Friday, December 20, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Sentinels in Snow by Michael Lindstrom 24 X 20 oil on panel
Season's Greetings!

This Christmas will be especially nice, since my husband Michael has vacation time these last two weeks of December. We'll be home for the holiday, and then spend some time in the Columbia River Gorge. As usual, I'll be taken a break from blogging until January.

Click here if you'd like to read my winter newsletter.

Wishing you and yours the peace, joy, and love of the season!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Sentimental Serendipity

The Magic of the Pittock Mansion

The Pittock Mansion is nestled in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon, and annually decorates for the holidays. This year they chose the theme: Wonderful World of Books. Needless to say, a visit to the iconic estate of Henry Pittock has been on my calendar for months. It was extraordinary, so much so, that I've chosen to share a blog post the same day as my visit with the hope that some of my local writer friends (and their wee ones) might also enjoy the magic of the Pittock Mansion this holiday season.

As we entered the mansion, the first room we encountered was decorated in a Harry Potter theme. Just enchanting! Every aspect of the room made us feel as though we'd been transported by portkey to visit Hogwarts!

Even the Christmas tree featured a familiar figure atop its bough: Albus Dumbledore, of course. In the background you can see the banners from each school at Hogwarts hanging in the windows. The wood architecture also added a warm touch to the dΓ©cor. I'm pretty sure Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, would have approved.

Another famous British author's work was prominently featured; that of Lewis Carroll. His famous characters from Alice in Wonderland created a fairy-tale feeling in this bedroom of the mansion. In fact, the mansion made me feel as though I'd been transported back in time to the era when most of the featured children's classics had been written!

Precocious Peter Rabbit was also included in the collection of children's book favorites. The Christmas meal set on this table includes carrots, as well as berries!

Nearly every classic children's book was honored by having a Christmas tree of its own - including Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit!

And of course, what is Christmas without Ludwig Bemelmans's Madeline? She was honored with the entire music room of the mansion - including a classical pianist playing Christmas songs!

Here is the Christmas tree in honor of the little French girl who children around the world have come to love and adore.

The first "big book" I read as a little girl was Heidi. I was thrilled to see she too had been honored with a room of her own at this holiday celebration of books!

Just a few items that created the feeling of the mountain-top home Heidi lived in with her grandfather, who was called Alm-Uncle. Johanna Spyri's book is still one of my all-time favorite children's books.

The Christmas display of Tolkien's book, Letters from Father Christmas, sits below the large portrait of Henry Pittock. This was by far my favorite display of the entire exhibit.

That being said, other classics that were featured included: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Secret Garden, and others!

It's strange to see the book again, when I only recently discovered its existence earlier this year. (I'm sure others have known about it for a long time!) Click here to read my review of the lovely little book by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This was the first time we'd ever visited the Pittock Mansion - even though we live thirty minutes away. It's a reminder to notice the beauty of everything all around you during the holiday season, but also, all year long.

Happy Holidays!

(Click here if you'd like to visit this exhibit - it runs through 1/5/20.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Whizgig - (n.)
something (as a toy) that whirls with a whizzing sound.
Example: The young girl received a whizgig as a yuletide gift.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Letters from Father Christmas
by J. R. R. Tolkien

Goodreads Description:
Every December J.R.R. Tolkien's children would receive letters from Father Christmas. From the first note to his eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant correspondence to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition. This revised edition of Tolkien's famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to children includes a number of pictures and letters that have not been seen in print before.

My Thoughts:
It was a surprise to me that I'd never before discovered this lovely book by J. R. R. Tolkien. The heartwarming letters, with accompanying drawings, that Tolkien sent to his children for over two decades, are a treasure indeed - to everyone! That being said, it was not available in the States, so it was sent directly from England. If you are a fan of Tolkien, this is a book you must add to your library. I highly recommend Letters from Father Christmas for all families this holiday season!

If you are interested in purchasing the book, check out this video!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

The Need to Read

During the month of November, I did very little reading due to my participation in NaNoWriMo. I could feel it. For me, reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out. While I'm pleased with completing NaNoWriMo, one thing I learned is, that for me, reading is not optional as a writer, it's a necessity. Consequently, I'm looking forward to drinking some hot cocoa with a few great books over the holidays.

Here are the books that I'm super excited to read very soon:

The last book listed, Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, was purchased at a recent fundraiser for our local library. The author was nice enough to be the guest speaker for the event. The whimsical chair pictured above was purchased at the silent auction. If you look closely, you'll see Ms. Semple's book cover in the chair's design!

Wishing each of you a joyous season spent with a few good books!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Snuggery (n.)
a comfortable and cozy place.
Example: The teen's favorite snuggery was near the bay window of the house where she could view the snow outside.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Man Who Invented Christmas
by Les Standiford

Flap Copy Description:
Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol  himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist. The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.

