Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Whimsical Word of the Week

Flubdub - (n.)
pretentious show, speech, behavior; airs.
Example: The Southern belle swirled her hooped skirt around; her entire behavior was nothing more than a flubdub.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Bibliophile's Corner

In My Garden
by Charlotte Zolotow

Flap Copy Description:
IN THE SPRING what I love best in my garden are the birds building nests.
In the spring what I love most to do is fly kites.
In this quiet story, a young girl and her older companion describe the garden they love as it passes gently through the seasons. Originally published in 1960, In My Garden, by beloved picture book author Charlotte Zolotow, has been freshly reimagined by acclaimed author/illustrator Philip Stead as an homage to nature, friendship, and the passage of time.

My Thoughts:
The text of this recently-released picture book shares a timeless story, and it is freshly illuminated by the exquisite illustrations of Philip Stead. It's the perfect book for young readers this spring and summer, or really anytime. I highly recommend In My Garden to children aged four to eight, and to lovers of beautiful books and gardens everywhere.

Click here to learn about the life and career of Charlotte Zolotow.
Click here to learn about the illustrator Philip Stead.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Storyteller's Journey

A Zest for Zoom!

During this Covid-19 Pandemic, social distancing is a part of our new normal, and may be for some time to come. While the inconvenience of self-isolation is frustrating, it's also offered opportunities to learn a new skill. For me, that's been using ZOOM to meet with my awesome critique partners.

While my partners are super tech-savvy (in part from their experience at their places of employment!), I on the other hand, have always considered myself technically challenged! Thankfully, both Deb and Kriston were able to walk me through the process during our first ZOOM meeting.

While most writers are introverts, it's still important that we remain connected to those friends who have always offered their support.
We all need to continue with our creative lives as best we can.

Click here to learn how to make community using ZOOM - by SCBWI.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Whimsical Word of the Week

Psithurism (n.)
the sound of rustling leaves.
Example: The enchanted forest felt even more magical due to the psithurism in the maple trees all around.
Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Bibliophile's Corner

Beverly, Right Here
by Kate DiCamillo

Flap Copy Description:
Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. Now that's she's fourteen years old, she figures it's not running away.
It's leaving.
Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, whos has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn't want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn't want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can't help forming connections with the people around her - and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes.

My Thoughts:
While I prefer middle grade novels in the fantasy genre, when Kate DiCamillo writes another book, I wouldn't think of missing it. Beverly, Right Here is another masterpiece from the two-time Newbery Medalist! Beverly, who is friends with Louisiana Elefantes and Raymie Clarke (each featured in her own DiCamillo novel), is the stubborn, gritty protagonist with a chip on her shoulder. Ms. DiCamillo weaves a tale - as only she can - where Beverly meets an unusual cast of characters who ultimately help her begin to trust people, if only a few. I highly recommend Beverly, Right Here to readers aged eight and up!

Click here to learn about the legendary storyteller, Kate DiCamillo.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Storyteller's Journey

Writing in a Time of Crisis

During this time of the Covid-19 Pandemic, I've been reminded of why I began writing so many years ago. First, I journaled, then I penned poetry, and then, twelve years ago, I began writing stories for children full time. In each of those endeavors, a challenging time was the impetus for my writing. It's the same now.

Whether or not this is common among all writers, I don't know. But in this time of isolation, allowing my spirit to be transported through writing - and reading - has been a source of comfort. It's also enabled me to maintain a bit of normalcy, since writing and reading have been an integral part of my life for over a decade. Being an introvert is a great strength right now. (My sister, who is very much an extrovert, has had a very different experience during this time of crisis. Being around people is a must for her.) I'm reminded that I was born to be a writer.

Writing during this time of crisis seems to pull courage from my soul. When I write (or read) my mind is unable to wander down paths of fear, worry, and impatience. There is a sense that I'm conquering this horrible situation by staying creative and maintaining a normal life.

