Alexandra Pichard. I highly recommend Pen Pals to readers from the ages of four to seven!

Click here to learn more about the French author, Alexandra Pichard.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Bringing Your Beloved Story to Life
                           Part II
Last Friday I discussed the reasons - the why - a writer decides to publish independently. In this post I hope to answer the questions of who is your target audience and how that influences the format(s) -  or the what & where- you choose to publish.

(If you missed last Friday's post and would like to read it, click here.)

While I presume most writers are aware of who their target audience is, I've met more than a few who are not. So, here is a brief overview:

1- Who is your target audience?

Young Adult: 12 - 18 years of age. (I prefer 14-18, but that's just me.) As we are all well aware of, YA readers come in all ages!
Middle Grade: 8 - 12 years of age. (I like to write for readers aged 10-12+ - "Upper Middle Grade.")
Picture Books: Within this category there are baby books, toddler books: 2-4 years of age, and picture books: 4-8 years of age.

If you're still not sure where your book fits in, click here for more info.

Once you're clear on what category your book fits into, then knowing the book market is a must...

2- What format best suits the book you've written?

Young Adult - thrives in the e-book, paperback, and hardback formats.
Middle Grade - books in this category are primarily printed as hardback books. (Readers in this bracket are too young to purchase books on their own devices, and so, consequently e-books have not yet taken off in this category.
Picture Books - primarily hardback and e-book. (Parents do purchase these books digitally for their own devices and then read them to their young children.)

3- Where do you find the appropriate publisher/printer?

Paperbacks and E-books: CreateSpace. While I've not used CreateSpace, I have a close friend who has. She chose to obtain a professional cover designer, who did a fantastic job on her YA novels!

Awakened, by Kriston Johnson
Cover Design by Mae I Design

Interior Book Design: Tattered Page Ink

Click here to purchase this novel.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Hardbacks (portrait only), Paperbacks, & E-books: Ingram Sparks
I went through Ingram Sparks when I published my debut middle grade novel, The Tale of Willaby Creek, as a hardback and e-book.

The Tale of Willaby Creek
by Victoria Lindstrom
Cover Art by Michael Lindstrom

Cover Design: Mae I Design
Interior Book Design: Tattered Page Ink

My book formatter actually did multiple e-book versions for my novel. (I'll discuss that more next week.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Hardbacks (landscape & portrait), Paperbacks, E-books, etc:
Bang Printing I employed Deeds Publishing when I released The Scandinavian Santa. However, they used Bang Printing, who did a fantastic job with my illustrated short story. It was released as a hardback (landscape format) and e-book in 2014.

The Scandinavian Santa
by Victoria Lindstrom
Paintings by Michael Lindstrom

Cover Art by Michael Lindstrom
Cover Design by Mark Babcock

As you can see, the three publishers/printers I've featured begin with the basic printing services: CreateSpace, & end up with Bang Printing, which, thankfully, can print whatever you desire. That being said, each format, & thus each publisher/printer, is more expensive to use. (My next book, Journey to Snowdonia, will be printed by Bang Printing.)

Once you make your printing decisions, cover design & interior book design will have to be created. I'll discuss those options next week!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Palaver - (n.)
prolonged and idle discussion.
Example: The politician babbled on for an hour in useless palaver.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Lou Fancher &
Steve Johnson

Amazon Description:
A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day.

The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics. But it was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book.

For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his — and Keats’s — neighborhood.

Andrea David Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers.

My Thoughts: It was a thrill to meet the author of A Poem for Peter - Andrea Davis Pinkney - at the recent SCBWI Winter Conference. Her beautiful book is full of inspirational history, as well as being an entertaining tale for children. This enchanting picture book is a must-read for fans of Ezra Jack Keats. I highly recommend A Poem for Peter to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Andrea Davis Pinkney.

My signed copy of A Poem for Peter!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Bringing Your Beloved Story to Life
You've written, rewritten, and edited your story. You've sent out a multitude of queries, then more queries, but still, no agent representation. You have a decision to make: Should I shelve this story? Or, is the content of my story begging to be published?

Before you make your decision there are a number of additional questions you should ask yourself:

* Have I written the best manuscript I can?
* Do I view my story as a reflection of my values?
* Is my manuscript up to market standards?
* Am I open and ready for the work it takes to publish and market my book independently?

While there are other questions to ask yourself before you dive into the ocean of self-published authors, those listed above are some of the most important. If your answer to any of them is "no," then you're probably not a great candidate to publish your story independently.

