Friday, January 31, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

What Makes a Super Hero?

With Super Bowl weekend now upon us, I just couldn't help but comment on the sporting event, (but with a writing twist). Since I live in Washington State, and have been a Seattle Seahawks fan for as long as I can remember, you know who I'm rooting for: Go Seahawks!

That being said, like all NFL teams, it wasn't easy for the Seahawks to reach the pinnacle of professional football. As I pondered over this post, I realized that no matter where your life's path is headed, there are a few extraordinary traits you must acquire at some point to become super in your chosen field. So what are they?

Here are a few extraordinary traits it takes to be a Super Hero:

Marshawn Lynch - #24 - The Beast
1- Dedication
2- Self Discipline
3- Training/Education
4- Passion
5- Talent
6- Patience/Perseverance
7- Humility - (As Richard Sherman and so many other NFL players are still learning!)

                   (Both photos courtesy of the Public Domain.)

In the last several years I have learned that procuring  publication of a children's book will take no less dedication than that of an NFL player who has worked and struggled and finally earned the right to go to the Super Bowl. The training is different, but the traits required to meet my goal are much the same. After all, if becoming a traditionally published author was easy, it wouldn't mean nearly so much!

What Super Hero trait would you add to this list? Who are you rooting for in the big game this Sunday? Do you have a favorite NFL team?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Pettifoggery -

a trivial quarrel.

Example: The teacher instructed the two quarreling lads to cease from their pettifoggery or be sent to the headmaster.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Doll Bones
by Holly Black

Amazon Description:
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach's father throws out all his toys, declaring he's too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing...and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll - who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity...

My Thoughts:
I found the characters in Doll Bones to be extremely well-developed and the dark and mysterious plot of Holly Black's novel engaging and entertaining. Ms. Black is a veteran author having written the middle grade series: The Spiderwick Chronicles, as well as various young adult titles too. In Doll Bones, the author has penned a weird and spooky tale that, in a strange way, is also a coming of age story. This well-written upper middle grade novel has received nearly unanimous rave reviews. I would highly recommend Doll Bones to readers from the ages of ten to twelve.

(Addition! Doll Bones just won a Newbery Honor this morning! Congratulations to Ms. Black!)

To learn more about the award-winning author Holly Black, click here:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

A Golden Chance

While straightening up my growing collection of children's books recently, I came upon several vintage copies of Little Golden Books from my childhood. (The three pictured here are the most rare in my collection.) I can't see a Little Golden Book without thinking of my maternal grandmother who not only partially raised me, but who taught me how to read when I was a four-year-old.

After taking a few moments down memory lane in the middle of organizing numerous titles, it dawned on me that these little books (along with many other children's books) had seen me through some pretty tough times. They had also set my feet upon a lifelong path of reading, writing, and later, of pursuing my goal of publication.

It occurs to me that although as writers we are consumed with writing a stellar manuscript (and rightfully so), it is also important to remember that the sacred act of writing a book for a child is our golden chance to better the world of tomorrow. Although I can only remember the actual stories of a few of my Little Golden Books, my grandmother's gentle guidance in my life - through books - steered me in a positive direction that would later determine the course of my adult life. As the award-winning children's book author Gary Schmidt said at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2012, "Writing for children is a calling."

While preparing to write this post I researched Little Golden Books and discovered a recently-released grown-up Little Golden Book: Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow. Obviously I had to add it to my collection!

Back Cover Description:

One day, Diane Muldrow, a longtime editor of the iconic Little Golden Books, realized that there is hardly a real-life situation these whimsical books don't address. In this age of debt, depression, and diabetes, can grown-ups benefit from a Little Golden guide to life? Yes, we can!

Muldrow's humorous yet practical tips for getting the most out of life - Don't forget to enjoy your wedding! Be a hugger! Sweatpants are bad for morale! - are paired with delightful images from the best-loved children's books of all time.

Sure to conjure memories and smiles, this book is a perfect gift for anyone who cherishes the sturdy little books with the shiny cardboard covers and gold-foil spines.

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely little book with its upbeat tips and reminders to enjoy life. I would highly recommend Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book to readers of all ages!

To learn more about Diane Muldrow, click here:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Nyctohylophobia -

the fear of dark woods or forests at night.

Example: the fantasy author's protagonist had a bad case of nyctohylophobia which added to the tension of the novel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

by Gary Paulsen

Amazon Description:
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present - and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parents' divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair - it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.

My Thoughts:
Although I only recently read this wonderful middle grade novel, it won a Newbery Honor award in 1988. It reminded me of Jack London's The Call of the Wild or Jean Craighead George's Julie of the Wolves - both also award-winning novels. A story of survival, Hatchet is written with all of the twists and turns you would expect from an adventure children's book. In addition to being inspirational, it includes a reading study guide with worksheets for middle school teachers and their students. I would highly recommend Hatchet to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

Click here to learn more about the author, Gary Paulsen:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Cloak of Creativity

Recently, I watched the documentary on David McCullough called, Painting with Words. In it he mentions that although he has been blessed with a level of success as an author, it is the actual act of writing that thrills him most. In the documentary he goes on to say that the idea of a new creative project is what keeps him going. If you get the chance, I strongly encourage you to watch this inspirational documentary. It contains great thoughts on writing...and on life.

