Friday, June 21, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

It's Time for Summer Vacation!

Like most of you, I'm excited to spend some time outside in the sunshine this summer. So, I'll be taking my annual summer break from blogging. I'll be back on Writ of Whimsy in September. Below are two links for you to view.

Click here for my summer reading list for kids.

Click here to read my recent quarterly newsletter. 

Coronado, CA - Pt. Loma in the distance

Have a spectacular summer!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ludic - (adj.)
full of fun and high spirits.
Example: The ludic librarian instilled a sense of wonder in children as they wandered amongst the bookshelves.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Path Made Clear
Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose

by Oprah Winfrey

Flap Copy Description:
Everyone has a purpose. And, according to Oprah Winfrey, "Your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you are meant to be, and begin to honor your calling in the best way possible."

That journey starts right here.

In her latest book, The Path Made Clear, Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The book's ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life's detours are there to teach us.

Oprah opens each chapter by sharing her own key lessons and the personal stories that helped set the course for her best life. She then brings together wisdom and insights from luminaries in a wide array of fields, inspiring readers to consider what they're meant to do in the world and how to pursue it with passion and focus. These renowned figures share the greatest lessons from their own journeys toward a life filled with purpose.

Paired with over 100 awe-inspiring photographs to help illuminate the wisdom of these messages, The Path Made Clear provides readers with a beautiful resource for achieving a life lived in service of your calling - whatever it may be.

My Thoughts:
For the last two weeks I've featured book reviews that are primarily for adults, before I take my summer break from blogging. Oprah Winfrey's The Path Made Clear is the perfect summer read for all adults. The beautiful book is insightful and inspirational. There are bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout it that will speak to all adult readers - no matter where they're at along their personal path. This book is a must read!

Click here to read fourteen inspirational quotes from Oprah Winfrey.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

My Annual Summer Reading List!

Once again it's time to feature my favorite books for children (aged 8 and up) that I've read since last autumn. Merely select a title, click on it, and read my review. Enjoy!

The following fantastic books are listed in random order:

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies - by Joyce Sidman

Caterpillar Summer - by Gillian McDunn 

Front Desk - by Kelly Yang

Counting Birds - by Heidi Stemple

Finding Langston - by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Island War - by Patricia Reilly Giff

Louisiana's Way Home - by Kate DiCamillo

Little Man Little Man - by James Baldwin

The Only Road - by Alexandra Diaz 

The King of the Golden River - by John Ruskin

There's something for everyone on the list. Enjoy reading this summer!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Kelig - (n.)
butterflies in one's stomach.
Example: The teacher was feeling a sense of kelig as she prepared for her first day teaching summer school.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Helen Oxenbury
a life in illustration
by Leonard S. Marcus

Flap Copy Description:
A fascinating, beautiful, and definitive account of the life of esteemed artist Helen Oxenbury.Filled with insights that span Helen Oxenbury's life -- from her early childhood through a career in children's books that started in the 1960s and is still going strong today -- here is an exquisitely designed and thoroughly entertaining celebration of one of the finest illustrators of our time. Written by acclaimed author Leonard S. Marcus, Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration is a keepsake that is sure to engage and delight everyone from scholars to art aficionados, as well as the many fans who have grown up with Helen Oxenbury's enchanting books.

My Thoughts:
This book came across my path as I was perusing literary articles on Twitter. The whimsical cover art grabbed me right away. Little did I know that Helen Oxenbury - a life in illustration would introduce me to the talented illustrator of so many well-known children's books! Learning about the journey of an artist or writer is something I always enjoy. Ms. Oxenbury's creative path is especially inspirational and entertaining. I highly recommend Helen Oxenbury - a life in illustration to any adult who loves art and children's books!

Click here to learn about the author, Leonard S. Marcus.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Rafflecopter Giveaway Winners!