A broader question is: Why do I want my story published? Is it for fame, or wealth?  If it is, you'll be sorely disappointed. Rarely do either of those coveted experiences visit the self-published author.

If, however, you view your beloved story as being something important for your target audience to read, then you'll have a better chance of being satisfied with self-publishing. (It should be a reflection of your soul, something you're proud of - a story you want to see come to life.)

If you come to the conclusion that, indeed, you plan to publish independently, you have more questions to ask yourself: Those that have to do with the process. E-book only? Paperback? Hardback?

If you have no knowledge on how to publish you have a lot to learn!

In the next two weeks I'll be sharing the information I've learned from publishing independently. If you're also thinking about publishing independently, be sure to check out my Friday posts!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Limn - verb
depict or describe in painting or words.
Example: The artist was asked to limn a caricature.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping:
The stories, characters, and inventions of Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Amazon  Description:
An interactive introduction and fresh new look at Roald Dahl's world and characters!
A brilliant extension to Dahl's wonderful stories, this book gives fascinating insights into the characters and events from Roald Dahl's writing in a humorous, exciting and downright gloriumptious way. For the very first time, the stories behind the stories--like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda, and more--are brought to life in this brand new title. Inside, Quentin Blake's iconic illustrations are combined with imagined letters, artifacts and news clippings, and editing notes from Dahl himself, to bring all of Roald Dahl's characters alive. Whether you have read all of Roald Dahl's stories, or are just beginning to enjoy them, this is a great companion book that will help you delve even deeper into Roald Dahl's worlds!
Includes 4 booklets, 3 flaps, and 1 pull out letter.

My Thoughts:
After purchasing, and enjoying, the Roald Dahl Oxford Dictionary, I was anxious to peruse Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping... it's whoopsy whiffling! If your child enjoys whimsical illustrations, extraordinary words, and loads of laughter while reading, then this book would be a perfect choice. Whether a child was introduced to the stories of iconic author Roald Dahl through his books, or through blockbuster films, she will love Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

View from my Grand Hyatt hotel room in Manhattan.
Flurries of Snow & Inspiration!

Last week I traveled to New York City to celebrate my sons' birthdays, and to attend an SCBWI Conference as well. While the weather was fantastic when I arrived (62 degrees), the following day it snowed! However, the winter weather didn't dampen my time with my sons, Kevin & Brian, nor my time at the conference. I had a wonderful stay in Manhattan - personally and professionally.

It was my first time at the New York SCBWI Winter Conference, and what a conference it was. I attended workshops given by agent Beth Phelan, editor Andrew Harwell, and author/poet Sonya Sones - all were amazing. I heard an assortment of awesome panels, and  super keynotes: from illustrator Bryan Collier, and author Tahereh Mafi.

Sara Pennypacker is welcomed by SCBWI co-founder, Lin Oliver.
However, it was the closing keynote from award-winning author Sara Pennypacker that brought the house down. She gave an informative & inspirational speech for the ages. Extraordinary!

What I gained from this conference was invaluable: information and inspiration in abundance. So much so, that it will take me weeks, if not months, to process through it all. But I wouldn't have it any other way!

By the time my plane was landing in the Pacific Northwest last Monday night I was completely spent. I'd been in an airport or airplane for nearly 12 hours. What an adventure! As always, it was great to be back home.

If you ever have a chance to attend the SCBWI New York Conference, or the L.A. Conference, find a way to do so. In addition to the great information & inspiration you'll receive, you'll also realize that while you spend hours laboring alone over your own manuscript, you're really part of an enormous community of writers & illustrators just like you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ersatz - adj.
made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one; fake, not genuine. Example: The mother realized her son had only ersatz remorse for his disobedience.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

XO, OX - A Love Story
Written by Adam Rex
Illustrated by Scott Campbell

Flap Copy Description:

"Dear Gazelle,
For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to say how much I admire you. You are so graceful and fine. Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running away from tigers.

I think that what I'm trying to say is that I love you.

And so begins an epic, if initially unrequited, love affair between a graceful gazelle and a clumsy, hapless ox. Romance will never be the same.

My Thoughts:
Rarely does a children's picture book make me laugh out loud, but that's just what I did while reading XO, OX - A Love Story, by Adam Rex! (In addition to the wonderful text, the whimsical illustrations by Scott Campbell are delightful!)The correspondence the seemingly simple Ox has with the narcissistic Gazelle is not only hilarious, but insightful. It's a reminder that none of us is perfect - not even close. This little book is one of those rare children's books that would also work for adults - I loved it. A big thumbs up for XO,OX - A Love Story!

