Friday, August 29, 2014

Champions of Creativity

Photo Credit: Public Domain
       J. R. R. Tolkien

Since I enjoy writing light fantasy stories for children, I've chosen to feature the fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien as today's focus of Champions of Creativity.
It would be difficult to imagine where the world of children's literature would be today had not Tolkien penned the immensely popular: The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa to English parents. By the age of twelve he had lost both his parents to disease and lived with relatives in England.

Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and English Language and Literature at Oxford University from 1925 to 1959. While at Oxford, he became friends with C. S. Lewis; both gifted writers belonged to a discussion group at the university called the Inklings.

Throughout his life Tolkien was enthralled with all sorts of languages, and even invented and then constructed several. The prolific writer and academic also penned numerous poems.

In 1972 Queen Elizabeth II knighted the iconic British author.
In 2008 The Times ranked Tolkien sixth on a list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

J. R. R. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

If you're a Tolkien fan, click here to see the movie trailer for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies coming to theaters this December.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bijou -

(n.) delicate trinket, jewel, or object.

Example: The shopkeeper bemoaned the theft of the beautiful bijou.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Unhooking the Moon
by Gregory Hughes

Amazon Description
Meet the Rat: A dancing, football-playing gangster-baiting ten-year-old. When she foresaw her father's death, she picked up her football and decided to head to New York.
Meet the older brother Bob: Protector of the Rat, but more often her follower, he is determined to find their uncle in America and discover a new life for them both.

On their adventures across the flatlands of Winnipeg and through the exciting streets of New York, Bob and Rat make friends with a hilarious con man and a famous rap star, and escape numerous dangers. But is the Uncle a rich business man, or is the word on the street, that he is something more sinister, true? And will they ever find him?

My Thoughts:
Unhooking the Moon takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions as the middle grade story weaves a contemporary tale of two siblings struggling to survive in the world without their parents. I laughed numerous times, but ultimately the superbly crafted novel by Gregory Hughes got me in the end, and I cried. Utterly unique, Unhooking the Moon is not only a must-read if you have a family member or friend who struggles with mental illness, it's a book that will inspire your heart. I would highly recommend this extraordinary novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

My attempt at creating an avatar for my MG protagonist!
Inspired to Revise...Again!

After attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I came home intent on giving my middle grade manuscript another revision.

The reason for my desire to give my story "another pass," was that after listening to the experienced authors, agents, and editors, I couldn't help but think of a few ways to improve my story. Then, the Newbery Medal-winning author, Linda Sue Park, gave a super inspired and informative keynote the last day of the conference. Several of her suggestions were completely new to me, and from listening to comments around me, new to many of the others in attendance as well. She also challenged all of us to "make every word count." (I especially enjoyed her remark: "don't bore the editor!")

So, I just finished another revision on my manuscript and have sent it to both my personal editor and a trusted beta reader for their feedback. After I hear back from them and incorporate their edits into my story it will be query time! (And then the agonizing wait begins.)

For great writing tips from Linda Sue Park, click here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Indagatrix -

(n.) a female investigator; a searcheress.
Example: The teen-age girl dreamed of becoming an indagatrix, like her childhood idol, Nancy Drew.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Amazon Description:
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn't kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now.

Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. this extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

My Thoughts:
Counting by 7s is inspiring, insightful, and in a category all its own. While the theme of the novel is probably dealing with grief, there are also issues of family, diversity, and perseverance that make this middle grade book a must-read! The character development and voice of the main character, are off the chart. Counting by 7s is one of those special middle grade novels that I would highly recommend to readers from the ages of eight to eighty.

To learn more about the multi-talented author, Holly Goldberg Sloan, click here:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Champions of Creativity

    Lauren Bacall

One of the last giants of Hollywood's Golden Age passed away on Tuesday.
Lauren Bacall was a legendary actress, a fashion icon, and an award-winning author.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Betty Joan Perske was born on September 16, 1924 in New York City, the only child of Jewish immigrant parents.

She met Humphrey Bogart in 1944 on the set of her first movie, "To Have and Have Not" at the age of nineteen. The next year Ms. Bacall and Mr. Bogart were married. For many years they were the toast of tinseltown and were known simply as "Bogie and Bacall."

Her career in motion pictures was one of great achievement; she was one of the elite movie stars of her time. Ms. Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the AFI's 100 years...100 Stars list, and in 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Academy Award.

Lauren Bacall's first memoir, "By Myself" was published in 1978 for which she won a National Book Award. Another memoir, "Now"  was published in 1994, and her final book, "By Myself and Then Some" was published in 2005. Of writing, the extraordinary woman once remarked, "Writing a book is the most complete experience I've ever had."

