Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Dear 11-year old Me

Dear 11-year old Jade,

You are a college student now, that's quite the leap from the fifth grade. Life is going well and you have already lived through a historic event and you're not even 21 yet. Pretty crazy, huh? All this great insight is coming from yourself in on a a quick trip to New York so it’s going to be short and sweet:

Keep working hard.

Always try your best.

Be yourself.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Try new things.

Prepare to be very busy in high school and college.

And maybe sit out the last few minutes of that last indoor soccer game during your senior year (your uninjured self will thank me later).

About me: I’m a student at Missouri State University studying Electronic Arts (Video Production) and Screenwriting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Dear 11-Year-Old Irene Latham

Dear 11-Year-Old Me,

What gifts your parents have given you—
a houseful of siblings/playmates;
piano, books, and art supplies;
a home on a country road with endless
daylight hours to explore, imagine, dream.


Irene & Cinnamon (& Sugar)

You already know the important things:
     Broken bones heal best with ice cream,
books, games, sisters, and long walks outdoors.
Use this to heal yourself after other breaks
and losses, too.

     You don't need money—only imagination—
to have a good time.

     One devoted companion is worth
more than a million followers
online (you'll find out what this means later).

     Better to be quiet, than to say something mean.

Just as the seasons change, you'll change, too.
For now, savor the scent of hay and sunshine
as you hang out with the ponies in the pasture.

Keep reading and writing.

You won't believe it, but someday
you'll take those poems and stories
out of the drawers.

You'll stand in front of crowds to share your words,
with nary a quiver.

There are more surprises in store—
lessons you'll have to learn the hard way,
miracles, and for every heartache,
a forest-ful of fairy tale endings.

Every twist in the road brings you back
to all the things you value right now—
freedom, imagination, beauty, love.

Remember: You are beautiful.
You are enough.

Keep loving and creating,
and you will emerge
                                  safe
on the other side of every storm.

Love,

50-Year-Old Me
-----

Irene Latham is a grateful creator of many novels, poetry collections, and picture books, including the coauthored Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, which earned a Charlotte Huck Honor, and The Cat Man of Aleppo, which won a Caldecott Honor. Irene lives on a lake in rural Alabama.

Monday, August 2, 2021

10 Things I'd Tell My 11-Year-Old Self

 

10 Things I'd Tell My 11-Year-Old Self

 

 Me (on left) at about age 11 with my family

10. Never stop reading! It’s always going to be your favorite activity.

9. Keep your sense of humor. It will stand you in good stead!

8. When you have an opportunity to travel, take it. Learn from your experiences and talk to people who live in the place you’re visiting.

7. Get some exercise every day. You’ll be glad when you’re older! Long walks are always good.

6. Don’t let difficult people or situations stop you from doing what you want to do.

5. More interesting eating options are on the horizon! Just wait!

4. Try to overcome at least some of your shyness. People might actually want to talk to you more than you think they will.

3. Keep on observing. It’s okay to be more of an observer than a participant if that’s more comfortable for you, and it will help you with your reporting one day.

2. Keep writing. Don’t take years-long breaks from your fiction-writing.

1. Appreciate your family and friends. 

 

--Deborah Kalb

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Into the Unknown

 By Charlotte Bennardo

Even if you're a stay-at-home, curl up on the couch with a good book or movie with the cat and a cup of tea kind of person, you need adventure. Maybe it's trying out a restaurant with a cuisine you've never eaten before. Or it's leaving the family home to go on a vacation with college friends. Adventures come in all sizes and shapes and experiences, and as writers, we can't help but incorporate them into our writing, sometimes knowingly, other times unconsciously. 

During the pandemic, staying at home lost its appeal and became...well, oppressive. I had to get out. My husband and I got on our bikes and put on our (new) hiking shoes, and hit the trails. We've been exploring new places, many surprisingly close to our home, and discovering nature, expanding our physical comfort zones, and improving our physical and mental well-being. 

Photo courtesy of Pexels, Nina Uhlikova

How has this shown up in my work? I describe outdoor scenes with more precision and detail. I'm not a fan of heavy description (a holdover from my days as a journalist- just the facts, ma'am), but now I can't help but make my outdoor scenes more lush, or threatening, or mysterious. I know the rush of adrenaline before the pain sets in when you crash your bike (yeah, ow. Broken bones and staples). There is a heart pounding moment when the forest suddenly goes quiet and you're not sure why: a bear? A coming storm? Or, in my writer's mind, a human predator? Truly it is different to write something with imagination versus real life experience.

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels, Murillo Molissani

So it's onto the next adventure. What will it be? Whatever it is, it can't help but sneak into my writing, and that's a good thing. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Combining Work and Play (or Not)

I wish I had interesting hobbies, but I don't. I don't ski or rock climb or do anything that involves athleticism, because I have none.

Pretty much all I do, besides working and taking care of my family, is write and read--and more often than not, the writing and reading relate to work.

My husband and kids are always telling me I need to relax more, but I rarely listen.

However, on the rare occasion, I will get together with my cousin Carolyn. This is one of my favorite ways to relax and have fun. Carolyn and I have been best friends since we were teenagers. (This would be a great place to put a photo of Carolyn and me as teens, but we never take pictures. It's sad, really!)

Since our youth, whenever Carolyn and I get together, we do two things: giggle constantly and stay up all night talking. This wasn't a problem when we were young and could recover quickly from an all-nighter, but now, it takes us about three days to bounce back, and we keep saying, "Why do we do this to ourselves?"

The answer is because it's fun. 

I couldn't tell you the things we talk about all night; I've generally forgotten them by the next day. However, most recently, I read Carolyn my current work-in-progress. Yep. She stayed awake all night long to listen to me read my book. Now that's friendship! Of course, she has known me so well for so long that she knows where most of my material comes from, so she has somewhat of a vested interest.

That work-in-progress has since grown significantly. Last night, I wrote "The End" on this manuscript, which now has 59,824 words. Unfortunately, Carolyn was too busy to get together...or was she?! 😂

Even if she didn't listen to my book, I'd still look forward to our next get-together.

You can make new friends, but you can't make new old friends.

 

 

 


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Playin' Around (Holly Schindler)

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”--Kurt Vonnegut
 
This might be one of my favorite literary quotes of all time, from one of my favorite authors.
 