Good luck with your writing during this Coronavirus Crisis!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mugwump - (n.)
a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, especially in politics.
Example: The leader of the country is nothing more than a mugwump when it comes to the current crisis.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Bibliophile's Corner

Gold Rush Girl
by Avi

Flap Copy Description:
Life in 1848 in Providence, Rhode Island, isn't terribly exciting for a girl like Victoria Blaisdell. Barred from going to school and forced to borrow books secretly from the library, Tory longs to live a life as adventurous and independent as that of her heroine, Jane Eyre.
Then Tory's father loses his job and becomes so desperate to restore his family fortunes that he decides to seek a share of the newly discovered gold in California. Tory, eager to seize control of her own destiny, stows away on the westbound ship carrying her father and younger brother, Jacob.
Though San Francisco is mud-caked, frenzied, and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory quickly finds friends and independence until her father leaves for the gold fields and the care of Jacob falls to her.
But then Jacob vanishes, kidnapped, perhaps hidden among the hundreds of ships - called Rotten Row - that have been abandoned in the bay. If he is there, Tory must find him in a treacherous search.

My Thoughts:
The master storyteller, Avi, has spun another wonderful tale for middle grade readers! His strong female protagonist, Tory, is just the sort of girl that young readers need today. Additionally, the historical details in Gold Rush Girl bring this period of American history to life in an entertaining and exciting way. I highly recommend this novel to readers aged eight to fourteen!

Click here to learn about the Newbery Award winning author, Avi.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Storyteller's Journey

A Time of Renewal

In difficult times the human heart invariably turns to spirituality (and prayer) with its multitude of beliefs and religions.

As I mentioned in my post last Friday, I've had a renewed interest in my own faith. Tapping into my spirit, and pondering upon what's really important in life, has strengthened me and given me important insights.

As we all continue to create our stories, our art, our music, may we do so with a renewed awareness of the importance our creativity plays to reveal life's truths - in whatever art form we pursue. May these challenging times remind us all of the need for gratitude, perseverance, and joy. May our creations reflect the "better angels" of our humanity.

Wishing each of you love, hope, and peace at this time of celebration.

Happy Easter!  Happy Passover!

Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas - Antigua, Guatemala

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Whimsical Word of the Week

Rusticate - (v.)
to go to the country.
Example: While the woman hunkered down in her home, she wished she could rusticate, like she was accustomed to each spring.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Bibliophile's Corner

In a Jar
by Deborah Marcero

Goodreads Description:
Llewellyn, a little rabbit, is a collector. He gathers things in jars - ordinary things like buttercups, feathers, and heart-shaped stones. Then he meets another rabbit, Evelyn, and together they begin to collect extraordinary things - like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before snow falls. And, best of all, when they hold the jars and peer inside, they remember all the wonderful things they've seen and done. But one day, Evelyn has sad news: Her family is moving away. How can the two friends continue their magical collection - and their special friendship - from afar?

My Thoughts:
This recently released picture book by Deborah Marcero is just beautiful! Its story is heartwarming and sure to inspire the imagination and curiosity of little ones everywhere. And, with a cast of rabbits, In a Jar would make a fantastic spring gift for Easter, or Passover. I highly recommend this picture book for children aged three to seven.

Click here to learn about author/illustrator Deborah Marcero.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
Insights from Self-Isolation

Today marks three weeks since I've been in self isolation-sheltering at home. On March 13th I chose to begin a self-quarantine since I was feeling a cold coming on; experts were already encouraging social distancing due to Covid-19. As the days passed by, my symptoms included: coughing, difficulty breathing, tightness in my chest, etc. Needless to say, I was definitely frightened.

After listening carefully to medical experts, I realized that staying home (unless my symptoms worsened) was the best course of action for me. Besides the fact that to obtain a test was nearly impossible at that time. Thankfully, I can say that my condition improved; I'm much better now, though I have a residual cough, and little energy for physical work. (Until there's an antibody test, I can't know if I actually had Covid-19.)

