Friday, November 29, 2013

Champions of Creativity

Public Domain Photo

   Louisa May Alcott

Like so many young girls, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, was one of the very first substantive novels I ever read. Since the literary icon's life was so inspiring and extraordinary - and since today is the anniversary of her birth - I have chosen Louisa May Alcott for the subject of this week's blog posting of Champions of Creativity.

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania and was the second of her parents' four daughters. Amos Bronson Alcott was a teacher and transcendentalist, while Louisa's mother, Abigail May, was a social worker. The Alcott family moved to Boston in 1938 where Amos Alcott established an experimental school. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were not only some of Louisa's educators, they were also friends of the Alcott family. The family suffered through constant poverty and multiple changes in residence which pushed Louisa to go to work at an early age. She worked as a seamstress, governess, teacher, and writer. Writing became a method for the young girl to cope with the emotional stress in her life, and at the age of seventeen she wrote her first book, Flower Fables.

As an adult, Ms. Alcott was an abolitionist, a feminist, and during the Civil War, she served as a nurse. Although Louisa May Alcott wrote numerous books and poems, it is Little Women that is most definitely her lasting legacy. The novel's protagonist, Jo - who is loosely based on the author, has touched and inspired generations of young girls and women. At a time that was known as The Gilded Age, Little Women gave young girls a reason to read, and even dream, of a different kind of life in a way that they never had before. Louisa May Alcott also became active in the women's suffrage movement, writing for "The Woman's Journal," where she encouraged women to register to vote.

The legendary American author lived this extraordinary life while battling bouts of depression and was never married. Louisa May Alcott died on March 8, 1888, in Boston, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. She rests in peace on a hillside known as "Authors Ridge," near Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.

To view the Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, click here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Abligurition -

spending an enormous amount of money on food.
Example: The wealthy socialite had a serious problem with abligurition during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Electrical Wizard
How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World
by Elizabeth Rusch
and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Flap Copy Description:
Move over, Thomas Edison! Serbian-American inventor Nikola tesla takes center stage in the first-ever picture-book biography of the man responsible for lighting our lives with electricity.

When Nikola Tesla was three years old, he noticed how his hand produced tiny sparks when he stroked his cat. He was enchanted by this thing called electricity, and by the time he was a teenager, he made a vow: one day, he would turn the rushing waters of Niagara Falls into electricity. In a flash of inspiration, Tesla realized that this, and so much more, would be possible by harnessing the mysterious power of alternating currents.

Tesla faced many obstacles along the way, including the great American inventor Thomas Edison, who was a staunch defender of the direct-current electrical system. But Tesla worked tirelessly to prove that AC, not DC, was the wave of the future. He proved it at the Chicago World's Fair and at Niagara Falls - and his proof lives on today in a world transformed by his inventions.

My Thoughts:
The reason I am reviewing a picture book (the first one) on Bibliophile's Corner today, is due to the powerful impact I believe this biography could have upon multitudes of children. Learning about the life of the amazing Tesla was not only enlightening, but extremely inspirational. Among the many attributes I could mention about this book, the one that stands out most to me is the book's ability to teach children the necessity of perseverance if they are to see their dreams come true. I would highly recommend this book to children of all ages!

To learn more about the award-winning author Elizabeth Rusch,
click here:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Pumpkin Patch of Color - 18X24 Oil on Canvas - Michael Lindstrom

The Road to Thankfulness

During this time of year, most people pause to be thankful for the blessings in their life as we approach Thanksgiving Day.

I have found, that in my extremely busy life - like most folks - it is easy to use my time and energy to just keep up with my responsibilities. If I have any free time I sometimes collapse! Remembering to consciously be thankful - all along the way - is something that must be cultivated. It is a virtue, much like discipline or forgiveness - it is a choice.

The above scene is a photo of one of my husband's oil paintings. I am featuring it on this post because I like the way the road winds through the fertile field. Also, because I was with Michael when he painted it, and it brings to mind a lovely memory. We were situated beneath a large oak tree just off to the left of the rural road, enjoying a simple picnic lunch as he painted. I had brought along a good book and my journal. The memory of that late summer day, shared with the man I love, will always be with me. When Michael first took me out with him painting he would say things like, "Isn't that violet color in the sky beautiful?" Not being an oil painter, I would not even see the subtle color. As time has past, my perception has improved. I can now see some of those colors he's referring to. I have to want to see them.

