Friday, February 26, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

Winter Inspiration!

Last weekend I "attended" the SCBWI Winter Conference via its ZOOM links; what a wonderful way to be inspired - right in my own home!

In addition to inspiration, attending the annual event is a great way to make connections. There are always those writers, illustrators, and industry professionals that I've never heard of before; this year was no exception. In years past (pre-pandemic), I've attended a variety of SCBWI conferences and retreats in person. While I miss those trips I've made to Los Angeles, New York City, and other cities, the content offered by the Society of Children's Book Authors & Illustrators this year was just as pertinent to my journey as a storyteller as ever. In fact, because of Covid-19, the variety of ZOOM meetings I've participated in may have been even more important, since they have served as a lifeline. The life of a children's book author is a solitary one, but that doesn't mean that we don't still need time with our peers - I know I do.

In the middle of this dark winter, the event was extremely inspirational!

12 X 16 oil on panel "Nocturne Snow" by Michael Lindstrom
Speaking of inspiration this winter, Michael Lindstrom (my fine artist husband), painted multiple oil compositions while standing out in the freezing, snowy weather we recently received. The lovely abstract landscape above was painted one evening out on a nearby street. Michael's commitment to his craft always astounds and challenges me.

Where have you found your inspiration this winter?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Quire (n.)
a collection of 24, or sometimes 25, sheets of paper of the same size and quality: one twentieth of a ream.
Example: The items sitting upon the scribe's desk included: a bottle of ink, several quills, and over a quire of parchment paper.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

Flight for Freedom
by Kristen Fulton

Flap Copy Description:
Peter was born on the east side of Germany, the side that wasn't free. He watches news programs rather than cartoons and wears scratchy uniforms instead of blue jeans. His family endures long lines and early curfews. But, Peter knows it won't always be this way. Peter and his family have a secret. Late at night in their attic, they are piecing together a hot-air balloon - and a plan.

Can Peter and his family fly their way to freedom?

This is the true story of one child, Peter Wetzel, and his family, as they risk their lives for the hope of freedom in a daring escape from East Germany via a handmade hot-air balloon in 1979.

My Thoughts:
I always enjoy non-fiction picture books, and this one is no exception! Kristen Fulton has penned a compelling story for young readers - one that will inspire and intrigue children of all ages. Torben Kuhlmann's illustrations - including a wonderful map - make this unforgettable true story truly come to life. I highly recommend Flight for Freedom!

Click here to learn about the author, Kristen Fulton.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

Music as My Muse!

Last Christmas my husband gave me the best gift ever: a set of Bose headphones; I've wanted a pair for a long time. I've always listened to music while I write, but wearing the headphones cancels the external noise that can inevitably bother me. While some writers prefer ear buds, I really enjoy the "hug" that my headphones give me; it further takes me out of my own home, and places me in the setting and/or the genre of my story. I specifically choose music that inspires the theme of my story. 

Here I'm listening to the iconic French singer, Édith Piaf. (Click here if you're not familiar with her legendary talent.) Since I'm working on a WWII historical fiction novel set in France, an album of Édith Piaf's best-loved songs is on my playlist.   

If you don't already use music as a muse, give it a try!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Alacrity (n.)

brisk and cheerful readiness.
Example: The new teacher took on her duties with sincere alacrity.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

The Snail with the Right Heart: 
a true story
by Maria Popova and Ping Zhu

Flap Copy description:
Based on a real scientific event and inspired by a beloved real human in the author's life, this is a story about science and the poetry of existence; about time and chance, genetics and gender, love and death, evolution and infinity - concepts often too abstract for the human mind to fathom, but more accessible to the young imagination; concepts made fathomable here through the concrete, finite life of on tiny, unusual creature dwelling in a pile of compost amid an English garden.

My Thoughts:
One of my favorite online writers, Maria Popova, has just released her first children's book, called The Snail with the Right Heart - published by Enchanted Lion Books. It's an extraordinary true story, with threads of love, science, and serendipity, that takes the reader into a curious labyrinth of life, in of all places, the shell of a snail! Additionally, the vibrant artwork by Ping Zhu is the perfect partner for the text. I highly recommend this picture book for readers aged seven and up!

