“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author, Gretchen McLellan

“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author Gretchen, McLellan https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
I’m Done by Gretchen McLellan

Today I would like to introduce you to my friend, Gretchen McLellan, author of I’m Done, as well as Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3  and, coming soon, Button and Bundle. Gretchen has been a friend of mine through SCBWI (that’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Oregon Chapter for many years. I hope you’ll enjoy her and her writing as much as I do.

LL: What was your inspiration for I’m Done?

Gretchen: Kids! In my former life I was a reading specialist in elementary schools. I heard, “I’m Done!” over and over and over again, but the children making this very public announcement rarely understood what being done meant.

I knew that I wanted to write a book with that title, and one day after work I decided to give it a try. I still only had a title, or so I thought. I said to myself, I’ll try this out as an animal story. (I usually write human characters.) Pick an animal, any animal. It was no stroke of genius that a beaver popped into my mind. Then my pen started moving, and this story poured out of me like water breaking through a proverbial dam.

But the unconscious inspiration for this story is much deeper. “I’m Done” is a deceptively simple phrase. Said with joy, frustration, or despair it takes on many meanings, all that resonate with me in the process of writing and in the journey toward publication and beyond.

LL: Describe I’m Done in 5 words:

Gretchen: a joyful celebration of perseverance

LL: What theme/s play an important role in I’m Done?

Gretchen: Perseverance. I am the poster child of perseverance. My journey to publication was as lengthy and arduous as an epic tale. At one point, I thought I was done. Finished. I was quitting writing, abandoning my dream. I knew I could not show up at another conference or retreat unpublished, ever again. I didn’t want to be an object of pity. But at the eleventh hour, I signed up for an SCBWI retreat for the last time, partially lured by the last-day-of-the-early-bird-discount email and the news that there was still a critique slot left with an agent, and partly because I wanted to see my friends.

It turns out I wasn’t done yet.

In that critique slot, I met my wonderful agent. I have two published picture books with three more on the calendar.

I didn’t give up and neither does Little Beaver.

LL: What is it about I’m Done that has turned out to be the most meaningful to you?

Gretchen: Definitely the relationships I’ve made in the making of the book, first with my editor, second with my illustrator.

Working with my editor was a joy. We had several rounds of written revisions that made the story better and better. Finally, the story was ready for the art. Then the f&gs (the folded and gathered pages of the printed but unbound book) arrived, and we had a phone meeting to discuss them. Sometime during the nearly two hours we spent on the phone together, I stopped and said, “Can you believe that we get to do this for work! This is so much fun!” Revising with her was a peak experience.

Next, the unexpected relationship with my illustrator, Catherine Lazar Odell, has been meaningful as well. Authors and illustrators rarely communicate. I have never written or spoken directly with any of my four illustrators during the process of making our books. If I’m invited to comment on the illustrations, my comments are filtered by the editor and art director, and rightfully so. I respect this process. Maybe it’s because Catherine’s and my editor realized how close we lived to each other that she broke protocol. But after the book had gone to press, she asked us if we’d like to exchange emails. We both did. What came next was up to us. Now I have the pleasure of gushing in person about how wonderful her artwork is and doing events together.

LL: What is the most fun you’ve had with I’m Done  since its release?

Gretchen: Doing story times at bookstores with an audience of families. I love creating all the adjunct activities that go with my books for story times. My story times involve puppets, fingerplays, chants and crafts, and are always under revision as I try to improve each time.  Sharing the stage doing Little Beaver’s voice and not only reading aloud with Catherine but watching her draw Little Beaver with kids is fantastic.

LL: Which of your picture books was easiest to write? Why?

Gretchen: I think I’m Done!, probably because it had been incubating, unbeknownst to me, for a long time. When I sat down to write, it came to me whole with a nibble, nibble, snap. Naturally, I made lots of changes to the first draft, and after the book sold (to Holiday House) made a lot more, before and after the art was in. But the story was there from the beginning.

But being “done” with a manuscript is often defined by the deadline to get the book to print so it can make its release date😊. I’d still like to make a change or two.

LL: Which of your picture books is your favorite?

Gretchen: I’m working with one of my editors on a picture book named I Hate Favorites! Does that answer your question?

LL: Funny! …on to the next question– How does your training as a reading specialist influence your writing?