Insights from my illness, and during my current self-isolation: 

1) Family - My family members stepped up big time! My husband took on all the duties that I usually handle. Things like grocery shopping, paying bills, etc., in addition to still working at his place of employment. We also agreed that we should isolate from each other, which we did. My sons (two of whom live in New York City) have reached out to me, checking up on me. Their kind concern means so much right now. (I'm also concerned for them.) My eldest son, David (who lives nearby), and his wife, Jessica, have also stayed in contact. They even tracked down a new theremometer for me after going from store to store and finding none available. Our family members have definitely grown closer together than we already were. I've been reminded of not only how much I love each of them, but how much I need each of them.

2) Gratitude - The doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel that are putting their lives on the line are incredible. I'm in awe of their sacrificial efforts to save our fellow citizens; they are the true heroes. (I'm also appreciative to those Americans who continue to work to keep our society afloat; they are also putting their health in jeopardy to do so.) When I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself, I think of those selfless heroes - a reality check. I'm reminded I have so much to be grateful for.

3) Faith - During the period of solitude, managing my fear, loneliness, and melancholy, seemed to steer me back to my faith. Years ago, I stopped attending church - for reasons I won't go into right now. That being said, I never lost my faith, and belief in prayer. Consequently, I've done more praying in the last three weeks than I've done in the past year. It has brought me a lot of comfort, peace, and inspiration.

4) Simplification - When you can't go to your hair stylist, manicurist, bookstore, or favorite eatery, you find ways to get by. You also realize that what makes your life one of substance isn't those items. It should be comprised of the precious things that we can't touch, things like: kindness, tolerance, generosity, and love. They're what really matter. Gazing upon the signs of spring, like daffodils in my flowerbeds and blossoms on the trees, has also brought me comfort. Simplification.

5) Self Care & Reflection - Early on in my illness & self-isolation, I attempted to continue doing my regular routine. Things like walking five miles a day (back & forth in my basement), writing, cleaning the house, cooking, etc. What a mistake! Not only did my condition not improve, it worsened slightly. (Until my son's girlfriend, Caity, strongly encouraged me to stay in bed.) Once I heeded that advice, I began to feel better. Allowing others to assist me has always been difficult for me to do. As I accepted help from others, I felt so much love. I know it strengthened me and helped me heal. I've always been extremely independent. However, this was a time to humble myself and to be a bit dependent. 

6) Releasing Control - In addition to accepting help from others, I was confronted with the need to let go of thinking I could control anything. Coronavirus is not something we can really control. The financial challenge we're all facing is not something we can control. Being separated from our family and friends is not something we can control. That being said, "letting go" can be a liberating exercise. As we are all attempting to "flatten the curve," it's become apparent that the best thing we can all do, in some ways, is to shelter in. Especially if you are adhering to "Stay Home - Stay Healthy" like our governor here in Washington State instructed us to do. We're all learning that what we do has significant repercussions on our families, friends, and communities.

7) Creativity - My husband and I have been able to continue working on our current collaboration - albeit, while distancing from one another. (It's the third illustrated book in our Lindstrom Wintertime Tales series.) I can already see how this crisis might affect my writing: It's definitely increased my levels of gratitude, compassion, empathy, and insight. As writers, we can only create meaningful stories if we have our own tough experiences to draw upon. May each of us create imaginative tales for young readers that offer encouragement and inspiration.

) Personal Growth - When you're isolated alone in your home you have a lot of time with your own thoughts. I realized that I could either sink into a depression (which is something I've previously battled), or I could grow. To be honest, I think that so far I'd give myself a C+. While I haven't sunk into a deep depression, I've not spent my time in the best way possible either. Yes, I've been reading and writing, but I've also allowed my mind to wander down paths of fear. Still, just being aware of the need to stay focused on positive thoughts has helped me in this difficult time. I'm finally learning to adapt to this temporary new normal in small ways. My hope is that we'll all come out of this horrible pandemic with greater amounts of patience, kindness and resilience. It might even cause some of us to bloom in ways we never imagined!

Public Domain Photo

Wishing each of you courage and strength as we battle this Coronavirus Pandemic. We'll all get through this together!