I didn't always like Vonnegut. In fact, he drove me nuts when I was in grad school. We were assigned Breakfast of Champions, and the book just annoyed me. At one point, Vonnegut says, "I am writing a very bad book," right in the middle of the thing, and I scribbled in the margin, "YUP!!!!!" 
 
 Or, you know, something along those lines.
 
The thing is, though, I was a pretty--well--humorless thing, in my early twenties. I liked things that were literary  and high-brow and I didn't have time for guilty pleasures. I was serious and driven and...
 
Well. You get the idea. 
 
These days? One of my biggest allergies is to taking oneself too seriously. I love meandering walks and comedies. I'd rather eat milkshakes and French fries over anything fancy-pants. I do not trust people who don't like dog kisses (seriously, who was that girl I used to be????) 
 
The thing is, you can't expect a really great book to follow all the pre-established rules. You've got to experiment. Let certain plot points take meandering detours away from the original plan. Try new POVs. New narrative techniques. You've got to, in short fart around. 
 
You just plain can't take your work too seriously. Play is the thing. 
 
Years after grad school, I saw a short video of Vonnegut discussing story shapes and decided to revisit his work. I re-read Breakfast of Champions.
 
And I loved it.
 
~
 
Holly Schindler is a critically acclaimed author of books for readers of all ages. Her first MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, recently re-released. A corresponding activity book is also available. Check HollySchindler.com for details. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Put Your Trickster Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

As promised last month, here is one way I have learned to used the three aspects of the Trickster archetype--the sage/innocent/fool--to shake up my creative work. 

Writers are told they must "kill their little darlings," the pieces of prose they most love, usually descriptions. "No, no," the writer protests, thinking her words as precious and irreplaceable as a Ming dynasty plate.

The Fool steps in to throw your sacred plate across the room and shatter into pieces.

The Sage says, "Relax. Don't worry. You you have an abundance of little darlings inside."

Meanwhile, the Innocent blithely sits down in  the middle of chaos and starts turning over the beautiful  shards.

And so a new direction is born. I'm learning to apply this process in bigger ways, not only to passages of prose or poetry, but to entire chapters, poems, even projects. If  I don't cling to an existing form, I am freer to create better ones.

Is a Writing Proverb in order? How about: The less precious you think your work, the better your work will be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Inspiring Adventures Everywhere

When you have a creative, story-writing-kind-of imagination, inspiring adventures are everywhere. 

I can do something as simple as watch a movie or documentary, put myself in the story, and my adventure begins. 

Years ago, I watched a PBS program about a scientist studying alligators. Where was the documentary filmed? A mysterious place called the Okefenokee Swamp. Seeing that was all it took for me to gain an irresistible interest in the Okefenokee. My inspiring, imaginative adventure began, and I spent the next several years reading about the swamp, taking several trips to see the swamp firsthand, and learning story after story about the life people in the swamp lived. The result? Elsie Mae Has Something to Say, the historical fiction story of Elsie's endeavor to become a hero of the Okefenokee and preserve the unique swamp life and heritage of her family. Elsie Mae's adventure grew from the imaginative adventures I took in my mind; all of which were sparked by the PBS program about alligators.

The same kind of inspiration can happen for me when I read a really good book. I fall in love with a character and am so drawn into her story that it is almost as if the story is happening to me. Often from that imaginative story-adventure I take while reading, my own creative juices start flowing, and I find myself with ideas for a completely different character with a completely different story. 

So for me, adventure and inspiration go hand in hand, and adventures don't have to be something I've experienced myself in order for those adventures to spark the kind of story inspiration that grows into a book.

Happy Imagination Adventuring,

Nancy J. Cavanaugh

www.nancyjcavanaugh.com

Friday, July 16, 2021

Mundane Girl in a Crazy World

Two of my daughters are currently in high school. They're cool. So cool. I mean, really. They are. Way cooler than I ever dreamed of being back in the day, growing up in a small town in interior Alaska in the '70s and '80s, where trends and fashions reached us months or years late. My cool daughters, like all good GenZs, seem to connect primarily through the screen. What they snap, what they insta, what they screenshot, what they stream - this is not just what they do, it is who they are. GenXers like me tend to think that, while expanding their world in some senses, they are also shrinking it, and engaging with it in a much smaller way. But the world is not static; it is ever-changing, and even our very definitions of social life and connection must change too, and we must understand that what is normal and right for us, may not be for others.

Blythe, my way cool 17-year-old, streamed Mortal Instruments: City of Bone just the other night, proclaiming, "I haven't seen this in a hot minute." When it came out, she was nine. Cheesy as it is, I really like that movie, and my girls do too. Blythe and I have both read all the books. And I mention it because of the term "Mundane" which is used throughout the books and movie to reference people who have no connection to the magical world. In those stories, Mundane is almost an insult. They are people who are ignorant; blind to the amazing things around them. Even by our definition, mundane isn't a terribly sexy word - adj., lacking interest or excitement; dull. And yet, I think it's a word that describes me perfectly, and not in a bad way.

We all grow up thinking we will be something special. Our parents, at least most of them, tell us that. You can be anything, become an astronaut, cure cancer, write the great American novel; the only thing holding you back is you. But really, we can't all do that. Some of us have to be stay-at-home parents, custodians, waitresses, shelf stockers, factory workers. The world wouldn't work if we were all as 'special' as we are led to believe.

Being an elementary school librarian in a small town, raising kids, raising chickens, well, that's a pretty mundane life. We don't have a ton of money, seldom go on vacation or even camping trips, live a rather small life. I recall that line from You've Got Mail when Kathleen sends a message to her mysterious AOL pen pal: "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?" I've definitely wondered this about myself. And I would say that I definitely haven't been very brave. I often take the path of least resistance. But, I've come to realize, I also very much like my small life. 

We took a vacation in Hawaii this past March, our entire family. My husband and I, and all five of our kids ages twenty-two down to eleven slogged through endless Covid protocols, got on a plane and flew to the Big Island, where my Dad lives. It should have been wonderful, and in some senses, it certainly was. But mostly, it felt like a lot of work. The kids fought a lot, no one could agree on where to go or what to do, people slept in too long, my liberal kids had a hard time holding their tongue around their vocally conservative Grandpa, and when you are staying in a condo, there is still housework, laundry and cooking. Some vacation, right? 