Gretchen: I have shared a lot of books with a lot of children. I know the spell a good story can cast. Those that speak beautifully to children’s curiosity and hearts and honor who they are and their current developmental challenges are received with a quiet, active listening that is magic during a read-aloud. I try to write so that magic can occur. That involves knowing where kids are in their development as readers and as little human beings.

When I use repetition, rhyme, assonance and word play, I know I am writing in a way that is both pleasing to the ear, but also developing phonemic awareness, a necessary skill in becoming a reader. The nibble nibble snap, scoop scoop pat repetition and onomatopoeia of flish flish swish and wing wing zing in I’m Done! are examples.

“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author Gretchen, McLellan, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 by Gretchen McLellan

When I use an unfamiliar word (for the picture book set) I know I am adding to their vocabulary, sometimes giving children a word at the center of an experience that they don’t yet have a name for. For example, in Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, I explore the word bittersweet. The story is about the bittersweet of saying good-bye to a beloved teacher at the end of the school year. In the story Mrs. McBee explains the word to her class with a simile. “It’s like a swirly ice-cream cone with sad and happy twisted together.”

I am intentional about my word choice, aware of the role of picture books in building vocabulary. I don’t write down to the picture book audience, but I also try not to overload them with too many new vocabulary words either. In the reading field we talk about concept load. I can remember having too many new vocabulary terms loaded on me in school. It made me feel both ignorant and like screaming. I don’t want to make this mistake with my readers.

I am very aware that children’s background knowledge, or schema, influences their comprehension of a text. I ask myself what I can reasonably assume that a child knows about the topic (including vocabulary) and this influences what I state directly and what I can leave to the reader to infer. This is important in fiction and nonfiction texts. Reading builds schema, which improves future comprehension.  Furthermore, illustrations in picture books do lots of heavy lifting in providing visual information that aids comprehension. I write with the illustrations in mind too.

LL: Describe your early life as a reader/writer.

Gretchen: One of my most precious memories of school is my teacher reading Charlotte’s Web aloud. I couldn’t wait to go to school every day to hear more of that book. I can’t separate my early life as a reader/writer from my life as a listener. I still love the spoken word and listen regularly to books on CD.

I became a letter writer early, because I moved so much. Back in the days before instant communication, if I didn’t write the friends I had to leave behind, these friendships would die. I lived overseas and making international calls was too expensive. So I wrote letters.

My dreams of being a writer came much later when I discovered picture books as a mom.

LL: Describe your “literate lifestyle” now.

Gretchen: On the back flap of I’m Done! is the following:

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan writes everywhere she can–in barns and bookstores, bathtubs and beds, cars and coffeehouses. She has yet to write in a beaver lodge.

That about says it all. I write where ever I can with whatever time I have, and I try to write every day. I have several projects going at once, setting one aside to gain the perspective of distance and shifting to another. Since publication, I have been doing a lot of business and promotional writing. This kind of writing doesn’t exactly feed my soul. But it is an unanticipated necessity in the life of an author. I need to write fiction to feel balanced.

LL: What are you presently working on, and what’s next for you?

Gretchen: I am revising several picture books and a couple middle-grade novels. I’m always open to the rush of a new idea and honor ideas when they come, because they come with their tanks full. I’ve got a lot of projects stuck in a long line at the pumps.

LL: How can Literate Lives readers help you get the word out about I’m Done?

Gretchen: If readers are willing, requesting the book at their local library is always helpful. Libraries usually honor patrons’ requests, and it’s easy to make one from the comfort of your favorite chair and computer.

Reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads is helpful as well. This can be as simple as rating the book with the number of stars it deserves for you or writing a quick review that could guide readers to the book.

I think I’m Done! is right for many audiences for many reasons.

  • For children it’s an entertaining and humorous story about the value of perseverance/persistence and the joy of completing a task that you are proud of.
  • For parents and teachers, it’s a story that can lead to discussions about what it means to be done and what it takes to stick with something.

It’s a story that promotes social and emotional development. How many of us were criticized for not doing something well when no one ever defined what the job at hand entailed in the first place? I’m hoping that at home and at school, the story will help adults help children understand expectations more clearly and experience success more regularly.

If Literate Lives readers have Preschool-2nd grade teachers in their lives, a recommendation would be fantastic. Every teacher has heard “I’m Done!” and every teacher is looking for texts that promote emotional intelligence, reading development, community, and the value of perseverance.

In addition, I have resources available on gretchenmclellan.com for teachers to download e.g. a Readers’ Theatre adaptation of the story, chants, and blackline masters for crafts.

