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1. The New Phone Book’s Here

In the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson:

image

Things are going to start happening to me now!

Yes, due to life, it took a long time to arrive, but that lovable scamp Virgil Creech is back in Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper.

 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00063]

 

 

Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.

Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.

Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.

 

From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.

image

It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience.  He is also not a family member!

You can read his take here.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to read Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, the ebook version is going to go free for a week sometime soon as publicity for the sequel. Of course, I’ll announce it here.

I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.


Filed under: From the Writer

4 Comments on The New Phone Book’s Here, last added: 8/14/2014
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2. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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3. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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4. Slice of Life -- Hemming



One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.

I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.

Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.

After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.

Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.

I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.

Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.

Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.

Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.

Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.


0 Comments on Slice of Life -- Hemming as of 7/29/2014 6:46:00 AM
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5. Illustration Samples: Karate

hl-karate 4 up samp

0 Comments on Illustration Samples: Karate as of 7/25/2014 12:30:00 AM
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6. Marketing Ideas - Commit to Learning Just Half-Hour a Day - See What Happens

Why You Should Commit 30 Minutes To Daily Learning (Without Fail) Guest post by Sean D'Souza I own a sieve. It's called my brain. I distinctly remember listening, then reading a book and then months later I listened to it once again. And I couldn't remember almost 90% of what I'd read and, mind you, listened to, earlier. With such a terrible memory, it does cross my mind that I should

0 Comments on Marketing Ideas - Commit to Learning Just Half-Hour a Day - See What Happens as of 7/25/2014 12:50:00 AM
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7. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Saying Goodbye, last added: 7/22/2014
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8. photoshopping

I'm getting serious about improving, (ha, who are we kidding) getting some computer skills, these days.  It's not that I'm going to completely change the way I work, I just want to stay on top of things, use my time wisely and make the most of my options, That said, it's a lot of fun!
As you can see I'm a total beginner, but I'm practicing with some images from my desktop, so kitty got to travel.

cat in the mountains (homage to Ferdinand Hodler)

At this point I'm a bit of a Skillshare addict. I had started a couple of classes before, and now that they've switched to a membership format, I get kind of dizzy with all the choices. I haven't actually completely finished and posted a project/assignment yet, but I've already learned a lot (I also learned the hard way to keep hitting "save" as you go along). If you're a newbie like me, you might be interested in this list of recommended free Photoshop tutorials I encountered today.  I have a collection of similar helpful links on a Pinterest board.
Have a good weekend friends!

0 Comments on photoshopping as of 7/11/2014 3:59:00 PM
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9. Secrets of the Apple Tree: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner

Book: Secrets of the Apple Tree: A Shine-A-Light Book
Authors: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner
Pages: 36
Age Range: 4-8

Secrets of the Apple Tree is an informational text that uses the "Shine-A-Light" technology to make learning fun for kids. It starts out by showing an apple tree in the summer. When you shine a light behind the page (or hold it up to the light), you can see the image of the apple tree in winter, with bare branches. On the other side of the page, this inside view is shown in black and white, with some explanatory text. This pattern continues throughout the book, as the reader see mushrooms growing on a branch, a squirrel nesting inside the tree, a bug caught in a spider web, etc. 

I think that the gimmick of shining a light to see through the page will please preschoolers. My daughter was charmed by this, certainly, though she got a bit bored as the facts continued to mount from page to page. The text is designed for interactive reading with kids. Like this:

"Many animals live
around the tree.

Can you see who
the bird is about
to grab?"

(on the next page)

"Slithering, wriggling worms push
through the soil around the roots.

A tree's roots grow long and deep.
The roots soak up water from rain,
which helps to keep the tree alive." 

Every page has a question for kids to answer by shining a light on the page. At the end there's a little glossary of sorts, with more information about the creatures found in and around the tree. The authors encourage further exploration with:

"There's more...

When you find a tree, look all around it and see who you can find.
Remember to look up as well as down." 

The see-through illustrations (on the right-hand side of each page spread) are in color, using a palette of woodsy greens, browns, and grays. The left-facing pages are silhouettes, white images against black backgrounds. While neither style is incredibly detailed, the overall impression is pleasing, and the whimsy of the see-through illustrations works well. 