Every time I'm away from home I'm reminded that I don't really enjoy being away from home all that much. I like my home. I like my life. I like my job. I'm boring. Definitely not cool like my kids. Genuinely mundane. And while that definition of myself may have bothered me at one point, it doesn't any longer. I'm fine with being who I am, doing what I do, and loving what I love. I don't need to prove anything to anyone. It's okay if my idea of a big adventure is a three-day camping trip in a well-stocked motor home. It's okay if my idea of fun is my daily solo walks and jogs with my dog, listening to an audiobook. It's okay if I generally prefer staying home and doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a book rather than going to a concert or a movie.



Soggy spring walk - my kind of 'adventure'

Others may need more. More variety, bigger adventures, and grander fun. For me, life itself is an awfully big adventure and fun is where you find it. May you all find your very own brand of fun and adventure. And if turns out you are a Mundane, like me, hey, that's okay! We can compare (very boring) notes.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Connections


 As summarized perfectly in some tourist commercial, this past year has felt like one long, long winter. Defined by loss and grief, fear and sadness, the year carried with it an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, underscored by a sense of disconnect.  As the old adage goes, “Everyone has a tragedy.”

The pandemic highlighted how we took our connections for granted. Indeed, as another old adage says, we realize the true value of anything only after it’s taken away.

 The internet, and social media, redefined – or revolutionized – the power to connect.  Some connections operated solely to disinform and divide (in a twisty turn of radical mind-puzzling irony of ironies, connecting in order to disconnect). 

Other connections provided a more positive benefit. These connections kept us  … well … connected. It lowered anxiety, softened depression, and created empathy. At its most positive, it offered hope, not just for our own humanity, but for our place in the universe. 

For example, writing conferences and classes have moved online, making them cheaper and more available. Some of the best that I’ve taken (and recommend highly!)  include Harold Underdown's and Eileen Robinson’s Revision Workshops. (See more about their schedule at Kid’s Book Revisions.) 

Free Expressions, founded  by Lorin  Oberweger, offers a slew of interesting, informative webinars by masters of the trade, including Chris Vogler, Donald Maass, and Emma D. Dryden. (See more about their workshop and service schedule at Free Expressions.)  

Photo by Cynthia Cotten (c.2021)

It’s not always about work. Sometimes it’s about taking a virtual hike with friends along the outskirts of San Francisco, or on the Florida beach, or along the river's edge in New York. Or visiting gardens of friends around the world.  Or visiting poodles in Maine, and seals in California. Birding in Montana. Sometimes it’s a ride in the Tardis with a favorite companion. 


Connection is the experience of oneness.Brianna Wiest



I’ve been away for a bit, taking care of life. And now I’m back, grateful for this connection. Now we know, connections reinforce and celebrate the continuity of life.  George Ella Lyons (and thank you for this recommendation, Cynthia!) explores her connections to her family and land in Where I’m From:


... Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments--

snapped before I budded --

leaf-fall from the family tree.

--George Ella Lyon 



What connections did you discover -- or rediscover?


Rest in Power, Grandma Dorothy. 


--Bobbi Miller

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Summer Adventures by-- Jennifer Mitchell

 As a teacher, July is typically the month I grant myself time to do things that I consider a little more “fun.”  We typically schedule a family vacation; that is something I always look forward to (I still have a couple of weeks before I set out on this year’s adventure).  I grant myself permission to stay up later than I normally would, and I have been enjoying watching evening movies with my daughter.  I love sitting on the deck in the evening and just taking the time to enjoy nature.  I am not what one would consider very adventurous, but I do enjoy trying new things.  I have lived in Kansas City my entire life and just took the time this week to go to the Jazz Museum.  It was a great way to learn more about history, and something I can always weave into my history lessons for the upcoming school year. 


A summer tradition I started a few years ago was going to the library and checking out the Mark Twain Award Nominee books. I love being able to have the time to read books that might be potential mentor texts, or a read aloud for the upcoming school year.  I am always excited to introduce different books to my students, and it feels like a gift to have the time to read several books.  The book I am currently reading, Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, feels like it will pair well with Because of Winn-Dixie when I teach that unit.  So even though I am reading for enjoyment, I am always trying to connect books to use in my classroom.


For me July is a month to let up a little on the normal daily grind, and take time out for enjoyment that I might not normally pencil in for myself. 





I am a second/ third grade looping teacher in the Kansas City area.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Playing...Adult Style by Darlene Beck Jacobson

      

 "PLAY is the work of the child" - Maria Montessori

Since our July theme is how we play and what we adult writers consider adventure, I am taking you on a walk through one of the summer activities I enjoy and have enjoyed since childhood.

Going out for a walk...first thing in the morning before I eat breakfast... is the perfect time to tune into nature uninterrupted by lawnmowers or man-made noise. It feels like play to discover something unexpected on one of these walks. It happens whether I walk on a beach, in my neighborhood, or in a woodland setting. Anywhere my feet take me. 

Here are some examples of unexpected treasures on my morning walks:


 

 On a beach walk. (Give yourself a pat on the back if you know what this is...)






 

 

 

From a walk on a woodland path.




               

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a sidewalk in my neighborhood: 

                

What can easily be missed when we don't pay attention, becomes an unexpected gift. I get just as excited discovering these everyday things in unexpected moments now, as I did when I was a child. It reminds me of the simple ways kids engage in and appreciate the world around them.

Walking becomes play when something new is found.

Learning new skills and trying new things also counts as play and it brings to mind the characters we write about and create. They strive to learn new things, solve new problems, become new versions of themselves.

We make our characters come to life in authentic ways when we channel our playful and curious nature. Paying attention to the "little things" that bring wonder and joy to life.

Walking on a forest path outside State College, PA in June 2021. It looks like the fairies had made a recent visit...since these ornaments were not there on the same walk the day before.



 

When she isn't writing books for children, Darlene Beck Jacobson enjoys exploring the natural world and making unique discoveries. Even though she lives in NJ, she's discovered amazing things in lots of other places as well.