It wasn’t until I held the f&gs for I’m Done!  that I realized the story is a metaphor for writing—and so much more. How do you know when you’re done with a novel? How do you develop the internal guide that tells you to stop writing or painting or carving before it’s too late? I think this book speaks to young and old alike in so many ways. It speaks about the support we need in our creative work, how comradery can be so important to completing a project (and a distraction too!) and how we must develop an inner sense of quality, form, and beauty to know when we are done. So this book is for you too!

LL: Thank you, Gretchen! It is so interesting to learn about I’m Done!  in particular, and how you craft your books to help build early literacy skills in young readers. Little Beaver’s story, and your own, are both so encouraging.

I don’t know about my readers, but I most definitely have a little one on my Christmas list who I think might be receiving a copy of I’m Done!  this December.

Your Turn:

Gretchen’s story about her first book sale continues to inspire me as I seek publication for my own novels.

Have you ever felt, after a lot of hard work, that you were “done” before life surprised you with a wonderful opportunity? Please use the comment box below to share your story.

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My New Facebook Page: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author


Facebook Page; Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
My Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lower, Author—is up and nearly fully operational. (When you see the widget in the right column here on the blog to connect you to the page, you’ll know I am at last truly done—however, it does contain an opening post.)

Yearning to Share

I’m excited about my Facebook page. There are so many things I long to share with you in quick, brief ways, too many to always write a post, and so many not requiring a full post. So, I hope my page will provide greater opportunities to share and enrich your reading, writing, parenting, and teaching practices.

What can you expect to find on Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author?

“Play With Your Words” Writing Prompts

One of the most valuable things I learned when I studied for my master’s degree in teaching was that studies show two of the best ways to improve at both reading and writing are to read or write. Each helps to improve at both skills! With the exception of longer writing projects (which will be archived here, in Teacher’s File Drawer), I will now post writing prompts—for fiction, non-fiction, and personal journaling—on my new Facebook page.

Reading Response Exercises

These were another favorite in my Language Arts teacher’s toolbox. When students reflect on what they read, it helps them to understand the text more deeply and remember it better. Free reading + reading response exercises were my favorite Language Arts homework. Reading Response Exercises will also assist aspiring authors in reading like a writer, a practice highly recommended by the pros.

Wonderful Words: Quotes

I love quotes. I love ideas powerfully stated. I love words strung together in marvelous ways. (To refresh your memory, check out my post here.) While I have had fun preparing omnibus quote posts, I have so many quotes collected, and I long to share these beautiful and inspiring words more often. Now I can on my new Facebook page.

My Literate Lifestyle & Writing Journey

I will also use my Facebook Page to share my literate lifestyle and writer’s journey—books I’m reading, projects I’m working on, insights and organizational strategies—and I hope you will share yours. I’d like to be a friend and comrade to you in your pursuit of a literate lifestyle.

Your Turn

My vision is that this new Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author—will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another. Please use the comment box below to let me know how I can be a help to you.

A New Season, A New Year, A New Life


A New Season, A New Year, A New Life; literatelives.wordpress.com
Having lived most of my life aligned with the academic schedule (as a student, mother of students, and educator), the start of September and school have always felt like my true “new year.”

A New Season

Here where I live, September signals the end of summer, even if it does not yet hold the gold-leaved glory of fall. It has already rained, three times since the start of the month and people were glad to see it! Although it is not yet officially arrived, that won’t happen until the equinox, September 23, autumn is definitely coming.

A New Year

As stated above, the beginning of the academic calendar is my true new year. It is a time to re-evaluate routines, maybe drop some old practices, incorporate some new…

One of the practices I am really excited about this year is that of using a planner. I never used a planner until I was in grad school and tracking assignments became too difficult to do in my head. That practice carried over into teaching with the necessity of a lesson plan book. One of my principals wanted it sitting open on our desks at all times. Through years of tracking lessons and the preparation and gathering of materials for lessons, my planning skills (and planner dependency) grew.

This last year I started using a planner at home to establish routines and make sure none of my “to-do” items dropped off into the abyss of forgetfulness, and this summer I’ve been reading a lot about planners and bullet-journaling and enjoying incorporating some of those principles into my own efforts at personal organization.

A New Life

The biggest change of all for me is that this September, I am not returning to the classroom. (Fear not, however, my husband is also an educator, so the academic year shall still rule supreme on our calendar.)