Click here to learn more about the author, Adam Rex.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
How Hemingway Helped Me

When I asked my personal editor (my son) to take another look at my rewritten middle grade novel, he was glad to do so. However, prior to sending it to him we had a long chat about what I needed from him. (I love our "literary chats;" it's one of the things that has strengthened our relationship.) After a long discussion about my novel, Kevin mentioned that using the "Hemingway" app might be beneficial for us.

That writer resource was unfamiliar to me, but I said, "sure." By the way, if you've not heard of it either, and would like to learn more, click here for an informative article about the app from The New Yorker.

To put it mildly "Hemingway" has really helped me! If you, too, would like to check out this writer resource, click here to download the app.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Depredation - noun
an act of attacking or plundering.
Example: The abandoned castle experienced depredation from the desperate villagers.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Fate of the Tearling
by Erika Johansen

Amazon Description:
In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

My Thoughts:
Very few novels in a series make me record on my calendar when the sequel will be released - The Fate of the Tearling was one of them! In this thrilling conclusion to her story, we see yet another complex adventure from Erika Johansen. What I think I love best about Ms. Johansen's novels (The Queen of the Tearling & The Invasion of the Tearling were the first two in the series) is that her characters are extremely authentic, and her plot is too. She doesn't create perfect people or wrap up her stories with tidy endings. They seem real. I'm not the only one who feels this way, either. Famed actress, Emma Watson, has signed on to not only star as Kelsea, the protagonist, in the film adaptation, but as the producer as well. (Click here to learn more.) I highly recommend all three novels by Ms. Johansen to young adult readers - of all ages - who love tales of magic and adventure!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Celebrating My 6th Blogiversary!

As the years have slowly passed by on my Storyteller's Journey, one of the many things I've learned is that while nothing comes easy in a writer's life, we all still have so much to be thankful for - like friends and family.

However, there are many in our world who lack the simplest of necessities. So, this year I've chosen to mark my blog's milestone by giving to a charity that helps meet the most basic needs of children:
UNICEF. If you'd like to join me in making a donation, merely click on the link I've attached. We are all aware of the amazing work they do around the world for kids, and this year I had the children of Syria in mind. UNICEF is actively working right now to help Syrian refugees.

Many thanks to all my friends for your support over the years!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Stolid - adj.
calm, dependable, and showing little emotion or animation.
Example: The student took stolid steps as he walked forward to receive his diploma.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

A Collection of Winnie-the-Pooh Stories
A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard

The Best Bear in All the World
by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis, & Kate Saunders
Illustrated by Mark Burgess

Amazon Description:
For the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh, a sequel featuring new stories from the Hundred Acre Wood.

The Trustees of the Pooh Properties have commissioned four authors to write in the timeless style of A.A. Milne to create a quartet of charming new adventures for Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their friends. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall: take a trip back to the Hundred Acre Wood with a collection of tales sure to delight year-round.

My Thoughts:
The recently released collection of new Winnie-the-Pooh stories - The Best Bear in All the World - is delightful! I thoroughly enjoyed the imaginative tales with their accompanying whimsical illustrations. There is a story set in each of the four seasons - and even one new character introduced.(Inspired by one of the real Christopher Robin's stuffed animals.) If you're a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh, this little book is a must read. I highly recommend The Best Bear in All the World for children - and book collectors - of all ages!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Dummy Book title page for Journey to Snowdonia
Dummy Books and Other Aids

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the next Lindstrom Wintertime Tale - Journey to Snowdonia - is scheduled to be released in the fall.

One of the steps along the path to publication was to create a dummy book for our yuletide tale. Since we publish these illustrated short stories independently, this one via our small press, Thistleberry Books, we are not required to make a dummy book. However, there are several advantages to creating one. I like seeing images pertaining to the tales I pen, it helps me have a sense of the flow of the story. It's also a great way to share the vision of your story with fellow writers, and in some cases, agents and editors. If you plan to write & illustrate a picture book and have it traditionally published, a "dummy" is a must.

The "one sheet" for my MG novel: Livvi Biddle.

Another great way to present your work is a "one sheet." It's a printed page with your pitch, an image that represents your story, and your contact information. While it's true you should be able to recite your elevator pitch in a moment's notice, having a "one sheet" is a bit of security. Also, if an agent is interested in your idea, you can simply give her the page.

