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Jubilee and Creativity

Hi, Wonder of Words readers! Today’s guest on our Finding Creativity focused post is Alabama author, Karyn Tunks. I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person a few times and she is one of those helpful, encouraging writers who makes the kidlit world the awesome place it is. I first met her when her picture book, JUBILEE, released.

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Metro-Mobile Literacy Council’s Young Authors’ Conference

A jubilee is a fascinating, rare phenomenon that occurs when a perfect condition of low oxygenated water drives millions of flounder, crabs, etc to the surface, ripe for the picking. You definitely need to check out her book to find out more. Welcome, Karyn!

Karyn: Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed for your blog. It was fun to reflect! The photos were taken when the illustrator, Julie Buckner, was visiting Fairhope to plan out her illustrations and there was a jubilee! We tell the story about it on my website: http://www.karyntunks.com/jubilee.html

Candice: That is so neat y’all were able to experience a jubilee on her visit. What are the odds?! Where did you get the inspiration for JUBILEE?

KWT: I have always loved picture books and loved writing but it was never my intention to actually write a book for children! The inspiration for JUBILEE was a newspaper article about this rare occurrence that happens along the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. I became so fascinated by it that I began doing research and asking people I met from the area if they had ever experienced a jubilee. The array of stories told by people who grew up along the bay were fascinating. I was reflecting on what I had learned and the stories told to me and POP-the idea came to mind that it would make a great story!

CMC: The POP of an idea is the best. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

KWT: I really enjoy all aspects of the writing process (except for detailed editing). Coming up with ideas has never been a problem. I keep a notebook and jot down ideas for stories, interesting character traits, possible character names, and even overheard conversations that intrigue me or make me laugh. Building the basic premise for a story is always exciting because the possibilities are endless. I also like working out problems such as which direction to take a story or character. This is why I tell people that I do much of my “writing” when I’m out running. It’s a time when I can let my mind wander and that’s when the creativity really happens.

CMC: Great idea on keeping a notebook handy. It’s amazing what a wandering mind can come up with. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? If so, do they ever cross into your writing?

KWT: For writers, just about everything we do has potential to find its way into our stories. I enjoy volunteering for issues that are personally important to me. In the summer, I volunteer for Share the Beach, a sea turtle preservation program along the Alabama Gulf Coast. On my early morning patrols looking for turtle tracks, I pick up trash left behind by visitors to our beaches. The amount of trash is staggering! I started out wanting to write about sea turtles but instead I am working on a middle grade novel about trash!

CMC: I cannot wait to read it! The kids and I love volunteering with the Alabama Coastal Cleanup each fall. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

KWT: Donald Graves, a teacher of writing, reminds us to constantly be on the lookout for ideas. Like artists, inspiration for writers can come from anywhere at anytime. That’s why keeping notes of random occurrences that catch your attention is so important. Plus, the more creative ideas collected, the more you have to choose from when the urge to write hits.

CMC: Great tip. Creativity seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

KWT: I am always working on another book! My next picture book will be out in Spring 2020. It is a picture book biography about the blind artist, Ricky Trione. It was a challenge to figure out the best way to tell his story but after several weeks and many attempts it all came together on my daily run. I couldn’t get home fast enough to put it on paper. I have another picture book manuscript out for review and two middle grade novels that are at different points of completion. I have far more ideas for stories than I have time to write them!

CMC: Exciting stuff! Good luck and thanks so much for being here today. Y’all check out her website at www.karyntunks.com to see where she’ll be reading and signing next, ordering information, and teaching guides.

Tunks author photoKaryn W. Tunks is Professor of Education at the University of South Alabama. She has more than 30 years of experience teaching learners at every level from preschool through graduate school. Karyn shares her love of children’s literature by writing picture books about her adopted home state of Alabama. Titles include: JUBILEE! (2012), USS ALABAMA: Hooray for the Mighty A! (2015), and Mardi Gras in Alabama! (2019). Her next picture book about the life of Ricky Trione will be released in Spring 2020.

For your Call to Creativity exercise, peruse the paper or news media sites to spark ideas. Do you carry a notebook to jot down things that catch your attention? Now is the time to start if you don’t! Comment with something that sparks inspiration in you, or a picture of your creativity-catching notebook, and one random commenter will receive a picture book critique from me.