It seems to me that whether or not you're a writer, a musician, or any other type of artist, your creativity has the ability to change the mundane into the miraculous - like a cloak of winter snow can change a seemingly random piece of landscape into a thing of beauty.

As time has gone by, I have slowly but surely come to embrace the extraordinary gift that writing has brought to me. The flow of my mind's thoughts placed upon paper - like a cloak of creativity - is what has transformed my own mundane existence into a miraculous life.

"Every book is a new journey. I never felt like I was an expert as I embarked on a project."  David McCullough

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Alexithymia -

inability to describe emotions in a verbal manner.

Example: The author could describe the feelings of the protagonist upon the pages of her novel, but had a bad case of alexithymia in her own life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Fortunately, the Milk
by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Skottie Young

Amazon Description:
"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day." And then something odd happened.

My Thoughts:
Leave it to Neil Gaiman to come up with one of the wackiest and wildest stories for children ever written! The master storyteller has written a book that reads like a tall tale told by an odd fellow indeed. However, upon a closer look, this well-written story is loaded with lots of laughs; twists and turns; and time travel...with breakfast cereal thrown in for good measure. If you are a parent or teacher to a reluctant reader, this book could be just the remedy. Fortunately, we have been gifted with an extraordinary author in Neil Gaiman. I would highly recommend this zany book with its awesome illustrations to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the Newbery Medal winning author, Neil Gaiman, click here:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Writer's Rebel Creed

I discovered this writer's creed on Facebook, via a post from my blogging pal, Theresa Milstein. The positive statements within the creed really resonate with me at this time. If you'd like to join me and add your name to the growing list of writers who have committed to this creed, click here.

      Thanks to S.A. Larsen for this inspirational creed!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Algid -

cold; chilly.

Example: The weather forecast for much of the nation was predicting extremely algid temperatures.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

The Twistrose Key
by Tone Almhjell

Flap Copy Description:
Something is wrong in the house that Lin's family has rented; Lin is sure of it.
The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flower bed, even in a rainstorm. And when a secret key marked "Twistrose" arrives for her, Lin finds a crack in the cellar; a gate to the world of Sylver.
     This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal ta ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under a rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction.
     They are not the only ones hunting for the boy this night. In the dark hides a shadow-lipped man, waiting for the last Winter Prince to be delivered into his hands.

My Thoughts:
The Twistrose Key is the delightful debut middle grade novel from Tone Almhjell of Oslo, Norway. This fantasy adventure story is set in the magical kingdom of wintry Sylver; features anthropomorphic animal characters; and contains some of the best writing I've read in a children's book in a long time. Can you tell I love this book?! If you enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind in the Willows, or the more recent Wildwood Chronicles, you'll love this upper middle grade novel too. I would highly recommend The Twistrose Key to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To learn more about the author, Tone Almhjell, click here:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Walking into 2014

On New Year's Day my husband drove down our country road to do some plein air painting. After I finished my morning chores I picked up my camera and padded down the road to see him.

I thought I'd share with you a photo tour of my New Year's Day walk. This little creek is about three blocks down the road from our house. It's amazing how much beauty is all around me when I take the time to notice.

As if on cue to say hello, this flock of geese honked as they passed overhead. With so much water near our home, the birds offer a common sight and sound in our neighborhood - they are welcome guests that I cherish seeing and hearing.

Mimsi Marsh is a wildlife refuge for a variety of animal and bird species - I've mentioned it on this blog before. It's also a favorite subject for my husband to paint. (I stopped and took this photo when he was just ahead on the road.)

As I came upon Michael, I could see that he was focused on his work, so I walked in back of him and snapped this shot. He was painting the east end of the marsh...and would want me to mention that this painting is far from finished!

After visiting with Michael for a few minutes, I said good bye and turned around to head back for the return walk. These withered winter berries looked so lovely, that when my husband saw this photo he vowed to paint them.

Heading west from the marsh, I took a chance at standing directly on this lonely stretch of railroad tracks. The distant fog seemed to bring to mind a poem, or maybe even a novel of mystery and intrigue. (The road is on the right.)

These photos I've shared with you represent some of the lovely locations that are within two miles of our house. One of my New Year's resolutions is to take this walk more often. (I snapped this shot of the Columbia River near our home.)

As a writer, it is important that I not only experience life, but that I enjoy it. Allowing the wonders that are all around to inspire me, is just as important as the word counts I accomplish or the workshops I attend. I hope this photo tour has provided each of you with some inspiration as you proceed on your own storyteller's journey this year.

           Here's wishing you an awesome year of writing in 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Sempervirent -

always fresh; evergreen.

Example: The bookworm's passion for literature seemed to be sempervirent from year to year.

Happy New Year!