Lauren Bacall also once said, "I prefer to prevail." Indeed she shall, in the marvelous motion pictures and memoirs she left behind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mizzle -

1. (n) drizzle: a very fine rain.
2. (v) drizzle: to rain in very fine drops.
Example: A magical mizzle fell upon the enchanted forest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
by Chris Grabenstein

Amazon Description:
Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particular video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every  clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

My Thoughts:
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is one of those special books that would entice the most reluctant young reader with its humor and wit, but also includes dynamite character development and a spot-on middle grade voice. Mr. Grabenstein weaves references to numerous classic children's books and their authors into his book, which sends a subtle message that reading is cool. This imaginative and inventive middle grade novel is definitely a winner for both boys and girls from the ages of eight to twelve!

To learn more about the former comedian turned author - Chris Grabenstein - click here:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit : Public Domain
   Petrified to Give My Pitch!

Last weekend I attended the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles. I was anxiously anticipating the informative workshops, hearing the award-winning author Judy Blume and the rest of the spectacular speakers, and to giving my pitch to two well-known agents in the Kidlit world. Well, maybe not anticipating giving my be honest, I was petrified to give my pitch!

The good news was, not only were the agents knowledgeable, they were nice. They allowed attendees to read our pitches. Consequently, all the fretting and practicing I'd done in my hotel room had been unnecessary! One issue the agents addressed was the difference between a pitch and a synopsis. Thankfully, I'd done my homework.

Here's a list of the resources I used when I composed my pitch:

What is the Two-Minute Elevator Pitch?

The Perfect Pitch: Pitching to Agents at a Writing Conference

The Eight Steps to a Powerful Pitch

This great article on writing a synopsis includes step by step directions, making it easy for me to complete that dreaded task:

How To Write a 1-Page Synopsis - Susan Dennard

One of the things about being a writer is we must be willing to tell people about our writing/book, (even if we're nervous). If we're not excited about it, why would we think anyone else would be?

Have you ever given a pitch to an agent? If so, were you petrified?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Whicker -

(v.) to whinny.
Example: The horse whickered as he struggled to walk through the briar patch.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

The Apple Tart of Hope
by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Flap Copy Description:
Oscar Dunleavy, who used to make the world's most perfect apple tarts, is missing, presumed dead. No one seems too surprised, except for Meg, his best friend, and his little brother Stevie. Surrounded by grief and confusion, Meg and Stevie are determined to find out what happened to Oscar, and together they learn about loyalty and friendship and the power of never giving up.

My Thoughts:
I discovered this captivating book when I was perusing through the children's section in Shakespeare and Company in Paris. The reason that is important is due to the fact that I allowed myself just one purchase at the iconic bookstore in an attempt to stay within the budget we'd set for our trip to Europe. With all the books I could choose from, The Apple Tart of Hope was the one I selected. I made an awesome decision! There is so much to love about this original novel - not the least of which is it's written with stellar style, contains awesome character development, and its alternating point of view chapters are entitled: Slice One, Slice Two, and so on. It's one of those books that leaves you full of hope and inspired, without being corny. I would highly recommend The Apple Tart of Hope to readers from the ages of ten to fourteen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Champions of Creativity

   C. S. Lewis

When I reflect on the numerous authors who have not only influenced my life as a writer, but as a person,
C. S. Lewis would be near the top of the long list.

Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He was known as C. S. Lewis, but was called "Jack" amongst his family and friends. Mr. Lewis was an author, poet, literary critic, and lay theologian. He was best known for penning the Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity.

Since C. S. Lewis and fellow author J. R. R. Tolkien both served on the English faculty at Oxford University, they became close friends.

The works of C. S. Lewis have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold millions of copies. The Chronicles of Narnia are by far his most popular books. He died on November 22, 1963 - the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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I selected the above photo of the iconic author with that particular quote, because those words have inspired me time and time again. Becoming a published author is my second profession after a long career as a dental hygienist, and there were times that I wondered: why not just forget about this "writing business" and take it easy?

However, my love of literature, children's books in particular, seemed to steer me toward the path of publication. My passions to read, and to write, and to grow have found a garden to germinate in within the world of children's books. There is no age limit on creativity. In the words of Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian,
"You doubt your value. Don't run from who you are."

Due to the release of my debut book for children this fall, The Scandinavian Santa, I recently had an author website designed. At the bottom of its "Welcome" page there is another quote from C. S. Lewis: "We read to know that we are not alone."

If you, too, are a fan of C. S. Lewis, check out this link!