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! 🎃

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Leafdom (n.)
an area with a lot of plants and leaves that feels like its own world.
Example: The author's fairy tale was set in a leafdom where a society of tiny gnomes lived.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Trees - A Rooted History
by Piotr Socha &
Wojciech Grajkowski

Flap Copy Description:
Part botany, part history, part cultural anthropology—Trees goes beyond the basics to tell readers everything they might want to know about this particular branch of the plant kingdom.

Trees explores the important roles trees play in our ecosystem, takes an up-close-and-personal look at the parts of trees (from roots to leaves), and unpacks the cultural impact of trees from classification systems (like family trees) to art forms (like bonsai trees). Looking forward, Trees also addresses the deforestation crisis. Heavily illustrated in the same style as Bees: A Honeyed History, Trees: A Rooted History serves as a beautifully packaged celebration of trees of all kinds.

My Thoughts:
This beautiful book by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski is the perfect tome for tree huggers of all ages! The whimsical illustrations are equal parts botanical and fine art, and the in depth information on a variety of trees around the world, make Trees - A Rooted History a must-read. I highly recommend this book to readers eight to eighty!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
The Legacy of a Library

In some ways my community's library system has been more important to my education than my elementary, middle grade, and high schools. The reason I make such a stark statement is that as a child my family moved nine times! (Always within our city, but usually to a different school.) Consequently, I was seemingly always in a new building, never making longtime friends. Thus, the local library was the stable source of information for me. Even the librarians were familiar to me when my own teachers seemed to come and go.

This is the first library I was introduced to as a little girl. I visited it several times as a child with my granny, on a field trip in the 1st grade, & with my Blue Bird group.

(The 1909 building is now the Clark County Historical Museum & is on the National Historic Registry.)

When I was in the third grade this "new" building was built. It's where most of my library memories were made! (It now serves as the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Operations Center.)

Then in 2011 this new state of the art library was built in the downtown section of our city. Early on, I weekly volunteered there for two years.

I also volunteered at the Cascade Park branch of the library. Since then, I've participated in two author events at this location. The most recent, last Saturday.

I was honored to be invited to participate in the Words & Pictures Festival. It's always fun to meet readers (and authors) of all ages, and to sign and sell my books. Many thanks to Fort Vancouver Regional Library for hosting the fantastic event.

As you can see, the library system in my community has been an integral part of my life. I'm sure thousands of Americans can say the same thing about their libraries in every corner of our country. A library is more than a repository of literature. Every branch of our library (15 of them!) offers visitors a comfortable place to read, learn, and meet new friends. They offer weekly ESL classes, provide gift packets to new mothers, host book sales, and on and on. I can't even imagine our town without them. They even provide awesome events like this one:

It will be great to attend this wonderful event again this year!

Make sure you support your library - wherever it is! Click here to read an insightful article by writer and cultural critic, Maria Popova: 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Misanthrope - (adj.)
a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.
Example: The terrorists on September 11, 2001 must have all been misanthropes to have murdered the thousands of innocent souls that  tragic day.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Song for a Whale
by Lynne Kelly

Flap Copy Description:
From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

My Thoughts:
It's always a pleasant surprise to come across a middle grade novel that is entertaining, informative, and heartwarming; Lynne Kelly's Song for a Whale definitely fits that description! One of my favorite elements of the story is the protagonist, Iris. While Iris is deaf, and the deaf community is a significant part of the plot, Song for a Whale is really for anyone who has ever felt like they're not being understood. In addition to that, the research the author obviously put in to portray the life of Blue 55, and whales in general, is so apparent. I highly recommend Song for a Whale to readers aged eight & up!

Click here to learn about the author, Lynne Kelly.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

The Joy of Writing

Since embarking on my storyteller's journey in 2008, one important lesson I've learned is that a professional writer must write even when she doesn't want to. It is the one behavior that I believe separates a writer from an author. That being said, the sense of satisfaction after writing on a seemingly uninspired day, is priceless. Some of my best writing has occurred on days when I least expected it. And, because of that, I treat my career as a job; I show up even when I don't feel like it. Consequently, my life, and my writing career, have been transformed.