I am very excited at the prospect of having more time for writing (and a little less excited for having more time to care for our long-neglected home).

However, what I looked forward to with joy, also carries its own sorrows. I miss my colleagues at the DTLC; I miss the high privilege of being entrusted to diagnose students’ individual learning needs and make plans and design lessons to address them; and I miss the opportunities to see my students learn, mature, and achieve.

(This will be to your benefit, however, as the drive to nurture readers and writers will be channeled into this blog and my upcoming Facebook page.)

New/Old Challenges

Back in June I was so excited to “hit the ground running” with both my fiction projects and this blog when my husband returned to work. But September finds me weary, recovering from two July colds and the culminating three weeks of sinus and ear infection that gobbled up the end of August.

In addition, these past eighteen months has seen our family knocked about with numerous blows that included death, traumatic brain injury, near loss of eyesight, and serious chronic illness. Both my husband and I did what we needed to at the time and just kept going. However, now I feel like these rough waters have washed me, sorrowful and exhausted, into a still pool and it is time to reflect on the impact of these life changers. (If I were to write a memoir, I think I might call it When Lightning Strikes, & Strikes, & Strikes…)

Therefore, I am looking forward, a little more quietly, to a season of learning, reflecting, and writing, and, of course, sharing my love of reading, writing, and teaching with you.

Your Turn

What are you looking forward to this new season? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

Remember

New blog posts will now be available the first, third, and occasional fifth Thursday of each month.

Stay tuned for the launch of my Facebook page.

Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives


Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
This month’s theme, “A New Season, A New Year, A New Life” will manifest itself the most obviously in a new blog schedule and strategy.

The Biggest Change

Starting this week, I will be posting on Thursdays.

Why Thursdays? I make this change (back to what was, initially, part of my blog schedule) out of consideration of my audience: individuals (including writers), parents, and teachers interested in nurturing literacy both for themselves and their kids.

As we move back into the school year, it occurs to me that many of the nurturing literacy ideas I share need some lead time in order to be incorporated into lesson plans and family activities (which will now mostly occur on the weekend).

Thursday is a good day to introduce ideas for the weekend and following work week.

Additional Changes

Blog posts will now be scheduled for the first, third, and (when it occurs) fifth Thursday of each month.

Why?

The reason for this change is my desire to share more from my daily reading, and quote, reading response, and writing prompt collections. I have been doing this in the form of “omnibus” posts, which I enjoy creating, but which also keep me from creating more, meatier posts.

Therefore, I am starting an author’s Facebook Page.

What You Will Find Here on Debby Zigenis-Lowery’s Literate Lives?

Here on the blog I want to delve deeply into the reading, writing, teaching and learning life, share more complex Language Arts lesson ideas, and interview writers and possibly even host some guest bloggers.

I will continue to update my reading log.

I will also strive to do a better job updating my Teacher’s File Drawer, Reading Response Exercises, Play With Your Words: Writing Prompts, and The Literate Family’s Fun pages.

What You Will Find on My Facebook Page

This is where the recommendations from my daily reading , quotes, and writing and reading response prompts will now appear.

Also, you will find occasional updates about my writing, publication, and writing goals or activities.

My vision is that the page will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another.

Your Turn

As I am rethinking this blog, are there any ideas or feedback you would like me to consider? Please use the comment box to respond. I value your feedback and encouragement.

With Summer Before Me…

With Summer Before Me... literatelives.wordpress.comI write this on the last Saturday of the school year. Just four more school days to go, and it will officially be summer. Hooray!

Excitement and Caution

I look ahead with both excitement and caution.

Why excitement? Because this is the beginning of a new writing life. I have resigned my teaching position and look forward to investing more time in crafting fiction and poetry.

And the reason for caution? I have been quite sick these last six months and therefore lost a lot of strength and stamina. I long to fling myself into projects around the house putting away messes that have accumulated during this difficult school year, and earlier. However, last summer when I was recovering from mononucleosis, I learned that it’s great to have goals and to work toward them, but I cannot hold myself to stiff deadlines when my health is so unpredictable. Last summer I ended up pretty depressed that I did not get enough done.

However, this year will be different because my “deadlines” can extend past September for the first time in five years.