My Thoughts:
What motivated me to purchase The Man Who Invented Christmas, was the fact that I'd seen the movie last year with my critique group. Knowing that screenwriters must leave so much out from what is in a book, I was curious. I'm so glad I picked up this little book; it's full to the brim with interesting tidbits, especially for writers! In addition to the origin of Dickens's inspiration for A Christmas Carol (his challenging childhood), Standiford's book delves into the issues of Christmas during the Victorian Era, as well as the world of publishing at that time. Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote his classic tale in six weeks? Or that the book was self-published? I found the path to publication of A Christmas Carol fascinating, as was the aftermath of the book's success. (Like Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens was full of joy and generosity the Christmas of 1843.) I highly recommend The Man Who Invented Christmas to all writers, and to fervid fans of Charles Dickens!

Click here to learn about the author, Les Standiford.

By the way, if you've not yet seen the movie, it's great too!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Reflections on NaNoWriMo

If you've been reading my NaNoWriMo updates each Friday, then you already know how I approached the 50,000 word goal within the month of November: I'd pen most of my words the first three weeks of the month and leave a very small portion left to complete after Thanksgiving. That's just what I did. On Saturday, November 30th I wrote 884 words to reach a grand total of 50,028 words. While it's barely over the finish line, I did it!

During NaNoWriMo19, I realized a few things about myself as a writer:

1- Knowing that I can meet a deadline means a lot. (Hopefully, it will mean something to an agent, editor, or publisher, in the future!)

2- While I'm pleased with my accomplishment of succeeding at NaNoWriMo, it is apparent to me, that I'd never be able to maintain such a high daily wordcount. I usually aim for about 1,000 words a day, whereas I was aiming for 2,000+ words during the novel challenge.

3- Spending regular time with my friends & family is important to me. It was difficult to say "no" so many times during NaNoWriMo.

4- Maintaining my exercise regime was also tough during NaNoWriMo.

THE BIG PLUS: I completed the first draft of a novel! No small thing. For me, NaNoWriMo is probably not an annual event. However, when I feel I need to "catch up" with my writing, it's definitely the way to go. So far I've been successful at both NaNoWriMo attempts: in 2011 & 2019.

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo winners!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Masticate - (v.)
to use your teeth to chew and grind food.
Example: The dentist informed the patient that his oral pain was due to his habit of masticating chewing gum.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper
& Carson Ellis

Flap Copy Description:
So the shortest day came,
and the year died . . .

The opening words of Susan Cooper's iconic poem have brought a hush to audiences for over forty years of theater productions in celebration of the winter sostice and the Yuletide season.
The Shortest Day captures the magic behind the returning of seasonal light, the yearning for rituals that connect us with the generations that have gone before - and the hope for peace that we carry into the future.
Together, Newbery Medal-winning author Susan Cooper and Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis bring alive the drama of the season, uniting revelers in celebrating light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. Welcome Yule!

My Thoughts:
I had greatly anticipated the release of this glorious book; it surpassed all of my expectations! Being a fan (and author) of yuletide tales and Christmas books, I realized that this extraordinary picture book stands alone among most ordinary holiday books. Susan Cooper's poem seems to transcend time, and is beautifully brought to life by the breathtaking illustrations of Carson Ellis. If there is only one children's book you purchase this holiday season, make it The Shortest Day!

Click here to learn about poet/author, Susan Cooper.
Click here to learn about illustrator, Carson Ellis.

Welcome Yule!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

My NaNoWriMo Update

When I registered for the 2019 NaNoWriMo, I knew from my past experience in 2011, that Thanksgiving week is the big hurdle just before the finish line. In fact, this week I only wrote 3065 words for a current total of 49,144 words. Knowing I had the last day of the month (tomorrow) to push over the 50,000 word goal, gave me a bit of breathing room. But after cooking our Thanksgiving dinner, & retiring after midnight, I feel like this R2D2 GIF!

Visit here on Friday, December 6th, for my NaNoWriMo Follow-up!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ramfeezled - (adj.)
Example: The woman was ramfeezled after working all day on the Thanksgiving dinner for her family.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

A Slip of a Girl
by Patricia Reilly Giff

Flap Copy Description:
The family farm is everything to Anna: the stone wall where she sits with best friend Liam, the fields of chickweed and lumpers for tea and supper. She promises her ailing Mam that she'll always look after their home and her youngest sister, Nuala, who needs extra care. When their landlord, an English earl who owns much of the land in her part of County Longford, tries to seize their farm for sheep pasture, Anna is faced with an impossible choice: give up her house to be destroyed or face imprisonment. There are whispers of a growing rebellion in the country, but how can one girl stand up to the earl's dreaded battering ram?

