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Yesterday when I posted on Facebook for WOW! and on my Editor 911 page about The Oscars, we got fewer responses than I figured we would, and many of them were negative. It turns out everyone doesn’t love this night as much as I do–I confess I like the Hollywood glam, I like to see the people we see on the silver screen interacting with other people, and I like the emotion of the winners. I do realize that these people are being awarded for pretending to be other people and for a life that is already rich and full of rewards. But I still love it.
When I realized I wanted to write about The Academy Awards on my blog today, instead of a book, I realized that you can use the awards with kids/teens/other adults, just like you can a book. You can use some of the stories from last night to inspire others to follow their dreams, to reach for the stars, and to persevere through anything. There are two stories/award winners in particular that I feel share this theme, and their stories are below.
Winner of Best Documentary: The winner of the Best Documentary category last night (Feb. 24, 2013) was Searching for Sugar Man about a Detroit singer-songwriter, Rodriguez, who was popular in South Africa in the 1970s (never popular in the U. S.). The singer has a strange but true story–I won’t get into that here–but what’s interesting about this film is that the director, Malik Bendjelloul, ran out of money before he finished shooting the documentary. So, instead of trying to borrow more or do a Kickstarter campaign, he downloaded a $1.99 app on to his smartphone and shot the scenes he needed on his phone! Now that’s resourceful! That’s persevering; and last night, his spirit paid off because THE MOVIE WON AN OSCAR! To read the full story and share with your middle school/high school/college students and or children, go to this link: http://news.doddleme.com/equipment/director-runs-out-of-money-turns-to-iphone-to-finish-oscar-film/
Best Documentary Short: This moment brought tears to my eyes last night, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! The filmmakers who won this category for the documentary, “Inocente,” brought the subject, a 19-year-old Latino girl, of their film on stage with them. The woman (whom I believe was one of the directors) who accepted the award also had tears in her eyes and said that the girl was homeless a year ago, and now she was here in front of all of these people because of her art. That caught my interest–how about you? Art is powerful, just like music, and this girl’s passion is obviously going to change her life. On Huffington Post.com, an article states: “The documentary follows the life of Mexican-born, 15-year-old Inocente Izucar, an artist living San Diego, California, who with brilliant colors and unique pieces uses art to rise from her challenging reality and pursue her dreams of becoming a professional painter.” Now Inocente is 19 and has been given a chance to display her art and make an income. The website Nonprofit Quarterly has more of the story because of the nonprofit organization, Shine Global, which is dedicated to end abuse and exploitation of children around the world through film, made the documentary. For more info on this important subject and to see why the arts are important and we should encourage our children to do them, go to this link: http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/21847-nonprofit-produced-film-inocente-wins-oscar.html
Sure, it was fun last night to see Ben Affleck and George Clooney on stage accepting for Argo (an excellent film in my opinion) and to see one of my favorite, beautiful actresses, Jennifer Lawrence, win best actress. I thought Seth MacFarlane was funny most of the time, and of course, loved to see Jennifer Hudson belting out her famous song from Dreamgirls.
However, the stories that will stick with me from here on out are the two I mentioned above. I hope they touch you, too; and I hope you can find a way to share them with the young people in your life!
Don’t forget the middle-grade novel I am holding a contest to giveaway until March 1. Check out the super easy contest here.
When I found out WOW! Women on Writing was hosting a blog tour for Sola Olu, the author of The Summer Called Angel, I knew I wanted to be a part. One reason is because this blog is about children’s books AND about books and people who help women and children around the world–after all women hold up HALF THE SKY! But the other reason is because the subject of preemies and NICUs are close to my heart after I had my daughter at 33 weeks, and she spent a month in the NICU.
Sola’s book is excellent. You will be captivated by her story of how she had her daughter, Angel, at 28 weeks due to a severe case of preeclampsia. Angel was a very sick, baby girl, who had to have multiple surgeries and procedures, who spent time in two different NICUs, and who didn’t get to come home until the seventh month of her life. Sola shares the story of she and her husband and their little daughter fighting for her life with honesty and grace. She does not sugarcoat the bad times–the times when she thought she was going to lose her daughter, the times when she didn’t want to go to the NICU any more, the times when she and her husband had a difference of opinion.
My daughter, 33 weeks, 5 lbs. 2 ozs, A few hours old, holding my hand
If you have had a baby in the NICU, you will see yourself in her book. One thing that reminded me so much of my experience is when the doctors kept telling Sola and Chris that Angel was feisty. The doctors in the NICU in St. Louis would say the same exact thing to my husband and me, and they would always say it like they were so proud of how feisty she was–that made me proud, too. (And she is still that feisty today at 2!) The other thing that struck a chord with me is how often Sola called the NICU–I did the same thing all the time in the middle of the night AND how Sola and Chris just couldn’t wait for their little girl to poop. I remember asking nurses all the time. . .did KB poop yet?
In the back of the book, Sola shares some resources for pregnant women or for women who have a baby in the NICU. This is a great resource. She loves to hear your story if you had a baby in the NICU or if you are pregnant and on bed rest or anything really–she loves to help and listen. ANYONE who leaves a comment on this post will be entered to win either a print copy or e-copy of The Summer Called Angel. You can leave a question or a story or a well wish by Sunday, February 3 8:00 pm CST to be entered into the contest.
I was also lucky enough to interview Sola, and I asked her a few questions that may help high school/college writing teachers as well as writers wanting to write their own difficult stories–whatever those may be!
Margo: Welcome, Sola, thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. Your story is so gripping and honest. How did it help you to write about this difficult time in your life?
Sola: It helped to heal. I love to write, and I’ve always been better at expressing my feelings by writing rather than speaking. I started writing at the hospital, even though it didn’t start out as a memoir. I guess it was therapeutic in some way.
Margo: That’s why your memoir is so honest and gripping–you were writing while you were living it! How did you deal with the emotions that had to arise while you were reliving these events (through your writing) with your preemie daughter?
Sola: Everything took time. Initially, I couldn’t talk about the details without
shedding tears, but gradually the pain lessened, and it was more wonder–how did we live through this? It didn’t help that I cry easily anyway. At the same time though because we stayed at the hospital for so long (two hospitals), I saw cases worse than mine, so I would always have that at the back of my mind to just be grateful it wasn’t worse, and that our outcome was good. Also because I stopped and started the book many times, I had my son as well; and by the time you have two kids, you’re too busy to mope. It was very difficult initially I won’t lie…even with the birth of my son. But with time, there’s healing.
Margo: I agree with the time factor. I have a terrible time writing about things that have just happened. It was even hard for me to write the Facebook updates while our daughter was in the NICU. Do you recommend women writing about hard times in their lives? Why or why not?
Sola: I would–it helps, at least it helped me; but for me, writing has always been my go-to remedy. It’s always been therapeutic. I remember as a teenager I would write to my parents when I had something difficult to discuss.
Margo: What are some good resources you can recommend for teenagers on up to adults for writing about their own lives and difficult events?
Sola: I belong to the National Association of Memoir Writers, and I love the resources they have to offer including webinars; but of course, there are more out there. There are a lot more resources out there on the Internet. My advice to myself for my next book is research, research, research, and more research.. .I think I can pass that along.
Margo: I’ve heard great things about NAMW, too. Thank you, Sola, for your honesty and sharing your story with families!
Don’t forget you could win a copy of this book by leaving a comment or question! Also, you can check out Sola’s book on Amazon.
Kaolin, the author of Talking About Race (publisher: Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc.), contacted me about her book, and I thought it sounded so interesting that I told her to send it to me. And I’m so glad she did. This post is going to be a little different than my normal posts about books you can use with students (you could probably use this with teens and college-age students)–I am going to share the book with you and tell you how to use it, but I will show you examples straight from the pages of the book. I also want to share with you a little of the author’s story. So, here we go. . .