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Marigolds and Miracles

Before deciding what topic to choose for my blog post, I reviewed a list of literary devices, where I stumbled on the word malapropisms. I was immediately intrigued.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, a malapropism is “the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase… the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context.”

A little research uncovered incidents throughout history, where people used malapropisms unintentionally (or intentionally) in fine literature including the character Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and The Merchant of Venice (also by Shakespeare).

Malapropisms aren’t limited to literature. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) used malapropisms extensively as did comedian Ronnie Barker. The use of malapropisms is what in part makes comedians so funny. I was tickled to find Mary Tyler Moore used them on several occasions when she portrayed Laura Petry on the Dick Van Dyke Show back in the sixties.
But where did the word actually come from? Richard Sheridan’s play, THE RIVALS is littered with the misuse or distortion of words and phrases, although I am sure Sheridan used them intentionally to create humor.


One particularly delightful character in the play, Mrs. Malaprop, frequently uses the wrong word when trying to make her point. Soon after, someone coined the word malapropisms.

This discovery of course, made me smile, as it illicited a memory of a dear friend I had growing up. A dinner table debate caused my friend, who resented one remark in particular, to blurt out, “I resemble that remark,” which only gave further cause for everyone at the table to laugh. When he realized his blunder, he chuckled along with the rest of us. Forever after, it was a joke between us.
Youngsters seem to have a handle on malapropisms without even realizing they do. They can make you laugh until you cry without even trying.
My youngest easily has the market cornered on malapropisms. She is forever coming up with them. My favorite malapropism came from her as we walked through the home and garden section at the local home Improvement store.
With great excitement she shouted, “Mom, Look at all the miracles!”
Yes, she really is my blessing, my marigold!

 

 

For details about malapropisms check out this website: https://literarydevices.net/malapropism/.

If you fancy learning more about Mrs. Malaprop check out this post by Wad Bradford on ThoughtCo  https://www.thoughtco.com/mrs-malaprop-and-origin-of-malapropisms-3973512

 

 

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Book Review – Playground by Nadia Wheatley

Hi everyone and welcome to my fifth book review. Since I have just been on holiday in Australia, I decided that reviewing an Australian author would be a cool thing to do. Not knowing which book to review, I rocked up to the counter at a local bookshop and asked the assistant for a favourite picture book by an Australian author. She duly presented one to me.  The front cover held lots of promise, including a gold sticker proclaiming it as a short-listed book in the Australian Children’s Book of the Year award a few years ago, so I purchased it with some excitement and without opening it.

My philosophy is to always give an honest review. Unfortunately, while I love the quirky illustrations in the book I purchased, I can’t ignore the two very bad examples of forced rhyme and the cliché around which I suspect the whole book was built.

So, I have abandoned that review and have decided to review instead Playground, a collection of indigenous stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compiled by Nadia Wheatley, an Australian writer with an extensive publishing background in picture books, novels, biography and history.

Playground isn’t a picture book, it’s a book with pictures. The pictures are illustrations or photographs interspersed throughout the text. The text is dense but engaging. The title refers to the notion that playing and learning are one: “As kids journeyed with their families from place to place, it was often impossible to tell the difference between playing and learning” (from the Introduction). And from the section The right way of learning: “Older kids also pass on knowledge to the younger ones, especially in the playground of the bush.”

The book is divided into sections that roughly follow a child’s learning journey. Nadia’s introduction to each section and each storyteller is in a rust colour to differentiate it from the actual stories. The stories themselves are written in the voices of the storytellers. There are stories from elders who remember the old ways, stories from the stolen generation and stories from young people growing up in the twenty-first century; some of them don’t make for easy reading. The connection to land, family and tradition is a strong thread throughout the book. In the introduction Nadia writes, “The culture that underlies these narratives is holistic: everything connects no matter which way you come at it.”

While the suggested audience for this book is upper primary, secondary and adults, the stories are accessible for younger children, especially if read aloud by a parent or caregiver.

I appreciate that this blog has a primarily US audience and this book may seem far removed from America. However, I believe that books like this are crucial for all of us who live in a land first occupied by indigenous people. Nadia Wheatley, while not Aboriginal nor a Torres Strait Islander, has compiled these stories with care and empathy, allowing the voices and emotions of the storytellers to shine.