After nearly 2000 thousand entries (1998) it's finally time to announce the winners of my Spring Rafflecopter Giveaway! Thanks to everyone that participated. Here are the winners:

Grand Prize Winner of a signed copy of each of my three books, plus matching bookmarks - Cassandra Darens

Winners of one signed copy of The Tale of Willaby Creek, & matching bookmark - Steve Weber, Rachel Griesmer, and Sarah Meyer

Winner of one $50.00 Amazon Gift Card - Carol Riggs

Winners of a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card
Nicole Martin and Anna Furyk

I've contacted each of the winners; if your name is listed here, and you did not receive an email, please contact me via Twitter or Messenger. 

Again, thanks so much to everyone that participated. Congratulations, to all the winners!
Wishing everyone a wonderful summer! Happy reading. πŸ˜ƒ

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Neologize - (v.)
to make or use new words, or create new meanings for existing words.
Example: The college professor loved to neologize in the midst of his classes, causing confusion for his students.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Orphans of Normandy
by Nancy Amis

Flap Copy Description:
Allons, enfants, vite, vite! When the Allies invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944, one hundred orphaned girls were forced to flee their orphanage in Caen, France, the only home many of them had ever known. They began a trek on foot to a safer location, to Beaufort-en-VallΓ©e, a town one hundred and fifty miles away. As the war raged on all sides of them, the girls, led by their teachers, bravely marched south, keeping one step ahead of the fighting and waving little white flags for protection. Told through their own drawings and words, this moving and timely book details their experiences on their journey to safety.

My Thoughts:
This book came across my path as I was researching the children of France during World War II; The Orphans of Normandy is a fantastic debut for Nancy Amis! Reproductions of the original words and drawings by the orphaned girls tell the harrowing true story of their escape from Caen, France, to safety. I highly recommend this picture book to all young readers; it's a great way to introduce children to the importance of the Allies' invasion on D Day, as well as the cost of war.

For children, click here for facts on D Day the Invasion of Normandy.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Imagine Dragon - by Kent Kraber
Unexpected Inspiration

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a short vacation in Coronado, CA. As my husband and I strolled down the main thoroughfare of Orange Avenue in the heart of the city, we came upon this beautiful sculpture. As we admired the dragon created by Kent Kraber, I realized that we were in front of the Coronado Library. Needless to say, I just had to take a peek inside!

Since I was born in Coronado, during our last two visits to the "Crown City" I've attempted to take in as much culture and history that I can; there is so much that is wrapped around the island paradise. While it's not a huge community, there is so much to see and enjoy. However, what I was about to see inside this historic library took my breath away!

As we walked in, I looked to my left and saw this glass wall of art that welcomes visitors to the Coronado Library Children's section! Inside, there is a great selection of children's books, a display of historic books and artifacts, as well as places for children to read and relax. Just an idyllic place for a young reader to spend a Saturday afternoon.

As we continued walking, we came upon this sign. We had just happened to visit Coronado at the precise time to enjoy an exhibit featuring the art of Dr. Seuss!

Included in the art exhibit are several first edition books by Dr. Seuss. I vaguely recalled hearing that Seuss lived near San Diego, although he was born in Springfield, MA. What's funny, is that while I was attending an SCBWI conference in Springfield, years ago, I visited the Seuss museum - quite by accident. Once again, I had stumbled upon an exhibit of the iconic author/illustrator's work.

And, what fabulous art it is! I was drawn to this painting, in particular. The yellow on blue I found mesmerizing. (Sorry, I failed to record some of the titles of the Seuss artwork.)

By the way, this is no small exhibit! Both sides of a wide corridor feature the art by Theodor Seuss Geisel! Never did I expect to visit an art exhibit - while on my vacation - that is so closely tied to children's books. I had hit the jackpot!

Here's another one of my favorites: I Dreamed I Was A Doorman at The Hotel Del Coronado. Since we were guests at the Del, this one was special on multiple levels.

