Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ready or Not: Here It Comes--New Year 2014!

Here we are at that crossroads of our lives once more.  An event called New Year's. The time for reflection, for taking care of regrets, for looking forward in a positive way. All this can be hard to achieve, as alas, the passing of time trumps our wishes of holding onto cherished memories and people, too.

A beginning of sorts, the holiday may as well have fledgling birds and apple blossoms, so full of renewal it can and should be. We wish for an array of changes, don't we?  Loss of weight. Readjustment of attitudes.  New goals.   Happier of times.  And on and on it goes.

But what really matters in this exercise?  For me, it speaks to growth. Very much like a chrysalis, we long to shed our skin and begin anew. And we have the opportunity to do so, spurred on by the Season and our own expectations.

My own wishes for the coming year are, of course, for continued good health, and the same happy relationship with my family and friends.  But I'm also looking forward to successful and rewarding writing, to fulfilling work with my two writing critique groups, for a richness in my blogging life.

What about you?  The hour for introspection is here. Do you have many wishes?  Or one that you're hoping against hope will be fulfilled?   This ritual is part of what makes us human. I look forward to performing it each year, and this one is no exception. You?

Monday, December 23, 2013

And a Very Merry Christmas to You!

I am sitting in my sun room, which seems an obvious place in Florida, where the outside temperature is 84 degrees, and I'm wearing shorts and flip-flops.

 As a replaced northerner, the traditional trappings of the holiday still seem foreign to me.  Palm tree trunks wrapped in white lights.  Oh, yes, beautiful--but palm trees?  Friends chatting about jumping into their pools after turkey and dressing.  Waiting on pumpkin pie so they can trek to the beach.  

And yet there is such familiarity.  People are in a lighter mood, and there is an air of expectation riding on the air.  Holiday homes are the same as in northern climes.  One would be hard-pressed walking into a greenery-draped, twinkly-treed home, to tell the difference.  Perhaps there isn't one, after all.

During this season of high expectations and happy wishes, we humans who celebrate this particular holiday, appear of one mind wherever we may be.  We long for a perfect celebration, all the while remembering nostalgic Christmases long gone but somehow very much alive and active in our memories.  

Certain smells, sounds, conversations bring those old days streaming into our consciousness in great detail.  We find ourselves trying, with every fiber of nostalgia in us, to recreate them perhaps a little more for ourselves than for our loved ones.

So I look out my window at palm trees and lush plantings, at folks strolling by in all manner of tropical dress, at kids not in snowsuits but shorts and tees, at convertibles with their tops down, letting in the glorious sunshine. And I am certain most of these people are trying to find holiday cheer, longing for this Christmas to be as fun-filled as in Christmases past.  Doing exactly the same things with the same thoughts as I had in my winter-chilled home of yesterday.

Have a wonderful and peaceful and joyous Christmas wherever you may be.  I wish that for you and for us all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review of Hockey Agony by Donna McDine

Peer Pressure:  A phrase that sends terror to the hearts of most parents. 

Those of us who are parents know all too well the pitfalls and life-changing events that can occur when this phenomenon visits our children.

Hockey Agony (Guardian Angel Publishing), a chapter book for Tweens by Donna McDine is the kind of book that can help guide children of this callow and impressionable age through some of the morass and danger of peer pressure.

Enter Larry, a great hockey player with an attitude--and with a broken leg.  His coach has warned him repeatedly about a bad attitude, but Larry hasn't paid much attention.  That is until he is forced to come to terms with peer pressure in the heat of an important game.

Will he make a hard decision?  The right decision?  Or will he fall back on old ways and disappoint his coach and, most importantly although he doesn't realize it, himself?

Enhanced by the poignant illustrations of Julie Hammond, Hockey Agony is a must-read for any child facing peer pressure.  I heartily recommend this one to you. It would make a great gift to find under the tree!
Donna McDine

Category: Chapbooks for Tweens
Author:Donna McDine
Artist:Julie Hammond
Paperback ISBN: 9781616333607; 161633360X
eBook ISBN: 9781616333614; 1616333618

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tried and True Tips on a Writing Routine

Most of us who are not just fond of, but are compelled to put pen to paper (virtual, or otherwise), find a routine of sorts that works.  Below are a few tip from what I require to get the most out of my creative time
Write at least two hours a day--
It’s a goal that many of us have, and it’s a worthy one: make writing a part of your daily routine. If you can do more than two hours, that’s wonderful, if you can only do less, that’s okay too. The trick is to write for the same amount of time every single day, and try your best to be consistent about it. 

