Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Travelling: A Great Place to Read For Fun

Two things I love, especially when I have them at the same time, is a big junk of uninterrupted time and a really good book.  The place where this happens for me in a most wonderous way is on an airplane.  No matter if I'm headed on vacation, to visit relatives, to do an author visit, or to go to a conference, reading on an airplane is, hands-down, one of my favorite things to do.  

I love this reading experience for so many reasons.  I know that for the duration of the flight, there won't be any other distractions.  No emails.  No phone calls.  No dog barking.  No overflowing basket of dirty laundry beckoning me to get something done around the house.  Just me, buckled into my seat, reading glasses on, and my book in hand.  After everyone settles into their seats, luggage stowed, safety instructions explained, I take a deep breath, let out a huge satisfied sigh, and crack the cover.

As perfect as this may sound, there is one thing that may thwart this wonderful time and place to read - a chatty passenger in the seat next to you.  My remedy for this is to exchange pleasantries, in a friendly and brief way, and then, if I sense the person may be eager to spend the flight exchanging life stories, before I crack open my book, I simply put in a pair of earbuds. (No music necessary since their purpose is to signal that if I were travelling on an airplane with a section deemed a silent zone, where passengers are not allowed to talk, I would pay extra money to sit there.)  With my book open and my silent earbuds on, I step into the story that's waiting for me.

Within several minutes and a page or two, I'm literally and figuratively whisked away.  The plane has taken off and I'm headed to wherever it is I'm going, and the book I'm engrossed in pulls me further and further into the story I'm experiencing as I sit reading in my personal "travel bubble" completely detached from the life on the ground that I left behind and the passengers around me, who don't even seem to exist anymore.  Just writing about this makes me find some cheap airfare, grab a good book I've been dying to read, and head to the airport.  It wouldn't even matter where I was going because the trip I would enjoy as I travelled there might be better than the one I was really taking.

Happy Travelling & Reading,



Monday, April 19, 2021

Drop (literally) Everything and (try to) Read

I was the kid who always had a book in her backpack or jacket pocket. The high school teenager who brought at least one paperback to all my classes lest I have five minutes to spare between bells. The woman never caught unawares at a doctor or car appointment. 

2020 caught me unaware, however. It did a lot of us. With pandemic fatigue and unprecedented lifestyle change across the globe - we all feel a bit out of our comfort routines. 

I myself was in three separate, no-fault, traumatic car accidents. I moved long-distance twice, lost a childhood home to change. My cat passed away. My health declined. 

I dropped everything, it seemed. Even my reading. Reading, which has always been an escape hatch for me. A comfort. An alternate reality. My writing suffered. I wasn’t reading a pages day, more less writing them. 

As the world and my own world stabilized - or at least I adjusted to - I started picking up books again. Typing away even a sentence a day of my own writing. I wasn’t proud at first, but I am now. I try to read daily. 

I’ve come through, not the same as before. But I’m finding my familiar comforts. In words, a new home, a new family, a beloved furry pet. 

The words have returned. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 16, 2021

My Childhood Reading Memories - A List

       We didn't own a lot of books when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. We were solidly middle class, but my parents were practical and frugal. If you can borrow books for free at the library, why would you buy them? So as a small child, I had a handful of well-loved books. As I grew older, there got to be a few more as grandparents and friends bought them as gifts. But still, compared to the home library my own children have access to, it wasn't much. 

    I love that my kids have so many books at hand, but does it make them cherish them less? Maybe so, or maybe they don't read nearly as much as I'd like because of the technology that is always just a click away. To be an avid reader nowadays must be an active choice. Where you would once see people on an airplane, the subway, or in a waiting room with newspapers, magazines, or books in their hands, now it is almost always a device of some sort. I fight against it! In the evenings, when we climb into bed, my husband usually has his phone in his hand. I usually have a book. I keep one in my bag to read when I'm waiting to pick up a kid from soccer practice or while they are having their teeth cleaned. I don't deny that the immediate access to ebooks and audiobooks through our devices is amazing, but nothing replaces that feel of a book in one's hands. If we hope to see others, especially our children and students, choose books over devices, we must lead by example. Take the pledge! As my water bottle says, turn off your phone and read a book!

    And now, a list of the books of my childhood that remain strong in my memories. Obviously, I read a lot more than this, but these are the ones that stick in my brain.

  • Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion/Margaret Bloy Graham
  • The Diggingest Dog - Al Perkins/Eric Gurney
  • City Cats, Country Cats - Barbara Shook Hazen/Ilse-Margret Vogel
  • How to Live With a Calculating Cat - Eric Gurney
  • The Book of Giant Stories - David Harrison/Phillipe Fix
  • Gus Was a Friendly Ghost - Jane Thayer
  • A Treasury of Little Golden Books 
  • Ramona the Brave - Beverly Cleary/Louis Darling
  • Strawberry Girl - Lois Lenski
  • King of the Wind - Marguerite Henry
  • Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
  • 101 Dalmations - Dodie Smith
  • Lassie Come Home - Eric Knight
  • The Pushcart War - Jean Merrill/Ronni Solbert
  • The White Mountains - William Christopher
  • The Velvet Room - Zilpha Keatley Snider/Alton Raible
  • Magic Elizabeth - Norma Kassirer
  • Jane-Emily - Patricia Clapp
  • The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House - Mary Chase
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare
    There was more. I enjoyed a number of series, like all of Walter Farley's Black Stallion and Island Stallion books, the Little House Books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Nancy Drew. In my teen years I turned to historical bodice rippers, and ended up finding one of my all-time favorite books - The Fallen Angels by Susannah Kells (which is apparently a pen name of Bernard Cornwell).
    The bottom line is that I was a reader. And I didn't have the distractions of today's children. My reading life has made me wealthy beyond measure and taken me places I never would have gone. We owe it to our readers, our students, and our own children to make reading a visible priority in our lives, and to do everything we can to transfer that love of reading to them. If we want the next generation to drop everything and read, we must do so ourselves. So . . . turn off your phone and read a book!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Reading can take you anywhere, if you let it -- by Jennifer Mitchell

Growing up in the 80’s I enjoyed reading books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Bloom.  I moved on to The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books after that.  In upper elementary my teacher introduced us to The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. I hadn’t read books like that before and it opened up a new genre for me to explore.  That led me to getting the Anne of Green Gables series for my birthday and I fell in love with it. Fast forward to my young adult life, post undergraduate degree, and I came to realize I had fallen out of love with reading.  I had spent so many years devoted to reading college course work that I had forgotten what it was like to read for enjoyment.  A couple years later at a family gathering my sister-in-law suggested I read this new book with a character named Harry Potter.  I decided to give it a try and I couldn’t put the book down. I realized what I had been missing when I stopped reading just for fun.  From that time on, I have continued to read for enjoyment regularly.  I love being able to have conversations with my mom, daughter, sister-in-law and coworkers about the books we have been reading and give suggestions to each other.

As a teacher, I try to share various genres when I do a read-aloud with my students. The book Wish, by Barbara O’Connor was the last story that I read to my students. It probably isn’t a book they would normally read on their own, but it brought up good discussion about real life issues that kids are faced with.  I hope they discover the love of reading through one of the books I share with them.  

Reading is a magical gift, but sometimes you have to reconnect with it.

Monday, April 12, 2021

When All Else Fails...Read by Darlene Beck Jacobson

 Whether it's loss, sorrow, job stress, a broken heart, worry, anxiety, or the rigors of daily life, books have provided a release and relief from trouble.

Books have been a joy and comfort to me since my earliest memories. Getting my first library card and checking out picture books, chapter books, then novels, would brighten my week with the anticipation of what I would find in the pages of a new story.

As a writer and author of books of my own, my reading for pleasure has changed a bit. I read more middle grade books than adult novels because I want to see what other middle grade authors write. And I also love the "coming of age" stories that bring me back to my own pre-adolesence. What better way to channel my inner child than to be swept away in a story where the hero and heroine are kids solving their own problems and learning from their own mistakes.

Thankfully, with all the great books written by Smack-Dab authors and the rest of the middle grade community, I will never run out of things to read, or new adventures to explore.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Building a Mystery

by Jody Feldman

Not mine!

To my dismay, I got about a dozen-million Barbie dolls for my 7th birthday. To my further dismay, when my friends insisted we play Barbies, they also insisted that the only way to play was to have them go shopping or make dinner or watch the kids. I wanted them to explore caves or hunt for buried treasure or solve unsolvable mysteries.

So, it should be no surprise that my go-to books growing up were in the lane of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and later, Agatha Christie. Given a choice, I still gravitate toward mysteries and thrillers.

Read this!