Finally, there are endless ways you can inspire and inform yourself with regard to your stories. A "Missing Person" poster for your protagonist; a "Wanted" poster for your antagonist; or even a collage of interesting images that represent your plot, setting, &/or characters.

Be sure to save these fun and creative crafts. I failed to keep a couple for my very first novel, The Tale of Willaby Creek; I'm really bummed now. It's nostalgic to look back on your storyteller's journey!

Note: If you're a member of SCBWI, be sure to read the wonderful article in the recent Winter Bulletin by author, Candice Ransom. She creates a dummy book for her novels. I think I'll give that a try!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Circumlocution - noun
the use of unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea.
Example: The author was guilty of circumlocution in her writing, making the word count in her manuscript much too high.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Secret Keepers
by Trenton Lee Stewart

Amazon Description:
Eleven-year-old Reuben spends his days exploring, hiding, and practicing parkour among the abandoned buildings of the Lower Downs as a way to escape the rough times that have befallen him and his mom--but his discovery of an extraordinary antique pocket watch changes everything. When Reuben finds that the watch has the power to turn him invisible, he's propelled on the adventure of a lifetime.
Now Reuben is being pursued by a group of dangerous men called the Directions, and someone--or something--ominously called The Smoke. They all want the watch, and with the help of new friends, it's up to Reuben to unravel the mysteries surrounding it and protect the city from evil.

My Thoughts:
Trenton Lee Stewart - the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society Series - has penned another amazing novel for middle grade readers! The Secret Keepers is full of adventure, mystery, and magic; its characters are highly developed and riveting. The complex plot will keep readers of all ages guessing, right up to the last paragraph. I highly recommend The Secret Keepers to readers aged eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Trenton Lee Stewart.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Questions for America

This post is in honor of the 2017 United States Presidential Inauguration.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

A Fervent Wind

A fervent wind meanders through the forests, over the mountains, and across the prairies.

It creeps into every church, every mosque, every synagogue.

It wends its way through every window, every door, in every corner of the land.

The wind whispers into each ear, asking each heart:

Who is your brother?

Who is your neighbor?

Who is your responsibility?

The fervent wind is noble; its purpose is just.

How will we answer the wind, America?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Denouement - noun
the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.
Example: The author had difficulty with the denouement of her novel.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Finding Wonders
by Jeannine Atkins

Amazon Description:
A novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.
Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.

More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.

Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.

My Thoughts:
Finding Wonders makes you look at the world and see the magic in everything around you. It's a book that every child would enjoy and benefit from, but especially young girls. The fact that Ms. Atkins wrote her novel in verse, makes it all the more enchanting. I highly recommend Finding Wonders to readers aged eight to fourteen.

Click here to learn more about the author, Jeannine Atkins.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Creating an Illustration
Over the holidays we finally completed the illustrations for my upcoming book: Journey to Snowdonia - it's set to be released in autumn.

While I say "we" it's really my husband, Michael Lindstrom, who is the artist. However, I am also involved since I ask him to create specific compositions. The photo shown above is a still life we set up to compose a painting that displayed two magical amulets and a vintage can of cinnamon. (The two main characters, who are siblings: Henry & Harriet, receive the amulets as a gift in the spice tin.) Since it's such a specific concept, we set up the still life with the appropriate objects so Michael would have something tangible to see while he painted.

Prior to setting up the still life, Michael had to drill holes in the slate tiles that would make our amulets. (Home Depot was a great resource. Since slate is a component in my Welsh holiday tale, the tiles were perfect.) I then added the red ribbon to create a necklace. (Red is the main color in this story's art.) Why he doesn't have his safety glasses on in this photo, I do not know!

I like the result so much that I may have him make more "amulets" to give away as swag. However, I couldn't assure the recipient that there is any magic in the amulet!

8x10 oil on panel - Michael Lindstrom - Copyright 2017
Here's the finished painting. Since each composition is photographed in high resolution the image we will use for the book looks much more vibrant and clear - but this helps give you an idea of what the process entails.

I am so grateful for having my husband, Michael, create the artwork for my books - it's such a blessing! I'm extremely busy right now working with the book's formatter, printer, and of course, its illustrator.

More updates on our next book, Journey to Snowdonia, soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mellifluous - adj.
(of a voice or words) sweet or musical; pleasant to hear.
Example: The writer was hoping the literary agent would find her prose mellifluous.