If you are planning to visit Coronado or San Diego this summer, be sure to check out this fantastic art exhibit - it runs through August 15, 2019. Click here to learn more opportunities to experience the creativity of Dr. Seuss in San Diego/Coronado, California. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Solasta - (adj.)
luminous, shining.
Example: The solasta sea seemed to disappear upon the distant horizon.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Don't Let Them Disappear
by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Gianna Marino

Flap Copy Description:
Did you know that blue whales are the largest animals in the world? Or that sea otters wash their paws after every meal? The world is filled with millions of animal species, and all of them are unique and special. Many are on the path to extinction.

In this book, Chelsea Clinton introduces young readers to a selection of endangered animals, sharing what makes them special, and also what threatens them. Taking readers through the course of a day, Don’t Let Them Disappear talks about rhinos, tigers, whales, pandas and more, and provides helpful tips on what we all can do to help prevent these animals from disappearing from our world entirely.

With warm and engaging art by Gianna Marino, this book is the perfect read for animal-lovers and anyone who cares about our planet.

My Thoughts:
This recently released picture book Don't Let Them Disappear, by Chelsea Clinton, is both beautiful and powerful. It would be a wonderful way to teach children about the endangered status of twelve of our most beloved animal species. At the end of this important book there is a  section dealing with why animals become endangered, as well as what each of us can do to help the animals threatened with extinction. I highly recommend Don't Let Them Disappear to children of all ages!  

Click here to learn more about the author Chelsea Clinton.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Champion of Creativity

Margaret Wise Brown

While Margaret Wise Brown is best known for writing such children's books as Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, her own story is fascinating. So much so, that I'm featuring her as a Champion of Creativity on her 109th birthday.

Margaret was born on May 23, 1910 in Brooklyn, New York, to Robert and Maude Brown. She attended boarding school in Switzerland and later studied at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, where she graduated with a B.A. in English in 1932. Soon thereafter, she went to work as a teacher at the Bank Street Experimental School in New York City, and then went to work as an editor at the publishing house of William R. Scott. It was while working there that she began to write books for children. In 1937 her first book - When the Wind Blew - was published. Years later, she left that position and devoted the rest of her life to writing over one hundred books for children. (She also wrote verse and lyrics for songs reproduced on children's records.)

In researching the life of this talented woman, I learned that her life was complicated; she had relationships with both men and women, and went by the nicknames of Tim, Brownie, and Goldie. Margaret  was curious, imaginative, and loved adventures. It was while on one of her many adventures, this one a book tour in France, that she required unexpected surgery for an ovarian cyst. Unfortunately, complications ensued, and she died of an embolism on November 13, 1952 in Nice, France. Margaret was just forty-two at the time of her death.

In her short, but illustrious life, she was a prolific writer and an influential editor of children's books. While at the Scott publishing house she attempted to recruit contemporary authors of the time to write books for children. Only Gertrude Stein accepted. Ms. Stein penned The World is Round which was illustrated by Clement Hurd. That association proved important in Margaret's life: Hurd later became the illustrator for both Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny - copies of those books alone have sold millions.

Margaret lived only long enough to write children's books for fifteen years. Yet, she is one of the most prolific authors ever. It's a reminder to be purposeful about what you do and how you spend your time. Obviously, Margaret Wise Brown loved writing stories for children.

While Margaret's studio, Cobble Court, was in Manhattan, the only house she ever owned was in Vinalhaven, Maine - thus, the name.

The Only House on an island off the coast of Maine

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Sonder - (adj.)
the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
Example: When I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself I sonder about my friends and family.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

How To Become An
Accidental Genius
by Elizabeth MacLeod & Frieda Wishinsky

Flap Copy Description:
Don't be afraid to try! Make connections! Be persistent! Ask questions and never take no for an answer! Learn the secrets and amazing stories of successful inventors!