Kaolin was born Patricia Anne Graham, and she legally changed her name to Kaolin with no surname in 1991. She has had many jobs in her life: a waitress, a singer, a writer, and a teacher. She’s worked in adolescent programs with teens with disabilities and in politics. She has also worked on a tree farm. In 1994, she designed and taught a course titled, “Let’s Talk About Race: Confronting Racism Through Education,” which after many years became this book I’m talking about today.
The book is divided into seven chapters with a “writing interval” at the beginning. It is written for “white people working to achieve racial equality in their lives, and to readers of color who would like insight into psychological and social experiences white people encounter.” Personally, I find this perspective fascinating–as a white woman, I never thought it appropriate or even necessary to address the concerns and topics that Kaolin discusses in her book. But after reading it, I see that it is, and I saw myself and my feelings in the pages of her book–especially when I was younger. I can see youth groups, book clubs, college classes, and more reading and studying this book. It will start conversations that need to be had. I hope that I can discuss these issues with my stepson soon and with my daughter when she is older. And as the cover states, it does not just have to be white people–it can be all races working together.
As Kaolin states in her introduction about why she wrote it: “Because learning how to talk about racism is hard. Most of us ‘react’ to it first. . . The lack of thought that has gone into many white people’s position about racism is amazing to me. . . Talking About Race meets that need.”
She begins with recognizing racism with lists that describe what a racist believes and with a section that even addresses, “How do you know you whether or not you are a racist?” The next chapter is titled “Resisting Racism,” which can actually bring up many uncomfortable feelings–especially when children/teens are faced with racism from parents or other loved ones, and they don’t know how to confront these beliefs or even act around the person. Kaolin gives some ideas for figuring this out. She continues this theme in the “Defenses and Insecurities” chapter.
The book goes on through real-life examples and encouraging prose, as well as pages of thinking questions with room to write answers, to face racism head on and understand how it can affect people in a family and in a community. Kaolin forces people to also look at themselves and how behaviors can either promote or stop racism. It’s not a book intended for people to feel bad about themselves or members of their family. It’s a book written to get people talking and thinking and hopefully changing hurtful behaviors.
I highly recommend using Talking About Race with teens and college-age students. I think it is perfect for a home school group, a church youth group, a community group like Boys and Girls Club, and more. It’s well-done!
Here are a few of the questions from it that get adults and children USING the book:
If you woke up this morning and there had been no racism in your life, how would your life have been different?
Have you ever feared someone because of his or her color? Have you been fearful of anyone because of your color?
With respect to your own color, would you say you were born lucky?
Do you think white people have no problems?
In order to correct a racist situation, I would need. . .
I’m welcoming Alex Boles, whom I met through my critique group (she’s the sister of one of our members) and who has a very exciting and important website and book! I encourage everyone to check out the website here and then the book through the Amazon link at the bottom of the post. I will let her tell you about the book and the website because she took the time to answer some questions! This seems to be teen week on my blog this week because this is another book and website PERFECT for teens! Here we go:
Margo: Hi Alex! Welcome to Read These Books and Use Them. How do you describe the Unwritten Letters Project? When did you get the idea?
Alex:The Unwritten Letters Project (ULP) is a website dedicated to allowing people to release emotions in a cathartic, non-violent fashion. It’s a place where anyone can write a letter to those who they haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to, didn’t have the courage or resources to say these things to them before or just release feelings, or confessions about themselves or their lives. ULP is more than just a letter-writing, interactive website. It’s a place where people can come to release emotions they didn’t know they were feeling and use it to cope and heal. Reading the other letters helps people to realize that we’re not alone in this huge world, and chances are, someone else has gone through or is going through something similar. If you can’t connect with the people close to you, maybe you can through someone’s letter from across the world.
I came upon the idea for the Unwritten Letters Project in 2009. I was a junior in college; and once the book version was released, I became the youngest (and some say first) undergrad to publish a book at Truman State University. The idea was inspired by a number of films and a class I was taking at the time called “Family Communication.” After reflecting throughout the course on how I would communicate my feelings growing up, I realized I tend to write how I’m feeling in journals or through creative writing. I created the website to see how many others use the same writing method of coping. If others used writing or could see how writing can be healing, then I figured the website could help a lot of people through difficult times and overcome hardships.
Margo: So, it started as a website! What were people posting to the website? What did you post?
Alex: Yes, the Unwritten Letters Project is in its truest form, a website. At the beginning, professors at my university would use the site for classroom projects and assignments. I used those letters to create the original base of letters and then began a self-ran marketing campaign to solicit letters from across the globe. Seemingly overnight, I was receiving letters from countries like Japan, Germany, and Great Britain–sometimes in their native languages adding to each letters authenticity. People would write about current love interests, lost love, friendship, regrets, passion, their own lives and wishes. I would receive letters about bullying, suicide, and self-harm. It seemed to open up to somewhat of a confessional, and people began trusting me with their deepest secrets. I feel very overwhelmed and lucky to be trusted by thousands of people just trying to heal.
Truthfully, I have posted a few of my own letters. I posted my own letters more in the earlier years because I had some old letters from my past that I wanted to let loose. Nowadays, I let the readers’ thoughts make up the website. It’s always been more about letting others utilize the website than what I can get out of it.
Margo: What a wonderful service you are providing other people! Why did you decide to make it into a book?
Alex: I decided to make the Unwritten Letters Project into a book because I wanted people to be able to get as much out of this project as possible. It’s a “coffee-table” book–something you read to feel comfort and hope. It’s something to read to realize you’re not alone, and things will get better. I wanted something tangible that readers could cherish and pass down to their children as something that helped them get through life’s hardest moments. I also wanted to use the resources I had while I had them. My college experience was amazing, and my university was very welcoming of ambition. They let me saturate the campus with my dream and embraced my enthusiasm for the project and its message. I was able to go in to classrooms to spread awareness, and the University Bookstore even hosted a book signing where the president and provost attended with campus and local media present. I realized I had an amazing support system through school, family, and friends and wanted to take advantage of the resources at hand, so that I could continue to spread the Unwritten Letters Project.
Margo: How awesome! I went to TSU, too–way before you–it was still Northeast Missouri State University. (smiles) Anyway, what a great opportunity and what a great way you use that opportunity. So, how can teachers, parents, and counselors use the book with young adults?
Alex: Educators and professionals can definitely use the Unwritten Letters Project as a resource for learning or healing. It’s a great example of real life hardships and how people deal with, overcome, and react to these situations. Nothing is embellished or changed from the original letters. Every letter is pure raw emotion and real-life scenarios and actions. With so many fiction and fantasy novels becoming increasingly popular, we lose sight of reality and how people can really be affected by life’s decisions and our actions. Reading this book can remind us of our humanity. It reminds people that we feel, we’re alive, and we need to consciously make an effort to keep living our lives to the fullest each day. Because if we don’t, then we end up regretting the moments we didn’t have or wishing we would have done something when we had the chance.
Margo: WOW! That is powerful and so true and such an important message. Can people still post letters to your website?
Alex: Readers don’t post letters to the site directly. They submit the letters to a portal that sends them to a private e-mail. I then choose letters that are posted. I continue to receive letters on a daily basis and post as often as I can. I am definitely still accepting letters on the website. I encourage everyone to try writing at least one letter. I think you’d surprise yourself.
Margo: I hope some of my readers will consider it and use the website and book with their students/children. Do you have plans for future books?
Alex: I don’t have a second book planned for the near future, but I do have plans to publish more books with specific themes. As long as readership continues or improves, I will always run the Unwritten Letters Project. When the demand for another book increases, I will solicit publishers and agents. I’d like the second book to have a heavier following and possibly a blog/book tour if possible. Another book is definitely a possibility, but when it happens is up to the fans and future unknown publisher.
