Monday, January 21, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Louisiana's Way Home
by Kate DiCamillo

Flap Copy Description:
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

My Thoughts:
Kate DeCamillo's middle grade novel, Louisiana's Way Home, just may be her best book yet. (And that's saying something; she's a two-time Newbery winner!) The voice of the protagonist (Louisiana) alone, is something to behold. However, it is the story's theme of perseverance and survival that will break your heart. It's been quite a while since a children's book has brought me to tears, but this one certainly did just that. I highly recommend Louisiana's Way Home to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the award-winning author, Kate DiCamillo.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Improv for Writers

Over the holidays, our son Kevin suggested that he teach a class in improv to our family. (His past experience as a member of a comedy group has given him some unique insights.)

He believes that being educated in the principles of improvisation comedy can aid anyone in not only their creativity endeavors, but in their life in general. I was curious, so I gladly agreed to the classes.

The first principle he introduced was the concept of Yes...And. This refers to the idea that when a fellow comic introduces something into the sketch, the other members accept, and add to it. There is no room for changing or challenging it - no matter how crazy it may be. That is where the comedy is born. (We certainly laughed a lot!)

What I discovered, was that I belabored my thoughts before I was willing to add to the sketch. That made me wonder: Am I overthinking elements of my writing? My dialogue? My plot? My humor?

(L-R) Eldest son, David; husband, Michael; son, Kevin.
It was amazing how my mind was opened up, just by accepting what my family members added to the sketch. I agree with Kevin: Improv has value for all creative types, even for non-comics like me. I'm looking forward to our next class!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Palfrey (n.)
a docile horse used for ordinary riding, especially for women.
Example: The palfrey carried the princess upon his back as he trotted away from the castle. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

A Winter's Promise
The Mirror Visitor
by Christelle Dabos

Flap Copy Description:
Long ago, following a cataclysm called “The Rupture,” the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands. Known now as Arks, each has developed in distinct ways; each seems to possess its own unique relationship to time, such that nowadays vastly different worlds exist, together but apart. And over all of the Arks the spirit of an omnipotent ancestor abides.

Ophelia lives on Anima, an ark where objects have souls. Beneath her worn scarf and thick glasses, the young girl hides the ability to read and communicate with the souls of objects, and the power to travel through mirrors. Her peaceful existence on the Ark of Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, from the powerful Dragon clan. Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancée to the floating capital on the distant Ark of the Pole. Why has she been chosen? Why must she hide her true identity? Though she doesn’t know it yet, she has become a pawn in a deadly plot.

My Thoughts:
A Winter's Promise crossed my path quite unexpectedly. While it had initially gained little buzz in the States, this young adult novel by Christelle Dabos was recently chosen as Amazon's pick as the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy book of 2018 - I wholeheartedly agree! Hildegarde Serle translated this breakthrough book from French to English, and I must say, nothing was lost in translation. It features unique characters, settings, and vocabulary, and the plot will keep you guessing all along the way. With all the magic and imagination you'd hope for in a fantasy novel, this is a must-read! I highly recommend A Winter's Promise - The Mirror Visitor to readers aged twelve & up and anxiously await the sequel which will release in May, here in the U.S.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Champions of Creativity

Michael Bond

When my first son, David, was born, Paddington became a big deal in our home. His likeness showed up in not only books, but as stuffed animals, dishes, & video tapes.

So, when I learned that British author, Michael Bond - the creator of the precocious bear - would have celebrated his ninety-third year this Sunday, I decided to feature him as a Champion of Creativity.

One reason I occasionally feature an icon in creativity, is that I always learn some surprising tidbit about the "champion" that I would have otherwise never known. That is certainly the case with Mr. Bond.