My Thoughts:
This lovely novel in verse by award-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff, was inspired by her own great-grandparents. The historical fiction tale tells the story of the Irish Land Wars; it comes to life through the eyes of the poor country girl, Anna. Her character arc of resilience and determination brought me to tears. It is obvious that the author not only loves Ireland, but did her due diligence with research. I highly recommend A Slip of a Girl to readers aged eight to twelve, and to fans of Ireland everywhere!

Click here to learn about the author, Patricia Reilly Giff.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

My NaNoWriMo Update

This past week I took Sunday off (to clean my house!), but I still managed to make significant progress with my word count. It's a good thing too, since my son arrived from the East Coast late last night, and I'm hosting a group of seven for Thanksgiving. As of last night my total is: 46079. I can see my destination of 50,000 words in the distance. We've got this, Wrimos! πŸ˜ƒ

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Flibbertigibbet - (n.)
a person who is silly and likes to gossip or daydream.
Example: While the young man had received a degree in economics & finance, he was really nothing more than a flibbertigibbet. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Gittel's Journey
An Ellis Island Story
by Leslea Newman &
Amy June Bates

Flap Copy Description:
Gittel and her mother are supposed to immigrate to America together. Before they can board the boat to Ellis Island, the health inspector tells Gittel's mother that she wsn't well enough to travel. Gittel must make the journey alone. Her mother promises her that everything will turn out fine, but the boat is so big and Gittel is so small. Can she really go across the ocean to begin a new life on her own? The book includes an author's note explaining how Gittel's story is based on the journey to America taken by Leslea Newman's grandmother and family friend.

My Thoughts:
It's always a special experience to be introduced to a new title by the book's author - that's just how Gittel's Journey came across my path! Last summer while I was attending the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA, I was lucky enough to take in a workshop taught by Leslea Newman. Her presentation was stellar, and when I saw her book, I knew I'd enjoy it. It's fantastic! One big reason I like it so much, is due to the fact that the story is based on true events. The other reason is that the heartwarming immigration story is so relevant for children in the United States today. In addition to that, the illustrations are some of the most exquisite I've seen in a long time. In the words of the book's illustrator, Amy June Bates, "For all children who come to this country seeking freedom and safety." I highly recommend Gittel's Journey to children - and adults - of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author, Leslea Newman. 
Click here to learn about the illustrator, Amy June Bates.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

My NaNoWriMo Update

Since I'm looking forward to a visit from our son, Brian, next Thursday, I tried to "put a lot of words in the bank" this week. Hoping to be able to cruise just a bit during his time here, the last nine days of the month. (He lives in NYC and I haven't seen him since last Christmas, so I'm super excited!) My current word total as of last night is: 29519. Good luck, to all you Wrimos!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bedazzled - (adj.)
to be so positively impressed that you are unable to notice anything negative; enchanted.
Example: the princess was bedazzled by the manipulative prince.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

A Velocity of Being
Letters to a Young Reader
edited by Maria Popova 
& Claudia Bedrick

Goodreads Description:
In these pages, some of today’s most wonderful culture-makers—writers, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and philosophers—reflect on the joys of reading, how books broaden and deepen human experience, and the ways in which the written word has formed their own character. On the page facing each letter, an illustration by a celebrated illustrator or graphic artist presents that artist's visual response.

Among the diverse contributions are letters from Jane Goodall, Neil Gaiman, Jerome Bruner, Shonda Rhimes, Ursula K. Le Guin, Yo-Yo Ma, Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Jacqueline Woodson, as well as a ninety-eight-year-old Holocaust survivor, a pioneering oceanographer, and Italy’s first woman in space. Some of the illustrators, cartoonists, and graphic designers involved are Marianne Dubuc, Sean Qualls, Oliver Jeffers, Maira Kalman, Mo Willems, Isabelle Arsenault, Chris Ware, Liniers, Shaun Tan, Tomi Ungerer, and Art Spiegelman.  

My Thoughts:
This unique book by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick is really a collection of love letters to young readers. Most of the featured contributors address their letters to those young people who they will probably never meet, but to whom they hope will receive inspiration and instruction from their years of experiencing life as adult readers & creatives. I myself was moved as I read about the remarkable journeys each extraordinary person had lived along their unexpected path to prominence. I highly recommend A Velocity of Being to all writers, and to children of every age. (Be sure to follow the talented Maria Popova, @BrainPicker, for daily inspirational articles on Twitter & Facebook.)

