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 d├ęcor. 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!