Time for Self-Care

The Anita Factor has been meeting for about five years now. And a cohesive family of friends we have become. Connections extend far beyond our circle of chairs at McNally Robinson booksellers, where we meet. We not only discuss writing, but often know what’s happening in each other’s personal lives as well. We are all a support system for each other in all ways. I don’t know what I would do without the connections of my fine Anitas, and Larry – our Anito! 🙂

Spinning Inward cover

At our last meeting, I was really struggling with finding something original to bring to the group for our teachable. And I personally, am having a fairly rough start to 2016, so was also having a bit of trouble getting my head in the right place to share any articles of sound writerly advice.

I considered what  to do and realized I need to breathe. And then it struck me. At this meeting I wasn’t going to focus on writing. I would focus on self-care and we’d take some time to breathe.

I have a wonderful book of meditations that are written for children to adults — Spinning Inward by Maureen Murdock.

Everyone enjoyed the first one, “Waterfall of White Light,” so much that we actually did a second. I have used these meditations with children and adults alike. They are beautiful and I highly recommend checking out this book if you are in need of some self-care time. Get your circle of friends together and take turns reading to each other in an inspiring quiet space.

Suzanne’s first novel, Empty Cup, is an edgy contemporary young adult story about a seventeen year old girl who lives through life’s ultimate betrayal. Suzanne lives in Winnipeg, MB.

Seasons Greetings!

Christmas cheers

Suzanne’s first novel, Empty Cup, is an edgy contemporary young adult story about a seventeen year old girl who lives through life’s ultimate betrayal. Suzanne lives in Winnipeg, MB.

I Love to Read Month: Celebrating Books and Writers

I-love-to-read-buttonIn Manitoba, where I live, February is “I Love to Read” month.  It’s a time when books are celebrated in schools, libraries and homes, when the benefits of reading are touted, and when readers of all ages are encouraged to hunker down with a good book during one of our coldest months.  Other regions around the globe offer their own versions of “I Love to Read” from British Columbia’s “D.E.A.R.”  (Drop Everything and Read) in April to the United States’ “Get Caught Reading” in May.  Whatever the name or month, the focus is the same – celebrating books and acknowledging the power they have to transform us.
Writers should celebrate, too.  We craft words and create the worlds that readers inhabit, and so “I Love to Read” and its close cousins are very much a tribute to those who write.  But since reading is the focus, perhaps it’s also a good time to reflect on our roots.  How and why did we become writers?  Did books influence our choices?  Does reading still influence us today?
In my case, books and reading played a huge role in shaping the writer I am now. Although I cannot recall being read to by my parents or siblings, I remember the first time a book totally transported me to another time and place. I was in grade 4.  The teacher – wise in the ways of keeping a restless group of children attentive – read a mystery novel to the class. I don’t recall the title or the author, but I remember the plot – a thrilling whodunit about a boy detective who solved a kidnap-murder case.  I hung on to every word and groaned with the rest of the class when the teacher closed the book at the end of each chapter.  Because of that experience, I became a voracious reader and the seeds of storytelling magic took root.
Read Aloud DailyWhen I became a middle grade teacher – then later a parent – I followed my grade 4 teacher’s lead. I read to my students and my own children daily. From a literacy-development point of view, I knew it was the correct thing to do.  Numerous research studies espouse the benefits of reading aloud to youngsters, even to those of high school age, but – I can admit it now – boosting reading comprehension was never my primary motive. I simply wanted for my students and children, the same experience I had myself in grade 4 – the glorious out-of-body feeling of being one with a community of others, all lost together in a gripping story that defies time and place.
I read aloud from a diverse menu. The Giver by Lois Lowry for its perspectives on society gone astray…Jesper by Carol Matas for its portrayal of moral dilemmas in wartime Europe… Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, for a heart-searing Southern story about a boy and his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann…Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel so we could follow Shade, a silverwing bat, on his epic journey towards maturity.
Best Christmas pageant everNot every offering was a heavyweight.  Each year, with the approach of the holiday season, I carved time out of the busy day to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson– a lighthearted account of sheep and shepherds running amuck at the annual community production.  As one, we chuckled as disaster unfolded then high-fived one another later when it was averted.
Books have always played an important role in my life.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.  But what about you?  What books transformed you?  How?  Why? I’d really like to know.
Other posts you might enjoy:
The Kid Inside
Say What, Mary Poppins?  Wise Words for the New Year
Making a Difference for Writers on a Shoestring Budget
Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 14 books for youngsters, the most recent being Missing in Paradise, his first middle grade novel. Currently he is searching for the next great idea.
For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Say What, Mary Poppins? Wise Words for the New Year

With a few days left in December, a new year hangs bright in our future beckoning us to make it even better than the previous one.  Many of us write New Year’s resolutions, set self-improvement goals, or simply pause to recalibrate our internal compasses before hurrying on.  But what if we left this to others – say to authors of books that we read and love?  What wisdom could they offer us through their characters as we forge ahead?

