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Something that made me sad, then happy, then sad after my friend Nelson died was finding our email exchange about how he wanted to start writing again.
And thank you for thinking me a writer, or at least having the seed — I know that having the chops requires craft. And craft requires time, sweat and not a little bit of Jameson’s. I thought about what you said, though. Maybe essays would be a start; the idea of writing the great American novel is outside both my ability and my reality. I am starting to think that reading email for a living has reduced my attention span a bit too much for that level of dedication. Sad, that. But words will always fascinate and entertain me, so if they find a way to come out in a way that someone else would enjoy — that would be something. Thankfully, some of them entertained you enough that summer to call me in the first place.
He sent this soon after the last time we saw each other in New York, in November 2012, right before Hurricane Sandy. I remember being so glad he was thinking this way. The letters he wrote to me while he was in the army — I’ve written about that era a few times — were a joy. I hoped he’d find his way back to the page.
Nelson and I first got to know each other in a high school writing class — the one I took my senior year that also led me to my friend Lili, who died ten years ago of pancreatic cancer, and to our teacher, Mrs. Kjos, who died of ovarian cancer in 2008. I guess this is what being in your forties is like.
Last night I dreamed that I was reading a collection of short stories Nelson had written, a book he self-published knowing he would die soon. In the dream he was still alive. Waking up this morning was the most bittersweet thing.Add a Comment
Centrala is a Polish indie comics publisher that recently opened a London office, which s helping their books get wider distribution. They have three new books including what sounds like an intriguing tale about two German police officers who join the Klan to make friends and meet girls, an anthology mixing comics and cooking and a book adapting a famous Polish poem about a train into a 60 foot long comic! Eastern European comics are usually thought of as an "emerging" scene, but with publishers like Centrala and the Latvian kuš! collective getting notice, they've emerged quite a bit. Here's the Centrala books, which are all available for order.Add a Comment
August 2nd - also known as International Friendship Day- is almost here. (I know, summer is going by WAY too fast).
In honor of International Friendship Day, break out your half of your friendship heart necklace and take some time to remind others how much they mean to you. If you’re unable to make plans to enjoy each other’s company, a simple gesture, such as a card or hand-written letter, will certainly make them feel loved.
Better yet, say it with a book! Reading books about friendship gives you an opportunity to talk about the characteristics of a good friend, and seeing others from diverse backgrounds sharing and being kind to each other positively affects how children will interact and treat others.
Here are 8 books that celebrate friendship and some fun activities to make International Friendship Day a memorable one.
One of the simplest and most appreciated gestures is to make someone a card to let them know you’re thinking of them. Receiving anything heartfelt in the mail is a rare and welcomed occurrence these days.
You don’t need to go to summer camp to make these! They make great gifts and they’re also fun to make.
International Friendship Day isn’t just about your closest friends. Reach out and be a friend to others.
Whether it be a close or new friend-near or far- taking the time to write a letter shows how much you care.
Veronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.Add a Comment
Several years ago I attended the SCBWI summer conference and one of the wonderful people I met was Rachel Marks. Super talented as both a writer and an artist, she had an incredible joy for life, due in part to being a cancer survivor. Rachel was rooming with Paige Britt and both of them had […]Add a Comment
Written by Annette LeBox
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Dial Books for Young Readers 3/10/2015
40 pages Age 3 to 5
“Peace is an offering.
A muffin or a peach.
A birthday invitation.
A trip to the beach.
“Follow these neighborhood children as they find love in everyday things—in sunlight shining through leaves and cookies shared with friends—and learn that peace is all around, if you just look for it.”
Peace is an Offering contains a strong message about what the abstract concept of peace means for the young (and old): helping one another, being kind, joining together, and enjoying all aspects of life with respect to your family, friends, and neighbors. Peace does not need to be overcomplicated or forced. Peace is the accumulation of all the small, meaningful acts we do each day.
“Will you stay with me?
Will you be my friend?
Will you listen to my story
till the very end?”
The children in this large neighborhood, make, find, and (most importantly), show kindness to each other every day in simple heartfelt ways. The poem is beautifully written and illustrated. Children will easily understand each deftly visualized line or verse of the poem. Multicultural children interact with each other, families spend time together, and friends stay close.