Secrets of the Apple Tree does a nice job of encouraging kids to pay attention to nature, to look closely, and see what hidden life they can find. And it's fun, too. I think it would make a nice addition to a classroom library for first or second graders, particularly in apple tree country. Recommended!

Publisher: Kane Miller Book Publishers 
Publication Date: January 1, 2014 (first American edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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10. The Open Door

Our cat is fascinated with doors. If one is closed, she sits staring at it or dig under it until it is opened. She may not see the room within as worthy of a visit once she can enter, but she wants the opportunity nonetheless. For us bipeds, what is it about open doors that stirs our curiosity? Who can walk down a hall of doors where most are closed and not peek inside the ones ajar? A hotel, office, hospital – wherever we are, we must look! What do we expect to find inside?

Don’t tell me you walk on focused with your eyes straight forward. I won’t believe you. I know you slow your pace slightly to get as much of a look as possible as you approach. Isn’t it awkward when you turn your head as you are walking past and end up looking face to face with someone whose expression is always, “why is this person staring at me?”

Uhhh, you left the door open!

When you were a kid, did you think of doors as some sort of portal with endless possibilities? Every door was a wardrobe that could take you to Narnia. Bugs Bunny cemented that feeling with the recurrent theme of being chased down a hall by coming and going through random doors completely out of time and sequence. The heart-shaped monster was my favorite chaser.

 

 

Heart monster

I heard a commotion in our den and opened the door of our bedroom recently to investigate. It was not a magic portal, but I did learn a lesson. One should always make sure they are fully dressed when exploring what may be beyond closed doors. That became a door one daughter wishes had remained closed and a memory her visitor wishes he could erase.

As I see it, there are a number of potential doors.

  • Closed doors that should remain closed
  • Closed doors that need to be opened
  • Locked doors with no hope of admittance
  • Locked doors to which we have the key
  • Doors sealed for our protection
  • Doors sealed for the protection of those inside
  • Open doors that we should enter
  • Open doors we should pass by

The list goes on, but you get my point. Life is a series of one door after another. When one comes to a life door, he or she should decide on the best and worse case scenarios before passing under the threshold. Count the cost, as it were. I currently find myself standing in front of an open door and I have yet to decide how great the cost of entry. It seems attractive, but I find myself somewhat intimidated by its potential. What I lack is discernment about this particular door, thus all of my musing about doors in general. And so, I sit at the frame and pray, think, and wonder what could be inside. It is daunting, but I remember James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

I need wisdom. Either that or a heart-shaped monster to chase me in or away.

 

 


10 Comments on The Open Door, last added: 5/19/2014
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11. For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math

Math is on my mind lately as I wrap up the Parallelogram series. (Yes, Dear Readers, Book 4 is coming! There are just so many words.) I, like my main character Audie in the series, enjoy quantum physics but do not enjoy the math. Or, to put it less charitably, cannot do the math.

But I can’t help wondering if I would have had a completely different attitude toward math in school if I’d had a teacher like this. Or at least seen a demonstration like this. Because there’s no doubt Arthur Benjamin makes math FUN. (Although no matter how fun it is, I still think there’s no way mere mortals could do what he does.)

Enjoy!

7 Comments on For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math, last added: 5/8/2014
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12. Becoming the Possible You

I’m reading two great books right now by Jean Houston: The Possible Human : A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities and A Passion for the Possible: A Guide to Realizing Your True Potential.

The premise of both is this: We’ve heard all our lives that we’re only using a tiny fraction of our brains, but then . . . we just accept that and move on. Why not instead retrain ourselves to use more of the hidden brain? Why not make the effort to access more of our potential in thought and behavior?

The thing I love about her books is she doesn’t make it hard. You don’t have to go to some boot camp of personality reconditioning where you sort out all your problems and your flaws and then sweat your way through getting rid of them.

Jean Houston’s books are relaxing. Her mental and visualization exercises are some of the best I’ve ever read and tried. I’ve turned other people onto her books, and they agree: it’s all so easy. And fun and (here’s that word again) relaxing. I’m into any self-improvement that makes me feel like I’ve been at a mental spa for half an hour, or even for five minutes. And some of her exercises take that little time.

