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.

 

Uncategorized

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.

 

 

 

Best in Show

Welcome Laura Roettiger! Celebrating Aliana Reaches For The Moon

 

July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing! Here to celebrate and share her beautiful STEM picture book, Aliana Reaches For The Moon, is debut author Laura Roettiger! Her strategies for showing this important and lyrically written story are excellent.

TS: Thank you Laura for joining our blog today!

LR: Thank you for asking me to participate in your blog! I appreciate the opportunity to share about my writing process.

TS: Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?

LR: The common wisdom of show don’t tell doesn’t mean that there should be only showing in your writing. The way I think about it is I’m trying to paint a picture (setting) and demonstrate an emotion or desire (plot and character) with my words. I draft with these things in mind but revision is where the magic of lyrical language, page turns, and showing comes together. I think about how each page needs to move the story forward both with words and illustrations. Imagine a book where every page looks the same. That would be really boring.

TS: Are there specific strategies, tools or resources you use to incorporate more          showing/descriptive language?

LR: I use thesaurus.com to see if there are stronger words when I revise at the word level. I read my work aloud and even more importantly, I have someone else read it for me so I can hear how it sounds. Picture books and poetry are meant to be read aloud. How it sounds (think alliteration, think musical) is very important. I try to get rid of as many adjectives as I can, because most of them can be shown in the illustrations. I read at least ten new picture books each week. I look for mentor texts, books that have something I can learn from as I write mine.

TS: Would you like to share an example of a before and after where you needed to show more and found the right words to paint the image for the reader?

Once upon a time there was a girl named Aliana. She lived in a cabin in the woods near the top of a mountain peak.”

Above was the original first line of what became ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. It started like a fairy tale which wasn’t necessary. It tells you she’s a girl but the illustration and the name can show you that. It doesn’t give you the important information of a specific setting (Rocky Mountains) or talk about the night sky and how the light of the full moon is the inciting incident. After many revisions, the opening words (only one word less and more lyrical with more information that paints a picture of the setting:

Aliana lives in the Rocky Mountains where the night sky holds more stars than you can dream of and the moon shimmers like gold.”

 

BIO:
Laura Roettiger is the author of Aliana Reaches for the Moon, a picture book that draws inspiration from the moon and the curiosity of children. She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for literacy at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led them into STEM related professions. Laura is an active member of SCBWI, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge and a judge for Rate Your Story.
Book Reviews

Book Review – The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown

“Here and now, we say to Barnett and Jacoby: We SEE what you’ve done. You’ve paid tribute to a woman who changed picture books. Forever.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Margaret Wise Brown by Consuelo Kanaga 

The important thing about The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby is that it’s a book. It is one of the most interesting and unusual picture books I have read. If you pick it up expecting to read about Margaret Wise Brown’s life in chronological order, prepare to be surprised. If you pick it up expecting to read a fully formed snippet of one aspect of Margaret Wise Brown’s life, prepare to be surprised. If you expect this to be a book just about Margaret Wise Brown, prepare to be surprised.

This book is in chronological order – sort of. We are told the date of Margaret’s birth, what she did as a child, a bit about her as an adult, what she did as an author and how her life ended, all in order. In between, there are tangents and side stories. You never know quite what you’re going to get on the next page: perhaps it’s Margaret Wise Brown swimming naked in cold water or having a tea party with Ursula Nordstrom on the steps of the New York Public Library. Or perhaps it’s something that doesn’t seem to be about Margaret Wise Brown at all.

It has a pick-and-mix feel; it can be opened at almost any page and the event savored, much like Margaret Wise Brown’s own books. Nothing is what it seems. From the first page the reader is set up to be told a list of important things about Margaret Wise Brown, but turn the page and there is more about books in general than there is about Margaret Wise Brown. Turn the page again and there is more about writers in general than Margaret Wise Brown. There is a quick summary of Margaret Wise Brown’s childhood focusing on her pets and particularly her rabbits, short précis of three of her books, a bit about her dog Crispin’s Crispian and other short snapshots of her life. There are three double-page spreads devoted to the librarian Anne Carroll Moore and another three devoted to Margaret’s interactions with Anne and the New York Public Library in general, including her tea party on the steps with Ursula Nordstrom.

A surprising thing about this book (or perhaps it is an important thing) is that it is about more than Margaret Wise Brown. It’s about books and writers and challenges. It’s about taking risks and being free to explore storytelling in unusual and unexpected ways, just as Margaret Wise Brown did. This book pushes picture book boundaries. Perhaps you can only do this if you’re Mac Barnett but I hope not.

Barnett and Jacoby, I also see what you have done. And the important thing about The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that it’s a book.

Pitch It to Me

~ THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE ~

Welcome back for the fourth PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE! For those of you who missed the last challenge, our special guest pitcher, debut author Erin LeClerc, captured the most votes to take top honors. A big round of thanks to Erin and author Marcia Berneger for participating in the challenge, and to all who dropped by to participate.

For this round, Shirin Shamsi, author of the middle-grade novel, LAILA AND THE SANDS OF TIME (June 2019, Clear Fork Publishing), has sent in a pitch for her picture book manuscript, BASEBALL-A-SAURUS. How clever of her to blend such wonderful hooks – baseball and dinosaurs – into one story!