What is not to love about Peace is an Offering? Nothing, though the spread alluding to 911 seems unnecessary. The verse feels out of place, as does the illustration, which deviates from the light, airy, everyday life depicted on the other spreads (see two examples here). but for those who lost a loved one or friend, the spread may provide comfort. Peace is an Offering is a gratifying read; uplifting and inspiring young and old alike. The author finishes the poem by offering advice to children.
So offer a cookie,
Walk away from a fight.
Comfort a friend
Through the long, dark night.
I loved every aspect of every spread. The poetry speaks to the heart. Pencil and watercolor illustrations have those details I rave about. Simply said, Peace is an Offering is a joy to read.
PEACE IS AN OFFERING. Text copyright © 2015 by Annette LeBox. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Graegin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Penguin Random House, NY.
Purchase Peace is an Offering at Amazon—B&N—Book Depository—Penguin Random House.
Learn more about Peace is an Offering HERE.
Meet the author, Annette LeBox, at her website: http://annettelebox.com/
Meet the illustrator, Stephanie Graegin, at her website: http://graegin.com/
Find more picture books at Dial Books for Young Readers website: http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/dialbooksforyoungreaders/
Dial Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Penguin Random House. http://www.penguin.com/children/
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
When life throws you down a crooked track, hold close your family, latch onto new friends, throw up your hands and find something to smile about.
While 2014 was definitely a crooked track for us, I want to close it with a look to the good. Shortly after our diagnosis, I had a friend reach out to me amidst his own health crisis. My advice to him was, “Hear the negative, focus on the positive and know that God has both covered.”
Good advice? I think so – but much easier said than done. This world screams negative. We are bombarded with the bad. The nightly news covers everything wrong with our world first and longest before they throw in one human interest story just before saying good night. (If you missed Kylie on the news, you can watch it HERE)
While sifting through the ruins of this broken world, how do we see what is good? I have seen a lot of things in my 47 years. To borrow the movie title, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have driven a man out of the slum of Port ‘au Prince, Haiti and watched as he was given the keys to his new home. I have been fortunate enough to help put a roof on a hut in Swaziland for a family decimated by HIV. Beauty plucked from ugly, good snatched from bad. Both started with a choice to engage.
Despite my experiences, never in my life have I seen the good side of humanity than from the day Kylie was diagnosed with cancer. The flood of well-wishes, prayers, and support for our family has been as overwhelming as the diagnosis itself. When you hear the words, “Your child has cancer,” the temptation is to curl up in the fetal position, shut out the world and cry. When I was at my weakest, I found an abundance of arms to hold me.
Friends, family, our school and church rallied to our side.
The nurses, doctors, childlife specialists, and staff of the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta became dear partners in this journey. We also found great care at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
Organizations came alongside to help navigate and let us know we aren’t alone: 1 Million for Anna, Make-A-Wish, Cure Childhood Cancer, The Truth 365, Rally Foundation, Melodic Caring Project, The Jesse Rees Foundation, Along Comes Hope, 3/32 Foundation, Blessed Beauty, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts, Kingdom Kids, Lily’s Run.
We have seen built a network of people who pray faithfully for Kylie. To be totally honest, I admit there are times when I cannot lift a word to heaven. Maybe a grunt, maybe an angry shake of the fist. Without a doubt, I know there are many people praying for my little girl when I can’t. That is incredibly humbling.
Then there is encouragement and love. Kylie gets cards and letters daily. At least a dozen young ladies have donated their hair in Kylie’s honor. People all across the country and literally around the world have been #SmileyForKylie. As of today, 87 countries have done it. Grown men have written it on their bald heads.
Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we have received over 10,000 smiling selfies for Kylie. Unreal. We have gotten them from celebrities, athletes, and Kylie’s beloved Broadway performers. Idina Menzel made a video. Kristin Chenoweth made two pics and talked about her on a radio show. Laura Osnes posted a word of encouragement to her. She got a box of Broadway treats from Hunter Foster. She had pics from 9 out of 12 musicals nominated for Tony Awards, and the cast of her favorite show, Aladdin have reached out to her over and over again. Sometimes we can trace the web that led to the picture, but most of the time we have no idea how they happen – we have no line to these people. It’s just good. And it is out there – making a choice to engage with our little girl in a time when she so desperately needs it. A thank you will never be enough, but all I can offer.