Margo: Thank you so much, Alex. I am just really in awe of what you are doing and think it is a wonderful idea and service. Readers, you can look inside the book on Amazon!
When the news started coming out about the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, many of us have been reacting strongly on social media sites and sharing in the disbelief that something so horrible could happen in an elementary school in an idyllic New England town. We have watched the stories of sadness and heroism on the news. We know that children at Sandy Hook Elementary, who should never ever witness terrible violence, saw things that as adults we cannot even imagine. People have started debating gun control and mental health care. I decided that what I wanted to say was too long for a Facebook post; and I wanted to share it with the teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers who read my blog, so here are some thoughts on this unusual Sunday post.
After 9/11, we didn’t feel safe. How could we? People didn’t want to fly. They didn’t want to go on a subway or train. Even a bus seemed frightening. People didn’t want to leave home or go to national monuments. But somehow, we got over it; and now we do all of these things again and most of them without fear. Why? I believe it’s because of the security that we now have at airports–the very security we complain about when we are running late for our plane or traveling with a tired and hungry toddler. But it’s the very security that makes me feel safe to travel. When I go to the Arch in my hometown of St. Louis, I’ve complained about standing outside in the heat or cold, while waiting to go through the metal detectors or have my purse AND diaper bag checked. But I am thankful that the security now exists. I can go to the Arch and have fun with my family.
We need to feel like our schools are safe–just like airports and national monuments. To me, a new security system and REQUIRED safety policies are what we need to implement in EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL as well as money for more counselors–especially in the high schools. To feel safe in schools, we need new policies, and they need to be strict like airport security. Stop debating gun control (although I do question why any American needs a permit for a semi-automatic weapon?) and mental health care (although I agree it is extremely expensive to get help for mental illness), and start focusing on new policies. REGULATE and GIVE MONEY to schools, so they can protect our children.
EVERY school needs an entrance where after school starts, a person–teacher, parent, custodian, principal, student–has to be LET IN by someone already in the school. I’ve been at schools who have been able to do this. You open the front door and a camera greets you as well as a locked door. You push a button. The secretary sees you, and you state your purpose. If the secretary thinks you are all right, then she lets you into the school. And obviously one thing we are learning from Newtown, where something like this was in place, is that the glass needs to be thick and hard to break at the entrance, if possible.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not blaming any school security. I worked in schools. I was briefed on what to do with my students if a shooter came into the room after Columbine. We had a code word if we needed to protect our students. I still go into schools as a children’s author; and most of the time, only one door is unlocked. But I can walk in that door and walk right past the office where I am supposed to check in as a visitor. These schools are doing the best they can to protect their students, and they need MONEY to create more security, which is what we are going to need. I think at least all middle schools and high schools need to put in metal detectors–again we need money for this. I know we don’t want to go to school in a “prison,” but we are beyond that now. Did you watch the news this morning? Besides Newtown, there was another man shooting bullets in a busy mall parking lot and an 18-year-old arrested for planning a shooting at his high school.
We can’t let this tragedy stop us from going places. Our children still need to go to school. We need to go shopping at a mall. We need to watch our kids at their basketball game or gymnastics meet. But we need to stay safe, and I think the only way to do that is to implement policies in our schools like officials and legislators did in our airports after 9/11.
One last thought–I remember being scared to death to go to school and teach on 9/12/2001. The faculty had a brief meeting with our counselor before we were turned loose to our students. I taught fifth grade at the time, and these students WANTED to talk about what happened. They NEEDED to talk about what happened. The way I approached it was I put on the board when they walked in: Something terrible happened yesterday. If you would like to write about it in your journal, please do. If you would like to write about something else, feel free. If you would rather read, that’s a great choice. Then when I started class, I asked students to tell me what they knew or if they had any questions. This started a wonderful discussion that I will never forget, including this question, “Is a plane going to hit our school and kill us?”
It has happened again–I forgot to blog yesterday. It always seems to happen when there’s a holiday weekend. Then I can’t keep track of what day it is. SO, I am going to combine two posts–the one about Finding My Place that was supposed to be yesterday will just be a quick post about a couple of speaking engagements I am doing–in case you would be interested in having me at your school or group. AND then I am going to share a really great article written by my friend, Carole Di Tosti, PhD about social networking sites for teachers.
Speaking Engagements: I will be going a lot of places in February, but the three I wanted to point out are: Columbia, MO; Savannah, MO; and Wentzville, MO. In Columbia, I will be speaking to two community groups about writing a novel, researching historical fiction, and finishing a project to its end–the groups are COSMO (diabetes group) and Pachyderms. Both groups needed a speaker, and they are allowing me to sell copies of my book after I speak! So, if you need a speaker for your community group, let me know. Then in Savannah, I will be doing a workshop for TEACHERS! This is near and dear to my heart, and my topic is 6 traits of writing! I can’t wait to share ideas with teachers and help them figure out how to use the 6 traits in the classroom. I can come do professional development at your school, too! Then in Wentzville, I get to talk to fourth and fifth grade students, who are currently doing a unit on historical fiction. I love to share writing and my story with children, and I have many different programs that I can present. They are on my website, under SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, or I can send you a brochure if you e-mail me (margo@margodill (dot) com). In other words, I love speaking and can accommodate almost any group.
Social Networks for Teachers: Have you ever been worried that your students and parents of your students would find you on Facebook or Twitter? Worrying about whether you should post certain things? Well, Carole solves these problems with a list of social networks for teachers/educators only. This is a must-read article for teachers and even children’s authors who are trying to reach teachers. Read here: http://technorati.com/social-media/article/teachers-social-networking-increases-with-the/ .
I hope you find this information useful! I am going to be featuring two great books next week, so stay tuned.
The book featured here today, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, is an adult book about traveling in Italy (considered narrative travel nonfiction). I am hosting the author with a guest post written by her later on this month. She’s full of enthusiasm and inspiration and a love for life. Her book is travel writing at its finest!
Sure, it’s pretty easy to love your life when you are traveling in Italy and breezing through it without too much trouble. But how do you love your life when thing aren’t going so smoothly?
I know people who write something they are thankful for every day on Facebook. I’ve done gratitude journals. I’ve stopped pity parties in their tracks by thinking of all the blessings I have, especially when I hear of troubles that others are going through. Mine are nothing in comparison.
But as of RIGHT NOW, I’ll tell you why and how I love my life every day, why I’m excited to get up and get going. Sure, I love reading and I love writing. But I love my life right here at home because of. . .
I don’t think there’s much left to say. Doing silly things with these two amazing bodies is how I love my life.
The following is a book trailer for Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore and you can find out more wonderful information about the book and author here:
I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW! Women on Writing’s “The Art of Loving Your Life” Blanket Tour, celebrating the release of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore (currently 99 cents on Amazon Kindle) by Barbara Conelli.
Barbara is an internationally published best-selling author and seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace, and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.
Her latest book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, offers an intimate view into the unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.
If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll b
Learn To Play The What-If Game
(Guest post by Barbara Conelli)
From Margo: I am so honored to have Barbara Conelli guest post with this wonderfully inspiring essay on turning around those annoying, negative WHAT IF questions and making them positive. Anyone can benefit from this post! She is using the book she wrote, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, to its fullest potential and living the best life she can!
To celebrate her latest book about loving life in Italy, she is offering great prizes. Here’s what you need to know before you read her post about those WHAT-IF questions.
1. A downloadable gift bag for every person who comments on this blog! (I love this idea!) So, what is a downloadable gift bag? You will receive this just for commenting (please leave your email address, so we can send these to you): Chique Virtual Tour: The Secret Gems of Italy Every Woman Must Know, First five chapters of Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita (her first book), First five chapters of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore (her current book), Chique Blog Tour Special Gift (Only for the tour!): E-Book: The Most Romantic Chique Places to Fall in Love in (and with) Milan. (If you are a lover of Italy, leave a comment!)
