Friday, October 26, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Embarking on an Art Adventure!

As I mentioned on Monday, I'll be travelling to Guatemala with the non-profit organization Art Ambassador for a Colorful World next week. The opening sentence of the organization's mission statement is something I whole-heartedly support: "We believe art has the power to change the world." While my husband is an oil painter and will contribute his talent, I plan to donate the books on the left to the school in the remote Guatemalan Highlands that educates the Mayan children living there. We are over-the-top excited for this trip!

I've also volunteered to promote literacy with the children and to work with ESL students (through an interpreter). In addition to those activities, I'll keep busy by: learning to weave a basket, taking loads of photos, hiking in the highlands, and writing and sketching in my journals. (Maybe Guatemala will even inspire me to write a new story!) This unique trip is an extraordinary opportunity to grow, and to give.

The organization Xela AID is the group that has partnered with Art Ambassador for a Colorful World to host the participating artists. They are committed to the people in central Guatemala and have worked there tirelessly for 25 years. Since they're so familiar with the Guatemalan Highlands we are confident we'll have a great experience.

Because we won't return from the trip until the middle of November, 
I'll be taking a break from blogging - but I promise to post a lengthy account of my trip, including several photographs, after I return! 

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Pasquinade - (n.)
a satire or lampoon, originally one displayed or delivered in a public place.
Example: The senator delivered a political pasquinade of his opponent at the rally.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

The Only Road
by Alexandra Diaz

Flap Copy Description:
Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.
Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life.

My Thoughts:
When my husband and I began planning a trip to Guatemala (scheduled for October 29th - November 13th), I immediately started searching for a middle grade novel that was set in that Central American country. I couldn't have discovered a more remarkable - or relevant - story than The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz! The extraordinary book tells a tale of sacrifice, courage and danger as a young boy and his cousin leave Guatemala after being threatened by their town's resident gang, The Alphas. While the book takes the reader on the children's journey through Mexico and finally into the U.S., the culture and condition of Guatemala is felt with every turn of a page. In 2017 The Only Road was a Pura Belpre Honor book. This middle grade novel is a must-read for young readers, especially in light of the struggle our country currently faces regarding immigration reform. No matter who you are, you'll see the subject of immigration in a whole new light. I highly recommend The Only Road to readers aged eight to twelve!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Champions of Creativity

Ursula K. Le Guin

This Sunday would have been the eighty-ninth birthday of the iconic author, Ursula Le Guin. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Wordstock Book Festival in November of 2015, in Portland, Oregon.

Since Ms. Le Guin and her husband, Charles, moved to Portland, Oregon in 1958, her legion of Pacific Northwest fans consider her their own. However, the truth is, Ursula had a colorful tapestry of places where she resided and experienced life. She was born on October 21, 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her father was an anthropologist and her mother a writer. Consequently, she grew up in an intellectual environment that included family friends that included: scientists, writers, Native Americans, and college students. Ursula had stated that her dynamic childhood was something for which she was extremely grateful. She wrote her first fantasy story at the tender age of nine!

After graduating from Berkeley High School, she studied at Radcliffe, Columbia, and then won a Fulbright grant to continue her education in France. From 1951 to 1961 she wrote five novels - all of which were rejected by publishers! During that time she also wrote poetry and short stories, some of those stories were published. It wasn't until 1964 that she had the first story of her Earthsea fantasy series published: "The Word of Unbinding." She went on to write and publish numerous fantasy works, becoming an iconic fantasy children's book author.

When she was asked about what had influenced her writing, she responded: "Once I learned to read, I read everything. I read all the famous fantasies - Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, and Kipling....this stuff is so beautiful, and so strange, and I want to do something like that."

Indeed she did just that.

Ms. Le Guin's literary works often blended fantasy with science fiction, but she always bristled at being pigeon-holed into any one genre. She was a tough-minded feminist whose works often included themes of environmentalism and anarchism. She wrote numerous titles during her long life, not only for children, but for adults as well. Ursula won numerous awards during her illustrious career - too many to mention.

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Naif - (n.)
a naïve or ingenuous person.
(adj.) naïve or ingenuous.
Example: The newspaper reporter was nothing more than a naif regarding his account of the story.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

When You Grow Up to Vote
by Eleanor Roosevelt
with Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Grace Lin

Flap Copy Description:
In the voice of one of the most iconic and beloved political figures of the twentieth century comes a book on citizenship for the future voters of the twenty-first century. Eleanor Roosevelt published the original edition of When You Grow Up to Vote in 1932, the same year her husband was elected president. The new edition has updated information and back matter as well as fresh, bold art from award-winning artist Grace Lin. Beginning with government workers like, firefighters and garbage collectors, and moving up through local government to the national stage, this book explains that the people in government work for the voter.
Fresh, contemporary, and even fun, When You Grow Up to Vote is the book parents and teachers need to talk to children about how our government is designed to work.

My Thoughts:
Reading the words of our nation's most extraordinary First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was extremely inspirational. When You Grow Up to Vote was a reminder that our most sacred duty as U.S. citizens is to VOTE! What a wonderful way to educate children about the local, state, and federal positions that they will be called upon to vote on one day. The lovely artwork by Grace Lin perfectly illustrates the book; it is contemporary and classic at the same time. I highly recommend this unique book to readers aged eight to twelve!

Click here to read a biography about Eleanor Roosevelt.
Click here to learn more about the illustrator, Grace Lin.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
A Writer's Up & Down Life

Last Friday I discussed the importance of just "jumping in" at some point along your storyteller's journey. That being said, there is no way to avoid the "ups and downs" that come with being a writer.

So what's a scribe to do??