Footnote: Except for the cover, the images on this page are general images from Australia intended to give a feel for the book but they are not from the book itself.

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

It’s A Blog & Book Birthday!

Happy birthday to the Wonder of Words blog! Today marks our one year anniversary and we couldn’t have done it without our readers and our awesome guests. So, thank you all! Happy birthday Wonder of Words!

Speaking of awesome guests, today’s blog post is about a story I first read on a twitter pitch event. As soon as I read Amanda Jackson’s query and first lines, I knew this would be a real-live book one day.
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Welcome to the Wonder of Words, Amanda! I’m so glad we connected during Study Hall and in the debut group, New in Nineteen. I’m excited about your beautiful and important book coming out. When and where did you get the inspiration for your square-who-wants-to-roll-like-a-circle story?

It was late 2016, during the one year my husband and I lived in Northern California. We moved there for his job, and the circumstances were such that I didn’t work. That gave me the time and brain-space to discover my love of writing for kids. So, that’s actually when I started writing picture book stories altogether. That’s one reason I will always be thankful for that crazy year.

I have a deep hope for a more inclusive and understanding society. That hope was what inspired this story. Sam is for anyone who feels they don’t fit, in whatever way.

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Such a beautiful hope and your book captures that sentiment perfectly. I love it. And it’s amazing what we can accomplish when we have the brain-space! What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I have two favorites:
– Inspiration. Who doesn’t love being inspired?? There’s nothing like discovering a new idea for a new story. It feels like falling in love.
– Revision. After the initial excitement of inspiration, drafting the story can feel like slogging through mud. But once I get it on the page, and it has every element it needs, I love all the little challenges that come with smoothing it out and making it shine.

Falling in inspiration is the best. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? Do they ever cross into your writing?

I do! I enjoy cooking, crocheting, and crafting. I haven’t seen them cross into my writing yet, but they do play an important role. Sometimes my writing muscles need a break, and they offer other creative options.

Love the alliteration, Amanda 😉 Do you have any tips about finding creativity?

My best tip would be to try to pay attention. Because I really think creative inspiration is all around us, and it’s more a matter of recognizing it. I do my best to be aware of the moments I feel that creative spark—moments that makes me laugh, curious, explore, cry, ask questions, get angry. Those are usually the moments that hold that starts to stories.

The act of paying attention is so important. Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

Sure! When I began writing, I naturally gravitated toward more serious stories. Lately I’ve been playing with punchier, sillier stories that make me laugh as I write them. Such a fun change of pace!

I love silly stories, can’t wait to read ‘em! Thanks so much for being here, Amanda. I have My Shape is Sam preordered and am looking forward to Sam rolling in! wowaj2

Blurb: “In this debut picture book, Sam is a square who lives in a world where everyone has a job to do, depending on their shape. But Sam doesn’t want to stack like the other squares…

He wants to roll like a circle!”

Published by Page Street Kids, wonderful illustrations by Lydia Nichols

Here’s the link to her author website where you can preorder My Shape is Sam, out September 17th: www.AmandaJacksonBooks.com

What is a hope you harbor that could inspire others? Comment by Sept 13th with yours, or mention your latest picture book work-in-progress, and as a special birthday gift to our readers, one lucky random comment will be chosen to get a critique not just from me, but from the whole Wonder of Words team!

Book Reviews, Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Words Matter

“We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” Toni Morrison

As readers, we are drawn to words. Over the years I have been drawn to Michener, Uris, Tolkien, Barbara Kingsolver and Barbara Ehrenreich. As a youngster in Poland, I was raised on the works of Janusz Korczak, the poetry of Jan Brzechwa, Maria Konopnicka and (in translation from Spanish) Monro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand. After we arrived in the United States, I read Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books, Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle stories and Maguerite de Angeli’s Door in the Wall. And of course, there were all the classics – the Brothers’ Grimm, Johanna Spyri, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens. Who are some of your favorite authors?

As writers, we know words matter. I often say, “Words are my world”.  “In the beginning was the word.” We paint the world through words. We develop characters and plot with words.

As parents and teachers, we teach children to use words wisely.

This is increasingly important when our country’s leaders use derogatory, negative, foul language and resort to name-calling. As someone who was called names, tormented and bullied due to cultural and neurological differences, I’m sensitive to this type of language.