How to Become an Accidental Genius is full of inspiring tales of famous and lesser-known inventors who have changed the world, from George Washington Carver, Mary Anderson (inventor of the windshield wiper) and inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr to Frank Epperson (of Popsicle fame) and Mary Sherman Morgan (The Woman Who Saved the U.S. Space Race). Readers will be amazed at the inventiveness of these geniuses. The book focuses on inventors from North America but includes stories from around the world. Organized into eleven chapters that highlight the qualities inventors have in common, the book also features profiles of inventive kids and teenagers.

My Thoughts:
Accidental Genius is a non-fiction book that belongs in the hands of every young person! Each of its eleven chapters deals with one necessary principle for children to become a creative and curious person, and maybe even an inventor. I found the 127 page book to be super inspirational for my own journey as a writer of children's books. I highly recommend Accidental Genius to readers of all ages!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Painting by Georges Pavis - May 1886 -1977
Engrossed in Research

One of my favorite parts of the writing process is the research required before one ever puts pen to paper. Right now, I'm writing and researching at nearly the same time. Since a story set in France burst upon my brain, I've been busy penning a first draft. However, I'm at the point where I need a more in depth knowledge of my story's setting and the time it's set in before I go any further.

These two non-fiction books by professor Matthew Cobb are exactly what I need to educate myself about the French Resistance during World War II. That being said, they aren't exactly "light reads." So, I write each afternoon, and read after dinner each night. I love this routine, but I know it's a bit much. Once I've finished these books, I'll get my life back to normal.

These books are just two of the resources I've tapped into so far for my current work in progress. I've also listened to an audio broadcast by the BBC from 1989. In it, adults who were little resisters in WWII, are interviewed. That was a real eye-opener, and extremely helpful. There have also been several online articles that have helped me as well.

Do you enjoy researching when you're working on a new project?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ataraxia - (n.)
the state of blissful and serene calmness.
Example: After battling - and subduing - the malevolent neighboring kingdom, a state of ataraxia fell upon the archers of the guard.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Caterpillar Summer
by Gillian McDunn

Flap Copy Description:
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes.

My Thoughts:
Caterpillar Summer is a spectacular debut for Gillian McDunn. The in depth character development in this beautiful coming of age story makes the middle grade novel especially engaging. The interplay between the young protagonist, Cat, and her little brother, Chicken, is particularly heartwarming. I highly recommend Caterpillar Summer to readers aged eight to twelve; it would make the perfect summer read. Congratulations, Gillian McDunn!

Click here to learn about the author, Gillian McDunn.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Music as Writing Inspiration

While I've penned a post before on how my past experience as a musician has impacted me as a writer, today I want to reflect on how listening to music inspires a writer. Most writers have their favorite tunes to listen to while they craft a story. (As I'm working on the world building for my middle grade novel I'm listening to classical music.) But why do we choose to listen to the music that we do?

While I can't speak to other writers' motivations for their musical preferences, for me, it has all to do with matching the music to the type of story I'm writing. Most days I like to listen to classical; it seems to inspire the drama I'm looking for in my stories. Some of my favorite sound tracks are: The King's Speech; The Lord of the Rings; and Cloud Atlas. While most of my stories are fantasy or magical realism, my current work in progress is historical fiction - it's set during WW II in France. Consequently, I've been enjoying the music of the iconic French singer, Edith Piaf. Listen to her signature song, La vie en rose:

Does music inspire your writing? If so, what genre?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mardy - (adj.)
moody or miserable.
Example: The mardy matriarch made everyone around her miserable.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The King of the Golden River
by John Ruskin - illustrated by Quentin Blake

Flap Copy:
The King of the Golden River tells the tale of the Black brothers: the kind-natured eleven- year-old Gluck and his two nasty older brothers, Hans and Schwartz. For Gluck, play is cleaning the floors, and his education consists of a wholesome quantity of punches. One stormy evening, Gluck is left at home to prepare his older brothers’ dinner when an extraordinary-looking little man knocks at the door. Having been warned not to let anyone in, Gluck watches as the little old man stands drenched and shivering at the door. His soft heart tells him to ignore his brothers’ advice, and so Gluck’s encounter with the mysterious King of the Golden River begins. Appearing at first as a beggar, then the Southwest Wind, and finally as a dwarf, the King of the Golden River issues Gluck a challenge: to climb to the source of the Golden River and throw into the stream three drops of holy water. If he can achieve this, the river will turn to gold.

