Friday, April 28, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
Precocious Female Protagonists

Some of my favorite characters in children's books are precocious female protagonists. Here is a reminder of that word's definition:
Precocious (adj.)
(of a child) having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.

As a child, I always enjoyed spunky young girls in books because I could vicariously live their type of lives while reading. (My upbringing was extremely strict.) When I began to write my own MG novel I hoped to create a precocious female protagonist of my own. Here are a few iconic female characters that have offered me inspiration:

When I created my main character, Livvi Biddle, I imagined her as a quirky, precocious protagonist. However, as time has gone by I've realized (like so many writers) that the image I have of my protagonist has not been fully created upon the pages of my novel.

So, what can I do to more fully reveal my protagonist's personality?

As I revise my manuscript I'm attempting to improve these elements:

Dialogue - Does her vocabulary reflect a precocious young girl?
Humor - Do her words & behavior elicit a smile or a laugh?
Appearance - Does her appearance reflect a quirky girl?
Influence - Do the secondary characters notice her unusual behavior?
Effect - Does her behavior affect the plot?

The young Hermione Granger has also offered me inspiration.

Have you fully created your main character within your manuscript?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tonsured - (v.)
shave the hair on the crown of the head.
Example: The head of the rotund priest had been tonsured prior to his entrance into the religious order.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Are You An Echo?
by Misuzu Kaneko

Flap Copy Description:
In early-1900s Japan, Misuzu Kaneko grows from precocious bookworm to instantly-beloved children’s poet. But her life ends prematurely, and Misuzu’s work is forgotten. Decades later her poems are rediscovered—just in time to touch a new generation devastated by the tsunami of 2011. This picture book features Misuzu’s life story plus a trove of her poetry in English and the original Japanese.

Big Catch:

At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

My Thoughts:
This beautiful book was translated from Japanese and features the poetry of Japan's most celebrated children's poet - it is exquisite. The collaboration of David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi took years to complete. The colorful illustrations lovingly depict places where Kaneko lived as a child, and where her life ended all too soon. I highly recommend Are You An Echo to readers aged eight to eighty. (The subject of suicide is briefly hinted at in the poet's biography.)

Click here to learn more about the poet, Misuzu Kaneko.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

The Olympic National Forest
Nature's Wisdom & Strength

There are numerous blog posts, articles, and even books devoted to the subject of a writer's muse: Whether there is validity to a muse or not, and if so, where and how to find it. I've always known who my muse is, and where my inspiration primarily comes from: NATURE. However, I not only find inspiration to write from the great outdoors, I find wisdom and strength, to deal with all of life's challenges, there, too.

I first learned this personal truth while attending a camp for Campfire Girls in the Columbia River Gorge when I was about ten-years-old. The swimming lessons, artsy crafts, and songs around the campfire were all great, but it was my own personal walks in the woods that touched me in a way I'd never known. The gentle breeze through the tall evergreen branches, the enchanting call of a colorful loon from the lake, or even a rascally raccoon racing across my path, were all gifts from Mother Nature. They reminded me that I was not really alone in the dense, coniferous forest. They were all my friends, each one.

To this day, when I need to clear my mind, or search for wisdom, it is to the forest that I go. Thankfully, I leave near a wooded area that is home to many little critters below its broad cathedral-like canopy. I've always felt small, even protected below the giant guardians, so it's no wonder that I feel closest to God in the woods as well. Time seems to stop while I meditate on my blessings, my life, and also my problems.

It is because of my bond to trees, and the critters that live near them, that every tale I've ever written includes the hidden hinterlands we call forests & the community of creatures that mystically reside in them.