Now that I'm in the midst of writing one, it's all the more that I appreciate the skill it takes to write something taut and surprising with just the right amount of twists. It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

No wonder my friends found it too complicated to play those Barbie games with me. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Drop Everything and Read! (an op-ed)

 April 10, 2021 Debbie Poslosky


When I was a classroom teacher, we implemented this program school wide. Some years we would combine with Buddy Reads and older grades would be matched up with younger grades. I love the idea of a whole school community stopping the day and reading...yet…

As a teacher passionate to support children as they learn the skill of reading, but also the pure joy of reading, it doesn’t just happen because it is D.E.A.R. day. Young children grades 4-8 need to be ready for this activity, in my humble opinion. They need to have built stamina and endurance for reading. Those kids who are strong readers and love to sit and have uninterrupted reading time will try their hardest to do what they love to do. But those around him or her are sometimes distracting because they are not at the same place. It becomes frustrating for the ones who want to read and not be bothered, and it becomes a “putting out the fire” for the teacher for the kids who are not quite understanding the concept yet. I eventually did a read aloud during that time and allowed those who could handle the time, the opportunity to snuggle in somewhere quiet in the library. That worked out pretty well.

As I learned from my students through my many years of teaching, kids do want to be able to read like the one sitting next to them. And if reading is a little challenging, or they haven’t found that one book or author to hook them in, they are very sensitive to the fact  that in their own mind they are not as capable as their peers-especially the tweens who tend to catastrophe everything!  

It is such a great community building focus on reading!  It truly is. But if we stop a minute and think about the group that will benefit the most from a school wide program, it is often not the students! It is great P.R. and parents love knowing their school has this.  However,the program is great for a few, but not so much across the board,   So I would challenge schools and the decision makers to include students in the discussion to hear first hand what it feels like to be told it is time for D.E.A.R day. I asked my class that very question one year, and from that moment on I changed my philosophy. I took a survey and just like I thought several LOVED it, but others felt like while they were good readers with me or their support teacher, they did not feel that way on that day. So I got permission from my principal and on that day my students got to vote on how they wanted to spend their 30 minutes. (I also had veto power!)  It was so interesting to me to learn how honest kids are if given the chance.  Choices would vary, but mostly they were to read the entire time silently, listen to a read aloud with me, read with one partner, or take the time to go to another teacher in the building and read with him or her. When that nuance of D.E.A.R. was instituted, everyone felt heard, the buy-in was complete and it was extremely successful! Because in 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades, we want these children to WANT to drop everything and pick up a good book!

Thursday, April 8, 2021


Drop Everything And Read sounds like a command. Do we really have to be ordered to do something that we enjoy? Unfortunately, yes. 

Many people who love reading treat it as a guilty pleasure. Something to be done after work, only when all emails have been answered, the house has been cleaned, and teeth have been flossed. And even then, one should only read something educational while doing twenty thousand steps on a treadmill. 

But guess what? Reading fiction is actually good for you! Just like eating leafy greens, it's good for your brain. And I don't just mean by exposing you to some facts you didn't know. 

Reading strengthens your brain in ways that can prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. This is because the act of reading is challenging. Reading started just 5,000 years ago. Our brains weren't really designed for it. 

Image from Horowitz-Kraus, T and Hutton, J.S. From emergent literacy to reading: how learning to read changes a child's brain. 2015

All these regions of the brain are needed for reading. The red areas are used for attention, concentration, memory and thinking. The green areas use vision to actually see the words. The blue areas are needed for language. The dark blue are for sounding out the words. The yellow are involved with creating meaning. Using so many regions of the brain strengthens the brain by improving the quantity and the quality of neurological connections.

That's not the only activity in our brains. Thanks to MRIs, neurologists have been able to observe that whenever we read words that reference a smell or a touch or a taste, those sensory areas of the brain are also activated. For example, if you read: "the singer had a silky voice" -- then the part of your brain that processes actual touch will be activated. This is also true if you read about an action. Whenever you read something like "I jumped up and down" -- that area of your brain will get involved. 

Now that I know this, I'm going to include more sensory and mobility treats for my readers' brains in whatever I write.

But what I love most about reading is how it enables me to empathize with characters. It turns out that walking in a characters' shoes is very good for our brains too. Researchers Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar reported that those who frequently read fiction are better at understanding other people and seeing the world from their point of view. 

Reading doesn't just make connections inside our brain. It also connects us to each other. Maybe you shared a book with a friend. Maybe you joined a discussion group. Maybe you were inspired to reach out to people whom you might otherwise have overlooked.

For ALL these important reasons then, DROP EVERYTHING AND READ.

Wait, I forget the best reason of all. Reading is fun.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Reading for Fun!