Ruskin’s Victorian tale—first published in 1842—of good’s triumph over evil is a gripping adventure for all ages, and is brought vividly to life in new, never-before-seen illustrations by the celebrated Quentin Blake.

My Thoughts:
While The King of the Golden River was first published in 1842, I found its message of kindness overcoming greed to be very relevant today. The exquisite illustrations by famed artist Quentin Blake make this Victorian tale, and beautiful book, a wonderful addition to every library. (Due to two references to physical discipline, I recommend that parents of young children read the book first to ascertain whether it is appropriate and acceptable for their child.) I highly recommend John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River to readers aged seven and up!

Click here to learn about the award-winning illustrator Quentin Blake.
Click here to learn about the Victorian writer and art critic John Ruskin.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Prioritizing My Projects

While I've mentioned before how much I enjoy working on multiple projects, that approach does present a challenge: there's a risk that I'll never fully finish any of them! So, even though I have four projects right now, I primarily work on one at a time. Here's how I prioritize my projects:

#1 - If I'm really excited about one of my projects, that's the one I work on. There is no substitute for passion when you write. You don't always have that luxury, but when you do, it makes writing a dream.

#2 - I always like working on one of our Lindstrom Wintertime Tales during the fall and winter months if I can. Writing a winter story during the spring and summer months isn't nearly as much fun!

#3 - If I'm going to attend a writing conference where I might meet a literary agent, I always hope to have my manuscript ready so I can submit it to her. (Unsolicited submissions aren't usually accepted.)

Currently, I'm working on a new middle grade novel due to point #1 - the concept seemed to magically drop into my mind. I can't seem to think about anything else! Also, since it's historical fiction set in the summer of 1944 during World War II, and this summer marks the 75th Anniversary of D Day, I feel extremely connected to my story.

August 25, 1944 - Liberation of Paris - French Embassy
This vintage photo has inspired me, and my story, so much!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cudgel - (n.)
a short, thick stick used as a weapon.
Example: An old cudgel was the troll's favorite weapon in combat.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Rice from Heaven
by Tina Cho

Flap Copy Description:
Rice from Heaven is based on a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her community in South Korea help deliver rice via balloons to the starving and oppressed people in North Korea.

We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat.

Yoori lives in South Korea and doesn’t know what North Korea is like, but her father (Appa) does. Appa grew up in North Korea, where he did not have enough food to eat. Starving, he fled to South Korea in search of a better life. Yoori doesn’t know how she can help as she’s only a little "grain of rice" herself, but Appa tells her that they can secretly help the starving people by sending special balloons that carry rice over the border.

Villagers glare and grumble, and children protest feeding the enemy, but Yoori doesn’t back down. She has to help. People right over the border don’t have food. No rice, and no green fields.

With renewed spirit, volunteers gather in groups, fill the balloons with air, and tie the Styrofoam containers filled with rice to the tails of the balloons. With a little push, the balloons soar up and over the border, carrying rice in the darkness of the night over to North Korea.

My Thoughts:
I first heard about this picture book from an agent who was a featured speaker at an SCBWI Retreat in the fall of 2018 - I'm finally featuring it on Bibliophile's Corner! Rice from Heaven is not only an inspirational true story, but it is beautifully illustrated. In these turbulent times, I believe it is more important than ever that our youth hear stories of love, inclusiveness, and generosity. I highly recommend Tina Cho's picture book, Rice from Heaven, for children aged three to seven.