You can find some of these things on her blog: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Blurred Lines

by Jody Feldman


Golf.
Movies.
Reading.
Puzzles.
Museum.
Long walks.
Lunch with people!

That’s how I’ve played this past week (so far). 
I deserved it. 

Having just met an intense, 10-week, ChapterOne-to-publisher deadline, I kept sane some days by promising myself I’d take time after to do some things I love. 

And yet, while I’ve been walking or driving or finding myself alone, I’ve missed the writing. Not the long hours of sitting and typing, no. I miss occupying my mind with all the play that goes into plotting and character development; even with the challenge of finding that perfect turn of phrase or the task of chopping a single word from a paragraph to keep a chapter from running a couple lines onto the next page.
It’s play to me.
And I can't help but smile...
How lucky am I to have found an occupation that blurs the lines between work and play!

Award-winning middle grade author of The Gollywhopper Games series and The Seventh Level, Jody Feldman may be taking a brief dip to the other (older) side with a YA thriller coming out next summer, but never fear. There’s still MG in her heart.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Finding Adventure With Rochelle Melander -- by Jane Kelley

What comes to mind when we think of going on adventures? Making discoveries? Facing challenges? Battling for justice? Wielding a sword??? 

Rochelle Melander writes about people who have done all those things––with the help of something more powerful than conventional weapons.  Mightier than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World is a middle grade, social-justice book that tells the stories of historical and contemporary writers, activists, scientists, and leaders who used writing to make a difference in their lives and the world. I asked Rochelle a few questions about her inspiring and fascinating book. 

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK?

When I started Dream Keepers, my writing program for young people in Milwaukee, I often used stories and poems as mentor texts and writing prompts. We began by reading Langston Hughes––our name is based on his poem by that name. The young people liked reading poetry and fiction, but they loved true stories of people just like them who had used writing to change their world. I looked for a book like Mightier than the Sword that would tell all these stories. I couldn't find one so I had to write it myself.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE POWER OF WRITING?

Whenever I've gone through a tough time, I've used writing to figure it out. Turns out, for years, psychologists have been studying how writing can help people heal. Researchers have found that journaling improves memory and sleep, increases general feelings of well being, and supports people in achieving their goals. I incorporated those ideas into the work I do with young people, giving them fun exercises that help them reap the emotional and intellectual benefits of writing. 

In my book, I created exercises to help readers use writing to explore ideas and protest injustice. For example, after readers learn about Sophie Cruz, a young girl who wrote a letter to the Pope asking for immigration reform, I invite readers to write their own letters to ask for change. I hope the book will inspire young writers to discover how writing can be their own superpower.

DOES YOUR BOOK HAVE ANY ADVENTURE WRITERS OR ADVENTUROUS WRITERS?

You bet! Many of the writers in Mightier than the Sword took amazing adventures. When he was just 21, Ibn Battuta set out on a pilgrimage to Mecca––and traveled for the next 30 years. He was kidnapped and robbed and left with only his pants. Once he got so sick, he had to tie himself to his donkey to keep traveling. The naturalist Maria Merian traveled to South America to study plants and insects. Her pictures and notes focused on the things which most of us walk right by. She discovered new species, including a bird-eating spider, which is named after her. 

Other writers craved adventures. When they stepped out of their routines, they discovered incredible things. Charles Darwin took a five year journey and mined that research for the rest of his life. Nellie Bly went undercover and traveled around the world to find stories. Langston Hughes traveled to Africa and Cuba, writing about both. These stories inspired me to seek out novel experiences––even in my own hometown.

HOW WAS RESEARCHING AND WRITING THIS BOOK LIKE TAKING AN ADVENTURE?

I was writing during the pandemic. After I heard rumors that public places might shut down, I visited libraries and checked out about 100 books. When I got to the end of those books, I needed to get more. I also needed to read scholarly articles I had no access to. Solving those challenges became mini-adventures for me. (By the way, if you ask nicely, most librarians will let you exceed your borrowing limit.)

Researching was also an adventure. I wanted to find a tiny, fun fact about each person that could bring them to life. Whenever I found something, it was as sweet as discovering a cache of wild raspberries on a hike. 

HOW DOES PLAY FIT INTO YOUR WRITING PRACTICE?

That's challenging for me. I do a lot of work on assignment and I need to make those deadlines. But play is necessary for being creative. I try out the exercises I teach the Dream Keepers. When I work on picture books, I try new ways to approach the story and play with words. Experimenting with other mediums also helps my writing, so I like to bake and do art journaling. 


Rochelle Melander wrote her first book at seven and has published 11 books for adults. Mightier than the Sword is her debut book for children. She's a professional certified coach, an artist educator, and founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, children, and two dogs. She blogs about writing at writenowcoach.com and about teaching writing at rochellemelander.com Check out both blogs for opportunities to write a guest post. 

And if you want to accompany some amazing people on their adventures, read Rochelle's book Mightier than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Adventure & Play

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope everyone takes a little time to play today :)

I would consider adventure simply trying something new. I find that the best way I come up with new ideas is by going out and trying new foods, visiting new places, and meeting new people. I’ve come to realize that my most creative ideas usually hit me as a sort of osmosis, absorbing little things all around me until they make sense together. In that way, adventure and play inform my life and work greatly. I love to play by reading, writing, getting outside, and playing yard and board games. Anything creatively-oriented is a fun time for me!

About me: I’m a student at Missouri State University studying Electronic Arts (Video Production) and Screenwriting.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Way Poets Play

 Hello and welcome to July! Happy firecrackers and independence!

Funny Cide
 (2003 Kentucky
Derby winner)
Playtime for me includes:

1. reading (click here for a recent favorite!)

2. #lakelife

3. travel—most recently we did a tour of the state of Kentucky, including Mammoth Cave, Kentucky Horse Park, The Ark Experience, Churchill Downs, and the National Quilt Museum!

4. playing cello

5. arts & crafts

6. games—most recently: Uno, Mexican Train, Yahtzee

7. antique & thrift shopping

8. home improvements—most recently: I painted a shelf (bought at thrift store) and put it up in my kitchen

Rosie, relaxing.
9. playing with Rosie, our Australian shepherd

10. my ArtSpeak project, which is all about playing with words & art!

11. cooking & eating :)

red velvet cheesecake!