As a busy college student, it’s hard to find the time to read outside of textbooks, but over the winter break I decided to dive into 28 Summer by Elin Hilderbrand. It had been riding the top of The New York Times bestsellers list for quite some time and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. I read it pretty quickly over the course of a few days and enjoyed being swept away to a beachfront cottage on Nantucket. It was different from the type of books I usually go for - dystopian, action, fantasy - but it was a fun little summer escape romance to read during the winter. It had some great character dynamics and was pretty much a masterclass in setting description, but I felt that the ending was a bit anticlimactic. I’m not sure I would have placed it on the list. Do you think the books on the New York Times Bestseller list are always worthy of the status? If anyone has read 28 Summers, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Easter to everyone as well!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Drop Everything and Read... THIS POEM

 Hello and Happy National Poetry Month! Truly, is there anything better than April? Here's "April" as it appears in THIS POEM IS A NEST.

...and here's my current favorite poem:

ars pasifika by Craig Santos Perez

Just nine lines, and full of wonder and wordplay, it begins...

when the tide

of silence


say "ocean"

--- read the rest here.

And of course you are always invited to join me at ArtSpeak, where this year I am writing poems inspired by art and the FOUR SEASONS. Here's the latest installment. Thank you so much for reading!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Drop Everything and Read: The Story of My Life!


Drop Everything and Read. I first heard the term years ago when my son was in first grade. But it’s something I’ve done all my life.


Recently I had the pleasure of rereading a story I wrote when I was 9. It had somehow made its way into my aunt and uncle’s basement almost a half-century ago, and was unearthed last month. What was so interesting about the story (called “The Orphans”) is that you can immediately tell what I had been reading as a 9-year-old. The plucky orphans, whose parents had mysteriously disappeared, lived in an old house next to a very rich family with two extremely spoiled children.


Me when I was 9

Immediately, my present-day mind flew back to such classics as The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, and the Fairy Books of different colors, and Little Women (one of the orphans is a tomboy named Louisa who is always called Lou). And there was my 9-year-old self, curled up on a sofa or in bed or on the glider on my grandparents’ screen porch, reading, always reading. Reading in the bathtub. Reading in the shower (which caused some problems when the books got soaked through). Reading as I walked along the sidewalk.


Today I still can’t wait to drop everything and read. It’s partly why I started a book blog back in 2012. The sight of review copies arriving at my doorstep never ceases to thrill me. In fact, one of my favorite places in the various newsrooms where I worked was the free book table, where review copies of all kinds beckoned me closer. Deadlines? Ah, but there’s a new mystery novel by an author I love. And there’s a fascinating political history book.


During the pandemic, reading has become, if possible, even more important to me. I can escape into family dramas, or fraught memoirs, or (a favorite of late) mysteries set in the World War I era. So I am a big fan of dropping everything and reading. For everyone. Whenever possible. Both in and out of the classroom.


--Deborah Kalb

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Smack Dab News


D-39: A Robodog's Journey by Irene Latham got its first review from Kirkus, and it's a good one!

"Latham uses an invented lexicon of delightfully creative and expressive hybrid words—jinglesnap, boomblasts, itchglitchy—to tell this... girl-meets-dog story of hope, perseverance, and survival."

Available for pre-order now, and available everywhere May 18, 2021.🐾

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Thankful for This Wonder Woman

I'm super excited that Wonder Women of Science is now available for purchase! And I'm super thankful to have co-authored it with this amazing lady.

Meet Tiera Fletcher. Without her, this book wouldn't exist. There's a reason I majored in English, y'all--science and math have never really been my bag. But when I edited a magazine article with Tiera a few years ago, we clicked so well that we decided to write a book together. We interviewed a dozen women (besides Tiera) who are making their marks right now in STEM fields, and we wrote about how they got to where they are today. One of my main jobs was to translate some pretty difficult science into terms that a 9-12-year-old kid could understand (basically, my own scientific literacy level!). Tiera and I went through a lot of drafts together because she frequently had to explain things to me, but she always did it with patience and grace. If I'd had science and math teachers like this when I was in school, maybe I would've been a STEM fan years ago.

Tiera is a woman I admire not just because she is a STEM genius (did I mention she's working on the Mars mission with NASA?) but because she is kind and generous and a person of deep faith. I don't know if I could write a book with just anybody, but Tiera made it so pleasant and fun, I hope we can do another one...or twenty!

I hope you'll be seeing Tiera in some interviews soon as she promotes the book. I'm sure you'll be just as big a fan of hers as I am. Thank you, Tiera, for making this book happen! 