Click here to learn about the author, Tina Cho.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Working on my World Building

Several months ago I received a response from a literary agent regarding my middle grade novel. Unfortunately, it was a rejection. However, it was not only encouraging, it was helpful. In her response she mentioned that a weakness in my work was the fact that the world building was not developed enough to support some of the scenes in my first ten pages. While I winced, I knew she was correct. I also knew how it had happened: In learning that a MG novel needed to get to the action straightaway, I had primarily focused on that task, neglecting world building.

Since receiving that constructive criticism I've been studying up on world building. While setting is a big part of developing your protagonist's world, it's also important to develop her personal world: friends, family, current events, conflicts, antagonist, etc. Blending the correct setting to the set of events your main character will experience is important; it's also important that the personal world of other characters be sufficiently developed. (That's where I had failed.)

I've often received positive feedback on my ability to create a setting - it's something I love to do. However, when introducing a scene into your work it's important to ask: Does the world I've developed support this action? In other words, does it feel like this plot point came out of left field? It's wonderful to reveal a surprise in your story, essential in fact; however, it must feel as though you can follow a thread to where that surprise originated. World building is like constructing a castle - it takes a long time! That being said, doing research (including travel) for a story is one of my favorite things to do.

Visiting the iconic bookshop in Paris, France.
As I mentioned last Friday, we traveled to Europe in 2014.  Experiencing the sights and sounds of a location provides the writer with information no amount of reading can provide.

I recently created an outline for a new middle grade novel, also set in France. It will be historical fiction, set in WW II. (Once you've visited a country, you never know what inspiration it might provide in the future!)

Click here for just one of many great articles regarding world building.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mendacity - (n.)
Example: The politician's comments were marked with mendacity.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Ernestine's Milky Way
Kerry Madden-Lunsford & Emily Sutton

Flap Copy Description:
An empowering picture book set in the 1940s about a determined five-year-old girl who embarks on a journey to deliver milk to her neighbors in the holler.

Every morning, Ernestine shouts out her window to the Great Smoky Mountains, "I'm five years old and a big girl!" When Mama asks Ernestine--who helps with chores around the farm while Papa is away at war--to carry two mason jars filled with milk to their neighbor, Ernestine isn't sure she can do it. After all, she'd need to walk through thickets of crabapple and blackberry by the creek, not to mention past vines of climbing bittersweet. But Ernestine is five years old and a big girl, so off she sets. Along the way, one mason jar slips from her arms and rolls down the mountainside into the river, and Ernestine is sure it's lost forever . . . until her neighbor's son shows up with a muddy jar--and there's a surprise inside! With tons of flavor and a can-do spirit, here is a celebration of American history and a plucky girl who knows that helping a family in need is worth the trouble.

My Thoughts:
Kerry Madden-Lunsford set this lovely picture book in the 1940s - during World War II. While the young protagonist's father is away at the war, Ernestine helps her mother on their little farm beneath the Great Smoky Mountains. I found the enchanting look into American history that this special book offers to be so powerful. Allowing today's young readers a chance to look back at how children lived long ago is a much-needed message: A strong, yet subtle, reminder to be grateful. Introducing history to young readers in this fashion is fantastic. I highly recommend Ernestine's Milky Way to readers aged three to seven!

Click here to learn about the author, Kelly Madden-Lunsford.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Photos from my 2014 trip to France
Honoring Notre Dame Cathedral

On this Easter weekend my mind wanders to memories of Notre-Dame de Paris; we visited the landmark in 2014. Besides the fact that Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most visited sites in Europe - Paris, and Notre Dame Cathedral in particular, is included in a middle grade series of books I'm working on. Researching the cathedral was one of my goals in visiting Paris. So on Monday, like so many around the world, I wept as I watched the spire and roof collapse.

While I'm an American, the part of my ancestry that is French is important to me. Seeing the majestic structure was a moving experience, to say the least. Knowing that the cathedral is centuries-old, walking into the nave of the church in 2014 & seeing the stained glass windows, silenced my soul. Famed French author and poet Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, in part, to celebrate the French Gothic cathedral that was about to be no more; instead, his novel served to resurrect the iconic landmark. 