Regardless of your view of the Bible, Philippians 4:8 gives us sage advice:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I’ll not be able to change everyone’s mind. You can remain a cynic if you choose to. But the things I have experienced in 2014 prove to me that there is good in this world. I choose to think about such things – it is what has kept me going.
In 2015, we look forward to hearing the words: No Evidence of Disease and watching Kylie resume a normal life. That will be something worth throwing up our hands and smiling about.
Happy New Year from Portsong, your humble mayor & Kylie
Every year as more and more retailers are opening up earlier than ever on Thanksgiving, I look forward to the P.C. Richard & Sons advertisement they publish in many newspapers across the nation at this time of the year.
The most disingenuous three words in the English language. Unless you are the ultimate cynic and cast your lot with I love you. I hope that’s not the case.
Do we ever mean it when we ask? Really? When is the last time you passed someone in the hall and said “how are you” and truly wanted to take the time to know how they were? I’ll bet it’s been a while.
I’m not holier than thou. I say it all the time and rarely care. If some slick gunslinger is quicker on the draw than me, I even add the oft-disregarded, “I am well, and you?” Of course, I don’t want to know.
I get these wild hairs – often they involve really stupid things, but this one actually had redeeming potential. I decided to spend my lunch hour in the lobby of my building asking people I saw, “How are you?” and giving them available time and a proper interest to see if they would answer.
Most people don’t stop long enough to notice my disarming voice beckoning them to unburden themselves. The first seven I asked kept moving and gave the appropriate return without so much as an upward glance.
I don’t believe that anyone is “fine” like these seven told me. Pawn your lies and rote responses elsewhere.
Number eight seemed to think I had serious mental problems and eyed me warily while reaching into her purse for either a small handgun or pepper spray. Needless to say I decided against an elevator ride with this charmer. “I’ll take the next one, Bonnie Parker.”
You can trap the elderly.
In walked a slow, older gentleman. Number nine. He began scanning the directory and seemed somewhat confused.
“How are you?” I asked in a very welcoming and reassuring tone.
“I’m fine young man, just fine,” he replied. Something was different, though. Before he spoke, he turned and made eye contact.
He was rather unkempt, smelled like my high school gym teacher, and had a thick bushel of hair growing out of each nostril. But he smiled warmly. In fact, he smiled all over… an infectious smiled that started at his lips, slowly ran through his eyes and worked its way off his person and onto me. I liked this old dude.
“Say, would you know where the office of Litton & Driscoll is located,” he asked.
“I think that’s on the fourth floor.”
He patted me gently on the chest with some paperwork he had rolled into a tube, like a kid’s telescope. “Thank you, friend.”
“Don’t mention it.” Judging from his demeanor, this might be my first victim who actually was okay. He might just be fine. I had to be certain, though. “Are you sure you are fine?”
He looked at me long whilst I returned my best, biggest, dopiest smile.
“Well, I am headed up to settle my wife’s affairs. So, if you want an honest answer, I suppose I’m not fine.”
Oh boy… Panic! In over my head… I thought I would learn about a foot ailment… or a wayward kitten. Not this. Why am I so stupid? All of me wanted to say, “I’m fine, and you?” But I got myself into this.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine.”
“Yes, sir. For 22 years now.”
“Seem young for that.”
I really liked this old dude.
“How long were you married?”
“Fifty-three years last August….”
And so began a wonderful story of love and loss.
You know what? I’m glad I asked. In fact, I’m going to break the habit of asking when I don’t care. From now on, I will only ask, “how are you” if I have time and interest in the answer. Try it yourself. Better yet, come join Joseph and me for coffee tomorrow morning and see that infectious smile.