 Ginger Rue's next book, Wonder Women of Science, is now available for pre-order. 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. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

People...Who Need People

by Charlotte Bennardo 

 Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

Gratitude is the theme for the month. Reading the posts by my colleagues, it seems they've listed all the things I'm grateful for like daffodils, family, health, a good book, etc. So I'm going to take a little different route. Instead of things, I'm listing those people I'm grateful for. Of course my family and friends are at the top of the list. But there are so many others who are deserving of our gratitude:

Of course healthcare workers, First Responders, all volunteers and essential workers. 

But I want to say Thank you! to:

    *librarians who help me find books and answers.

    *people who stop to rescue an animal in distress.

    *those dog owners who don't leave plastic bags of their dog's poop in other people's yards, in the woods, on the side of roads and trails, in the road, on my church's property, or anywhere else it shouldn't be.

    *those people who stop to buy a homeless person a meal.

    *all those great kids who use their birthday, allowance, or other money they've earned to buy desperately needed items for those in a tough bind.

    *for the stranger on the street who offers a smile, a kind word, or an open door.

    *customer service people good at their job who calm me down and solve my problem.

    *anyone who says "Go R U!" when I wear my Rutgers sweatshirt.

    *fellow bikers, hikers, and outdoorsmen who are courteous- move over to give other people space to go by safely.

    *anyone who posts a funny meme on social media that brings a smile or laugh, without being at the expense of someone else.

    I try to be these people (well, not a librarian or a customer service rep). How nice if we all could be as kind as them. Let's give it a try! 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Grateful for... Holly Schindler

A healthy family.

Cool bedsheets.

Warm socks.

The smell of freshly-sharpened pencils.

Strong coffee.

Flaky crust on a cherry pie.

A dog who sleeps curled up beside me.


Big puffy white clouds.

Daily walks.

New ideas for books.

Readers who take time to leave a rating.

Readers who take time to get in touch. 

My favorite sweater (which was actually my mom's favorite sweater and was worn to her college classes in the late '50s).

Constant Comment tea (I have a cup almost every night).

Stars to wish on.

Sunrises to wake to.


Old friends.

Good movies.

A book to read under the covers.

Long drives.

Short waits.


Smiles from strangers.

Nail polish.

Hot pizza.

Cool artwork.

Spring breezes.





Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Coleridge on Imagination: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

This chart is a great entry to Coleridge's ideas on primary and secondary imagination, and fancy as he laid out in his book Biographia Literaria. It's useful for a writer to think about which of these  capacities comes most naturally. Which do you need to cultivate to make your writing stronger?

"The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I Am. The secondary I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead."


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Random Gratitude

In thinking about this month's theme, I pondered all the things for which I give thanks.  There's always the usual - family, friends, good health, and so on.  And, I am definitely grateful for these blessings and a whole lot more.  But for this post, I decided to focus on several things that I am not always mindful of that have impacted my life as a writer, and for these things I am very grateful.

I'm grateful for Read Alouds.  Not only did my experience listening to teachers read aloud to me, when I was a student, influence me as an author; but the Read Alouds I shared with my elementary and middle school students, when I was a teacher, laid an invaluable foundation for understanding story and language in a unique and creative way.  Both were an emotional experience which shaped my future writing.

I'm grateful for my writing friends.  Over the many years it took me to reach the exciting day that I finally became a published author (It took 18 years!), the other writers I met at classes, conferences, and SCBWI meetings became my writing family.  They listened, taught, encouraged, laughed, cried, and celebrated with me on my very, long, sometimes overwhelmingly frustrating journey.  I don't think I could have kept going without them.

I'm grateful for my characters whose voices fill my head with their stories.  As I listen, they tell me more and more and more.  Their voices grow into the novels that middle grade readers enjoy, and those characters are the reason readers are drawn into my books.

The last two things I'm grateful for are basic tools of the trade.  First, I'm thankful for wood pencils with super, sharp points and really, good erasers.  I love the way they feel in my hand.  I love the way I have to push hard to make them glide on the page, and I love the way those erasers give me permission to make lots of mistakes.  

Second, I'm grateful for the wide-ruled, spiral notebooks that provide plenty of space for me to messily write down my ideas in an unorganized, sloppy way as I desperately work to get my pencil to catch up with my imagination.  Sometimes I write on the wide-ruled lines; sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I write in sequence, one page after another; sometimes I don't.  But no matter my method or my mood, my spiral notebooks captures it all.

So, today, these random things are what I am pondering.  Things I often don't even think about being thankful for.  Things for which I am very grateful.