One of my favorite visualization exercises of hers is walking up to a giant oak door that has a sign above it saying Room of the Skill. Deciding what skill you’d like to learn in there, then entering and feeling it in the air all around you. Maybe you’d like to learn to play the violin. You enter and violinness is already sealed into that room, and it starts seeping into your pores and you breathe it in and it sticks to your hair and it soaks into your bones.

There are other parts of the visualization that are important to gaining the skill–and I urge you to read the books to really get the full power of them–but I really love just that opening image of It’s already here. You’re already getting it. You don’t have to wait.

I’ve mentioned before my experiments in getting over my fears by just postponing when I want to feel them. The Jean Houston books open up another way of becoming what she calls The Possible Human. And what we’ll call The Possible You.

Let’s say you believe you have certain personality and physical traits: you’re shy. You’re not good at sports. You get angry easily. You’re a slob. You overeat. Whatever it is, I’m sure you could make up a list of four or five things right now with no effort.

What if you just decided Not anymore? And what if you also decided that there didn’t have to be any steps in between now and that next thing. You could just stop what you were doing before and start doing the new thing right now, right away, just decide.

Years ago I read a story in some Norman Vincent Peale book about a salesman who was having a really hard time. He couldn’t meet his sales goals, he felt awkward and ineffective around people–he was, in short, a failure.

And he got tired of that. Got tired of constantly having to stress over his paycheck and his bills, got tired of feeling so inadequate at a job where he actually meant to do well.

So one night he came home from another unsuccessful day on the road and decided That’s it. Enough. He peeled off his unsuccessful suit and took a bath. And decided during that bath that when he stepped out, he was a new man.

He threw away the old suit. Went out and bought a new, successful one (not expensive, just new. Different). And without waiting to go through some 9-step program of becoming a successful salesman, he just was one. He decided. He started behaving the way a successful salesman already does. No explanation to people who saw the change, no need to announce it to the world, just Do. Go. Be him.

By the end of the year he was the top salesman in the region. It looked like magic, but it was really just change. Deciding and then changing–right away.

I’ve done that, too. There was a time in my life when I got really tired of feeling shy. It was making me feel bad in social situations and even just stepping out my door into the world. I didn’t like it. It was a bad habit I’d picked up somewhere in my childhood, and I’d acted like it was just the way things were for the next however many years.

But one day I just told myself, “I’m not shy anymore.” And then in every single situation from then on, I made all my decisions based on that new law. I’d smile at people. Be friendly. Laugh when I felt like it. Little moments all day long, every day, when I let myself be different than I had been for years and years.

And what was key to pulling that off was I didn’t feel the need to explain the change to anyone. I got to skip all the steps of changing a little bit one day, a little bit more the next. I was like that salesman taking a bath and coming out a new person.

If anyone did ask me about the difference, I’d just say, “I’m not shy anymore” and move on. People don’t really need more explanation than that. They’re usually too busy thinking about their own lives.

I’ve also done the experiment with physical skills like athletic pursuits. Instead of telling myself “This is hard! It’s going to take a long time to learn this,” I’ve practiced just already being good at it. Letting it come easily instead of going through the performance of pretending to myself it’s difficult.

So much of what we do when we hold ourselves back really is performance. It’s theater. We’re so comfortable in our role of being shy, awkward, bad at math, a bad cook, bad at sports, ugly, scared (fill in your own blank) we just keep playing that part without ever realizing it’s only a part.

But if instead you start picturing The Possible You, the one who looks a certain way, is confident, has awesome skills, is friendly and happy (fill in your own blank), and then you just go ahead and begin being that version of you, right now, no middle steps, no announcements to the world–isn’t that a much better way of evolving into the next stage of you right now? Isn’t it time? Why do you have to wait?

In a way, it’s reverse-engineering your life. You think about how you’d like to be when you’re 80 or 60 or 19 or even a week from now, and rather than just hope you’ll turn out that way, you go ahead and become that right now. Skip all the time and skip all the steps.

The only steps you really do need to take are behaving the way that version of you behaves. Every moment of every day. And that includes reading the books that person reads, spending time with the people that person loves to be around, maybe taking the classes that person takes to learn the skills he or she loves to have.