2. Every person who leaves a comment will also be entered into a larger drawing for 1 Chique Journal (contest open internationally). Please leave your comment before 8:00 pm CST on Sunday, 7/1 for your chance to win. Comments can be questions, something about the what-if game, thoughts on Italy, pick me, etc.
3. Barbara is doing a bunch of fun stuff with her blog tour this summer, plus she has a book trailer video and more. Check out all the contests, book trailer, her website, etc, by going to WOW!’s blog and reading these two posts: Summer in Italy Contests and blog tour launch.
Don’t skip this article below. It’s wise!
From Barbara on the What-If game!
There are a few words I left out of my vocabulary many years ago, when I realized my verbal habits were my biggest creative roadblocks: I can’t. I should – I shouldn’t. I have to. And the most toxic verbal turn-off: WHAT IF.
For some reason, our ego, traditionally threatened by dreams, visions, aspirations, and creative endeavors of all kinds, seems to thrive on what-if scenarios. They are the fastest tool your inner gremlin uses when it wants you to fall off the wagon, hide under the duvet and cry, delete the new chapter, burn the submission package, cut your hair and swear off high heels.
“What if I’m no good? What if it doesn’t work out? What if my book doesn’t sell? What if I never make it? What if I can’t write? What if everyone hates my story? What if I get the worst reviews in history? What if my family gets upset?”
When your mind decides to play this dirty trick, it hurts. It stings.
I am very excited to be a part of Blacklisted from the PTA‘s birthday party! I first met the author, Lela Davidson, at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference in St. Louis in April. She’s a riot, and I liked her immediately! When I read the title of her book and saw the subject matter was not your typical parenting book, then I knew I had to have it.
I read it and laughed and smiled all the way through. You see, I, myself, am not a typical parent–I’m not that into crafts (I do like to scrap book, though), I don’t bake, and I don’t like to cook. Sometimes, I let my toddler eat meals in front of the TV, watching Family Feud or Big Bang Theory, and I take her everywhere with me, including to Weight Watchers and writing conferences and critique groups. As a matter of fact, she is lying here beside me in the bed sleeping while I write this blog post because she woke up from her nap when I took a shower, screamed her head off, and when I laid down with her to calm her down, she fell back asleep. So, I grabbed my computer and started blogging. . .
Anyway, back to Lela, you will love this book. You will want to buy two copies and give one to a friend. You COULD win one if you leave a comment for Lela and me below (she is giving out e-books OR hard copies). You can tell us WHY you are the type of parent who might be blacklisted from the PTA OR why you are Mrs. Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. You can ask a question or just leave a comment like, “Sounds like a good book.” As long as you leave it by Sunday, July 29 at 8:00 pm CST, you are entered to win. If you have a mailing address outside the United States, you may only have the choice of an e-book.
Here’s my review of Lela’s book:
Take some time to see how one real, honest mom deals with forgotten piano recitals, date nights with her husband and those pesky questions children always ask at the wrong moments. Lela Davidson shares the stories of her motherhood experience in several hysterical, true essays in the book, Blacklisted from the PTA.
Davidson states in her introduction that she didn’t plan to write this book. She wanted to write a novel: “one of those quirky romantic titles that get made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon or Kate Winslet.” She said she didn’t know how to do that, so she set out to learn. While she was learning, she wrote the essays in this book.
“All I seemed to be good at was sitting on the driveway drinking boxed Chardonnay and talking to my friends,” Davidson writes. “So that’s what I wrote—the stories that made us laugh.”
And that is exactly what these stories do—they make you laugh. They also make you realize that you’re not alone. Every mother has the idyllic dream of how she’s going to approach her babies and handle motherhood. She looks back at her own childhood and says either, “I’m going to be just like my mom,” or “I will never do that to my children.”
My regular book post will actually be TOMORROW because I am taking part in a blog tour with WOW! Women On Writing for The Divorce Girl (which is a WONDERFULLY written book!). So, today, I thought I’d post about something near and dear to my heart and encourage you to take part if you feel moved.
My high school friend, Kelly Ellison, has Scleroderma (skleer-oh-DUR-muh). If you are not familiar with this disease, it is “a chronic autoimmune disorder which means the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. In the simplest of terms, Scleroderma is an overproduction of collagen that can result in thickening or tightening of skin and scarring of internal organs.” (From The Relief Foundation website) As with anything in her entire life, Kelly faces this disease with determination, and she does not let it get her down. She continues to have enormous faith in God when others would have been cursing his name for their pain. I love Kelly, and now she is committed to helping others with the same disease. That’s her spirit. That’s her!
Kelly founded The Relief Foundation, which is committed to helping Scleroderma patients with financial assistance. Here’s what Kelly says on her website: “The Relief Foundation was birthed out of my frustration in dealing with the limited information regarding the disease, emotional challenges due to changes in my physical appearance and limitations, not being able to work and resulting loss of income, medical processes, trial treatments, and the high cost of healthcare.”
Kelly recently underwent stem cell transplant therapy, and it is making a huge difference in her life. On Facebook at the end of May, she mentioned that the pigmentation in her skin is returning, she can bend over to put on her socks, and open her mouth wide enough to brush her teeth. Can you imagine NOT BEING ABLE to open your mouth wide enough to brush your teeth? Imagine how eating would be. These were all things she was struggling with BEFORE her procedure. But as you know, therapy, medication, doctors visits, traveling to doctors and hospitals, and more aren’t cheap; and even if insurance covers some, you still have a lot of expenses that go with a disease, including loss of wages from not being able to work.
So, how can you help? OH MY GOSH, it is so simple. Purchase for only $5.00 a one-day Macy’s 25 percent off shopping pass (the date to use the pass is August 25!). Yes, you heard it, for just $5.00, which helps the Relief Foundation help patients with Scleroderma, you can then go and save EVEN MORE MONEY at Macy’s on August 25–just in time for back-to-school shopping! You are helping a good cause AND you get to go shopping AND save money. What could be better than that?
The Divorce Girl: A Novel of Art and Soul by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Publisher: Ice Cube Press
I’m excited to introduce to you–The Divorce Girl as part of the WOW! Women On Writing blog tour. What a great, great book. I was captivated on page one and couldn’t wait to get to the end of the book. I recommend this book to ANYONE! I have a print copy to give away–from the author. Please leave a question and/or comment about the book by Sunday, August 5 at 8:00 pm CST to be entered to win (US mailing addresses only, please.)
Here’s my review:
From the first page of The Divorce Girl: A Novel of Art and Soul by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, readers will discover that it’s a well-written novel with a lively, witty, teenage voice narrating the story. Mirriam-Goldberg captivates you on page one and doesn’t let go until the end of the book. She includes unique, well-rounded characters; unusual settings; and plenty of interesting subplots as well as an understanding of how the world and people work, especially during and after a divorce.
Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2012 Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her love of words and ability to string them together to create a masterpiece shines through in this novel. Simply stated: “It’s a good book!” Although divorce is a subject that has been written about thousands of times in YA and women’s fiction, The Divorce Girl will still fascinate readers who will be drawn into the story because of Mirriam-Goldberg’s writing.
It centers on Deborah, a high school student in New Jersey in the 1970s and oldest daughter of Jewish parents, who announce that they are getting divorced with no huge surprise to her. Her parents have been fighting for years, and it became progressively worse after a baby sibling died of SIDS.
At first when the divorce is announced, Deborah’s father takes a special interest in her, leaving the two younger (surviving) children with their mother. Her dad takes her regularly to eat at a diner, where a Greek hostess, Fatima, works. It soon becomes clear that he has an ulterior motive to these dad-daughter dinners. But Deborah doesn’t seem to mind. She likes the attention from her father, who is talking to her as if she is an equal.