What I am Looking Forward to This Summer

Sleeping in! I am still so very tired and often sleep twelve-hour nights when an alarm is not required. But, once I wake up I will be eager to either begin or resume:

  • daily reading (multiple topics, most blog or web-based) each morning as I enjoy my mocha
  • exercising to rebuild my strength and stamina
  • road tripping with my husband (He is an awesome travel partner!)
  • spending quality time with my delightful grandkids–over-nighters, lunch-dates accompanied by trips to the bookstore, crafting together….
  • finishing the final revision of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel
  • finishing revisions on my Mt. Rainier middle grade poetry book, Wandering Mt Rainier, and beginning the submission process
  • putting my guest/library/craft room back together (We packed everything, moved new things in, and made messes last summer but did not even come close to completing the job before school started last September.)

And in the Fall?

In addition to continuing any healthy practices developed in the summer and completing my summer goals, I plan to:

  • expand this blog
  • begin hunting for an agent to represent my fiction
  • write, research, write, revise, edit, and write some more!

Your Turn

What are your plans for the summer? What are your dreams for next fall? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Kristen Lamb and How to “Diagnose” a Writer

Kristen Lamb & How to “Diagnose” a Writer: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love Kristen Lamb’s Blog. She is one of my favorite bloggers. A post from last month (Diagnosing a REAL Writer: Do You Have Terminal Inexactitude Syndrome?) had me laughing out loud. Please, go and read it. I can wait.

Is Writing a REAL Job or a Mental Condition?

As she muses whether or not writing is a real job (spoiler alert, it is) Lamb considers that perhaps writing “may be a mental condition” which she labels “Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome” and describes as “a compulsive need to tell stories.” Then she lists the symptoms.

Do I Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome? Do you?

T.I.S.” in Youth

Of the 6 symptoms Lamb listed for children and young adults, 4 definitely would characterize my childhood, and even my life after:

  • “Preferred reading books, writing stories or drawing dragons 74% more than sports”—although I would have to change that percentage to 100.
  • “Had a 300% greater likelihood of being found in school library when compared to non T.I.S. peers”—This was particularly true during high school. It was so much easier than attempting to socialize! (As an adult I have, more than once, served as a library volunteer, and am now the “librarian” on my one room school site.)
  • “Displayed a 92.4% chance of ‘royally sucking’ at Dodgeball (data is inconclusive about skill level or simple desire to be ‘OUT’ so as to return to reading Goosebumps)”—Again, for me, the percentage would need to be raised to 100. Also, since I never willingly played Dodgeball (the only occasions when I did were for P.E.) there was, alas, absolutely zero chance of getting back to a book when ‘OUT’.
  • “Demonstrated early addictive behaviors with office supplies. Parents who suspect their child might have T.I.S. should look for noticeable pupil dilation when shopping for school supplies”—My favorite toy as a child was my size 64 box of Crayola Crayons. To this day, I love browsing stationery stores, the school supplies sections of stores, and the paper and art material sections of crafts stores. I love paper, notebooks, journals, index cards, glitter gel pens, mechanical pencils, and Prismacolor colored pencils.

Am I a Writer?

According to Lamb, “a primary symptom of T.I.S. is that writers angst over what makes them ‘real.’” Yup, I have been guilty of that and so have many of my writing friends.

Of Lamb’s 8 diagnostic questions, I confess to having committed 6:

  • “Display visible signs of distress, pain, and at times, explosive violence when shown sentences such as… Their are no more donuts in the brake room’”—Yes, I confess these kinds of errors can make me crazy—but only when committed by people I do not know and love. I am grateful for any communication from any of my friends and loved ones and would never, ever mentally edit their writing.
  •  “Exhibit significant cognitive-tactile impairment when texting (refusal to employ ‘ur’, ‘IDK, ‘BRB’ or even the seemingly innocuous ‘lol’)”–Yep. See the next trait.
  • “Insist on using full sentences and proper punctuation”—Yeah, guilty. However, I have begun to have fun with emoticons. I particularly enjoy hearts, kittens, flowers, and suns.
  • “Can become agitated with certain trigger words such as bae, turnt or fleek”—My biggie is the news media’s abuse of the word “troop” when they use it to refer to a single individual.
  •  “See nothing wrong with discussing rates of body decomposition, history of guillotines, The Black Death, or bot flies at social functions involving food”—my most recent exploration for the novel I am working on was figuring out when rigor mortis sets in, and when it goes away, however I have not had opportunity to discuss it at a social function.
  • “Are known to choose mates based off vocabulary, intellect, appreciation for Monty Python, and ability to operate, repair, and set up laser printers (leading to an abnormally high ratio of writers choosing engineer ‘types’ as partners)”—Now this one is only partially true. My guy, while being a math teacher and our home “technical expert,” also likes music and books similar to what I like, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and trustworthy people I know, and is simply an awesome life partner; I would have been a fool to let him get away!