And it means changing the things you hear yourself say. Because your ears are hearing it and your brain is taking it in. When you make a new choice and hear yourself say, even if it’s in a whisper just to you, “That’s right, because I’m not shy anymore,” it solidifies that new Possible You that you’ve become. Not “are” becoming, but “have become.” Because you already did that the moment you decided.

Why have I written this entire essay? For a couple of reasons: I’m not shy anymore. I love sharing my experiments and experiences with others. I’m completely confident writing in public and letting other people see my work.

I wasn’t always that way. But then I decided.

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13. Why I Am Ready For A Writing Conference

Spring is almost here, and that sense of spring - rebirth, renewal - has me thinking about making new vows for my writing career. It seems like every time I establish a goal, something unexpected happens and I end up off track.

That's why my first - and perhaps my only - vow is to get thee to a writer's conference ASAP. My only problem: the writer's guild workshop I want to attend is the same weekend as my state's press association convention. Since I'm the managing editor of a weekly newspaper, I feel like that should be the choice I make. Yet, our state's writer's guild is hosting some big name freelance and fiction writers who I have read (translate: adored and devoured every word) for years.

What's a writer to do?

No matter which conference I end up attending, I have three reasons why I am ready:

  1. Expand my horizons. I'm a freelancer by design and enjoy the newspaper and magazine business. Still, I've written two plays and I am intrigued with flash fiction. Attending a conference, especially one with a variety of classes, will let me investigate other types of writing that I may not have considered. 
  2. Practical, hands-on experience. One conference I'm contemplating offers direct instruction instead of roundtable discussions. I like the idea of being given certain elements that I can twist and stretch to create a new piece. I'm considering it an experiment, of sorts, where I can try out the latest, greatest technology and decide if it will streamline my writing process.
  3. Opportunities to listen. One of the main reasons I'm excited about one of these conferences in particular is because several authors are reading their work. There's something intimate about an author sharing his or her creation, hearing the rhythm and intonation they give each word and sentence. It makes me think about phrasing and structure and how they cram so much information and power into a single word or section.
Sure I'm looking forward to networking, meeting new people, and ok, having a weekend getaway, but the selling point, for me, is the opportunity to get excited about writing once more and know that what I write makes a difference.

By LuAnn Schindler

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14. Spark: Kallie George & Genevieve Cote

Book: Spark
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Geneviève Côté 
Pages: 44
Age Range: 5-8

Spark is a delightful easy reader by Kallie George and Geneviève Côté, the first of a new series from Simply Read Books. It consists of five short chapters, with extensive color illustrations. Spark is about a young dragon who struggles to control his flames. His parents attempt three lessons (the middle chapters) to teach him flame-breath management, but nothing works. Spark is simply not ready. But sometimes time is all you need. And when Spark's birthday rolls around, he's ready to give it another try. 

What I like about Spark is that although it's meant for new readers, it's plenty interesting enough to hold a child's attention. Spark is a sympathetic character. Five year old readers will probably be savvy enough to understand the parallels with potty training or learning to ride a bike, but the message of waiting until you are ready remains secondary to Spark's personality. There's humor in Spark aimed at parents, too, which is always appreciated in a book that's likely to be read over and over again. For example:

"Spark tried to be careful.
It was hard.

ACHOO!
He set his hankie on fire.

COUGH! COUGH!
He set some leaves on fire.

Mama got a book:
How to Tame Flames

Mama and Papa both read it."

Yes, what parent hasn't turned to a book for help with something?

Spark is relatively advanced in terms of vocabulary for an early reader. There are words like "crackle", "marshmallow", and "phoenix". But many of the more challenging words are repeated multiple times through the book, and are made clear by Côté's illustrations. 

These illustrations are beautiful. The dragons are drawn with a thick pencil outline, and then filled in with watercolor. This gives the pictures the appearance of something a child could have done. Except that your average child won't be able to use facial expressions to convey mood, and add humor. Spark's birthday party is a particularly joyous celebration, populated by whimsical creatures (including a "troll" who looks a lot like a regular boy). I challenge any five year old not to relate to and enjoy Spark. 

Highly recommended for home or library use. I look forward to future books in this planned series. I also look forward to reading Spark with my daughter tonight before bed. Simply lovely. 