 Write when you’re in the flow--

It is amazing how much this phenomenon happens with an author. Write when you’re ready to pour whole chapters/stories/volumes out onto the page. And since the flow is rather magical, try not to let much of anything interrupt you.  (Those of you with small children are exempt from this.  I've been there!)

Keep a notebook or put notes on your phone or iPad--
This is a good option for those on the move and for those who write best in short, quick bursts. I constantly text myself ideas and other thoughts about the book I am currently writing.  It is a great help, and I wonder now how I did without such a tool before.

Live the life of the mind as an author--
I find myself dwelling in my head about the latest book I'm writing.  It is so helpful to keep it tucked somewhere close by and dredge it up frequently.  It's amazing how many scenes I've written in my head while driving or taking a walk.  Try it!

Wake up early / Stay up late--
In other words, carve out a quiet time for yourself.  It does wonders for your concentration, and the quiet helps to get sentences, scenes, and chapters to make sense in an orderly fashion.  Early morning  (I'm at my computer at six) is the best time for me.  A cup of coffee steaming next to me on the table, my laptop working away, and I'm in Heaven.

Read, read, read...for ideas, inspiration, and voice---
It is important for me to read other authors' works.  Sometimes, when I cannot find my voice, a quick perusal of a favorite book will do the trick.  Suddenly all is clear, the voice turns to perfection, and you're off and running.

I hope this helped those of you struggling to find the time to practice your craft.  Although it can be difficult, certainly it is not impossible.  Try some of these tips.  Happy writing!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sixty-Two Percent of UK Young Adults Prefer Print Books

Here is some news that will warm the hearts of you authors of Young Adult novels.  It certainly did mine! 

The majority of (62 percent) of 16-to-24 year-olds in the UK prefer print books to eBooks, according to a new report from Voxburner.The report included responses from 1,420 participants who were surveyed them between September 25th and October 18th 2013.
The main reasons that the respondents prefer print are that print books are a good value, and that readers have an emotional connection to books.

 Fifty-one percent of participants said that they liked to hold the product. Twenty percent said that they are not restricted to a particular device. Ten percent responded that print is easier to share. Six percent said that they can sell a print book when they are done with it.
Interestingly, respondents picked books as the media they most prefer in print. Forty-percent of respondents said that they prefer physical copies of movies,  47 percent prefer print newspapers and magazines to digital, 32 percent prefer CDs to MP3s, and 31 percent of these young people prefer physical video games to digital ones. (The Guardian via Dianna Dilworth.

Though to this author finds the report not too surprising, what does the future hold for the youngest of children today and those not yet born?  That may very well be a different story.  As eBooks become more available and accepted by a majority of people, there may be a shift downward from the UK numbers.  Only time and human experience can answer this question.

In the meantime, let's enjoy this time when print books rule and look forward to the time when ebooks may be the vehicle of choice for words, thoughts, and ideas.  And if so, we can and will live with it.

What do you think.  I would love to hear from you, dear reader, about your thoughts and wishes on this topic.  Please let us know!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Cow With a Difference!

Mary Elizabeth the Spotless Cow is a girl with a difference.  In her new pasture live a lot of cows--all with spots.  Enter Mary Elizabeth, and the cow conundrum begins!

A book with a heart, Mary Elizabeth the Spotless Cow by Salvatore Barbera tells the age-old but important tale of discrimination.  But this time it can be found among the bovine set.

Sal Barbara
Published by Sweetles Press, Mary Elizabeth is a charming story of life amidst the clover, a clever but spotless cow, and a herd of spotted cows who need a paradigm shift.

A nice addition to anyone's holiday gift list, Mary Elizabeth the Spotless Cow could fill the bill.  In fact, if you buy the book through Sweetles Press,  the cost for the hardcover is greatly reduced.  In addition, 50 % of net proceeds benefit the Phoenix Children's Hospital Child Life Program.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving to One and All

To All My Readers,

On this United States Thanksgiving, 2013, I wish you happiness and success in your lives.