What message does it teach our children? How should we respond?

I suggest we respond with love by teaching kindness. Being kind can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Some books that teach the importance of our words, kindness and inclusivity:

The Big Umbrella words and pictures by Amy June Bates. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers 2018. 32 p; 89 words

There is always room for everyone under the big umbrella that loves to gather people in. This free verse, beautifully illustrated poem shares the message of inclusiveness in a fun way. Our hearts have the same capacity to expand – there is no limit to how many people we can love and include.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller ill by Jen Hill. Roaring Brook Press 2018. 32p; 400 words

Be Kind copy

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress, her classmate tries to be kind. But it is not always easy. Examples of kindness include giving, helping, and paying attention. These small acts are important and build more acts of kindness.

If you plant a seed words and pictures by Kadir Nelson. Baker and Bray 2017 (an imprint of Harper Collins).

If you plant a seed copy

In this short poem, we learn that the things we plant grow and grow and grow. They can be carrots or tomatoes, selfishness or kindness.

Words and Your Heart words and pictures by Kate Jane Neal. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2017.

words and your heart copy

In her debut, Kate Jane Neal explains simply and directly the power our words have. She shows how our words impact others – both for good and for evil.

Here is a poem I wrote about words:

WORDS: HANDLE WITH CARE

As children, we were told to say:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,

but words can never hurt me.”

Yet words often cause injury and pain…

The scars don’t show,

but the wounds may never heal.

Words

 or their absence

have power:

They can hurt, or they can heal.

They can bruise, or they can mend.

They can kill – or give new life.

Words

evoke image, smell, taste, sound, mood, feel.

Words have power.

Words are real.

 

Words

tell a story,

convey a message,

convince the skeptic,

stir up mood and feelings.

Words.

Use them with care

to encourage, engage, enrich.

It is said: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Words

can change lives.

You

can change the world

one word at a time.

What is a quote or poem that resonates with you?

What are some of your favorite books that teach kindness?

How can your words help change our world?

Share it in the comments to pass along the power of words.

 

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Metaphors can be magical; Similes will leave you spellbound

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. Please follow us for future posts of interest!
Thank you so much for stopping by our blog! We delight in posting on a variety of topics to educate, encourage, and entertain you!

I don’t remember how old I was when I was first introduced to metaphors and similes in English class, but I never forgot the definition I was given for a simile. “A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike objects using like or as”. Maybe that was were I caught the love for words bug?
Webster’s Dictionary currently defines similes as “a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses)”, while it defines a metaphor as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money).”
I often say to my youngest daughter “You are my Texas tornado” referring to the ramshackle state she can leave a room in a matter of minutes. That would be a metaphorical statement. The other thing I may say to her is “you go through a room like a tornado!” Again, in reference to the shape of the room when she leaves, except this time it’s a simile.
All you need to do is look around you to find similes and metaphors. They are in the songs we listen to (You are the Sunshine of My Life), the everyday expressions we use (like two peas in a pod), and the books we read. Much to my delight, there is an abundance of metaphors and similes in the picture books I’ve read, too many to list here.

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, has text rich in similes and metaphors. “Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song,” is a favorite. I read this book many times as a mentor text for various manuscript ideas, but never had it felt so melodious and soothing as it was when I listened to the author read it aloud. I was completely captivated!

Other books filled with metaphors include You’re Toast (and other metaphors we adore) written by Nancy Loewen, and My School is a Zoo written by Stu Smith, just to name a few.

 

If similes are more to your liking, check out Muddy as a Duck Puddle (and other American Similes) written by Laurie Lawlor or My Heart is like a Zoo written by Michael Hall.

 

 

Can’t decide which is a favorite? Try Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk: What are similes and metaphors, written by Brian P Cleary.

 

 

 

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Finding Inspiration in Hidden Talents with Erin Le Clerc

We have a super creative author up on the Wonder of Words blog today, Erin Le Clerc, author of the picture book, I’VE GOT A COW CALLED MAUREEN. What a title, right? As soon as my kids saw it, they were clamoring to read it.

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Mermaid Girl & Dinosaur Boy practicing their yodeling skills in a tree, of course, just like Maureen!