Having this tragedy occur during Easter Week makes it all the more painful. However, maybe the fact that it did happen during this week will serve as inspiration and strength for the people of France in their monumental task of rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris. 
Because that extraordinary European landmark is not just important to the French people, or to Catholics, but to all people of the world. 

Happy Easter! Happy Passover!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cobble - 
(v.) to mend, make, or patch together coarsely; repair or make hastily
(n.) a stone, the size of a lump of coal
Example: The artist cobbled together a collage.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Raise Your Hand
by Alice Paul Tapper 
& illustrated by Marta Kissi

Flap Copy Description:
11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper--daughter of CNN's Jake Tapper--is challenging girls everywhere to speak up!

When Alice Tapper noticed that the girls in her class weren't participating as much as the boys, she knew she had to do something about it. With help from her Girl Scout troop and her parents, she came up with a patch that other girls could earn if they took a pledge to be more confident in school. Alice even wrote an op-ed about the experience for the New York Times! Inspired by that piece, this picture book illustrates her determination, bravery, and unwillingness to accept the status quo. With Marta Kissi's delightful illustrations depicting Alice's story, young readers everywhere will want to follow Alice's lead and raise their hand!

My Thoughts:
The fact that an eleven-year-old girl would not only pen a picture book, but would inspire young girls around the country to speak up, is astounding. However, the book is not only well-written, it's beautifully illustrated as well - by Marta Kissi. When I did a bit of research on Alice Paul Tapper, I learned that she was named after Alice Paul - who was a suffragist, feminist, and women's right's activist. It appears that the young author was given the perfect name! I highly recommend Raise You Hand to all young readers and their parents, as well as to elementary school teachers. Bravo, Alice Paul Tapper!

Click here to learn about the young debut author, Alice Paul Tapper.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Painting by Mary Ethel Hunter 1878 - 1936
My Junior Beta Reader

Right from the start of my storyteller's journey I've used beta readers - for portions of my writing, and for finished manuscripts as well. However, it wasn't until last year that I was lucky enough to find a junior beta reader; a girl that was eleven-years-old - the same age as the protagonist in my middle grade fantasy novel. The insightful feedback I received from her was invaluable!

My junior beta reader, Rayma, is the granddaughter of a very dear friend. (Who happens to also be one of my beta readers!) Laura, the grandmother, mentioned to me that  Rayma loves to read and she thought that my story might interest the young girl. The only hitch: she lives near Akron, Ohio, while I reside in the Pacific Northwest.

Laura corresponded with her granddaughter, and after learning that she was actually excited about the project, I printed off my 52,000 word manuscript, placed it in a 2.5 inch binder - complete with a mock cover, and sent it off to Rayma in Ohio. I attempted to make it easy for her, so I'd requested she do the following: Place a happy face πŸ˜„ next to portions she really liked; place a sad face 😞 next to portions she didn't like; and place a question mark ? next to places that she was confused.

Well, it turns out, I had totally underestimated Rayma's commitment to her task as a beta reader! She left numerous notes throughout the manuscript (like the ones on the left), that totally warmed my heart. Receiving a glowing report from a beta reader - not about structure, grammar, plot, etc. - but just about whether she liked it or not, blew me away. She liked it! She really, really liked it. (I always did like Sally Field.)

So when it was time for Spring Break, Rayma & her family came out to see her grandmother, Laura, my dear friend. The Friday before she was set to return home to Ohio, Rayma, her father, little sister Rylee, Laura, and I, all enjoyed a delightful lunch. What an extraordinary young lady (now twelve), and a super special family. (Rayma's mom was back in Ohio where she works as a 3rd grade teacher in another school district. πŸ’™) It was an incredible experience to meet this young lady. Thanks again, Rayma; your feedback, and now your friendship, mean so much!