Click here to learn about the multitalented author, Maria Popova.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

Children Long for Love

When we ponder the reasons that children choose to read fiction, entertainment would probably be high on the list. I would however argue, that while children may not fully realize it, what they're also really longing for is a sense of being loved and accepted. I know that was the case for me when I was a child.

During these dark days filled with medical, political, racial, and economic  challenges, it's even more important for writers to reflect on being relevant in our writing - children need and want it so much.

While the children's book community has made real progress with regard to diversity, I believe that it needs to be expanded upon - in a more broad sense - to include love, kindness, and empathy, in every story we write. I'm not talking about pushing our pens to preach to children; I'm talking about creating characters that discover the importance of love, kindness, and empathy as our stories unfold. Because our country - and really the world - is in such a state of turmoil, children are receiving numerous negative examples of human behavior, whether it's online or via their television sets. Quality children's books can be important examples of honest, healthy, human behavior for young people, especially right now amidst all the chaos.

Our task is to offer them positive stories that inspire and inform.

So, while Valentine's Day is a day that we celebrate romantic love, I would offer that it's also a good day to remind ourselves - as writers - that children are reading books to find a sense of love in our stories.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Piffle (n.)
Example: The child's excuse for his foul play was utter piffle, and nothing more.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

Bear Island
by Matthew Cordell

Flap Copy Description:
Louise and her family are sad over the loss of their beloved dog, Charlie. "Life will not be the same," Louise says, as she visits a little island that Charlie loved.
But on a visit to the island after Charlie's death, something strange happens: She meets a bear. At first, she's afraid, but soon she realizes that the bear is sad, too. As Louise visits more often, she realizes that getting over loss takes time. And just when she starts to feel better, it's time for Bear to bed down for the winter.
Once again, Louise believes that life will not be the same. But sometimes, things can change for the better. Here is a poignant story about loss and healing that will bring comfort to even the youngest of readers.

My Thoughts:
Award-winning Matthew Cordell has created another beautiful picture book for children, and frankly, adults as well, to enjoy. His whimsical illustrations and insightful words perfectly come together to create a story that will touch the hearts and minds of anyone dealing with loss right now. I highly recommend Bear Island to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Matthew Cordell.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

My Tenth Blogiversary!

It boggles my mind that it's been a decade since I first set out on the journey of blogging. So much has happened since 2011! In that time I've met so many wonderful people: writers, artists, musicians, agents, editors, librarians, and on and on. 

While I met most of them online, many of them I had a chance to later meet in person, even though our first connection was through this blog. Each and every encounter worked to season my development as a storyteller; I am so grateful for each of these generous professionals.

In the last ten years I've not only blogged, I've attended numerous retreats, conferences, and critique groups. In the process I grew as a writer, and have actually had four children's books published. While I'm still seeking agent representation, it's not nearly as pressing an issue as it once was. It's all about just writing, and being a part of an eclectic, creative network. Even though we're all still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, it's been a blessing to have a vibrant online community.

Many thanks to all of you who have connected with me over the years!

In honor of my blogging milestone, I've decided to donate to a local library. The Woodland branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries is in the process of building a new facility. Over the years, FVRL has been extremely supportive of me and my journey as an author. 

If you'd like to support the Woodland Library, click here to donate!

"The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Guttersnipe (n.)
a scruffy and badly behaved child who spends most of his or her time on the street.
Example: The author's protagonist was a colorful guttersnipe, with a wonderful character arc.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

The Elephant's Girl
by Celesta Rimington

Flap Copy Description:
An elephant never forgets...but Lexington Willow can't remember her past. When she was a toddler, a tornado swept her away from everyone and everything she knew and landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo, where an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her family, Lex grew up at the zoo with her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.
Now that she's twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic message of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind's protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah's message and gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. Can Lex summon the courage to discover who she really is - and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago?

My Thoughts:
Celesta Rimington has crafted an intriguing middle grade novel using magical realism - with a wonderful result! For me, it was like a cross between The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo; needless to say, it's a fantastic and entertaining novel. Not only does it have a unique storyline, it includes a great cast of characters. In addition to Lexington Willow, her friend Fisher, and her foster father Roger, are important roles that make this story not only an adventure and mystery, but a tale of friendship and family. I highly recommend The Elephant's Girl to readers aged eight and up!

Click here to learn about the author, Celesta Rimington.