Wishing you a summer of sweet playdays!
---
Irene Latham is a grateful creator of many novels, poetry collections, and picture books, including the coauthored Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, which earned a Charlotte Huck Honor, and The Cat Man of Aleppo, which won a Caldecott Honor. Irene lives on a lake in rural Alabama.



Friday, July 2, 2021

Adventures in Time Travel

 

I’m often asked why I chose to write historical time-travel novels for kids, and a big part of the reason is the books I’ve read over the years that transported me back to other times and places. Vicarious adventures, of a sort.

 

Among my favorites were the Half Magic books by Edward Eager. They featured regular kids who discovered talismans or magical animals that deposited the kids back in some earlier era. In Knight’s Castle, for example, they found themselves in a medieval castle along with characters from Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. In The Time Garden, their stops included a visit with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women family. At the same time, the kids’ experiences in their present day—in the case of these books, the 1950s and 1920s—are very well-grounded.

 


Other time-travel books, including the classic A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, and Time Cat, by Lloyd Alexander, also sparked my imagination.

 

As a college student, I majored in history, immersing myself in the past and musing on people in earlier times. How did they think? What did they wear? What vocabulary did they use? Another form of imaginary adventures.

 


So, years later, after working as a journalist—another set of adventures!—I embarked on my time travel series, which involves a group of present-day kids living in Bethesda, Maryland, who find a magic object (a tricornered hat, for example) that whisks them back in time to meet the early presidents. The characters, both present-day and historical, plunge into adventures that change how they think about themselves. Just as I did when I began my reading adventures as a kid.

 

--Deborah Kalb, author of various books including Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Smack Dab News

 Holly Schindler's The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky has re-released, with an updated text and new cover:

Available at:

Amazon

B&N

Apple

Kobo

A corresponding Junction of Sunshine and Lucky Activity Book is also now available:


Amazon

B&N

IndieBound


Monday, June 28, 2021

The Perfect Summer

 by Charlotte Bennardo

I don't know if there's a perfect summer, but there are great summers. 


This summer is one of them. 

I'm not going anywhere I've dreamed of, there are no momentous family milestones, I didn't win the lottery, and I don't have a new book deal (yet).

The reason this summer is so great is that we are being liberated from the pandemic- which allows us to go places, celebrate milestones with family and friends, and be with people again. Like almost everyone, I enjoy some alone time: to read, take care of myself, have peace and quiet, do things I want to do. But there's been too much of that with lockdowns and closed venues and general avoidance of people because of the pandemic. Nothing made me happier than getting the vaccine and counting the days until I could stop worrying so much. Now I can 'people.' My sons put it into perspective: "I love you Mom, but I'm sick of seeing you. I need to be with my friends." I wholeheartedly understand his sentiment- I love him, but I need to see & be with others too.

It feels like being with family and friends, going places, doing simple things like grocery shopping without masking and distancing is more exciting than it's ever been. Simple things now have the greatest pleasure.

So go out there, enjoy the things we never knew we'd miss so much. Relish every moment. It's going to be a great summer. 


Charlotte is the author of the middle grade trilogy, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines, Simple Plans, Simple Lessons, and co-author of young adult books Blonde OPS, Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion, and the Beware the Little White Rabbit and Scare Me to Sleep anthologies.

Mississippi, in the Middle of a Heat Wave...

There's an old 80s song that begins with the lyrics, "Mississippi, in the middle of a heat wave...." If you've ever lived in the Deep South, you know that Mississippi and her neighbors tend to be in the middle of a heat wave most of the year. In the summertime, it's not only hot, but also so humid you can barely catch your breath. I once heard it described as trying to breathe through a warm, wet washcloth. Accurate!

In spite of this, my favorite summer memories of my teen years are of being in Columbus, Mississippi, with my cousin. There was nothing to do, we complained, but that wasn't really true. 

Over a beautiful old bridge was a little establishment called Bob's Place. It was what one might call a "hole in the wall," and it was glorious. Bob's sold beer, Cokes, and hamburgers. I don't think I ever bought any of them; I went inside only once or twice. Most of the fun happened in the parking lot, if you count gravel and dirt as a parking lot. 

By the time I was a teen, Bob's had been around for decades; my mom had also hung out there in her youth. The legal drinking age in Mississippi, up until September 1986, was 18, so a lot of people from Tuscaloosa crossed the state line to buy a legal beer, making Bob's a true hot spot for the younger crowd. We didn't need texting or Instagram to know where to find everyone we wanted to see. They'd more than likely be at Bob's. I lived in Birmingham at the time, which had so many entertainment options that the teenagers were scattered all over. When I visited my cousin, which was as often as possible, I loved the feel of a true "teen hangout."

We had a rule that we didn't arrive at Bob's until after 9 pm. Any earlier and you risked being thought uncool. "You don't want to look like you can't wait to get to Bob's," my cousin told me. She was older by two and a half years and therefore, in my eyes, an expert on all things. But the truth was, I couldn't wait to get to Bob's. 

Even before I went to Bob's for the first time, I knew many names and faces from looking at my cousin's yearbook. I'd often ask about people and learn their stories. This made me a bit like "The Stranger" on The Andy Griffith Show, except that I knew better than to let on what I knew. Getting to see these real-life "characters" at Bob's was pure gold for a future writer.

I'm actually writing a book right now set in the 80s and based on my experiences visiting Columbus, and specifically, Bob's. Mining these memories feels a bit like inventing my own time machine. I made some wonderful friends there, and my cousin is still my bestie, so it feels as though I'm returning for a nice, long visit. I'd gladly go back and stand around in the parking lot of Bob's, even if it did mean enduring the oppressive humidity of a Mississippi summer night.

Bob's, unfortunately, is long gone, and you can no longer drive across the bridge that took us there. But when I see pictures of that bridge, I'd swear that, if only I could once more drive across, it would take me back to Bob's and the 1980s. Everyone would be there, untouched by time, waiting for me. 

That's why, in my fourth Aleca Zamm book, the bridge that takes them back in time looks an awful lot like the bridge to Bob's.

Maybe there are time machines after all. We just call them books. 

*(Artwork by Bunky)

 Ginger Rue's latest book, Wonder Women of Science, is co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission. The book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields.