There are any number of inspirational quotes about perseverance, encouraging writers to just keep going. What I'm talking about is something akin to a runner's high. I've actually grown addicted to writing - in all its forms. Whether it's blogging, journaling, writing poetry, or working on my manuscript, I feel a flow of life as I type out words onto a digital page. However, that doesn't mean I'm able to write 2000 words everyday - which is what I'll need to do next month if I'm to be successful with NaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Hirsute - (adj.)
Example: The sasquatch is a large hirsute creature that walks upright and dwells in the wilderness.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Missing of Clairdelune
by Christelle Dabos

Flap Copy Description:
In book two of the bestselling Mirror Visitor Quartet, "the plots multiply, the world of the Arks gains depth, details abound, and the story envelops the reader as the pages fly by." 
When Ophelia is promoted to Vice-storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight. her gift―the ability to read the secret history of objects―is now known by all, and there can be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her icy adopted home than this.
Beneath the golden rafters of Pole's capitol, she discovers that the only person she may be able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic and emotionally distant fiancé. As one influential courtier after another disappears, Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond Pole's many illusions to the heart of a formidable truth.

My Thoughts:
As I read Book Two of The Mirror Visitor - The Missing of Clairdelune - I kept thinking that at some point these books by Christelle Dabos will be discovered by multitudes of American fans of fantasy fiction who will go crazy for her work. Until then, I'll keep spreading the news! This multi-layered story includes a sensational cast of characters and a plot that will keep you guessing at every turn. The settings (which always are important to me in a story) are to die for - which some of the story's characters actually do. I highly recommend The Missing of Clairdelune, as well as Book One of The Mirror Visitor - A Winter's Promise, to readers aged ten and up. 

Click here to learn about the French author, Christelle Dabos.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
The Experiences We Need to Write

While there are numerous articles dedicated to the qualifications needed to be a Kidlit author, I've always been interested in exploring the experiences needed to be an effective children's book author.

It's important (and necessary) as a new writer to become proficient at all the elements of storytelling, as well as to be adept at using  the English language. Obviously, it can take years to actually acquire those abilities. (I'm still working on them!) But to assume that those are the only skills necessary to be an effective and authentic writer is just not true. In the eleven years since I embarked on my storyteller's journey, I've learned a myriad of lessons. One of the most important, and least discussed amongst writers, is the necessity to live a full life.

When I read a children's book that really resonates with me, I almost always delve into the biography of the author. I'm curious. I want to know about their education, background, online presence, etc. While there are just as many paths to publication as there are authors, I've learned one thing: Living a full life is necessary to be an author with something important to say - something that will speak to children.

Negative experiences I've seen mentioned by successful authors reveal they found strength amidst their struggles. Here are just a few:

Painful childhood
Debilitating shyness
Struggles with identity
Lack of financial support/poverty
Spiritual confusion
Victim of bullying
Struggles with living in a diverse community
Struggles with parents
Dealing with a divorce - as a child or an adult
And on and on...

It's not that you must suffer to be a writer, but you must suffer to be compassionate and empathetic. That's just how it happens. To touch the hearts of young readers, we need to have experienced a few struggles that some of them have experienced. The fact that we over-came our obstacles can give hope to a child who sees no way out of her dilemma. Surviving almost always yields wisdom as its reward.

But, it's not just negative experiences that are required, it's those positive experiences we choose to bring into our lives. Here are a few:

Enjoy a hobby outside of books: Music, art, sports, etc.
Have a curious mind; continue to live & learn
Travel - learn about other cultures
Volunteer - no better way to fill your heart with joy!
Maintain a strong network of friends & family
Exercise - I'm still working on this one!
Discover your spirituality - in whatever form it takes
Conquer your fears - wade into unfamiliar waters
Attend writer events - a great way to learn & have fun!
And on and on...

One of the best ways I've found to help heal emotional wounds - and to become whole - is to infuse the soul with positive experiences like those listed above. (However, there are times when professional help is needed; always  consult your physician or health care provider.)

As you can see, I've written one of my longer posts. This topic has been on my mind for some time. There's one more thing:

You must share your experiences to be an authentic author.

Therefore, let me be honest; I've struggled with nearly every negative point I mentioned above, beginning with enduring a painful childhood. I'll leave it at that, for now. The good news is I survived, and thrived.

Live a full life! Everything you experience will make you a better writer.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Weir - (n.)
a low dam built across a river.
Example: The beavers built a weir that created a pond to protect them from predators during the winter months.