Click here to learn about the insightful writer, Maria Popova. 
Click here to learn about the multi-talented, Claudia Bedrick.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

My NaNoWriMo Update

The first few days of my NaNoWriMo journey were super busy, but I knew they would be. (I didn't write at all last Saturday or Sunday!) So, on Friday, I wrote 4,325 words, and on Monday, I wrote 3,975 words, to make up for the lost days. My current total as of 11/7 - last night - is 13,669 words. One of the most difficult things about NaNoWriMo is to meet the word goal without losing your life! πŸ˜€

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo participants out there!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Kakistocracy (n.)
government ruled by the worst people.
Example: The democracy had turned into a kakistocracy due to the unqualified dictator who was the current president.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Dear Mr. President
by Sophie Siers and
Anne Villeneuve

Flap Copy Description:
Sam has a problem - he has to share his bedroom with an older brother who is messy, noisy, and just generally annoying. Then he hears about the president's plans to build a border wall. What a perfect solution to his problem - he'll build a wall across the middle of the room to keep his utterly undesirable brother out!

In a series of letters addressed to the president, Sam shares his plans, debates the pros and cons of building a wall, learns about walls built throughout the ages, and begins to see the value of compromise...

My Thoughts:
This recently released picture book is fantastic! It deals with sibling rivalry, and is a subtle political satire. Dear Mr. President will offer the opportunity to discuss with your child issues of tolerance, learning to live with others, and the importance of recognizing other points of view. This beautifully illustrated picture book is extremely relevant in the U.S. today. I highly recommend it to young readers of all ages!

(This book was also released under the title of Dear Donald Trump.)

Click here to learn about the author, Sophie Siers.
Click here to learn about the illustrator, Anne Villeneuve.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Ready, Set, Write!

It's been eight years since I participated in NaNoWriMo. Right now I'm in the middle of writing several projects, so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a go again. However, I have four events and an out-of-town guest on my calendar this month, so I'll have to be on my toes to get in 2000+ words a day. That same goal was what enabled me to meet the 50,000 word challenge back in 2011.

By the way, for the next several Fridays I'll be using my blog as a way to update my NaNoWriMo progress. I'll mention my word count and my thoughts about the process. My final update will be on Friday, 12/6/19.

Wish me luck! Today is the first day of a very long month. πŸ˜ƒ

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Chimera (n.)
a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a snake.
Example: The mother labored late into the night to finish her child's Halloween costume of a chimera.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom 
by Temre Beltz

Flap Copy Description:
In the fairy-tale kingdom of Wanderly, everyone has a role.
Birdie Bloom is a Tragical. Doomed to an unhappy ending, she spends her days locked away with seventeen other orphans at Foulweather's Home for the Tragical, where she's supposed to be learning to accept her terrible fate.
Agnes Prunella Crunch is a witch. The wicked kind. Which means she's supposed to be perfecting her witchy cackle and flinging curses from The Book of Evil Deeds. But lately, Birdie has been desperate for an escape, and Agnes has been in a bit of a witchy slump. The one thing they could both use is … a friend. And with the help of some magical Winds, a wayward letter, and a very unusual book, they might just find each other - and together rewrite their story into one that (just between us...) isn't very Tragical at all.

My Thoughts:
This middle grade novel by debut author Temre Beltz is sure to frighten all fans of fantasy this Halloween! It includes colorful characters, a puzzling plot, and features the unusual feature of footnotes - not surprising  since Ms. Beltz is also a lawyer! My favorite element in The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom is the theme of friendship prominently featured throughout the enchanting story. I highly recommend this middle grade novel to readers aged eight to twelve.

Click here to learn more about the author, Temre Beltz.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
Why I Write Ghost Stories

When I embarked on my storyteller's journey, all of my fantasy stories seemed to have the natural world and/or anthropomorphic animals in them. In 2011 I was inspired to begin a middle grade fantasy novel that included those elements, but also included ghosts. The inspiration for this idea was not due to my love of spooky or frightening stories; it was due to something much more personal.

This photo is of me with my maternal grandmother. When I was in college I lived with her since her home was near the college I was attending. After her death, I purchased that house in the early eighties. Soon after, I was in the middle of one of my most challenging times of my life. While crying in my bedroom - which had previously been my grandmother's bedroom - I saw her ghost. It was as if she was alive again.

It wasn't a frightening experience; in fact, it was quite positive. I felt strengthened and encouraged by her specter, even though she didn't speak. I had always believed in an afterlife; this experience only solidified my conviction. Over the years I've seen her ghost only once more, but it was again during a time of trouble. However, knowing that she's nearby, somehow, has always been a comfort to me. I was extremely close to my grandmother, even closer than to my mother.

In the decades since this experience, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the spiritual world all around us. Not only ghosts, but angels and demons. Consequently, it was only natural that these beliefs would end up in my writing. (My MG protagonist encounters her mother's ghost!)

Have a happy and spooky Halloween! πŸŽƒ