Thanks so much for being here, Erin. I love the book’s positive message of finding something you’re good at and letting it shine. My kids LOVE the yodeling. What inspired your unique story?

Erin: It’s my pleasure–thank you so much for hosting me! I love that your kids are yodeling.

I’ve Got A Cow Called Maureen is based on the true story of how my Nana Maureen began her journey to becoming Australia’s Champion Swiss Yodeler in the 1940s! WowELC5

A few years ago, I was participating in a picture book writing course with Children’s Book Academy and I was struggling to come up with an idea for a book. I adore my Nana, so when my mum suggested I write about her, I tucked the idea away for further consideration. A few weeks later, she told me that every time my Nana went into her country town, and her mother introduced her to a local farmer, they’d always exclaim “Why, I’ve got a cow called Maureen!” It drove Nana crazy, but it made me laugh, and I knew I’d found an “in” that would let me tell my Nana’s story with a dash of humour!

Candice: Children’s Book Academy is amazing. (Here’s a link for those curious.) And yes, that ‘in’, or hook, is what gives a story life. I love that this is based on your Nana. What a wonderful gift to her and your family. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Erin: I have two favourites!

I always feel that the first flush of an idea or story inspiration – the part that finds you racing to get everything down on paper – feels a bit like flying! I find this the easiest part of writing, and I love when an idea, title, or some form of concept appears as if by magic.

When it comes to the “hard slog” part of writing, I’m one of those weirdos who ADORES editing. I love tightening sentences, and making sure my stories feel lyrical, colourful, emotional, or truthful. Michelangelo said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. I feel the same about story ideas and first drafts, and the process of polishing them into a manuscript!

Candice: Fabulous quote. That first flush of inspiration is my favorite. I call it the Divine Spark because you’re right, it does feel like magic. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your writing?

Erin: I do! In addition to writing, I love to crochet, I sing in a choir, I enjoy beading, hand-wowELC6quilting, sewing, and all manner of crafts. I love to decorate my home (it’s like Aladdin’s cave of wonders!), and I’m learning how to draw/paint, which really is an exercise in letting go of my inner critic and perfectionist!!

Candice: Do you have any tips you’d like to share with the Wonder of Words readers about finding creativity?

Erin: I am learning that creativity is something you need to create space for. Sometimes we are “struck with inspiration,” but more regularly, it’s when you sit down and give focused time to a creative project that your brain really starts firing! I also believe in the concept of “Artist Dates” where you go for a walk, go on a fun outing, do something that lifts your spirits, visit a gallery/museum, or even see a movie. When we push ourselves too hard, our body and brain don’t much like it. Rest is an essential part of creativity!

Candice: I’m guessing you’re a fan of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way”. I am too. Creativity usually inspires more creativity. Are you working on other book projects that you could give us hints about?

Erin: I have three manuscripts that I am currently submitting to agents. They’re all “gently psychological” stories – about mindfulness, feeling grumpy, and setting body boundaries – but with a whimsical twist! I’m also writing a fantasy adventure middle grade novel that I’m really excited to get out into the world!

Candice: I adore whimsical twists. Middle grade has a special place in my heart so I’m eager to find out more about that. Good luck with your agent hunt. Thanks so much for being here, Erin, and for sharing your creative tips and inspiration!

Erin LeClerc Bio PhotoI knew she’d be the perfect author to feature for the creativity post based on her back-of-the-book bio: Erin Le Clerc grew up with seven siblings, three ghosts, two eccentric parents, and a multitude of farm animals in a crumbling abandoned hospital in the suburbs. This vastly informed her imagination! She’s tremendously proud of her Australian “bush heritage”, which she inherited from her Nana Maureen. She spends her “9 to 5” working as a psychologist, and her “5 to 9” writing adventurous tales.

Here’s how to find her book: by ordering through your local independent bookstore, or on Amazon

And here’s how to find and follow Erin:

Website: www.erinleclerc.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/erinleclerc
Insta: https://www.instagram.com/erinleclercauthor/ & https://www.instagram.com/theresilientcreative (the latter is inspiration and encouragement for fellow writers and creatives!)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinleclercauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18863103.Erin_Le_Clerc

Writing prompt: Ask older family members about their childhood to see if it sparks any inspiration. Leave a comment before the 15th, and I’ll randomly pick someone to win a picture book critique from me.