Friday, June 25, 2021

Oh, the Places We Went (Holly Schindler)

 If it was summer, it involved some sort of road trip. 

And if it was a road trip, we were staying someplace...

Well. Let's just say "sketchy" is probably too kind.

We had a little dog we traveled with--a maltese named Winnie. She was maybe six pounds at her heaviest. But my dad was never one to argue--or negotiate. So when he was told, "No Pets," he just turned around and left. We left all sorts of really nice chain hotels, six-pound dog in hand. Nothing would convince Dad otherwise. Not even an eleven-year-old me trying to tell him flat-out "No Pets" was for snarling, slobbering, non-housebroken attack dogs who liked to eat twin beds for midnight snacks, and that simply seeing Winnie (and, Mom would add, putting down a deposit) would change the clerk's mind.

Nope. No pets. The sign said. 

So we'd pull out of the parking lot, into the dark of night.

The places who would take Winnie, sight unseen?

Oh, boy.

Carpets you would never walk on barefoot. Headboards that wouldn't stay attached. I swear, one place had what I thought was a chalk outline between the beds, and another had a sign taped to the bathroom mirror: "THIS PLACE SUCKS!!! --Housekeeping."

Pools so dirty you could walk on them. Neighbors who glared us down. A few visits from police. 

I repeat: Oh, boy.

Poor Winnie had no idea she was keeping us from the finer (or at least, less smelly) overnight stays. Really, she was just happy to be along with us. Even when our stay in Texas got so hot, the fan in our family car came on. (!) 

But I don't know who has perfect family vacations. The kind with delightful weather and fun activities and no sunburns and never a fight between the kids. Maybe those imperfect family vacations of our youth teach us a little about finding the humor in situations, going with the flow. Being, like Winnie, glad to be along for the ride, no matter where that ride was taking us. 

 ~

Holly Schindler is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning books for readers of all ages. Her MG The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky has recently re-released, and now has a corresponding activity book. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Time Villains: A Perfect Summer Read

I'm a child of the '80s, and I still have a special place in my heart for those adventure-driven movies of my youth: Stand By Me, Back to the Future, The Goonies. 

And trust me--if you're an old Goonies nut, took you'll love this one:


The woods, the castle for a school, a purring table (yes! A purring table!), and a ho-hum school assignment that sends the past and present crashing into each other in the most surprising ways...

Your young readers will love it, too. (But don't feel guilty about reading it under the covers at night yourself first.)

Time Villains is also and #ownvoices read and received a star from Kirkus. 

 Snag a copy here

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Inviting the Trickster to Shake up Your Imagination: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

Imagination is such a mystery. Ever wonder if it is chugging along in the same old patterns? Does it have its own method? If so, what are the signs it needs shaking up?

One sign might be that you use recurrent images. I always write about trees, bells, fountains. These are my foundational images. That's fine, we all have images and themes that are our central concerns. Then how do we know if these are foundational or simply fall backs to what is easy? 

How do I break my imagination out of its training, assuming it has been trained? I've been thinking a lot about trickster energy. Trickster energy is what slides in from the corner of your eye and whacks down the analysis, thoughtfulness, research, pondering, etc. 

This is different from the "aha" moment or epiphany (one of my favorite moments in the creative process). The trickster is the waitress on roller skates who shoots into the room and knocks over the well-laid table. Trickster energy shatters. Let the broken plates and glassware fall where they may. With luck, when you are picking up the pieces, you will arrange them in new ways. Fragments of blue water glass and red plates combine in a new mosaic you would never have thought of otherwise. 

I'm working on invoking this trickster energy to shake up my imagination. More on that next month.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer Memories: An Ocean of Inspiration

My memories are always a treasure of inspiration for my writing, and summer memories are some of the best. In fact, two of my novels are based on summer memories. My most recent, When I Hit the Road, tells the story of Samantha's summer road trip with her Gram who's dream is to sing karaoke. And my summer camp story, Just Like Me, tells Julia's story of self-discovery when she heads off to sleepaway camp with her two "Chinese Sisters" (girls adopted from the same Hunan orphanage she was). Though neither of these stories are actual true stories about things that happened to me, my personal summer experiences gave me the spark that created the ideas for both of them.

Not sure why summer memories are so special. Maybe it's "carefree" feeling of being out of school for the summer. Or, maybe it's the warm weather and long days that provide the perfect opportunity for fun. Though these are both just the right ingredients for making good memories, I think for me, the most important thing about summer memories is the extended time we get to spend with family and friends. When I think back to my childhood summer memories, they are filled with the people I love and the special times we shared.

So, as a tribute to all of those memories and the friends and family who made them special, here are a few of my favorites:  staying up late with my sister and watching "Johnny Carson," spending time at my grandparents' cottage, roller skating on the driveway with neighbors, fishing and swimming up north with my cousins, going to sleepaway camp with school friends, and trying to stand up on the inner tube at the lake with my brother and sister. In looking at my list, I realize that many of these things seem quite ordinary, but that just shows that summertime with friends and family makes for extraordinary memories no matter what activities you find yourself doing. And those extraordinary memories inspire, not just my work as an author, but also the person I have become.

Enjoy your chance to make extraordinary memories this summer!

Nancy J. Cavanaugh

www.nancyjcavanaugh.com   

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Un-meltable Summer Memories

  It is impossible for me to remember any summer without the image of my beautiful, charismatic older sister. I’ve tried to writer her character a million times, though I’ll never be able to recreate that kind of lovely - I still try. 

My sister and I were both big readers. You never saw my sister without a large hardcover of Stephen King or Agatha Christie. Me, I preferred paperbacks of Christopher Pike, SE Hinton or Raymond Chandler. Call us eclectic. We’d certainly heard it before!
Summer in Wisconsin means about 8 weeks of heat and sunshine and water and melting ice cream. Then it’s back to the deep freeze and snowstorms and isolation on long, dark nights. So my sister and I always stretched summer to its finest! Which isn’t to say we were fancy. 
Afternoons often found us laying outside on towels in front of our kiddie wading pool. We were teenagers, but it was the best we could do without driving somewhere and neither of us had any money. We’d chat and read and eat cheesy chips or ice cream sandwiches. We’d tell stories - old ones, new ones, the ones we were reading or wanted to see. We also liked storytelling on TV. Specifically, a soap opera. Our babysitter raised us on that soap opera, so by the time I was 12 and my sister 16, we were heavily invested in those glamorous characters. 
One especially scorching summer day in our parents absence, my sister and I too hot to even eat or read on our towels - yet determined to stay outside for as long as possible - came up with a plan. 
“I’m moving a fan out here,” my sister said. 
“What?” I half-snorted. “We are outside.”
Sassy, my sister plugged an oscillating fan into an outdoor plug in. Instantly, we were cooler and feeling pretty darn smart. We got more lemonade. We could do this. The sun climbed higher. The air bent a bit more in the heat wave. 
“It’s almost 11,” I mentioned. 
“So?” asked my sister. 
“We’re going to miss our soap opera,” I reminded her. 
I saw it in my sister’s eye before it occurred to me: Bring the TV outside. 
Sure enough, my sister and I were watching our show and enjoying the sun and the fan. When Mom arrived home. She got out of her car and walked over, stopping to examine us for a good two minutes. It was hard to read her face. Was she mad? Or shockingly impressed by our creativity and problem solving?
“All right,” she finally scolded. Mostly. “Get this stuff inside.”
My sister and I hopped up to follow directions and go back to our books - in the shade. 
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Endless Summer

Of course, summer isn't endless. It can't be. And in fact, here in Alaska, summer is truly quite short compared to summer in other places. To many people, September is still summer, but by then, we Alaskans are in the depths of autumn. Still, there are two reasons why, for me, summer seems like it might just go on forever.

The first reason is quite simply that in Alaska, the summer daylight is endless. I got up at 5am to write this piece. The sun was already up. Last night, I stumbled into bed at 11:00 after a day of soccer camp, the lake, and lawn mowing. The sun was still up. Tourists are always amazed by it. To us, it's just the way things are. Some people buy black-out curtains because otherwise, they couldn't sleep. Not me. I have sheer white curtains. I revel in the light because I know what comes after. The consequence of all that beautiful light in the summer is that, in winter, we have the opposite. But I don't like to think of that now when we are quickly approaching the summer solstice when here in Fairbanks, we will celebrate a ridiculous 21 hours and 49 minutes of daylight. And I grew up in this area, so this feast or famine cycle of light and darkness is really all I've ever known.

That's one reason. The other is that, as a school librarian, I still get summer vacations. Yes, mine is a bit shorter than the kids' - ten weeks versus twelve - but I get a genuine, no actual work required, summer vacation. Oh, I work, I mean, I'm a mom, right? But it's what I want to do and when I want to do it. 

I have plenty of summer memories. There are the ones from my childhood: riding my banana seat bike all day and everywhere, popsicles and my mom's awful sugarfree Kool-Aid, days spent swimming at the gravel pit, those two blissful summers when we had a cabin on Quartz Lake, trying to make our own slip and slide out of Visqueen, playing badminton and croquet with my merciless older brother, long camping trips, and trips to my grandparents in Washington where it actually got dark at night.

Then I married and had children, and made new memories. My kids always wanted to be outside when they were little, and we spent countless hours in the backyard, often even cooking and eating out there. There were more camping trips - a little less fun when you're the one responsible for all the packing and cleaning - hiking, biking, parks, the zoo. Eventually, summer became consumed by soccer. When my kids are all grown and gone, which is an event now not too far in the future, one of my most enduring memories of their childhoods will be soft summer evening spent at soccer fields. There were undoubtedly rainy ones too, but those aren't the ones that stick in my mind. 

A summer tradition that has developed more recently is trying to get a picture of all five of my kids out on a river somewhere, ordered by height. As they get older, with lives of their own, coordinating this becomes harder and harder. In fact, coordinating anything with my entire family of seven is increasingly difficult. The pictures shown below are from 2014 and 2018, the most recent successful effort. I love how you can track the changes in the kids' growth. Child two is now the tallest, followed by child three, and I think that someday, the youngest may be at the head of the line.





One of my favorite personal summer memories - one that has nothing to do with anyone but me - happened several years ago. It was a particularly hot summer, and one of my favorite ways to escape the heat was in an Adirondack chair next to the ferns on the shady end of the house. That summer I sat there and enjoyed the cooling effects of Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy combined with ice-cold wine coolers. Escaping to the cold Russian landscape of those books was so perfect, that I don't think I'll ever replicate that feeling. It's quite possibly my favorite reading memory, and definitely in my top ten favorite summer memories.

No, summer can't go on forever, but here's wishing you all the kind of memories that makes it feel like it does.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Summer Memories-- by Jennifer Mitchell

Growing up, my best summer memories were of church camp and going to visit my grandparents in Shell Knob, Missouri.  Things were simple as I was growing up, but the memories include laughter each step of the way.  Looking for deer, trying to learn to water ski, fishing, boat rides, and listening to the Branson Brothers at Silver Dollar City made for amazing days. The friends that I had at summer camp also were my lake travel buddies so our summers were intertwined with many experiences.  When we get together as adults we still draw on those memories and we are so thankful to have them.




Transitioning to adulthood, and having a family of my own, we have made our best summer memories at Disney World.  My kids were little when we first started our summer adventures in Florida, important things during those visits were seeing Disney characters and getting their autographs.  They were pushed around in strollers and fell asleep midday when the excitement finally wore them out. Now as they are all adults and we are preparing for our next Disney trip in a few weeks it is typically the excitement of how many hours we stay at the park.  So far our record is 8:00am to 1:00am.  Or what new Disney ears can we add to the collection? Over the years we have made so many memories -- not as simple as my church camp and lake experiences -- but just as important and special.  I hope when my kids look back on their summer memories they will remember all of the great things we did together. 





Saturday, June 12, 2021

Lazy, Hazy, Summer Days by Darlene Beck Jacobson

 No matter what era or generation we are from, summer vacation - that time when school is done and the stretch of warm days feels endless - was a time of celebration and outdoor fun. My parents didn't have a car, so we rarely took road trips. But growing up by the Raritan Bay in New Jersey, we spent many a day enjoying sand, sun, and surf. We also had a bus stop across the street that, for thirty-five cents, took us to the end of the line, stopping at Keansburg Amusement Park.