Justice is a matter of belief that fairness has won the day, that truth and honesty has prevailed …
FRIENDS!! If you are like me, you have a great group of friends. My friends teach me the lessons of life by the way they live. My friend Lucy is a servant. My friend Nancy has a huge loving heart. My friend Ronnie taught me how to draw cartoons. My friend Leana is wise. My friend Karen is my party friend, always bringing us all together to laugh. My friend JoAnn is a chef! My friend Juanita is a creative soul. My friend Rachelle is soft-hearted. My friend Lin is a kindred spirit. My friend Sue is an amazing teacher. All my artist friends AMAZE me! … the list goes on. All are unique. All are a part of my heart. I am thankful!
Last week I spent time with my Vivian friend. We were going to go visit our friend Clara in a nursing home. I wrote out a little card and tucked it in my purse. When Vivian got to my home she came bearing flowers, magazines and muffins! All were for Clara. I watched Vivian talk to Clara. She was all there, in the moment, not thinking about what she was going to do when we left. She was completely present and asking Clara this and that. It was wonderful to watch. Her heart was bursting with love. It made me smile. THANK YOU VIV!
You see, to have friends you have to be a friend. We can all improve.
You have to get outside yourself and look into their faces and participate in their lives. Lives touching lives makes us all better people.
|Talking About Life and Death|
|A teen with cancer is a difficult thing to understand.|
|Life is fleeting.|
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?
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)
Inspired by the Sketch Dailies topic today, and how much I loved using ink yesterday I created this! I know how nice it is to snuggle with your best friend, especially if it is sort of smelly, but happy with a tail.Add a Comment
Watching some Harry Potter!Add a Comment
written by Mark Myers
published by Mark Myers 12/19/2013
Age 8 to 13 222 pages
“Welcome to the sleepy little town of Portsong, Georgia where there is a struggle a foot. Unbeknownst to the current owner, Virgil Creech has his selfish eyes set on taking back a dog he considers his. To be fair, as the youngest of nine bickering and bustling brothers, Virgil has always had to fight for the few things he could call his own. In this case, the property in question ran away from Virgil several months prior and now wants nothing to do with the boy, for he has found a happy home with the kindly Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle. Undetered, Virgil teams up with reluctant friend, Henry Lee, to retrieve the dog.”
“That was a mark!” yelled Henry as he disappeared behind the row of elm trees to round up the ball.”
Four friends, Virgil, Henry, Willy, and Joe are playing in the town green (like a park) when Virgil kicks the ball hard and too high hitting Colonel Birdwhistle in the back of the head, knocking him out onto the pavement. The boys cautiously check to see if he is alive and Virgil accidentally causes Birdwhistle to hit his head again, knocking him cold. Later, at the hospital, Willy and Joe check on Birdwhistle and leave believing the boys have caused Birdwhistle to become blind. Willy, Joe, and Henry decide to find a dog, train it as a Seeing Eye dog, and give him to the Colonel.
At the city dump, the boys find a dirty, matted, and awful smelling mongrel. Henry gives the dog a half-hour session in leading the blind, and then takes the dog to the hospital, leaving it in Birdwhistle’s room. The Colonel takes the mutt home, cleans him up, and decides to keep him. The dog, now named Oscar, is now a happy dog.
Virgil realizes Oscar his is dog and is mad that Birdwhistle stole the dog from him. According to Virgil, Birdwhistle came right into his house and took Bertie (same dog, different name). Virgil is determined to get his dog back and enlists the help of his one friend, Henry Lee. Henry is determined to keep Virgil sway from Oscar. To complicate matters, a nationwide contest for a trip to Africa gets the town, including Virgil, up in a tizzy. Virgil knows he is the winner and must just wait for the day his name is called. When he returns from Africa, he will then get his dog back. But Colonel Birdwhistle has been entered hundreds of times by townsfolk who appreciate and admire him. Birdwhistle wins, causing Virgil to believe the Colonel has now stolen two things from him. He is madder than two Creech boys fighting over a chicken drumstick are. How will Henry contain Virgil and keep Oscar safe and with Birdwhistle. Can he do it?
Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption tells the story of two boys, Virgil, Henry, a British transplant, and the man’s dog, Oscar. Virgil is a mean boy, the last of nine boys. Not a day goes by that he is not beat or taken advantage by one of his brothers. In turn, Virgil always has a chip on his shoulder, beats up kids at school, must always get his way, and has no friends. Virgil’s temper is as short as a temper can possibly be. Henry is a kind, well-mannered boy from a fine family. After Virgil kicks a ball that knocks-out Colonel Birdwhistle, the boys, especially Henry and Virgil, are thrown together for survival.
The well-planned and well-written story will keep you turning the pages. The author understands the psyche of the twelve-year-old boy and offers explanations and comments throughout the book. At first, I thought these annoying, but as more and more pages turned, the narrative became more natural, the comments regarding boys in general became interesting, and the story became a smooth ride, except for the Virgil bumps along the way. Packed with humor, tender moments, and upheaval only two young boys can cause, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption will please adults as well as kids.
I enjoyed the story, which focused more on Henry and his life than on the main character, Virgil. As one reviewer has already pointed out, Henry should be the protagonist. Virgil is a perfect antagonist and causes most of Henry’s stress. Once Henry understands how Virgil treated his dog and how the dog ended up living in the city dump, he vows to keep Oscar with the Colonel. Even Oscar stays away from Virgil, refusing to go anywhere he can smell the boy—which is not hard for anyone to do. At one point, the author states that Virgil is the only Creech that did a selfless act. Not so, the two brothers who rescued Bertie (Oscar in a former life), and cared for the dog, albeit in a dump, thought only of the dog, not themselves. Seems any Creech could have a heart deep within his chest.
There are no illustrations in the story. Oscar is a small dog, one that Henry can easily pick up. The dog on the cover is not small. I do like the angry hate-the-world scowl on Virgil’s face. This accurately portrays the boy’s disposition. While reading the story, Colonel Birdwhistle looked very near the image on the cover. The houses seem out of place for an area of town filled with green grass. Maybe on the other side they would be correct. Having saidall that, for someone who has not read the story, the cover is inviting and makes you want to know what the scamp on the cover has done.
I am not overly fond of the trick Birdwhistle and George, Henry’s father, plays on the town when Birdwhistle decides not to accept the trip he won, without entering himself. I like the first part, but what is the difference, as Henry asks, between leaving for three months and hiding out, without your dog, for three months. The Colonel does not want to leave the town, where he feels accepted and a member of nearly every family, yet he is still gone from the children and the story hour Birdwhistle did not want to miss. It would have made more sense for the Colonel to feign an illness. The author wanted a twist that would delight the reader but I think this failed to hit the mark.
Kids who love adventure or family-spun stories will enjoy Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption. For his first book, Myers offered readers a well-crafted story, less the twist. There is a second Virgil Creech story to be released this Fall. I cannot wait to find out what bothers Virgil enough to make his face “glow red.” It is entitled, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper. There is no preview, so make of this title as you will. Just the idea of Virgil singing scares me.
For a middle grade boy’s perspective of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption click HERE.
VIRGIL CREECH TAKES A SWIPE AT REDEMPTION. Text copyright © 2013 by Mark Myers.
Learn more about Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption HERE.
copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd’s sensational middle grade debut novel, begs to be read aloud and shared with an audience of dreamers.Add a Comment
Welcome to the first of what I hope will be informative, entertaining blog posts … a bit about me and my work, as well as conversation about the world of children’s publishing.
Thanks to my involvement in SCBWI, I’ve developed friendships with writers and illustrators from all over, from Australia to America and lots of places in-between. I’ve had opportunities to learn about craft from some of the best writers in the business. This is why – if you ask me how to get your children’s book published – I will always tell you that joining SCBWI is the best first step, and the best investment you will ever make in your writing (or illustration) career.
I may also share tidbits here about works in progress and my radio commentaries, as well as news about other projects.
Mainly, I hope this will be a place where we can get to know each other, a place where I can share the wisdom I’ve learned from dear friends like the wonderful illustrator Priscilla Burris:
Until next time … write on!Add a Comment
I was just thinking that it’s not the perfect flower I look for in my photography, it’s the perfect feeling, same with my friends, they all have little flaws just like me but when I close my eyes and think of them I only know the sweet essence of their perfection and see how wonderful life is to let me see them … Love you all !