I've yet to meet a human being who is as wise as a towering evergreen or as loving as a mother bear.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plangent - (adj.)
(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.
Example: The plangent prayers emanating from the ancient mosque drifted over the Holy City.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

by Tahereh Mafi

Flap Copy Description:
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My Thoughts:
It was a thrill to meet author Tahereh Mafi at the SCBWI Conference in New York City - and to have her sign my copy of Furthermore! There are numerous aspects of this middle grade novel that I admire, not the least of which is the beautiful writing of Ms. Mafi. However, it is her quirky protagonist that hooked me right away. The character arc of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is exquisite. If you love whimsical tales of magic, don't miss out on Furthermore. I highly recommend this middle grade fantasy novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Tahereh Mafi.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
New Life Always Returns

One of the most important lessons I've ever learned is that there are spiritual cycles in life - much like the seasons. If things don't go my way it's important that I persevere...because new life always returns.

When I look back on my adult life I'm amazed at all the changes that have occurred. My relationships, my career, and some of my beliefs.

Most, if not all, of those changes occurred after a traumatic challenge in my life. There were times I truly wanted to give up. I'll leave it at that. However, I am so glad that I had the fortitude (stubbornness!) to continue on. Had I not, I would not have lived to see myself as an author, met my present husband, or learned so many valuable lessons.

If you're down, or struggling in any way right now,  remember:

New life always returns. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cabal - (n.)
a secret political clique or faction.
Example: The conservative cabal had frequent clandestine meetings.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

I, Galileo
Written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Flap Copy Description:
Galileo's contributions were so numerous—the telescope! the microscope!—and his ideas so world-changing—the sun-centric solar system!—that Albert Einstein called him "the father of modern science." But in his own time he was branded a heretic and imprisoned in his home. He was a man who insisted on his right to pursue the truth, no matter what the cost—making his life as interesting and instructive as his ideas.

My Thoughts:
In I, Galileo, we meet the astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician through his own words. Author Bonnie Christensen also adds pertinent facts on every other page. The jewel-toned illustrations are exquisite, and seem to bring Galileo's medieval world alive. This beautiful book includes lists of the scientist's experiments, inventions, and discoveries in the end pages - as well as a glossary and chronology of Galileo's life. I highly recommend I, Galileo to young readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Bonnie Christensen.
(Sadly, Bonnie Christensen passed away in January 2015.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
How My Family Tree Inspired My Middle Grade Fiction

Inspiration to write can come from all sorts of places. A photo, a memory, a sunny spring day - and on and on. However, I never imagined that my own multi-faceted ancestry would be the source for so many of my stories!

What is so surprising is that while I only recently received my DNA results ( the stories that have kindled in my mind have all come from those regions of the world where my ancestors originated.

My results: Scandinavian: 57%; British: 23%; French/Italian: 20%
(While the countries mentioned are no surprise, the percentages are!)

Why is this important?

As writers we are constantly encouraged to "write what we know." While I cannot claim to know an exhaustive amount about the countries of my origin, I am extremely interested in learning more. In fact, I spent six months researching the countries of Scandinavia before writing The Scandinavian Santa. Not only was it an informative task, it was extremely satisfying and fun. It even reconnected me to a long lost cousin on the Scandinavian side of our family.

My upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia, is set in England & Wales. After visiting Great Britain in 2014, I returned inspired to learn more about my background. In the process, old family photos from the British side of my mother's family - the Tusons - were unearthed. Seeing my English ancestors in their nineteenth century clothing was fascinating. It didn't take long for Journey to Snowdonia to come into focus in my mind. (It is set in the mid-nineteenth century.)

If you're having a tough time getting inspired with a new story, you have to look no further than your own family background. You'll be surprised by all the ideas that begin to tumble into your mind!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Demesne - (n.)
land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use.
Example: The dark forest was the demesne of the devious lord.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

Amazon Description:
With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms "migrants" and "refugees" but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

My Thoughts:
During these turbulent times we're all living in, Francesca Sanna's, The Journey, is a very important read for children. The beautiful book opens a window to the world of refugees, allowing young readers to better understand what people from challenged places of our planet must endure - and why they deserve our compassion and assistance.
I highly recommend The Journey to young readers of all ages.

Click here to learn more about author-illustrator Francesca Sanna.