Happy Reading & Writing,

Nancy J. Cavanaugh


Friday, March 19, 2021

On Gratitude

It’s been a year-plus since we’ve been locked down, cautious and exhausted. It is more now than ever that we need find gratitude in everyday life. We’ve been isolated from our families, friends, holidays, normal outings simple as a latte run or a grocery store pick up. 

Life isn’t one whole, continuous block of time. It is, instead, a compilation of many tiny moments. The ones with magic as simple as spotting a bird’s nest, a cuddle with the cat, a stranger’s smile, opening a new book, a walk at dusk as snow falls. It’s video chatting with a best friend, it’s in finding the words you want to write. No matter how big or how small, we should be able to give thanks in any situation - no matter how large or small it is. 

The magic of life is in those moments. Share them with our family and friends who struggling and need a little light. Give the gift of a smile or a cute card with a cat on it. These are the tiny things that make up entire lives and those that which tether us to our own lives, as well as tether us to the ones we love. 

There will always be trials and tribulations and pure exhaustion from living through a traumatic event, pandemic, or major life change. It’s looking over the fear of all these new and potentially scary events yet to come. And finding the key, the cupcake, a fallen leaf on the porch that our bright lives remain. 

We just have to keep looking. And saying thank you. 


Happy reading!

AM Bostwick 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

How to Teach Gratitude (Hint - it's Hard and Takes a Lifetime)

If there's one thing I would love for my own children to understand, it's gratitude. I may not use the word a lot, but I want them to feel it, to express it, to understand how fortunate they are. As important as gratitude is, it's one of the most difficult things to teach. It seems to be one of those things that people grow to understand more thoroughly after they have experienced hardship.

To be honest, looking back, I don't think I was a particularly grateful child. Did I feel grateful to my parents for those camping trips? The flights or drives down to Seattle to see grandparents? Did I feel gratitude for the roof over my head? The food in my belly? The clothes, education, sports opportunities? No. I thought they were my due simply for being who I was - a middle-class kid in America. And trust me, I didn't even think that deeply about it at the time. It's only in retrospect that I can see how fortunate I was. 

My students are no different. I teach at a school where the majority of kids are middle class or higher, financially. Having enough isn't the only key to happiness, but it sure helps. These are kids who, for the most part, have never had to worry about where they would sleep at night, or whether there would be enough food to eat. I really believe that the experience of Covid has done much to instill a sense of gratitude in kids who may not have felt a lot of it before. They are grateful to be at school. Grateful to see their friends. The experience is different than it used to be, but after ten months at home, they were just so darned happy to be there. They are learning gratitude for simple things. 

And I feel the same. I definitely took my job for granted. Now, not only am I happy to just have a job, when so many have lost theirs, but I realize how fortunate I am to have a job that I love. I am happy to see my students every day. My role has changed, at least temporarily, but I am still helping kids to love books, and getting those books into their hands. Imagine the joy and gratitude I will feel when I'm able to begin welcoming classes back into the library for regular lessons and check-out time!

The image I'm sharing in my post today is one I took while out on a lunchtime walk at the school last fall. A child had pinned this simple image of hope to a power pole. I for one, am grateful for it. Our students have as much to teach us about gratitude as we have to teach them. I'm ready to learn.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

What this year has taught me by Jennifer Mitchell

A year ago when it felt like the world was turned upside down, I went from being a classroom teacher one week, to designing and posting lessons for students to access virtually the next. I was worried about my students falling behind and not having the support they needed to be successful learners. I wrote letters to my students and did my best to communicate, but it felt very disconnected to say the least.

This past fall we were one of the first districts in the Kansas City area to open our school for in-person learning. It made me realize how important it is to be face to face with kids to make connections. I have felt very grateful this year to be back doing what I love in the setting that I feel I am most successful. In the future, I won’t take being able to teach from the traditional classroom setting for granted.  

During the first few months of quarantine I was lucky to spend time at home with my family.  Things didn’t work out the way they had intended, being sent back from college, and having the end of a senior year come to an abrupt halt.  But I can say that we were all blessed to be able to spend time together, and thankful no one got sick.  Though it was odd to be spending more time at home, it provided me the opportunity to try some new hobbies.  My daughter and I decided to try our hand at needle point (and had a great time learning it together).  This is something we would have never taken the time to do in the past, as there would have been more pressing things that needed to be “done.” I have such gratitude that 2020 afforded me that extra time to spend with my family.  

It’s been hard not being able to be with extended family and celebrate holidays and occasions 

as normal.  Once we are able to safely be with each other I will cherish those moments more than I did in the past.  Even though 2020 was difficult in ways, it really helped me prioritize family.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A World of Gratitude by Darlene Beck Jacobson


I try to begin each day with a walk before breakfast. A chance for a quiet start, a conversation with God, and a moment to acknowledge the things I am grateful for.