In this post I'll share some techniques to deal with a writer's up & down life; much of which I learned the hard way along my rocky road as a writer. Here are just a few:

* The first thing I learned was that no one escapes the ups and downs - they're both exciting and excruciating.

* The journey is best shared as you experience it with friends.

* Have other interests besides writing. I love gardening, reading, traveling, and spending time with my family & friends.

* Understand you've signed up for a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a long time to realize your goals.

* Take an occasional break from writing, or at least from social networking. (I always take a summer break from blogging, but I continue working on my current project.)

* Keep your eyes on a goal. Whether it's reaching a daily word count, finishing a manuscript, or participating in NaNoWriMo - make sure the goal is attainable. While gaining agent representation is a great goal, it's so important that you have goals that are more in your control. Meeting some smaller goals will be a powerful fuel for your journey.

*Finally, have fun! Like a roller coaster ride, your journey can be exhilarating or traumatic. Be courageous and embrace the experience.

Treading my storyteller's path has taught me so much about life!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Maw - (n.)
the jaws or throat of a voracious animal.
Example: The peasant man peered down the maw of the monster just before he stabbed, and killed it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

They Say Blue
by Jillian Tamaki

Flap Copy Description:
Caldecott and Printz Honor-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki brings us a poetic exploration of colour and nature from a young child’s point of view. They Say Blue follows a young girl as she contemplates colours in the known and the unknown, in the immediate world and the world beyond what she can see. The sea looks blue, yet water cupped in her hands is as clear as glass. Is a blue whale blue? She doesn’t know — she hasn’t seen one.

My Thoughts:
Ms. Tamaki has created a colorful masterpiece of a picture book! The text and illustrations are both exquisite. One of the elements of They Say Blue that I most admire is the movement and rhythm of the story. The book felt like a wonderful waterfall I was traveling upon. It's not surprising that the art of Jillian Tamaki, a 2015 Caldecott Honor winner, is simply spectacular. 
I highly recommend They Say Blue for children aged three to seven!

Click here to learn about author/illustrator, Jillian Tamaki.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
Jumping In!

Each month we host a get-together for a small group of artists in our home. Last month we happened to land upon the topic of how important it is to just "jump in" as an artist.

Since that meeting I've mused about what jumping in has meant to me as a writer. For every creative (professional) endeavor, one must have a great working knowledge of the craft. But, might it be possible to get so caught up in the rules that a writer fails to ever just jump in?

I believe so.

It's much easier to continue to study one's craft, than to ever just jump in. Fear is an obstacle that must be overcome before we can ever grow into our potential. On the flip side, impatience can sometimes be a writer's obstacle. If she doesn't want to take the time necessary to learn her craft, she might jump in prematurely, setting her career back.

I've been both impatient and fearful at different times along my journey.

How does one determine if it's time to jump in? Each writer must answer that question for herself. A  storyteller's journey is as unique as each writer. A good rule: Be professional every step along the way.

Jumping in was the key to my progress. After taking two college writing courses from an excellent author, I decided that no matter what, I, too, was going to be a published author. I began making choices like a published author. Here is a list of some of my choices:

* I set aside writing time that was non-negotiable
* I began attending as many writer events as possible
* I read loads of books on the craft of writing
* I began blogging regularly
* I began networking on social media sites regularly
* I have friendships with other writers
* I had a professional website created
* I purchased business cards
* I hired a professional editor
* I regularly attend a writers' critique group
* I send out quarterly newsletters
* I ultimately independently published three books
* I've had my own book signing events.

For me, I came to a "brick wall" and felt that to continue learning, I needed to keep moving forward. But to move forward, the next step was to publish my book independently. So, I jumped in.

When I jumped in, I was quickly overwhelmed. However, I also soon learned how to swim the waters of the publishing industry. Acquiring book formatting/a book cover/ISBN numbers, communicating with a major printing company, and scheduling book events, are just a few of the experiences that I am now confident I can do. (Also, since I'm an introvert, I believe that having my own book events was invaluable to my growth as an author.) Along the way, I also "learned the lingo" of the KidLit world. (Like all professions, we have our own language!)

The reason I say all this is that many of the *items in the list above are things that some writers would be afraid to do - like maintaining a website. I've heard so many writers say, "I've never had a book published. Why do I need a website?" (At least you need to obtain a domain name.) When you have your first book published, learning to navigate a website and other social media sites is not what you should be thinking about; it should be about marketing your book and starting another! There is so much work you can do prior to being published.

Jump in!

Remember: There's no substitute for writing on a daily basis.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Whimsical Word of the Week

Obstreperous - (adj.)
noisy and difficult to control.
Example: While the daycare worker claimed the children were obstreperous, all they needed was some kindness.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Bibliophile's Corner

Tiny, Perfect Things
by M.H. Clark
Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

Flap Copy Description:
The whole world is a treasure waiting to be found. Open your eyes and see the wonderful things all around. This is the story of a child and a grandfather whose walk around the neighborhood leads to a day of shared wonder as they discover all sorts of tiny, perfect things together. With rhythmic storytelling and detailed and intricate illustrations, this is a book about how childlike curiosity can transform ordinary days into extraordinary adventures.

My Thoughts:
This recently released picture book features a lovely story with whimsical illustrations. (I love the artwork by Madeline Kloepper!)
Tiny, Perfect Things encourages children to not only see the wondrous things all around them - especially in nature - but to use their imagination and engage their curiosity to think about what they're seeing. I highly recommend it to readers aged three to seven!

Click here to read an interview with author, M. H. Clark.
Click here to learn more about the illustrator, Madeline Kloepper.