As if having a book about baseball isn’t exciting enough for a pitching challenge, let’s add on top of that a fabulous guest-star pitcher, Linsday Leslie, who has two – yes two! – picture books out this year with Page Street Kids. Her debut, THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, came out in February, while NOVA THE STAR EATER just recently hit the shelves in May. Lindsay has a third on the way, DUSK EXPLORERS, which is due out next year. So you can see, Lindsay is pretty much setting the picture book world on fire right now!

Make sure to take a look at the extra information included below about each of these amazing authors.

Now on to the challenge. Take a look at the three pitches in the voting box. They are in no particular order so you’ll never know whose is whose (the author’s, mine, or our special guest pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from readers/voters!

You have until July 4, 2019, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

 

ABOUT SHIRIN:

Shirin has lived on three continents and sees herself as a global citizen.  She loves to share stories from her heritage to inspire understanding and appreciation for all cultures and diversity. As a current member of SCBWI and 12×12, Shirin has taken many courses to improve her craft. For her, writing is like breathing.

Connect with Shirin at: 

Website: shirinshamsi.com Twitter: @ShirinsBooks Instagram: Shirinshamsi1

Find Shirin’s book at:     Amazon  /   Clear Fork Publishing

ABOUT LINDSAY:

A diary keeper, a journal writer, a journalism major, a public relations executive—Lindsay Leslie has always operated in a world of written words. When she became a mom and began to tell her kids bedtime stories, Lindsay connected the dots to children’s literature. She likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books. Lindsay is the author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS and NOVA THE STAR EATER (Page Street Kids). Her third picture book, DUSK EXPLORERS (Page Street Kids), will launch in the spring of 2020. Lindsay lives with her husband, two young boys, and two fur-beasts in Austin.

Connect with Lindsay at:  lindsayleslie.com@lleslie

Find Lindsay’s Books at:

https://lindsayleslie.com/books/this-book-is-spineless/

https://lindsayleslie.com/books/nova-the-star-eater/

CONCLUDING REMARKS: 

Yep, my lawyer-speak is still alive and well. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

I want to thank Shirin Shamsi and Lindsay Leslie for participating in this WONDERful word challenge. They are two talented authors who I hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about here. Thank you for stopping by (and voting)! Until next time . . .

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.

WowELC7
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.
A to Z

May the 4th be with you!

  Sadly, after I had chosen and written my post for today, I heard the news of the passing of Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed the lovable Chewbacca (Chewie) in the Star Wars Saga.  I know Star Wars fans worldwide join me in a tearful good-bye to the much loved character and the man who played him.

Today is Star Wars Day! My favorite pun is “May the Fourth be with You!” a greeting Star Wars Fans use to address their comrades on May 4th. (The original line in Star Wars is “May the Force be With You!”).
Puns are a form of word play which take advantage of words, or similar sounding words, with multiple meanings, often to create a humorous situation or joke. Puns can sometimes be created unintentionally, in which case the saying ‘no pun intended’ is used.

I was surprised and delighted to learn that many times a pun is a form of homophones, homonyms, or heteronyms. What’s that you say? I could easily confuse myself, (and you, dear reader), with all the information on the subject sitting out there on the information super highway. Suffice to say, for this post, I am taking all my research from a fairly reliable source, that being the on-line version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/.

HOMONYMS (as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary) are “one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning (such as the noun quail and the verb quail)” A few examples would include:
Book: Something to read or the act of making a reservation
Bat: An animal or something you use to hit a ball in baseball/softball
Lie: To recline or tell a falsehood
Pen: Where animals may be kept or something to write with
Bark: The outside layer of a tree or the sound a dog makes

HOMOPHONES (as defined by the dictionary) “one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (such as the words to, too, and two).” Some examples are:

Chute; shoot Parachute; shoot a gun
Feat; feet A deed notable of courage; body part
Stationary; stationery Unchanging in condition; materials used for writing (paper)
Knead, kneed, need What you do when making bread; using knee to kick someone; obligation
Overseas, oversees beyond the ocean; watches over a project or group

Hopefully, you aren’t confused yet because here comes my favorite part of the world of homonyms and homophones!
HETERONYMS (sometimes called homographs) “are words that are spelled the same but pronounced different and have a different meaning.” A familiar example would be SOW. As a noun it can refer to “an adult female swine”. As a verb, it could mean “to plant seed for growth especially by scattering”. Examples include:
Tear: to rip Tear: fluid in eye
Dove: Dove:
Wind: to coil up Wind: the blowing air
Wound: to injure Wound: coiled up
Bow: front of a ship Bow: tool to shoot arrows
Combine: put together Combine: piece of farm equipment

Can you think of any others?

Delighted with this topic, I decided to come up with a story using as many homophones as I can (and it still make sense of course!).  Here is my opening sentence:

At peace with her decision, Danielle settled in to eat the last piece of cake.

What do you think? Want to try your own story? Check out this website that lists homophones from A to Z. Yes! X, Y, and Z have homophones! https://www.homophone.com/.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed todays post. Leave positive feedback and don’t forget to follow us!  May the Force be with You! Happy Star Wars Day! Live long and prosper for all my fellow Trekkers!