Because of the special attention from her father and the tensions that rise with her mother during the divorce proceedings, Deborah winds up choosing to live with her father and Fatima, which causes many problems within the family, including with her grandparents.
Soon, she realizes that her father isn’t quite the man she thought he was or that he presents himself to be in public; but she doesn’t feel like she has anywhere else to go. He works her hard, too—at home, cooking and cleaning, and at a weekend auction, similar to a flea market, selling large-sized clothing.
The good thing is Deborah loves photography and has quite a talent for it, and her father allows her to take a photography course. He also allows her to get involved with a youth group at the local, and somewhat liberal, temple.
These two outlets and the people there basically save her soul from destruction, as she lives with an abusive father and is estranged from her mother.
Although this book is written with a teenage narrator, the author state
Thank you, thank you to Carole Di Totsi, PhD, for giving me this reader appreciation award. If you don’t know Carole, you should! She writes a few amazing blogs (see below) and is a wonderful promoter of her friends and colleagues at her Twitter handle: mercedeskat45. I first met Carole when she took an online class from me through WOW! Women On Writing. She has now taken a few, and we have become cyber friends. I keep threatening to go to NYC and visit her!
The Reader Appreciation Award is given to writers who have supported other writers’ blogs. Happily, I’ve received the award from Carole, who has three blogs: The Fat and the Skinny, All Along the NYC Skyline, and A Christian Apologist’s Sonnets. All three are totally different because she blogs about health and wellness issues, NYC events, and her own sonnets respectively. But check them out and leave a comment!
There are a few guidelines for accepting this award:
l) Acknowledge the giver of the award and provide a link to his or her blog. (check!)
2) Copy and paste the award to your blog. (check!)
3) Pass the award on to up to ten bloggers. (see below!)
4) Notify the selected bloggers that you have nominated them.
I am happy to nominate these bloggers and their blogs for the Reader Appreciation Award:
These 10 ladies are super supportive of my blog and the authors I host here. I know I probably missed someone–I’M SORRY!–it’s like when you give your Oscar speech, and you forget to thank your spouse. . .
I hope you have some time to check out their blogs. Thanks, ladies, for your support. You are all well-deserving of the Reader Appreciation Award!
Today, I welcome my colleague and fellow WOW! team member, Chynna Laird, with her YA paranormal-suspense novel, Dark Water. Chynna has written a creepy, suspenseful book that also touches on some serious issues contemporary children/teens are dealing with such as a parent at war, PTSD, and death of a loved one. Chynna also has a copy to giveaway, so leave a comment for your chance to win! It’s YA, remember–and I know how many of us adults also love YA!
Margo: Welcome, Chynna, to Read These Books and Use Them. I am so thrilled to host you today and your first YA book, Dark Water. Can you tell us a little about your book?
Chynna: Thanks for having me here, Margo. Yes! Dark Water is a young adult suspense/paranormal. It’s about a sixteen-year old girl trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. The deeper she digs, the bigger the mystery seems to get. Here’s the book cover synopsis:
“Some answers are found far beneath the surface…”
Sixteen-year-old Freesia Worth has a mystery to solve—the disappearance of her mother at their family lake house. Her traumatized sister Sage hasn’t said a word ever since that day.
After almost a year, Detective Barry Cuaco has found nothing but frustrating dead ends. Soon he’ll have to let the case go. But Freesia isn’t making it easy for him. She needs answers. Now.
With the help of her secret crush, Rick, and a mysterious Goth girl named Mizu, Freesia learns about an ancient Native legend and a man known as the Watcher of the Lake.
Will Freesia finally uncover the truth? Or will the lake keep its secrets far beneath the dark water?
Margo: Spooky! I hope that Freesia can uncover the truth. (Winks) I read on your website that this was your NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month in November] project in 2011. Tell us a little about the process of Dark Water going from a NaNoWriMo project to a published book.
Chynna: Just before NaNoWriMo, I had this really creepy dream about an old Native man and a ghost he was trying to help. When I got up, I googled Native water legends, and my story came to me. I was so excited about this project, I actually finished it before NaNo was over! After that, I spent a couple of weeks editing and polishing it, then sent it to a publisher I knew who handles several books in the suspense/paranormal genre (Imajin Books). And then Dark Water was born!
Margo:How cool is that! Just goes to show you why we should listen to our dreams! If you had to compare your book to others on the market right now, where would it fit? How is it similar and different from these?
Chynna: I’d have to say that Dark Water is very similar to the works of Chris Grabenstein, Sharon Sala, and Charlotte Blackwell. They all have a wonderful talent of weaving creepiness and fun into their storylines. Dark Water
is a bit different in that I also mix in the issues I think that need to be talked about more. Of course, authors have to be very careful when doing this because younger readers do NOT like being preached to. When you write about these issues, you need to make sure that it is at their level and non-preachy. So I hope that I accomplished that. I think I did…
Margo: Great, then let me ask: What are some themes you are exploring in this book?
Chynna: There are several issues I touch on in Dark Water. First, the main character, Freesia, is part of a military family. Her father was killed in a mission in Afghanistan. Another theme I touch on is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Freesia’s younger sister, Sage, lives with it, and I give a sense of what it’s like to live with a sibling who has this disorder. I also touch on mental health issues, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Before she disappeared, Freesia’s mother was a clinical psychologist who worked with children and families coping with this very difficult disorder. Finally, I touch on how young people deal with the very painful situation of parental loss.
I love to educate and stimulate conversation about these issues by weaving the information within a good story. That’s the best way to digest it, I think.
Margo: I couldn’t agree with you more! That’s the entire reason for my blog. How could teachers or parents use Dark Water? Are there certain discussion points that would naturally occur after reading it?
Chynna: I think there would be several discussion points after reading it. Young people may have questions, for example, about what SPD or PTSD is. Teachers can open the discussion to researching and learning about these disorders, how it affects individuals, and what they can do to help raise awareness. Caregivers can use the book to teach tolerance as well as to connect with their children by encouraging questions or concerns. That’s the first step to understanding. =)
Margo: So true! Are you working on any more YA books? I know you’ve written a variety of books—a memoir, a parenting book, a children’s book, and more.
Chynna: Yes I am, actually. I am working on one project that is a YA contemporary (tentatively called Just Shut Up and Drive), a potential action/immortal series as well as a special surprise. ;D
Margo: That sounds great! Maybe one of these days I’ll find a publisher for my YA, and then we can be YA authors together! Anything else you’d like to add about writing for YA and your book, Dark Water?
Chynna: The only thing I’d like to add is that anyone wanting to write in this genre, or already is, should just do it. Research the genre, talk to young people reading these books, and put out the best you can do.
Margo: Chynna, thank you for your time and encouraging words.
Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment by Sunday September 2 for your chance to win!
I’m so happy to welcome back my writing friend Lela Davidson (Blacklisted from the PTA) with her second book with another hilarious title, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?. Need a Christmas present for a mom who needs a good laugh–look no further because you have found it right here. I have laughed as hard at this second book as I did the first one! And I got the chance to talk to Lela a bit about her book. Here’s what she said:
Margo: Welcome, Lela. I’m so glad to have you back with your second book on what it’s really like to be a parent and being able to laugh about it! How would you say this book is similar to Blacklisted from the PTA? How’s it different?
Lela: Thanks for having me! Yes, this book is very similar to my first book in that it is made up of short essays that can be read while you are sitting in the carpool line or pretending to do yoga. The kids are older now, so there are fewer stories about babies and toddlers.
Margo: It’s funny how we forget those baby and toddler times–I think that’s why people have more than one child. . . If readers accidentally missed the chance to read Blacklisted from the PTA, can they start with Who Peed On My Yoga Mat? Do they have to be read in order?
Lela: No, they are fully independent! All of the essays in both books are stand-alone reads. I hope new readers will want to go back and discover my first book.