Here are fourteen golden snippets from popular kids’ books to help guide you through 2015:

Roald Dahl: The Mippins
Roald Dahl: The Mippins
wrinkle in time
Madeleine L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time

.Judith Viorst: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 

Shel Silverstein: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Rowling
J.K.Rowling: Harry Potter

 

P.L.Travers, Mary Poppins
P.L.Travers, Mary Poppins
Shel Silverstein: A Light in the Attic
Shel Silverstein: A Light in the Attic
Barrie: Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie: Peter Pan
J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter
J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter
L.Frank Baum: The Wizard of Oz
L.Frank Baum: The Wizard of Oz
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: The Little Prince

 

noteriety Aesop

 

oh-the-things-you-can-think

 Happy New Year, One and All!

Other posts you might enjoy:

Hanging Ornaments on Your Story Tree

Writer’s Friend: The Canadian Children’s book Centre

Rhymers are Readers – Maybe Writers, Too

Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 14 books for youngsters, the most recent being Missing in Paradise, his first middle grade novel.  Currently in a lull period, he is searching for the next great idea.

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

pURPLE, pLUM, & aUBERGINE

benjamin-moore-paints-chip-color-swatch-sample-and-palette712-x-358xIn other words…Colours. Here’s something to help with colours in writing.

I recently read the first chapters of someone else’s work, by the end of which he’d repeatedly used the word ‘brown’ to describe the horses, the whatchamacallits, the whozits and the thingamagigs. He hadn’t noticed til I pointed it out. And yet he is a writer of considerable imagination and descriptive power.

Yes the dinglehoppers were brown, but why not toss in a little chestnut, or say the thingy was ‘of a shade resembling dried cow dung?’ Give your reader a chuckle.

It is true in many cases that men see colours in more conglomerate tones. There is medically proven-some difference in the receptors blah blah blah. Where most women break down purple into, eggplant, mauve, lilac, aubergine, plum, lavendar, mulberry, even dusk, men will puzzle their brows for a moment and if they’re lucky, a light bulb will float above their head and they’ll say, “Oh! Purple!” Again, I generalize.colors

So, addressing colours in writing. We don’t want to litter our writing with ultramarine, ivory, maroon, heliotrope, lemon, flame, wisteria, azure,cardinal, celadon, cerulean, chartreuse, goldenrod, indigo, mazarine. . . I could go on ad nausem. But neither do we want to flog ‘brown’ to absolute death.

How to deal?

1–Use a basic colour name when you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to something, but just want to paint a basic picture for the reader.

2–If you want something to be noted more specifically, tag a good adjective in front of the basic colour (avoiding clichés like ‘flaming red’), or use a step-2 colour name like mauve–a little above basic and universally known.

3–At this level you want something to stand out. When you want to imply something indirectly. For example, a lady walks into the room. “Her silver heels sparkle out from under her trailing aubergine gown, shimmering dusk in the ambient light, as does her jet black hair, looped gracefully along her neck.”

I could have said, “Her silver heels showed beneath a long purple gown”. . . Snoring. . . Instead, the first description also sets the mood in the room and gives us an impression of the woman without relaying any physical description.

Word of caution before you wax eloquent with colour descriptions: Using the variant of brown above, “a shade resembling dried cow dung,” don’t use it to describe the hair of your fianceé. And don’t use “lemon yellow chiffon” to describe the pus from a zombie infection. No reader will be able to eat lemons again.

color2

Here’s a couple of links for fancy-pants colours to help you paint the writing town red Alizarin crimson:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colors:_A%E2%80%93F

http://www.colourlovers.com/web/blog/2008/04/22/all-120-crayon-names-color-codes-and-fun-facts

 

Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)
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