Michael Bond was born on January 13, 1926, in Newbury, Berkshire, in England. He was educated at Presentation College in Reading, but being extremely unhappy there, he left his formal education at the age of fourteen - much to the chagrin of his parents. With World War II under way, he went to work as an engineer's assistant for the BBC.  On February 10, 1943, the building in which he was working was bombed, killing 41 people and injuring dozens more. Afterwards, he served briefly in the RAF, but due to severe air sickness, he was discharged. He ended up serving in the British Army, and it was while stationed in Cairo, Egypt, in 1945, that Bond began writing.

After the war, he worked as a cameraman for the BBC and continued writing plays and short stories. It was not until 1958 that he finally had his first book published: A Bear Called Paddington.

After dropping out of formal education at the age of fourteen this self-taught writer became one of the most successful children's book authors of all time. Surely his time during World War II was an education of an extraordinary type, unfortunately. But Bond managed somehow, some way, to have the confidence to keep writing. I find that incredible fact so inspiring. He had such perseverance.

Mr. Bond penned several stories featuring his beloved Paddington.
He also wrote two short films for the BBC, as well as two children's television series: "The Herbs" and "The Adventures of Parsley."
Additionally, Bond wrote dozens of stories for his imaginative characters: Olga da Polga and Monsieur Pamplemousse.

On July 6, 2007 the University of Reading recognized Michael Bond's extraordinary expertise in writing, when they awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Letters. What an unlikely journey the author had taken to receive a university degree - and so well-served.

He was also honored when he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997; then in 2017 he received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

The adventures of Paddington have sold over 35 million books.

Michael Bond died on June 27, 2017, in London, England.

The movie - Paddington 2, was dedicated to his memory.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cloche - (n.)
- a woman's, bell-shaped hat.
- a small translucent cover for protecting or forcing plants.
Example: The clapper girl wore a bright blue cloche to the nightclub.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Art Matters
By Neil Gaiman, and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Flap Copy Description:
Neil Gaiman once said that 'the world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before'. This little book is the embodiment of that vision.

Drawn together from speeches, poems and creative manifestos, Art Matters will explore how reading, imagining and creating can change the world. A creative call to arms, the book will champion freedom of ideas, making art in the face of adversity and choosing to be bold. It will be inspirational to young and old, and will encourage glorious, creative rebellion.

My Thoughts:
This little book packs such a punch that each of my three adult sons received a copy for Christmas! One of the tidbits that stood out to me personally was Mr. Gaiman's comments near the end of the book regarding the future of publishing. The uncertainty we all face is another reason to be courageous, in whatever form of creativity you pursue. I highly recommend this book to artists of all sorts, of any age!

Click here to learn more about multi-talented Neil Gaiman.
Click here to learn more about illustrator Chris Riddell.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

2018 Reflections

In some ways, I prefer to look to the future, rather than reflect on the chaotic year we all just lived through. But, as 2018 concluded, a brilliant thought dawned on me.

In the midst of political turmoil, human suffering, an excused murder, and on and on, I had to choose to notice the good stories that were also occurring, lest I'd lose hope in humanity altogether.

That is a brilliant thought. The stretching of my heart and mind.

To maintain a positive outlook, and to keep hoping that our world might one day return to at least the level of civility we all once knew, took discipline...noticing the positives in the midst of so many negatives.

While to some more cynical, that might seem to be a stretch - just to find something to be positive about. However, I don't believe that.

Whether our world returns to a better place this year, or the next, it will improve. And when it does, maintaining a more positive outlook will still be necessary. Our world is becoming smaller, and more diverse all the time. Each of us will need to maintain the practice of seeing the positives, rather than the negatives, in each other, if our society is to remain a democracy. A place where our children and grandchildren will want to live. I believe that is possible, but it will require that each of us realize our importance in that process. Every single soul matters.

When I reflect on 2018, I think of it as a year that helped me become a bit better person. I hope to keep practicing a more positive outlook. I believe that maintaining that mindset is our best hope for the future.

Wishing each of you a positive outlook in 2019!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2019!

The splendid (regular) schedule for Writ of Whimsy begins this Friday. 😊

Here's to a fantastic year of writing!