We hear the admonition all the time in our society: "Be thankful for the little things in life," but it's so true. We must see the small serendipities that grace each of our days. Looking back over the year of 2013, there have been many ups and downs in my life - both personally and professionally. It has been a choice, especially some days, to be thankful. The road to thankfulness is one that is a lifelong journey.

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues." Cicero

This year I feel especially thankful for the time I have to be creative.
What are you thankful for this year as we approach the holidays?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Dormiveglia -

the space that stretches between sleeping and waking.
Example: The teen-ager spent most mornings bed-bound in a state of dormiveglia until his mother demanded that he get ready for school.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Mister Max
The Book of Lost Things
by Cynthia Voigt

Amazon Description:
Max Sterling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Sterling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all-theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max.

My Thoughts:
Mister Max - The Book of Lost Things is a richly-textured upper middle grade novel - the first book in Cynthia Voigt's Mister Max Series. The scrumptious settings and colorful cast of characters may only be outdone by the novel's entertaining and puzzling plot. The ingenious Max, and his annoying friend, Pia, make this upper middle grade novel a great read for both boys and girls. I would highly recommend Mister Max - The Book of Lost Things to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen, and I look forward to the second book in the series:
Mister Max - The Book of Secrets.

To learn more about Cynthia Voigt - a Newbery Medal winning author - click here:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

My Creative Cave

When my husband mentioned that he would like to participate in a county-wide open studio art tour all I could do was freak out over the thought that strangers would see my "creative cave" in all its magnificent messiness. As it turned out, cleaning off my writer's table was an enlightening experience. As I perused through the piles of paper - tossing and filing as I proceeded - I was amazed at the amount of notes, hand-outs, and folders I had accumulated from the variety of retreats, classes, and conferences I've attended over the years. Not surprisingly, I discovered some "buried treasures" amongst the mess.

Here is a quote from the British author, Stephen Leather, that I thought should be read daily, so I taped it next to my work area as a reminder:

Percent is one word. What can I say...math is not my thing!

After all the preparation, the Clark County Open Studios tour turned out to not only be a great event for my husband and the rest of the fifty participants, it was encouraging to me. Unbeknownst to me, as I greeted visitors upstairs, a few folks downstairs in our shared basement studio asked Michael about my writing. Evidently, they saw the "one-sheets" I have hanging in my work area for each of my manuscripts. As many of the visitors departed our home they complimented me on my stories. What sweet people to show an interest in an aspect of the tour that was not even a focus. Thanks to everyone who attended the first Clark County Open Studios tour!

It was special to have several of my writer friends visit our studio and chat for a bit. A big "thank you" to Carolyn, Mike, Kriston, BJ, and Deb for stopping by the open studio last weekend - you guys are great!

Lastly, a very special thanks to our dear friends, Camila Morrison and Nila Baker. These two lovely and talented ladies volunteered to help during the tour in our home. We couldn't have welcomed the nearly 150 people we had visit our studio last weekend without them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tatterdemalion -

raggedly dressed person; looking disreputable or decayed.

Example: the English novel's cast of characters was a gang of tatterdemalions who lurked amidst the alleys of  nineteenth-century London.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Apprentice's Masterpiece:
A Story of Medieval Spain
by Melanie Little

Amazon Description:
Fifteenth-century Spain is a richly multicultural society in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist. But under the zealous Christian Queen Isabella, the country abruptly becomes one of the most murderously intolerant places on Earth.

It is in this atmosphere that the Benvenistes, a family of scribes, attempt to eke out a living. The family has a secret - they are conversos: Jews who converted to Christianity. Now, with neighbors and friends turned into spies, fear hangs in the air.

One day a young man is delivered to their door. His name is Amir, and he wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Fifteen-year-old Ramon Benveniste broods over Amir's easy acceptance into the family.

Startling and dramatic events overtake the household, and the family is torn apart. One boy becomes enslaved; the other takes up service for the Inquisitors. Finally, their paths cross in a stunningly haunting scene.

My Thoughts:
After extensive research, Ms. Little created a beautifully-written novel in verse set amidst one of the most turbulent times in world history. It is upon the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition that her story is set with its colorful and memorable characters. It is a poetic and poignant novel that will long linger in your mind. I would highly recommend The Apprentice's Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain to readers who enjoy historical fiction, poetry, or who are advocates for tolerance.