I am thankful for my family and dear friends around the world.  I am thankful for the good things that have happened in my life. And yes, I am thankful for the bad as well.  Without some challenges, one's life is not complete, and real compassion is difficult to understand without having been there, walked through it, and survived so much stronger for having had the experience.

Those of you who are traveling, be safe.  Come back refreshed and renewed and ready for Christmas or Hanukkah and the New Year! 

Until my next post, wonderful wishes to you all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Better Literacy? An Age Old Question

As parents and educators, we ask ourselves the question throughout our adult lives.  And if we had literacy problems as kids, we were highly aware of the problem but probably couldn't put a name to it.

When I was a new teacher of young children, my emphasis was on the ‘how-to’ part of the reading process.  It was more prescriptive driven that holistic.  By that I mean my aim was to make sure that my students could technically read, and I taught them the way I was schooled to do it.  And mercifully, most of them achieved.

But as I grew older and became a parent, a paradigm shift occurred within me. Teaching reading is not only a technical thing.  What I was neglecting was the heart of the matter.  Literacy is about love.  Love of the printed word.  Wonder at what happens when one opens a book.  Anticipation at what lies ahead.  How can we achieve that magic today?

Modeling the love of reading to our young ones is the most powerful emotional literacy tool we have. It’s good to have a group of age appropriate books readily available.  Try to locate them in a place of importance, by a sofa in the family room, in the bedroom or the kitchen.  That ‘pride of place’ will rub off on the kids!

When I taught pre-service teachers, I emphasized ‘reading the room.’  Do the same for your little ones.  Label their belongings, not just in their rooms but all over the house.  Alphabet magnets are wonderful, particularly at their reaching level.  Make your home one of written words.  The safety children (should) find there, coupled with the richness of words wherever they look will do wonders for making reading a skill, a skill that exudes warmth and coziness.  No room for failure in such an environment.

Let’s not forget the tools for writing and drawing.  Manipulating crayons, pencils and waterproof markers is crucial in learning to hold the tool properly.  Those squiggles soon turn into primitive letters which lead to the magic of words.  Their imaginations and creativity will take over, leading the way to literacy.

Illinois Reading Council Conference Logo
Be a teller of stories.  Nothing fascinates a child more than hearing their adult loved one talk about a time when s/he was not there.  Or a world the story teller is spinning.  Or an animal that talks.  Or…whatever.  Listening is part of literacy, and listening to a person they love and respect is the cherry on top!

These are but a few suggestions for turning your child’s fertile mind into a blooming garden.  It’s so easy, so nurturing, so crucial.  If we can put as much importance on the love of all things literacy as we do on sports, video games, and television, our children will be the winners.  And we will have been the ones to take them to such achievements.  That, of course, is the best gift we as caregivers and teachers can give to any youngster.  It will change their lives forever.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Book Awards Announced

November 21 is the National Book Awards, 2013 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. 

Please have a look at the video announcing the the awards on November 20 posted below.
nationalbookawardJames McBride has won the fiction award forThe Good Lord Bird from Riverhead Books.
George Packer has won the nonfiction award for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Mary Szybist won the Poetry award forIncarnadine from Graywolf Press.
The Young People’s Literature award went toCynthia Kadohata for her book The Thing About Luck from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

You can read free samples of all the winners below to help fill your eReader or tablet.
Links to Free Samples of the National Book Award Finalists for 2013
Fiction Finalists
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group USA)
Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group USA)
George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House)

Nonfiction Finalists

Young Adult Literature Finalists
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints

Poetry Finalists
Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf)
Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke (Penguin Poets/Penguin Group USA)
Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press)
Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems (Graywolf Press)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Little Shepherd by Cheryl Malindrinos Reviewed

It had been a strange magical night …
A night of miracles.
Little Shepherd
(Please view trailer of The Little Shepherd and the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!)

Why, one may ask, would a book review begin at the book's end?  In this instance, these words tell it all.  We meet young Obed at the beginning of a night's journey, not only in distance but in a life lesson.

Cheryl Malandrinos has beautifully captured the Christmas Story in the life and words of the young shepherd from Jerusalem.  Only five years old, Obed's father allows him to watch his first flock of sheep. 