Today the things I am grateful for come with photos.

Persistence and determination: No matter how difficult something might be, you will get there.

There is peace and beauty everywhere. Look up instead of straight ahead.

A sense of wonder. Be patient and something new and fresh will reveal itself.

A place to rest. To observe. To listen. To feel the blue and taste the air. 

A world with so many things to inspire, and so much to be grateful for.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Same-Old, Same-Old? Yes, Thanks

 by Jody Feldman

Every weekday morning, weather permitting, I take the same sidewalks and paths for a two- to three-mile walk/run. Let me repeat, not about my pace, not about the distance, but about it being the SAME. It’s so easy to take for granted the same trees and houses, electric lines and cracks in the pavement. It’s so easy to pass everything without seeing. It’s so easy to get this part of my day over with so I can get to work. That’s why I make it a habit to start the first few blocks of my time focusing on the changing foliage, the drifting clouds (or lack thereof), the chattering birds, the humming insects. If I don’t, I’ll get stuck inside my head for the entire 30-40 minutes.

Now, inside my head is exactly where I want to be in those moments. It’s my time to brainstorm and ponder about whatever I’m currently writing. Before I step foot outside or even before I get out of bed, I make a mental list of the writing challenges – as in plot or character, backstory or dialogue, stakes or theme or all the other issues – I need to address that day. But instead of tackling that list with the first step out my front door, I use several minutes to breathe and notice.

I’ve found there’s magic in that. When I ground myself in my surroundings then let creative thoughts emerge organically, they come stronger, with more creativity and clarity, when they're ready.

I’ve tried taking alternate routes. I’ve considered walking with friends who've asked, but the distraction of different sights and sounds and smells impedes my process. And so, I do essentially the same thing every day.

Yes, I love newness, novelty, exploring the unknown. Yet, every day, I am grateful for the unique role that sameness plays in allowing me to spend uninterrupted, uninhibited morning moments with my head in the sky.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021



Debbie Poslosky

The words of ‘Gratitude” and “Grateful” have certainly become more sharp and meaningful during this past year of Covid.  Being in treatment for lung cancer has been even more terrifying because of the way Covid attacks the lungs.  Self-isolation was done immediately to lower my risk, but my friends and family also would not take a chance seeing me for a very long time. For many months of the pandemic I was feeling so well, yet not being able to enjoy my life and the people in it was difficult.  Not seeing or touching my grandchildren or children, and not meeting with friends for so long has certainly been a lesson to be learned!  During some of those hardest days, I practiced a strategy I used to teach my students and my own kids and grandkids.  Picture a light switch on the wall.  The room is dark.  If you “flip the switch” the light comes on.  Each time!  When we use that metaphor with our thoughts, with a little practice it really works!  So I practiced “flipping the switch” each time those lonely, negative thoughts would make their way into my brain.  And when I flipped it, it forced me to think of what was good and right about the situation, and not what was dark and depressing.  

For example: My thought: If I get this, I won’t recover from it. FLIP THE SWITCH and Today I am grateful

I am not sick. I am careful and I will get through this.My thought: I haven’t seen my grandkids or friends for a year of my life! FLIP THE SWITCH and

Today I am grateful that all of us are safe, we love each other, and we

have technology available to be able to see each other and be


And on and on...you get the idea.  As for gratitude...wow, that has taken

on more intentional recognition.  I have gratitude for the smallest things

such as the beautiful sky, the fresh air, feeling the sun on my face... 

My gratitude for other things has only increased this past year. 

I have gratitude for my home and knowing I am safe.  I have gratitude

for being able to wake up and use my body to do what I would like it

to do-mostly!  I have gratitude that just one of my family members got

Covid but recovered at home, and most of my friends have been

been safe from Covid.I have gratitude that my brain is working pretty

well these days, and all my senses work and are more sharp. 

I have gratitude for living with a man for almost 43 years who still

can make me laugh and loves me like no other human on the earth. 

When I am able to think this way, there is hope and faith in my heart that

the world is truly going to get back to a newer normal that will be better

for all of us.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Grateful For Something We Cannot See -- by Jane Kelley

Thank you thank you thank you, I said to the man who found my new iPhone in the grocery store parking lot. I'm extremely grateful that he was kind and honest and had good enough eye sight to spot a black phone on black pavement on a dark night. 