Margo: I’m sure they will! Do you have a favorite essay or section in your new book? If so, which one and why?
Lela: I have a few pets, and most of them are the ones that star my husband. Marriage is just so hard. It’s easier when you laugh about how hard it is.
Margo: That is such a nice way to say it: “starring my husband!” Not only do you talk about parenting, but you also discuss what it’s like to be married and a parent in the section, “Marital Bliss.” Based on your essays, communication is key (along with calendar scheduling!). What are a couple tips you can share with readers about how to handle your spouse and your kids?
Lela: Oh, my. I don’t think I handle them. I think they handle me. Everyone in the family is good at something different; so, yes, I keep the calendar. I keep food in the house and the kids on their dental schedule. I do 643 loads of laundry every week. These are the basics. Everything else is over-achievement.
Margo: Completely agree! For my readers that are also writers, what tips do you have for getting a series of essays published–whether they are about travel, parenting, teaching, etc?
Lela: It’s just like money: “Watch you pennies, and the dollars will watch themselves.” Work on publishing one essay at a time until you have enough with a common tone that can be called a collection. I have been published hundreds of times in parenting magazines all over the US and Canada. Write an essay, and then get it out into the world. Over and over and over.
Margo: Great advice! Thanks for stopping by. Now let’s clue readers in on the important stuff–where can they get a copy of Who Peed On My Yoga Mat? And where can they find out more about you?
Lela: Thank you! This is fun. Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? is available on Amazon and my website, www.leladavidson.com. My website is a great place to find out more than you ever wanted to know about me, watch my book trailers, and read my blog. Thanks!
*Young adult, historical fiction novel
*Teenage, African-American cowboy as main character
*Rating: I’m so glad I found Deadwood Jones at my local library! It’s a great book about a very interesting topic and will really appeal to boys.
Short, short summary:
(FROM BOOK JACKET–sorry, busy weekend!): When Prometheus Jones wins a horse with a raffle ticket he got from Pernie Boyd and LaRue Dill, he knows things won’t go smoothly. No way are those two rednecks going to let a black man, even a freeman from the day of his birth, keep that horse. So as soon as things get ugly, he jumps on the horse, pulls his cousin Omer up behind him, and heads off. They hook up with a cattle drive out of Texas heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Prometheus is a fine hand with a horse and not so bad with a gun, and both skills prove useful as the trip north throws every twist and turn imaginable at the young cowpokes. (It’s a good, old cowboy story! )
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Allow students to keep a reading response journal while reading this book. There are many issues in it–from the treatment of black cowboys/slaves to traveling West at a young age–when students come upon a passage they feel strongly about, they should write about their feelings in the reading response journal–BEFORE discussing them. Many times, the discussion will be stronger if reactions to the novel are written down first.
2. Compare/contrast the author’s note in the back of the book with what happened in the novel. Did Helen Hemphill do a good job of sharing the “truth” in this historical fiction novel? Students could also do their own research about cowboys if so desired.
3. How does the author paint a picture of the “Wild West” with her words? What type of word choice does she use? Study strong word choice selections as part of a 6 + 1 traits of writing lesson.
So, I was in the bathroom, just home from the Little Gym with my daughter and thinking about nap time, when I realized, OH MY GOD! I FORGOT TO DO MY BLOG!
I never forget to do my blog. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, I always read a book or prepare a guest post, blog tour, etc and schedule them to appear the next day. I’ve been doing this for about 14 months now. (That tells you about how old my daughter is–before her, I blogged a little more.) Yesterday, I forgot.
So in the bathroom, I thought of all these things I could do–read and do it real quick during nap–no, I had to finish my critique group critiques. Okay, I could do it tonight–no, I have critique group and then some other stuff to take care of when I get home. Okay, what can I do?
How about. . .be honest? I am tired. I am staying home with my daughter AND working from home on writing. I have editing clients, am teaching two online classes, and had to clean my house. I had bills to pay, photos to order from Walmart since October 2, and I can go on. I don’t want to bore you. IN all of this, I forgot my blog.
So I decided to do this quick, honest post and leave you with two meaningful things. One, I did manage to remember to do a blog interview for WOW! with Lori the Change Agent who is helping people just LIKE ME change their lives. She has a book, an audio series, a free video coaching series and more that she offers women to figure out what they want their lives to look like and change them to get there. It is a great interview, and she is an inspiration. You can check that interview out at this link! You can USE her book to change YOUR life!
The second thing I’ll leave you with is an activity I liked to do with my students when I was teaching. You could do it in a classroom or at home with home school. Find 5 books you like and your child knows. Read the beginning and rate it on a scale of 1 to 5. A beginning is SUPPOSED to introduce the reader to the character/problem/setting and KEEP THE READER INTERESTED, so he or she will keep reading. Some GREAT books have AWFUL beginnings. It helps your child to be a more critical reader and to write better beginnings, which is a 6 + 1 traits of writing organizational trait exercise.
Must run–nap is over. I will have a regular blog post for on Monday.
I am so happy to launch my good friend and great author, Margaret Norton’s, blog tour today for her book, When Ties Break. Margaret Norton is a writer, speaker, personal life coach, and It Works! distributor. She blogs about her life at http://healthy-n-fitgranny.com. Her first book, When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss, is available as an e-book for just 99 cents on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with grand kids, reading, traveling, photography, and dancing.
**And even more exciting, Margaret is giving away fabulous prizes to go along with her Celebrate 60 blog tour and re-launch of her book. Here are details: **
Leave a comment on this post to enter into Margaret’s Celebrate 60 blog tour contest. Margaret is celebrating her 60th birthday by giving away three grand prizes: a 30-minute FREE life coaching session (by phone—for U.S. residents only), her memoir in paperback (for U.S. residents only), and her memoir in e-book (for anyone!) format. Each blogger participating in the tour will randomly select one winner from all the comments and enter that name into the grand prize drawing. Margaret will contact the three grand prize winners for their choice of prize the week of 2/27 and announce winners on her blog on March 2.
***For extra entries into the contest, please tweet about the contest, using the hashtag #Celebrate60 OR tweet about why you love being the age you are! (Don’t forget to use the hashtag.) Anyone who tweets with #Celebrate60 will get an extra entry into the contest for the three grand prizes. Any questions? E-mail ME, Margo, Margaret’s publicist, at margo (at) margodill.com .
Now here’s a guest post from Margaret herself!
Never Give-Up on Your Dream to be a Writer
Several years ago, at the age of 58, I published my first book. It was the first thing that I had written – except for church bulletins, family Christmas letters, and business correspondence – in 35 years. During my book tour, I did a signing in the town where I attended high school and had lunch with my best friend from the 9th and 10th grade. My contact with her had been sporadic through the years for various reasons. As we spent time together and talked about school events, memories came flooding back. She told me that in the 9th grade I had wanted to be a writer.
Wanted to be a writer? How did I forget that? What happened to that dream? How did I get so far off course? My working life included a combination of owning my own businesses, working for non-profit agencies and 17 years trying to climb the corporate ladder. There was very little writing and very little encouragement to develop my creativity. I married young, had a family, and then divorced. And repeated that several times. Life got in the way. I needed to earn enough money to raise my family and sought jobs with the highest income potential rather than following my heart. My life came to an abrupt crossroads in 2004 after the death of eight individuals connected to me.
Write to heal is what my therapist suggested. During the first few months of 2005, I poured all my thoughts onto paper. Why did bad things happen to good people? One thing led to another. I found myself going all the way back to my childhood,
I had my picture book all ready for today’s post, along with my three activities. But I can’t let this time pass without talking about the tragedy of Whitney Houston’s death. It’s on a lot of people’s minds–especially those of us who grew up in the 80s and then saw The Bodyguard over and over again in 1992. My very first concert on my own with my best friend, Kristin, was Whitney at The Muny (outdoor theater in Forest Park) in St. Louis, MO in 1985, right before we started high school. We had to leave before the concert was over because Whitney liked to really add to her songs–extending each one with all sorts of runs and musical interludes. So, she was still playing and we were running to the front of The Muny to be picked up by our parents because we were too young to even drive to the concert.
If you are a girl of the 80s, you know you say, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and thought of the cute guy in your homeroom. . .
So what’s YA author Ellen Hopkins have to do with Whitney Houston? It hasn’t been confirmed yet how Whitney died, but it is probably going to have something to do with substance abuse. She either mixed something or took to much of something or weakened her body from years of abuse. She had a wonderful talent, a family that loved her, a beautiful child, and she STILL couldn’t find power over drugs. If anyone knows how drugs can effect lives, it’s Ellen Hopkins.
If you aren’t familiar with her books: Crank, Glass, Fallout, they are loosely based on her daughter’s crystal meth addiction. Here’s what she says on her website, “By writing the story from ‘my daughter’s’ perspective, I learned a lot, both about her, and about myself. But I also learned a lot about the nature of addiction, and the physiology of this particular substance. For those struggling with similar addictions, there is help, but the road to recovery is not easy. The addict has to want to get well. Rehabilitation cannot be forced. For those who love someone struggling with addiction, learn as much as you can about
how a substance works on the brain. This will help divorce you from the overwhelming emotion involved.”
Ellen Hopkins’s Crank series of books are powerful. They are written in verse, and they are real. They do not paint a pretty picture of addiction. They’re often banned in close-minded communities, where people don’t want to admit that kids as young as elementary school are involved with drugs and in sexual situations. I believe ALL 8th graders should read these books, maybe even younger–required reading to see what drugs are really like and to see the mess that they can create in your life.
If we start looking at the problem realistically, maybe we can save a few talents, like Whitney. We have to start protecting our children in a different way by educating them on how the “big, bad world” really works.
I am super excited that I am hosting Meredith Zeitlin today on her blog tour for the wonderful YA book, Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters! I am also excited to tell you that we have a copy to giveaway, so after you read the synopsis and Meredith’s guest post and watch the book trailer, you will be super inspired to write a comment or question to Meredith. Then I will choose one of you lucky commenters to win this book on Sunday night, March (OMG, MARCH, already!!) 4 and announce the winner on Monday. If you are a tweeter, you can also tweet this contest with the hashtag #FrYrDisasters. Then come back and put the URL of your tweet in a comment for another chance to win.
Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.
In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.
Kelsey’s hilarious commentary and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.
About the Author: Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months, and has many fancy pairs of spectacles. In case you’re wondering whether any of Kelsey’s experiences are based on Meredith’s own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times, was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.
And now a few words from Meredith. . . When I was twelve or so, pretty much everything my parents – particularly my mother – said to me, suggested, invited me to, or insisted I do seemed to pretty obviously be one more attempt to ruin my entire life. (Don’t worry, parents of teens, I eventually got over it. I even dedicated my book to my mom – although, if we’re splitting hairs here, I’m still pretty sure she’s trying to drive me crazy…)
One of the very few exceptions to the rule was books. My mom and I had a special bond over words and language and reading. My dad wasn’t a big book person; in fact, I never saw him reading one, ever. But my mother was an English teacher and a huge bookworm; and despite the million and one things she did that made it seem impossible to believe she was my real mother, I was always elated when she came home with a new paperback or three for me or invited me to ride with her to the library. And we read each other’s books, too – nothing was off-limits in my house in the literature department. Looking back now, I realize how grown up it made me feel to be allowed to read her books. I can also see how u
I am happy to announce that Krysten H. won the copy of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin. Thank you to everyone who left a comment and got excited about this new YA book and debut author as well as her informative post! If you didn’t win, consider purchasing the book for a teen in your life.
Today, I am going to preview a book I am SUPER EXCITED to share with you, but I’m not going to actually share it with you until Thursday. Can you wait that long? Plus, when I do share it, I am also going to be hosting a giveaway for it–you can win it as an e-book or as a hard copy. I will be giving out ONE. The book is. . .
Stranger Moon by Heather Zydek
It’s middle-grade and published by Moth Wing Press.
It has adventure and humor. It has kids that still play together and like to be outside. It has secret clubs and bullies and strangers. I don’t want to tell you too much because I plan to reveal the plot and how you can use it with kids on Thursday. But I will provide a link to it on Amazon, and I am telling you that it is amazing. You will love it and your children/students will love it. I plan to give it 5 stars on Amazon, so stay tuned–you could win it!
Congratulations to dollsstory for winning The Smiley Book of Colors in last week’s giveaway. I am excited to host another author and book giveaway today–it’s a “basketball” book in honor of March Madness (Anyone still have a good bracket?). The book is called Transcendental Basketball Blues, the author is Mike Pemberton, and it is YA/crossover historical fiction, although it’s set in the 1970s (so it’s not that far back in history!). Mike has given me a copy to giveaway, so please leave a comment below by Sunday night, April 1 for your chance to win. I’m also doing a little different post this time because I was also lucky enough to interview Mike for my Sunday Books column in The News-Gazette, (Champaign/Urbana, IL newspaper), and I am posting the feature article here. This way you get to know Mike and his book a little better. . .
When Mike Pemberton, author of Transcendental Basketball Blues and Hoopeston, IL resident, was cleaning out his garage ten years ago, he found some old creative writing notebooks and newspaper articles from when he was a sportswriter. He told his wife, “I’d forgotten I wanted to be a writer.”
But unlike many people who have the same forgotten dream, Pemberton did something about it. He decided to pursue a master’s degree in English from Illinois State University and started writing short stories, which were soon published.
While pursuing his master’s degree, completed in May 2011, he came up with the idea for his first novel, Transcendental Basketball Blues. A young adult novelist, Chris Crutcher, inspired him with his book, Whale Talk. In it, Crutcher used sports to “framework” more serious teen issues, such as child abuse, racism, and bullying.
In graduate school, Pemberton also learned about nineteenth century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, and his beliefs on transcendence. Pemberton meshed sports and philosophy together to create his basketball story.
“In the novel, athletic and musical moments of transcendence serve as common ground for the basketball playing Jack and [his mother] Mary Lou, a classically trained musician, and help them navigate through the wreckage left in the wake of her manic episodes,” he explained.
The story is set in the 1970s and focuses on main character, Jack Henderson, a “star basketball player.” Everyone thinks he has it all; but when he starts high school, his mother disappears and is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. She is often escaping her life when she doesn’t take her medication. The book jacket states, “By Jack’s senior year, love of music and basketball intertwine as mother and son seek solace within the transcendent moments yielded by their twin passions.” These would be music and basketball, respectively.
Pemberton decided to self-publish his novel after receiving rejections on the manuscript from agents and publishers. However, he also received positive feedback, but they ultimately said the time period was not working for them. They were worried about how to market and sell the book.
Then he read an article in the Wall Street Journal about some authors having a lot of success with self-publishing. He decided to stop the query process at that time, paid for a copy editor, cut ten thousand words, and rearranged some chapters. He went t
Every once in a while, I like to take a break from the regularly scheduled program of books and sharing them, and share with you some other cool stuff. Today, I want to share a website/app that I was asked to review and think could be a real benefit to ANYONE wanting to lose weight and/or get healthier and/or exercise more. It’s called SLIMKICKER.COM, and it’s so super easy to use for your weight loss/healthy lifestyle changing goals.
So, what is it? According to the website, Slimkicker.com is “a level-up game and point-based program. You start by tracking your diet, where whole foods are worth more points than processed foods.” Then the creators go on to say, “But diet, and fitness are half of the battle. Most people regain weight because they never learn long-term habits. We solve this by taking habits as quitting soda, and turning them into 7-30 day challenges. Like a regular game, the challenges start out easy, and gradually become harder, with more points. We encourage you to check-in daily with others doing the same challenge for accountability and social support.”