 My Conclusion

I definitely have T.I.S. (Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome). Not only do I have it, I embrace it. I love to write; it helps me make sense of the world. And I love to write fiction because it’s just, plain fun.

Your Turn

Do you struggle with T.I.S? Well, there’s no better way to deal with it than to write. So, tell me, what are your symptoms? What are your joys? Please use the comment box, below, to share your thoughts. I am so eager to hear from you. Let’s encourage one another!

Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

 

 

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me

Yesterday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. I know. It probably would have been nice to know that yesterday. However, fairy tales are something that can be appreciated any day, right?

Here are a couple of cool quotes about fairy tales:

“If I am honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales, and I like them best of all.”  Audrey Hepburn

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  Albert Einstein

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but that they tell us dragons can be beaten.”  G.K. Chesterton

Fairy Tales and Me

Like Ms. Hepburn, I have always loved fairy tales. Here’s some fun facts about me and the fairy tales in my life.

  • National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesMy favorite book of fairy tales: The Princesses: Sixteen Stories Selected by Sally Patrick Johnson
  • One of my most shameful confessions: I checked The Princesses out of my school library and never returned it. Yes, that means I’m a book thief.
  • My favorite fairy tale: “The Light Princess,” by George MacDonald
  • My favorite fairy tale movie: Disney’s animated version of “Sleeping Beauty.” I know they got a bit creative with the storyline, however, due to this film, I fell in love with Gothic architecture and art before the age of 5!
  • My first publishing credit: “The Frost King’s Dowry,” a retelling of a Russian folk tale, published in Cricket magazine
  • My most recent publishing credit: a poem, “Dishwater Dreaming,” a poem inspired by the tale “Donkeyskin,” published in Enchanted Conversation Magazine, June 28, 2018
  • My favorite fairy tale blog: fairytalemagazine.com

Your Turn

What are some of your fairy tale favorites or the fairy tale milestones in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment box. Let’s inspire and encourage each other!

Pinterest Interest: Writing, Settings, History, and More!

I love Pinterest. Pinning and seeing what others have pinned is one of my favorite activities when I ‘m feeling tired.

What do I pin? What don’t I pin!

Okay, really, what do I pin? I pin posts from this blog, of course. I also pin in the topics of reading, writing, history (I love history!), art, crafting, and more. (You can visit my pinboards at Debby Zigenis-Lowery.)

Some of my pin boards were getting so full, that I would “weed” them so they would not be unmanageable to browse. However, much to my delight, this winter Pinterest enabled categories within boards, and I am now working to combine some boards using categories within them (to keep down my overall board count) and to categorize the contents of my bigger boards.

It’s been a big job, but I’ve finally organized my “professional” boards (Writing, Settings, and History), so now seemed like a good time to share.

Writing Boards

These boards, as the title suggests relate to writing, both personal and professional, with a focus on fiction, in general, and fantasy, in particular. In the writing section of my Pinterest collection you will find topics such as:

…and more.

Settings

I have an entire section just for setting inspiration. It includes different types of landscape/ecosystems, as well as settings created by or populated by people, such as:

Most of these collections contain categories, some as simple as “interior” and “exterior,” others as complicated as grouping “types.”

History

Because I am fascinated by history, and most of my novels are some form of “folkloric” or “historical” fantasy, I was thrilled with the ability Pinterest provided, first for collecting information and images on the topics of history, society, home & family life, and fashion, and now for actually categorizing them neatly within their eras.

In addition, I keep learning more and more about history as I collect. (I love it!) My history boards are arranged semi chronologically. This section contains boards for:

As a bit of a medieval, Jane Austen, and turn of the 20th Century fan, I am still working to make my boards more inclusive of all the cultures of the world. I’m a long way from succeeding. However, as I would not feel qualified to write about these cultures, my boards will probably always end up being more Euro-centric.

More, More, & Still More!

I also have boards for other activities and topics. Feel free to pop by and visit, but be warned, I have not had time to combine and categorize everything.

Your Turn

Are you on Pinterest?  What kinds of items do you love to collect? Share the name of your Pinterest board in the comments section below, and tell us a few of the topics you favor. It would be so fun to visit and see what you have!

The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!