Most Tuesdays, Mom took my sister and me to Keansburg for a day of fun. Ride tickets were five cents each, so for a couple dollars, we could ride all day long. In between, we ate french fries with vinegar (my sister), sweet corn dripping with butter eaten from a paper plate (me), and pink and blue cotton candy, soft serve ice cream swirled atop a cone. We tried our best to win some kind of trinket at a Skeeball game, or on one of the stands. 

 


Mostly though, we were there for the rides.

Lots of different kiddie rides, because we were in elementary school. The kind of rides that might seem pretty tame to kids of today used to roller coasters and daring speed-infused fare. 

My sister and Mom loved the Whip, and Tilt-a-Whirl. My constitution was better designed for the carousel.  

One summer, thanks to the carousel operator having fun flirting with mom, we got to ride the carousel way longer than the nickle ride would have allowed. 

I can still see, hear, smell, that place from my childhood. And, the park is still creating memories for little ones to this day.

https://keansburgamusementpark.com/

Friday, June 11, 2021

What Can I Do Now?

Or How Being Bored Was a Good Thing
by Jody Feldman

Like nearly every kid on the planet, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation. No homework, no tests, no waking up when my body still needed its sleep. The first week was so great. The second week, too. But as week three crept in, the shininess began to fade.
As I recall, the mornings sped by, but come mid-afternoon... 

Me: Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?
Mom: *offers suggestion*
Me: Nah
Mom: *offers another suggestion*
Me: Nah
Mom: *offers three more suggestions*

I had the best mom ever, but even she couldn’t help me figure out that one perfectly satisfying activity to shorten those long, boring afternoons.

While certain occasions stick out – the family road trips, the once-a-year visit to Holiday Hill amusement park, the times when we got to swim at my aunt and uncle’s pool – it just might be those long, boring afternoons, having nothing to do but to search deep within, that best trained me to be a writer.

Today, when I'm able to take an hour or two with only the sounds of birds chirping outside the window, I come up with some of my bigger ideas and, just as important, the smaller ones to enrich, enlighten, and inspire the stories my characters need to tell. 

And I have my summers to thank for that.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Most Memorable Summer Memory -- by Jane Kelley

When I was young, summer days flowed together. Reading, riding bikes, swimming in Lake Michigan, playing in the woods in the backyard. All days were equally wonderful and so all days were the same. But then something astounding happened in the empty field next to our house.  

A three-masted schooner dropped anchor there. 

A space ship landed there.

Castaways built a fort there.

A dinosaur roamed there.  

All because a huge tree crashed to the ground.

(This is not the tree or the field. This is an inadequate attempt to show how startling the event was.)
 

We had seen plenty of fallen trees in the woods. This one was different. It was huge. It had leaves. It was so easy to climb. 

We lived in the tree, having endless adventures. Until . . ..

The first red dots appeared on someone's leg. We ignored them. We were used to poison ivy. A little itching was nothing. Then more and more dots. The rashes spread everywhere. Eventually to my face. My eye swelled shut.

Apparently, when the tree landed in the field, it crushed the poison ivy plants. The poison didn't just seep out of the pores. It oozed forth from the broken leaves. 

We spent the rest of the summer inside playing monopoly, away from the sun which made our rashes feel worse. 

The adults cut up the tree and hauled away the logs. The field was just a field again. And yet now we knew that amazing adventures were possible--when a startling event was enhanced by a lot of imagination.

 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Favorite summer memories

Here is a random selection of some of my favorite summer memories:   
  

- Having sleepovers with my cousins and making up games to play.

- Playing volleyball in my Grandma’s pool and finally being tall enough to touch the bottom all the way across.

- Going on boat rides with my Grandpa in Florida, seeing dolphins, and collecting sea shells for so long on an island that I thought almost no time had passed when the rest of my family collected me and said we had been there for 2 hours.

- Making the best of a rainy 4th of July in Washington D.C. and watching the Washington Monument fireworks emerge half-heartedly from behind a big cloud.

- Going to Royals games, singing Friends in Low Places during the 6th inning, and watching the Friday night fireworks.

-A long road trip to visit the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, and riding to the top of a butte in a helicopter.

-Visiting the Badlands and Mount Rushmore and getting Junior Ranger pins.

-Hitting my first homerun.
 
-Biking around Hilton Head Island and trying not to run into trees on rolling sidewalks.

-Watching movies on the top deck of a cruise ship.

-Putting Duck Tape on the driveway and playing 4-square during quarantine.

-Reading the 6th Harry Potter book on the way to Colorado.

-Having an “owl” deliver my invitation to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

-Trips to Adventure Oasis and pretending that the lazy river was filled with danger and hidden gems.

-Rafting down an true dangerous river and swimming/pushing a man with a leg injury upstream to meet EMS.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

My Top 10 Childhood Summer Memories

 

My Top 10 Childhood Summer Memories

 

10. Playing kickball in our suburban D.C. yard until past dark, with the fireflies coming out and the crickets chirping and finally everyone’s parents calling them to come home.

 

9. Lying on the glider on my grandparents’ screen porch in New Jersey reading the Fairy Books of different colors, for endless hours.

 


8. Acting out various characters’ lines from Louise Fitzhugh’s The Long Secret (yes, we loved Harriet the Spy, but The Long Secret captured our attention that particular summer).

 


7. Finding out, while at my grandparents' in New Jersey, that Nixon resigned  and (even as a young kid) wishing I was home in D.C., where the action was.

 

6. Becoming so obsessed with Elizabeth Enright’s series that started with The Saturdays that I asked my grandparents’ across-the-street neighbors if I could have their daughter’s copies of the books. They were kind enough to say yes.

 


5. Spending many, many afternoons at the neighborhood pool, having backflip contests in the water, drinking orange drink from the vending machine and watching bees buzzing around the trash can, and braving the high dive.

 

4. Playing endless games of Life and Happiness and Monopoly on the floor of the den. Usually losing.

 


3. Standing on my head for lengthy periods of time.

 

2. Sleeping over at my cousins’ house or my friends’ houses and staying up late watching TV.

 

1. Celebrating my August birthday, often with assorted Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors and cake.


Hope everyone has a good summer!

 

--Deborah Kalb