To learn more about the award-winning author, Melanie Little,
click here:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Champions of Creativity

Public Domain Photo
        Tasha Tudor

In an attempt to keep my blog relevant (when I have nothing new to share), I've decided to periodically substitute "Champions of Creativity" for my normal Friday meme of Storyteller's Journey. Each post will include a short biography of a famous author, illustrator, poet, or other creative who has inspired me on my path as a writer.
For the first post in this new meme, I immediately thought of the legendary Tasha Tudor.

Ms. Tudor was an award-winning illustrator and author who was born on August 28, 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts to two talented New Englanders. Her father, W. Starling Burgess was a naval architect, while her mother, Rosamund Tudor, was a noted portrait painter. In social circles Natasha was usually introduced as, Rosamund Tudor's daughter. She liked the sound of Tasha Tudor so much, that later in her life she had her name legally changed.

I discovered Ms. Tudor's illustrative work many years ago in the books, The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess - both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her whimsical water color illustrations made those classic stories come to life for me as a young girl. However, Tasha Tudor is also known for her Caldecott Honors for the books: Mother Goose in 1945, and 1 is One in 1957. Two of my personal favorites, with text and illustrations by Ms. Tudor are: Corgiville Fair and Corgiville Christmas - they are both just delightful.

Although her impressive professional accomplishments are to be admired, it is Ms. Tudor's personal life that I find so fascinating. As an adult she lived on a storybook farm with goats, chickens, and Corgi dogs; and maintained a garden full of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. She used fruit that had been picked from the trees on her bucolic property to make pies on her wood stove. Tasha Tudor chose to dress in clothes styled for the 19th century that she handcrafted herself. She even carried a homemade willow basket when she went to the market - she must have been quite a gal!

By the time Tasha Tudor died on June 18, 2008 in Marlboro, Vermont, she had illustrated over 100 books and had received the Regina Medal for her contributions to children's literature. Her books, prints, calendars, and Christmas cards are now highly collectible items.

To view samples of  Tasha Tudor's amazing artwork, click here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Arrogate -

to take claim for oneself without right; appropriate.

Example: the senatorial candidate arrogated the responsibilities of the office before the election's recount had been completed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
by Catherynne M. Valente

Flap Copy Description:
September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

My Thoughts:
This richly written and densely detailed middle grade novel is Ms. Valente's third in her series in which we find the precocious protagonist - September, in Fairyland. This trilogy of books represents a remarkable body of work by the author. Reminiscent of the fairy tales of old, Ms. Valente adds a touch of modernism, and a twist of whimsy and what we are treated to is a delightfully delicious tale indeed. I would highly recommend The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two to readers from the ages of eight to eighty. Have your dictionaries ready...the author's vocabulary is extraordinary!

To learn more about the author, Catherynne M. Valente, click here:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Embrace or Evade Comparable Books?

A few years ago, while my critique partner, Kriston,
and I were visiting Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, she had an eerie experience. She discovered a YA novel that had a flap copy description that would not only fit her own WIP to a T, but worse than that - the protagonist had the same name! I assured her that if anyone accused her of plagiarism I would explain to them that I had been her classmate in the college creative writing class when the novel had been conceived. (She went on to publish her amazing YA fantasy novel, Awakened, and is working on the sequel.) Since that time we have come to realize that this is not an unusual experience. But, I was always confident that my middle grade novel had little chance of duplicating another book, even a bit...until recently!

The above books are all not only middle grade novels, but they also all contain female protagonists. They would all - to lesser or greater degrees - be considered comparable books to the middle grade novel that I am currently submitting. However, one of the books (which shall remain unidentified) contains a protagonist with the same name as my own heroine; has a major character that is a quirky grandmother - like my story; and features ghosts in its plot - also like my story. (Thankfully the plot, setting, and other elements of that novel are nothing like my book.) I discovered this similarity, surprisingly enough, after I had purchased the book, but before I had it signed by the author. I was so unraveled, that when I met the talented writer, I mentioned the similarity. She laughed and said, "Don't worry, my book will be a great comp book for you!" However, for some reason I was still just a bit uncomfortable with the similarity. (If you follow my blog close enough, you will be able to pick out the book I am referring to in the photo.)

Since that encounter, I have researched the concept of comparable books quite a bit. What I have discovered is that authors of young adult and adult novels seem to be asked to mention comparable books more than authors of middle grade novels when submitting. That brings up the big question: Should we embrace or evade comparable books? Writing a book that is similar to a well-known published book would of course make our own novel more marketable. But how similar is too similar? I am still battling with frustration from the fact that there is already a published book in bookstores with strange similarities to my novel. It is, of course, a moot issue unless my book gets published!

What are your thoughts on the subject of comparable books?