But this post isn't about him or any other kindnesses I've experienced in my life. I decided to write about benefits we take for granted. Oxygen in our atmosphere, water, moderate temperatures (well, most of the time). They're all miracles in their own right. But none of them would be here if it weren't for one thing.

The earth's magnetic field. The motion of the metal in the earth's core creates a magnetic charge that spreads from north pole to south pole and back again.

Illustration by Michael Osadciw University of Rochester


As you can see from the illustration, the magnetic field protects us from the solar wind--super charged particles that spiral off our sun and blast out at speeds up to ONE MILLION MILES PER HOUR. 

If you wonder what Earth would be like without that magnetic field, just look at our neighbor Mars. 








We have lots of evidence that there was once water there. The robot explorer Perseverance may find definitive proof that Mars once had life. But now it's dead and red while the Earth teems with plants and animals. Mars doesn't have a magnetic field like ours to protect it. As a result, most of Mars's atmosphere got blown away. What's left is only 1% the volume of ours. 

So we owe EVERYTHING to what looks like something a cartoon superhero would create by flying around the Earth and leaving a trail of ions. 

Which brings me back to being grateful for what we have.

What part of your core are you using to create a protective shield?

What is your invisible strength?

How can you make sure to keep it so that you can continue to create and sustain life?

As writers, it's important to pay attention to everything, whether it's an invisible protective force that saves the planet or where you put your iPhone.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Setting in a Story


As I continue to learn about writing and story structure in my classes at MSU, I’m amazed at how often I’ve taken the setting in a story for granted. I’ve been tasked with assignments that asked me to write scenes in which the setting affects the character and it has changed my outlook on its importance. Before now, setting has always been something of an afterthought for me. I put my focus into character and storyline, relying on dialogue and plot points to carry the story. What I understand now is that setting can be just as much of a character as the protagonist. A dark forest and a sunny beach are tonally different. Each might allow the theme of the story to change in fundamental ways or cause the protagonist to feel completely different emotions. I’ve read that sometimes if you’re facing writers block or having trouble finishing a scene you should change the weather. Oftentimes it can become a plot point of its own, forcing the protagonist's hand. If it’s storming, a protagonist might run for the nearest source of cover and suddenly the story is up and running again. From here out I’ll be sure to treat the setting with the same importance as character and plot. It’s hard to imagine stories like Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables set anywhere else but Hogwarts and Prince Edward Island.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Gratitude, Gratitude... and a D-39 Book Trailer!

It's what gets me through the tough times. In DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A to Z, written by myself and Charles Waters, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini, on the “gratitude” entry, we suggest, readers make a gratitude list.

My gratitude list today:

daffodils in the ditch


the fact that virtual visits allow me to connect with readers, but don't require (stressful) travel


I'm also grateful to have my new novel coming in May! It's a middle grade dystopian verse novel called D-39: A ROBODOG'S JOURNEY.

 All that not-traveling time allowed me to play around with imovie and create—from all FREE video/photo/sound sources on the web!—a book trailer for my new book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it. 💗


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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Ten Things I'm Grateful for Right Now


Ten Things I’m Grateful for Right Now


Sometimes over the past year it’s been difficult to feel grateful. The world seems overwhelming. Terrifying. Merciless. Half a million people  dying from Covid in this country alone. Political turmoil culminating in an armed insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, a building where I spent many years working, first as an intern and then as a journalist. A narcissistic (now-ex) president fanning the flames of hatred.


But of course there are things that offer comfort. Security blankets I can wrap around myself when I’m worried about family health issues, or work-related problems, or the vast problems facing our world.


So here’s a countdown…


10. Journalism. Over the past few years, and especially during the pandemic, journalists in this country have investigated, explored, and produced numerous eye-opening stories—while being attacked as “enemies of the people.”


9. New administration. A huge sigh of relief.


8. Vaccinations. Some people I know have already received them, and while I’m aware that my turn won’t come for a while, I’m feeling more hopeful.


7. The medical profession. I am so grateful to everyone in this field, for so many reasons.


6. My book blog. Turning to more self-oriented things, my blog has kept me going professionally over the past year, as I’ve found it difficult to focus on my writing. Interviewing other authors about their books has been an inspiration.


5. Baby Yoda. A great quarantine companion!



4. My fictional characters. Even though it’s been hard to write, I still think about them a lot and hope they make their way onto the page soon!


3. Book groups. I’m in three book groups right now, and the companionship and discussions have been vital over the past year.


2. Friends and neighbors. Having wonderful friends and neighbors is an amazing thing.

1.   Family. What can I say? You’re the best. Thank you all! 

--Deborah Kalb