 That night, a strange light appeared in the heavens, and Obed and his father decided to follow and see where it led.  And the wondrous things they saw both in Bethlehem and when they returned to their flock grazing on the hills completes this heartwarming and original story.

This children's book captures the very essence of what Christmas to many people.  The story is rich in imagery, and the illustrations by Eugene Rubble weave a tapestry reminiscent of the times. 

Children and adults alike are sure to be enchanted by this book.  I would recommend it for both--the child as well as the adult who will read it aloud or listen to his or her young one read it.

Cheryl Malandrino

About the author:

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author and editor. Her first children’s book, Little Shepherd, was released in August 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing. She is a member of the SCBWI, a book reviewer, and blogger. Cheryl also writes under the name of C. C. Gevry. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.

Visit Cheryl online at and the Little Shepherd book blog at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 15 Marks America Recycles Day

 A most important and noble cause marks tomorrow, November 15, 3013.  The purpose of the day is pretty straightforward.  Keeping American Beautiful wants to convince Americans to quit throwing away things they no longer need or want and opt for recycling them instead.  Bella and Britt in Bella Saves the Beach  (Guardian Angel Publishing.) are happy to help!

Every  year Americans create about 240 million tons of solid wastes - about 4 1/2 pounds per person each day! Much of this waste ends up in landfills or is incinerated, but most of it can be recycled. Recycling is taking a product or material that is no longer being used and turning it into a raw material that can be used for something else.

 It is an easy but important way of helping to protect our environment from the pollution that our wastes can cause. Thanks to the environmental movement, recycling has spread across the country and around the world.

Until modern times, recycling was the normal way of life. During World War II for example, when the nation needed to conserve resources at home, 25% of all wastes were recycled. But by 1960 less than 8% of our wastes were recycled.

 Today, 32% of wastes are recycled in America and there are more than 10,000 curbside recycling programs in America! Each year over 60 million tons of wastes are recycled instead of ending up in landfills or incinerators. The EPA has set a goal for America to reach 35% recycling.

You can help save resources by practicing the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle:
Reduce: Precycle - 1/3 of all garbage is packaging - buy products with minimal or recycled packaging; say no to a bag when purchasing a small item.
Reuse: Many things can be reused before throwing them out.

- I pledge to find out what materials I can and cannot recycle in my community;
- I pledge to lead by example in my neighborhood by recycling;
- I pledge to recycle batteries, cell phones and other electronic waste.
- I pledge to email my elected officials to ask them to increase funding for my community's recycling programs.

- I pledge to tell five friends that recycling is the easiest thing they can do to slow global warming.
Recycling Day, on November 15, is an important opportunity to educate people about the importance of recycling for our environment, and how each of us can make a difference for a better world by recycling.
On the Earth 911 site ( you can locate the nearest recycling center for disposing of items like paint and batteries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Caldecott-Winning Authors' New Books in 2013

Three previous winners of the Caldecott Medal — given annually by the American Library Association to the best-illustrated children’s book — have published new books this year.

Here’s a look at these new literary gems for young readers:

'The Favorite Daughter' by Allen SayWith her long blond hair, Yuriko doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Japanese girl, and her classmates sometimes make fun of her. But her father is Japanese and Yuriko understands that her father’s heritage is something she should take pride in.

In “The Favorite Daughter” (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 5-8), author/illustrator Allen Say reveals a slice of his life as father to his daughter Yuriko, as she struggles with her desire to fit in with her classmates but still be herself.

'Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle' by Chris Raschka

Chris Raschka has twice won the Caldecott Medal: in 2006 for “The Hello, Goodbye Window” and again just last year for “A Ball for Daisy.” Still, Raschka never seems to run out of inspiration as shown in his latest book, “Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle” (Schwartz & Wade, Random House, $16.99, ages 4-8).

The story is a universal — perhaps even an overly traveled — one: a child wants desperately to learn to ride a bike, the child has trouble learning to balance on a bike, the child is ready to give up but tries one more time, and — voila! — he/she can suddenly ride a bike.

Erin Stead, who won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” takes what, at first glance, looks like a minimalist approach to illustration in her picture books.

Stead is a master of using seemingly understated illustrations to both bring the reader into the story and expand the world of the tale being told.