Publisher: Simply Read Books (@simplyreadbooks)
Publication Date: November 30, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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15. Reading Aloud to Kids Builds Background Knowledge

I recently read the 7th edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook (more details here). The section (in Chapter 1) on Background Knowledge stood out for me. Trelease says: 

"Background knowledge is one reason children who read the most bring the largest amount of information to the learning table and thus understand more of what the teacher of the textbook is teaching... For the impoverished child lacking the travel portfolio of affluence, the best way to accumulate background knowledge is by either reading or being read to." (Page 13-14)

There is no question that my daughter has acquired background knowledge from books. Recently we were in the parking lot at the grocery store, and a taxi cab passed by. My daughter said: "Look! A taxi cab! I've never seen one in real life before." (Forgetting various airport trips, I guess.) She had, however, seen a taxi cab in Night Light by Nicholas Blechman. And despite the one in the book having been somewhat stylized, the rendition was accurate enough for my Baby Bookworm to know one when she saw it. 

Do you have examples of ways that your child has used books to build background knowledge? Or is this so pervasive that you don't even notice? 

See also my related post about making connections between books and day-to-day life, from this year's Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

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16. The Quantum Classroom

public_domain_astronomy_23

Quick! What’s behind you right now? Did you peek over to see desks, the wallpaper, students, books, or toys? Were those objects there even before you looked at them? Are they there now, even though you’re reading this instead of seeing them? As strange as it sounds, some scientists believe that nothing exists definitely until someone measures it, such as you did with your eyes and ears. These scientists work in a field of science called Quantum Mechanics.

In the early 1900s, smarty-pants scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg studied, experimented and argued over the question of what light was made of. Light was very mysterious to scientists at the time, because in some experiments it acted like a wave, similar to the invisible radio and magnetic waves all around us. In other experiments though, light acted like a particle, a solid object like a Pop Tart, a textbook, a penny, a skyscraper… Anything that’s in one place and that weighs something is a particle. It didn’t seem to make sense for something to be an invisible wave and a solid particle at the same time, but in test after test, light was both! You might think it was time for these scientists to turn in their labcoats and get new jobs… this was too hard to figure out! Instead of giving up though, the scientists continued experimenting and studying the subject until they found a solution: light is a wave until it gets observed, then it becomes a solid particle!

This was huge news for scientists. If light acts like this, then other solid objects may not be so solid after all too. The scientists studying Quantum Mechanics presented this thought-provoking possibility: that that the world is actually a wave of possibilities until we observe it, then it becomes the solid place we can feel, touch, taste and smell. It’s a bit like hiding trash under your bed: if you can’t see it, it’s not there!


1 Comments on The Quantum Classroom, last added: 1/31/2013
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17. Storytelling Thurs??? Friday (oops)

I just finished The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean.  Not a story book at all.  HOWEVER, Kean tells the stories of how dozens of scientists, explorers, and other learned folks - to say nothing of isolated Scandinavian villagers and good old Neanderthal - contributed to what we know about DNA, the building block of our very selves.

If Kean had given his readers, "Just the facts, Ma'am," as Joe Friday was wont to say, I would never have finished the book.  The science is daunting - all those A's and C's and G's and T's and mitochondria and mtDNA and messenger RNA and, please, please DON'T ask me what these things are (I sort of know but I will bungle it, I'm sure).  But the stories, the life histories, the theories, the mangled logic, the loves, the victories and failures...the embarrassments and personalities - even the insane experiments - add them all together and you have a page turner.  Man, that Sam Kean can sure tell a good story.

And after we find out everything that is now known about DNA, Kean tells us stories of how scientists hope to use what they have learned.  DNA is awesome.  We, this world, all living things - totally awesome and scary and thrilling and wow....  Read the book.

Storytelling is a most effective way to get humans to swallow facts and remember them.  There is an organization dedicated to helping educators teach through storytelling.  Good Stories for Good Learning is made up of storytellers and educators who have seen how their personal stories have made the subjects they were teaching become real to their students.  Adding stories, your own or folktales or riddle tales or other people's stories, brings life to learning.  Try it.

There are studies that have shown how the brain reacts to stories differently than to lectures, and there are studies that have proven that students remember the stories they hear - and the facts attached to the stories - longer than those facts without stories.  (And, yes, I promise to share links to some of those studies soon but I am already a DAY LATE with this post, OK?  You can trust me.  Honest.)

So the next time you want to make a point, or help someone remember a fact, or teach something to someone, do what Sam Kean did in his book and what effective teachers are doing in classrooms all over the place - AND what humans have been doing since language began.  Tell a story.

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18. Messy Martha

Messy Martha, an educational book I illustrated recently, is now available on Reading A-Z.com,
 an excellent resource for teachers.



Here's a couple more images ...






Toodles!
Hazel

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19. HOLIDAY BOOK GIVEAWAY !


TWO
Holiday Season
FREEBY Book DEALS

That will make YOUR KIDS happy!


READING
a

Magic Carpet Ride

to

FUN, ADVENTURE and LEARNING

Go to 
Margot's Magic Carpet
.
to leave your answer


OR
BUY any BOOK
from my website

and get a
FREE COPY

of my fun, eBook adventure for kids
+
I will AUTOGRAPH each book.

Written especially to celebrate the WOW factor
that gets kids READING!



TWO FREE BOOK DEALS YOUR KIDS WILL
LOVE!



******************************************
Give BOOKS this  Holiday Season

******************************************


* Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques
http://www.margotfinke.com

* Margot's Magic Carpet
http://perfectmagiccarpet.blogspot.com/





****************************







2 Comments on HOLIDAY BOOK GIVEAWAY !, last added: 12/2/2011
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20. Facebook Contest…Enter to Win!

Don’t pass this up guys! It’s easy and fun, and you could win your own personal elibrary. Starting now through December 31, check out our facebook page and post on our wall.  All you have to do is write your favorite thing about reading or the holidays.  And hey, you could “Like” us while you’re at it!

For example my favorite thing about Christmas is the hot Russian tea at my hometown tree farm, and the smell of my favorite Christmas tree candle. 

If you are in the holiday spirit to share your favorite thing about the holidays, or your favorite thing about reading, do it now while you still have a chance to win! We will be giving out 5 free personal elibraries between now and the end of December.

With one click, these eBooks read aloud to the children and page-flip from the beginning of a story to the end. Put a child in front of this eLibrary, and they will “play” for hours on end reading and listening to wonderful, award-winning picture books. We encourage parents to take this excitement and discuss the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of each ebook with their child. Each book homepage also has 40-60 pages of cross-curricular Teaching Activities plus 3 Interactive Reading Comprehension and Math Quizzes.

And since I’m in such a holiday spirit, I can’t help but share the recipe to the best hot winter drink EVER!

  • 1 cup of instant tea
  • 2 cups of tang
  • 1 tsp of cloves
  • 1 package of Wylers lemonade mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (or less depending on taste)

Directions: Mix all of this together and keep it in a tightly sealed jar. Use 2 heaping teaspoons for one cup of tea.

And Wha Lah! There you have it…the best winter drink of all time!


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21. Little Star Books

Little Star Books is a little eBook publishing venture I have embarked upon with celebrated children's book author and editor, Moira Butterfield. We are just publishing to Amazon's Kindle at the moment. Our first two titles are now live. (In fact one of them is downloadable for free right now (April 2nd and 3rd))

The two titles are: My Happy Bookand My Busy Book

Or if you are in the UK: My Happy Book and My Busy Book


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22. Mingo Mung’s : Hows and whys of sprouting seeds

 

Hey! I’m Mingo Mung Bean the speediest sprout in Seed City! Mung Beans are ready to eat in just 3 days, let me share with you some of the hows and whys of sprouting beans and seeds.

You can make your own sprouting jar with a jam jar conversion kit – a piece of net and a rubber band.  The book The Mighty Messenger starring me, Mingo Mung comes with Mung Beans, the jam jar conversion kit, instructions and a recipe.

 

 

 

mungbean2

This is what mung beans look like when they are ready to eat, shiny white skin like my face, curly bits like my hair and green shells.

Sprouting with Mingo Mung

So you sprouted your little pack of mung beans, how did you like them? Did you pop them in to your mouth as soon as they were ready? Or did you choose some delicious ingredients to mix them with in a stir fry? However you ate your mung beans, they aren’t the only things you can sprout, have a look in your store cupboard and see what else might sprout.

What else can you sprout?

I asked Shena to take a look in her kitchen cupboard, this is what she found…

storecupboard

Lentils sprout really easily and have a great flavour. You can also try peas and other beans like aduki, you may discover more mung beans, chick peas too. Have a go! Some beans can’t be eaten raw, kidney and black eye beans. If you are unsure as to whether a seed or bean can be eaten raw have a look here. Let us know what you sprout.

If you can not find anything in your store cupboard visit Secret Seed Society Shop there are variety packs of beans and seeds and gadgets so you can sprout for all the family.

sproutingjars

sunflower seed sprouting

Why should you sprout beans and seeds?

Inside every bean and seed is the secret to life. A seed contains so much goodness that it can grow into a whole plant, so seeds are very nutritious. The magic of seeds is that all that nutrition is locked away and preserved. Once you you sprout a seed you unlock it and your body can access that goodness easily and without the farting that beans that aren’t sprouted are famous for! Yes, no farting!

 

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23. Elefanta by Vanita Oelschlager

5 Stars   An elephant never forgets, or does he?  Elefante is a young elephant who forgets to tie his shoes and then falls down, having tripped over those laces he forgot to tie.  He forgets to clean up his toys and put them where they belong.  His sister tripped over the mess Elefante left [...]

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24. Adjusting to a New Teacher

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Freefotouk

Our beloved Sunday water aerobics instructor was replaced recently. The class is having a hard time adjusting to the new instructor. She uses a different set of moves and it's hard to hear her instructions. She has dismissed one of my favorite moves, saying that it goes against the guidelines of <insert unknown acronym>.

I've been thinking a lot these past few weeks about what it's like for our students every fall as they adjust to new teachers and what we can do help them start thinking about what to expect and how to deal with the changes. Things we can do this spring while our students are still a part of our close-knit, safe and predictable classroom communities include:

• Talk about changes they've undergone in the past. List the positives of change along with the negatives. 
• Think about what they've learned from favorite teachers. Remind them that when you move from teacher to teacher, you carry them all with you -- you never really leave a favorite teacher behind.
We can encourage our students to
• Be patient. Give the new teacher a chance. 
• Be an independent learner. (For our children, this might mean reinforcing the importance of the learning they do on their own at home after school and on weekends and holidays. For me, it has meant abandoning the water aerobics class in favor of my own self-styled hour of water exercise. It feels good to swim laps again, and to decide for myself what arm, leg, and core exercises I'll do and for how long.)

In the fall...(I can't believe I just wrote that! We have only 6 days of school left before the much-needed summer break, and I'm thinking about next fall!!!)...In the fall, when I greet a new group of students, I'll try to be even more aware of the adjustments they are going through as we figure each other out. I'll try to remember to

• Ask for their input as we establish routines and norms and make the classroom ours
• Have them tell me the things they loved about teachers in the past...not that I could make any promises that I would be just like them, but so that we can explore my similarities and differences to their former teachers. 
• Be gentle as I guide them in their learning so that I don't completely contradict or disregard what another teacher taught them, but rather show them how learning is layered, and how the new learning they do with me will be added to, but will not replace their previous learning.

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25. Speaking this weekend in Walnut Creek

Oh woe, is the blog sadly left aside as life swirled around me. Yes I had a wonderful tour for “Isabella Girl on the Go.” Someday I am sure to tell you all about it, with pictures, but sadly it is in line behind telling you all about BFNBT #2 that was completed last year.

End result = Girl on the Go was warmly received, I reconfirmed my ham- status in schools across the United States, and Girl on the Go was on the NY Times Bestselling list.

Been working furiously on Isabella book for next year (details to follow).

Kids have all passed with mostly flying colors and we are in “…relax, it’s the first week of summer vacation” mode.

But I am working, really, because I am preparing for a talk in Walnut Creek this weekend!

Yup, that’s right, I will be giving away the secret to my success. Or something like that.

Related posts:

  1. School’s Out for Summer (Summer)
  2. Thank a teacher
  3. My head might actually spin off my body

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