They also state that it can go along with any diet program that you may already be using or want to use, AND it’s all about learning portion control, proper nutrition, and acquiring healthy habits. I can see this site REALLY appealing to a competitive person OR someone who needs to be accountable to someone, but doesn’t have a fitness buddy in his/her life.
It’s easy to sign up–I did it in about 5 minutes. I haven’t used all the tools yet, but there are tabs in your account where you can record what you eat, how much you exercise, and then join a challenge, such as eating one salad a day for 7 days OR replacing juice with tea for 7 days. You get a certain number of points added to your account if you complete the challenge. YOU ALSO can choose your own rewards–like if you reach certain levels on the site, you might reward yourself with a girls night out? A new handbag? A new book? (That’s what I want to see! )
Spring is here for most of us–(most major holidays are over for a while) so it’s the perfect time to get in shape and be healthy! Check out Slimkicker.com. (BTW, I get nothing special for telling you this. I just think it’s a cool site and will be helpful for some of you struggling with this area of your life!)
Finally, because I HAVE to share a book with you, I reviewed this one for The News-Gazette. It’s great to share as a family because it’s all about excuses and how we use them to eat unhealthy! Its called: “But I deserve this chocolate!” The 50 Most Common Diet-DeRailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them (Author: Susan Albers, PsyD Publisher: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.) I’ll put an Amazon link below. It’s an easy book to use, and you don’t have to read it cover to cover. Find your excuse or your spouse’s or your kids’ or your work-out buddies’, and go from there.
Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days
by Mari L. McCarthy
Today, I welcome back Mari L. McCarthy, whom I just love. She knows everything about journaling, inspiring writers, and encouraging everyone to do their very best! In the winter, I took her 28-day journaling challenge; and I found that journaling can really help you get out all those worries, so that you can concentrate on the important matters like your WIP. Journaling is for everyone–teachers, parents, writers, librarians, and students.
Mari is back with a new book and new Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenge, which will be June 4-10. It’s free to do the challenge–you just have to purchase the workbook, OR you can purchase the workbook and do it on your own at any time. For more information about this, go to Mari’s website: http://www.createwritenow.com/start-journaling-workbook
Today, Mari has written a wonderful post about taking some time to play around with your creativity. She gives you several ways to do this. If you are a teacher, you could have your students do these, too.
And we are having a giveaway! Please leave a comment below or a question for Mari by Sunday night, May 6, and one winner will be chosen by random.org. The winner may choose either an e-copy of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days, the spiral-bound version, or one of Mari’s signature t-shirts (see photo). So, let’s “hear” what Mari has to say and leave a comment below!
Just Playing Around
(GUEST POST BY Mari L. McCarthy)
How long has it been since you played? I’m referring to the kind of playing that you used to do when you were five. Playing nonsensically, just following your nose, moving, imagining, making noise, being silly and crazy without thought or inhibitions. Making up your own rules, focused myopically on your story, you are no longer yourself; you’ve become the narrative unfolding.
The older we get, the less time we spend playing. It’s sort of sad. Thank goodness, there’s journal writing to help keep us young.
If it’s been far too long since you had a bunch of fun just playing around, pull up a journal and start being foolish.
• Scribble, for instance. Put the tip of the pen on the paper and let it move. Follow, do not lead it. No thoughts or objectives. No rhyme or reason. Just line, shape, marks on paper.
• Get a charcoal stick from the art supply store or a marker with a broad-to-fine tip and play with light and dark, thick and thin, line and space on the page.
• Doodle, drawing the cartoons, sketches, and stick figures that occur to you randomly, without precedent or meaning.
• Paste bits of this and that together in your journal to make a collage. This may be scraps of anything around you, whether 2- or 3-dimensional; it may be souvenirs from a walk in nature, or a selection of images from magazines or photos.
• Make up a story in your journal: a fantasy, mystery, romance, or melodrama. Describe exotic characters, adventures, and intrigues.
• Write a stream-of-consciousness list of words–both real and imaginary words. Let them spill out one after the other.
Of course, Children’s Book Week is special to me–I am a children’s author, I blog about children’s books, and I am a parent (as well as former elementary school teacher). I think I love children’s and YA books better than adult books some times! And I know that I am not alone.
But why are children’s books so important? I believe it is not ONLY because they help us to learn to read and comprehend OR because they remind us of a special time in our childhood when our moms read to us or when we went to library programs or even read 100 books over the summer. Children and YA books are meant to be used.
That’s what my blog is all about. I’ve covered using children’s books (and some adult books, too) since August 2008. You can see by my categories in the sidebar that I’ve covered YA, middle-grade, and picture books, and you can see the many authors I’ve read and wrote about, too. One of my favorites for middle-graders is pictured here–the “Al Capone” books–these books help children who are struggling with a special family situation, such as a sister with autism. It’s a great read, too, with a loveable main character, and children won’t even realize they are learning family dynamics or about children with special needs. That’s why I love children’s books–they are so good at disguising the lesson.
You can use children’s books and YA novels to teach history, social studies, science, writing, reading skills–almost any curriculum objective in the classroom or home school can be covered with the right book. I have included three activities to go with most of the books listed here on about 80 percent of the posts in almost 4 years–these activities are easy and ready to use in the classroom or at home.
The best thing, though, is children’s books can be used to talk about things that are hard for children–from potty training with Elmo to dealing with suicide with Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. Children can discuss joys and concerns through characters in books–that is a lot easier than talking about themselves.
So my hope for you is not just to read children’s books this week/summer/year, but to use them with a child or teen, too. You won’t be sorry!
And don’t forget to leave a comment below AND record that you did this in the Rafflecopter box to be entered to win a picture book critique or a bag of books from Guardian Angel Publishing.
PS: If you are interested in writing for children in magazines, picture books, middle-grade novels, or YA novels, check out WOW! Women On Writing’s classroom page. Our classes are economical and the teachers are professionals! Here’s the link: http://www.wow-womenonrwiting.com/WOWclasses.html. All classes are online and run this summer!
By the end of next week, most of the schools are out for summer. My stepson has his last day TODAY! One of my best friends and her kids are already on their way to Disney World. So what are you doing this summer?
I’m hoping, especially if you are a teacher/parent reading this blog, that your plans include reading. I was just thinking today about what we are going to get my stepson to read this summer. He is a bit of a reluctant reader, and I may just grab graphic novels at the local library. This way, he can read, and we can still discuss story elements–but it won’t be a battle each time. How many of you are doing a summer reading program? For your kids? For yourself?
One REALLY cool program that actually doesn’t have to do with books, but I think it is super cool AND EDUCATIONAL, so I am sharing it here anyway is. . .Blue Star Museums. From the website about BSM: “What is Blue Star Museums?”
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment of the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 1,500 museums across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 28, through Labor Day, September 3, 2012.
Yes, you read that correctly–if you are currently active duty, you can go to any of these museums and pay NO ADMISSION for up to 6 people (military and five family members–including grandparents, aunts, uncles). That is amazing and quite a savings. This means children’s museums, fine arts museums, history and science museums, zoos, and more. For more information, go to the website: Blue Star Families. You do need a military ID to take advantage of the discount.Please pass the word on to any military family you know!
Even if you are not military, consider taking your children or summer school class to these types of places a few times this summer. GO ONLINE before you go–to the website or do a Google search–and find discounts. Often, children’s museums, zoos, science centers, etc will have certain days or hours with free admission or even coupons for special exhibits/parking and so on.
I’d love for you to come back and share with us here anything you do, any opportunity you find, and so on–anywhere in the US. I have readers across the country!
So, this summer–happy reading and happy museum-going!