Such is the case with her latest book, “If You Want to See a Whale” (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 3-7). As in the 2012 best-selling picture book “And Then It’s Spring,” Stead has paired up with author Julie Fogliano to tell a quiet, thoughtful story that will inspire young readers to use their imaginations.
Stead’s illustrations, done using linoleum printing techniques and pencil, portray a young boy and his devoted hound enjoying a series of adventures while hoping for a whale sighting.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Downtown Boston to Become First Literary Cultural District in the U.S.

 Isn't this something!  Have a look at a first in a city of firsts!
Downtown Boston
 The downtown Boston area will become the first literary cultural district within the United States. The coordinators behind this initiative will work on boosting tourism, taking part in literary events, and offering for families within the neighborhood.
The initiative came into fruition after a team of book-related organizations won the Adams Planning Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This group includes the Grub Street nonprofit, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the City of Boston, the Drum and the Boston Book Festival.
Boston Public Library
Grub Street executive director Eve Bridburg had this statement in the press release: 

Home to historical literary figureheads such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Boston is currently undergoing a literary renaissance. 

Stars like James Carroll, Steven Pinker, Tom Perrotta and Anita Shreve work here, alongside top-notch publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Beacon Press. With incredible institutions like the BPL and the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Book Festival drawing 30,000 people each fall, and Grub Street’s role as the nation’s leading literary arts nonprofit, Boston is clearly a natural fit for our nation’s first Literary Cultural District.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ernest Hemingway's Advice to a Young Writer

What words of wisdom would you give to a new writer?  Perhaps to write every day?  Write what you know?  Try to build a world for your characters?  All these would be appropriate advice. 

Interestingly, in October 1925, a young writer named Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to a younger Canadian author named Morley Callaghan.
Callaghan was frustrated with his writing life and wrote to his friend: “Have a lot of time and could go a good deal of writing if I knew how I stood.”
Hemingway’s response is included in volume two of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, out this month. It is terrific advice for writers of any age…
Christ don’t be an ass and say you could go on and write if you know how you stand etc. God knows you’re in the most depressing and discouraging surroundings–but that’s what makes a writer. You have to catch hell. You’ve got to take punishment … Write a lot–but see a lot more. Keep your ears and eyes going and try all the time to get your conversations right.
        Never one to mince words, Hemingway called them as he saw them.  This, of course, was no exception.  The other question then is :  What happened to Morley Callaghan?   He was apparently concerned late in life that people would remember him for one minor achievement: the little Canadian had knocked down the macho Ernest Hemingway in a boxing match refereed by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although Callaghan preferred to be known for his novels, it's his short stories that are his lasting legacy. Along with the fact that he knocked down Hemingway in a boxing match refereed by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scary Halloween Books to Download for Free!

Looking for some scary books to get in the Halloween mood? Below, GalleyCat  (Jason Boog) has collected 25 free scary books you can download right now.   How much scary fun is that! 

Have a look at the video at the end of the post!
In 2010, novelist Neil Gaiman created the “All Hallow’s Read,” literary holiday, a night to give someone you love a scary book. The writer explained the new tradition in the video embedded above–here’s more from the official site:
Obviously, we support bookshops and authors, but more than that, this is about making a holiday tradition of book-giving. So feel free to give second-hand books or books from your own shelves. And feel just as free to buy a beautiful new book from a small independent bookseller, or from online or… look, there’s no wrong way to buy a book. You can even gift it to their Kindle … If you do not know what scary book to give someone, talk to a bookseller or a librarian. They like to help. Librarians will not mind even if you admit that you are not planning to take out a book, but instead you are going to buy one and give it to someone.
Top 25 Free Horror eBooks on Project Gutenberg
1. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
3. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
4. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
5. The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs
6. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
7. The Vampyre; a Tale by John William Polidori
8. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Ward Radcliffe
9. Varney the Vampire by Thomas Preskett Prest
10. The Monk; a romance by M. G. Lewis
11. The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
12. Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker
13. Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
14. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
15. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale by Charles Brockden Brown
16. Edgar Huntly by Charles Brockden Brown
17. The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker
18. The Beetle by Richard Marsh
19. The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck
20. The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker
21. The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce
22. The Damned by Algernon Blackwood
23. The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
24. Clarimonde by Théophile Gautier
25. Curious, if True by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell