Monday, March 28, 2022

Let's have it Both Ways

by Charlotte Bennardo

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood (Pexels)

This month's prompts are optimism/forward thinking or if snowed in, what would we like to achieve? I'm combining the two. If snowed in (or rained in or 'too cold to go outside' in) I want to finish the first rough draft of my MFA thesis, a novel of approximately 70,000 words which must be written, critiqued, and refined before I graduate in July 2023. By thinking about it now and getting an early start, that's forward thinking. Getting it done makes me optimistic because I believe I will have a novel that's ready to go out on sub even before I take the walk for my diploma. I tend to think like this for all my writing. I get an idea I'm optimistic about, I start thinking and planning even in the midst of working on other projects or situations, and then when I put one project aside to 'rest' before serious editing, I metaphorically go into a cave and get the next story draft done. In today's publishing community, a serious author must be optimistic to keep on writing, forward thinking to create stories with fresh appeal, and realistic about confining ourselves to the writing chair to actually do the writing. For me, it's a routine that works. Talk to almost any author and they can tell you about numerous ideas they have for other works, about the two or three ideas they're working on simultaneously, and how hopeful they are about the stories. 

Whether it's writing, planning a garden, or completing an MFA, optimism, forward thinking, and 'locking' oneself down to do the work is a successful routine.

Charlotte writes MG, YA, NA, and adult novels in sci fi, fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal genres. She is the author of the middle grade Evolution Revolution trilogy, Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons. She co-authored the YA novels Blonde OPS, Sirenz, and Sirenz Back in Fashion. She has two short stories in the Beware the Little White Rabbit (Alice through the Wormhole) and Scare Me to Sleep (Faces in the Wood) anthologies. Currently she is working on several novels for both children and adults. She lives in NJ with her family, two demanding cats, and a crazy squirrel couple who just moved into her backyard oak tree.

My Agent Is Trying to Kill Me (and I Love Her for It)

When asked what I would do if I were snowbound, I immediately thought, "Edit my book, of course," and then I mentally added, "AGAIN." 

My agent, Abi, has become a dear friend of mine. I absolutely adore her, so why is she trying to kill me?

I've been working on a rather ambitious manuscript for over a year now. Every time I think I'm finally done, she has just a few more edits. I forget what round I'm on right now.

A couple of weeks ago, Abi sent me a few more edits, and I thought, "Okay, I can handle this," and then a few days later, she sent me an email. She'd gotten one of her interns to read the manuscript also, and the intern also had a few suggestions. What's kind of irritating about this is that the intern is obviously bright and the suggestions were quite good. Darn you, brilliant whippersnapper! Now I have even MORE work to do!

I'm an impatient person by nature, and a big part of me just wants to be DONE. But every time we do another round together, the manuscript gets better and better. And I love Abi for that because a lot of agents would be fine with just slapping something together and sending it out and trying to make a quick buck instead of putting in the work to make it just right. I'm not the only one putting in the work: Abi is going above and beyond for me. I appreciate her, and the smart up-and-coming intern who will probably become a fantastic editor or agent in the next few years.

But yeah, they are kinda sorta killing me. 

Anybody got a cabin where I can get snowed in for a week or two? 

Ginger Rue's current 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, March 25, 2022

Snow Days (Holly Schindler)

Here in Missouri, winter hits the hardest after Christmas. If you want proof, here's a video I uploaded to YouTube back in '13--about a snow that fell in early May (!)

Snow days are easy to come by this time of year. 

Of course, when I was the age of the kids who read my MGs, snow days meant escape. They meant an unexpected reprieve. No spelling tests. No fights in the cafeteria. 

Even now, they sill feel like escape, to some extent. An escape from the quick pace of everything, anyway. I love the quiet of snow days. I love hot tea and thick socks. I love watching my dog jump in the midst of the falling snowflakes. I love cozying up with a book I've been meaning to read.

I love that the whole world seems to slow down for a bit. That the roads are empty and the neighbors ask if there's anything we need. 

I don't usually write 5,000 words during snow days. Mostly, I brainstorm while shoveling the front walk. 

Then again, sometimes I just breathe deep and listen to the kids playing down the street. 

And maybe, on occasion, I throw a snowball or two myself...

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

An Armature and a Block Walk into a Bar: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

An armature and a marble block walk into a bar--oops, make that my writer's imagination stealing metaphors from sculpture. Some sculptors start with a block of marble and chip away to find the shape waiting in the block. Others create an armature out of metal, for example, and then pack on clay to build up the shape.

In a recent discussion about finding the shape of a story or poem (not in a bar!) one writer described her process as the armature method of building up a sculpture. I realized my own process is the block method. I feel the whole story is hidden in the block waiting for me to find it. My job is to set it free.

If I were writing a story from an outline, the armature process would make more sense to me. I never begin with an outline, more of an idea. I don't know what my story or poem is until my imagination uses the tools and engages with the actual materials--the words, the specifics of details, characters, actions.

However, in later drafts, once I have the story into a shape, my process changes to the armature method. I have my structure, so I start adding a bit more muscle to the bicep, more depth to the eyes. An action here, a detail or scene there. Now I'm molding the clay.

What are you? An armature or a block? Contemplating this metaphor can help you understand your writing process better, and how you might augment it by trying the other approach.

Now let me buy you a drink . . . 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Interview with Tina Wells, Author of The Zee Files

I (Holly Schindler, administrator of Smack Dab) was thrilled to chat with Tina Wells, the author of the utterly delightful Zee Files:

Let’s start with the elevator pitch. Short and sweet: Tell us what The Zee Files is all about.

The Zee Files is a coming-of-age series that follows Mackenzie “Zee” Carmichael from sunny LA to boarding school outside of London. She’s trying to balance a personal transformation with a lot of newness - new friends, new school, new home city.

Tell us a bit more about your protagonist. How did you go about crafting her? (As a side-note, I was instantly sucked in by the picture of her on the cover. I was one of those kids who got stuck in glasses early, and I never saw main characters in them. Even a little thing like glasses would have been so important to me as a young girl.)

I've been writing about Zee for almost 15 years. First in my series, Mackenzie Blue, and now in The Zee Files. What I love about Zee is that she is not perfect and she is not trying to be. She realizes she has struggles just like anyone else, and she’s just trying to manage while enjoying her life. Her style is unique and her approach to different situations is unique as well. 

And I’m glad you picked up on that! I’ve worn glasses since I was Zee’s age, and mine were not stylish at all! I still have nightmares about those hideous glasses! I have always wanted Zee to feel relatable to my readers, and I hope that she does.

I think all kids are afflicted by the fish-out-of-water feeling to some extent. Is that why you chose to send Zee on an international adventure?

Definitely. When I’m writing a series, I always think about the 40% of content that should feel very relatable and the 60% that should be fun and pure escapism. So you end up with fancy boarding school but just like me vibes.

You address some serious issues here as well. Did you find it difficult to address those issues without breaking the tween voice? 

Not at all. I just love tweens. I have a niece who’s a tween. She can have a very adult conversation in one moment and then need a bit of a boost in another. I’ve spent over 20 years marketing to a younger demographic and I always felt we shouldn’t talk down to them or make them grow up too fast. That’s the area I like to live in.

What’s your writing process like? Plotter or pantser?

Oh goodness! Depends on the day. For me, it’s characters first and creating the strongest group of personalities I can to keep the stories going for books and books.

How was it working with a writing partner? Does it change your approach to a book?

I’m on my 10th book with my writing partner, Stephanie Smith. She and I really work like yin and yang and she is just so brilliant and what she does. She has such great instincts and She takes my big ideas and builds beautiful stories and arcs. She is really a dream collaborator.

We have many authors who follow Smack Dab. They’re always curious: What was the acquisition process like?

Well, I have a very unorthodox path with this series. I partnered with Target and this series lived there exclusively for over a year. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to debut there (on the back cover of the weekly ad, no less!). It has been great to really build the audience there, but the highlight was the inclusion of the book in a holiday television ad! We took a chance on a big idea and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the partnership.

What’s next for Zee?

Oh, I have so many more stories to write for Zee. But there’s a lot of other things to explore, too. TV, film, merchandise…so much more to come. 

What’s next for you as an author?

More books to come in The Zee Files and Honest June, as well as the debut of a new series this fall, called The Stitch Clique. I really hope my readers enjoy all of these books as much as I do!

Where can we keep up with you online?, @tinawells_ on Instagram.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Snowing into March

In Wisconsin, it’s an ongoing joke that the state will go through all its seasons in one week. Or for those with a really dark sense of humor, seasons will go through a whole day. 

I hail from the most northern county of Wisconsin, which sees snow much of the year. Now that I’ve moved about two zones southwest, I’m amused that there is not nearly the amount of snow there is up north. As I write this, snow is melting off the porch into puddles that the birds are splashing in. 

A good snowstorm has its romantic sides as well - that sort of isolation is a topic I often choose in my writing. What will people do when trapped by the weather? What will it unlock in them? How will people react with people they barely know under such frightening white-out conditions. 

My work in progress keeps getting pushed back in lieu of other writing deadlines, but its focus is on a snowstorm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Lake Superior. A group of teenagers becomes snow-stuck on an island during an early raging great lake winter storm. Snow means power is often lost, and cold sets in at a dangerous level. Food supplies can run low and driveways closed in.  

Those of raised under such conditions can either crumble or thrive under such a storm. I tend to find myself on the opposite than most when the flurries begin. I enjoy it - though I’m fortunate to have grown up with both a mother and father would could operate and cook on a wood stove, who always kept jugs of water in the basement for bathing, cooking, flushing, washing. We always had stocks of candles and batteries and flashlights. The walls were always covered in book shelves in the rec room - with also had a wood stove. We read and ate stew off the fire and played games by candlelight. 

As we launch into spring, I’m sad to see the flakes go, but excited for what spring will bring (probably more snow, it’s Wisconsin). 

AM Bostwick

"It's just my favorite time of year. The world changes when it snows. It's quiet. Everything softens. -Gilmore Girls

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Snowbound? Not Here

If I'm not mistaken, I'm the only Alaskan contributor to this blog, and to be honest, the idea of being snowbound plays very differently here. With our four-wheel-drive vehicles, studded tires and vast experience in winter driving, even with the heaviest of snows, we are seldom truly stuck. This past Christmas, however, was a little different.

We hadn't had a great deal of snow by December. Four of my children are downhill skiers, and the youngest, especially, was desperate for some good snow. We finally got a large snowfall over Christmas break, and everyone rejoiced! What came next - an unseasonably warm spell with heavy rainfall - is something that was unheard of when I was a kid, but is becoming depressingly regular. The rain created a heavy ice crust over the top of the new snow, ruined the roads, the ski runs, and made the snowload on roofs dangerously heavy.

My library ended up with a leak caused by an ice dam on the school roof, which caused wet ceiling panels to collapse on my circulation desk, killing my computer but miraculously only damaged two books. That was a pain, certainly, but the worst part about the storm was that all the places I drive to in order to walk my dogs off-leash remained unplowed for weeks. When the back roads finally got plowed enough, we were able to get out on some beautiful and isolated walks. Pictured above is my third favorite walk. (Yes, I rank my walking places!) We were never truly snowbound, but our lives were affected and, in some ways, we are still feeling it. The roads, which got heavily iced, are still bumpy and rough three months later. The entrance to my very favorite dog-walking trail never did get plowed out, and so I haven't been able to get out there all winter. 

When the storm was predicted and arrived, I most certainly had fantasies about what I'd do. I would curl up with a fuzzy blanket and a bottle of wine and read all those books I'd brought home over break. I would finally get my writing groove back and sit down to revise the new-adult romance I've been working on. I would exist on canned soup and ice cream. My house would stay miraculously clean with no effort. Of course, none of those things happened. Because the ski area was closed, I had a very bored 12 year old on my hands. Keeping him entertained became my job because I'm Mom, and that's what Moms do. He had received a pair of plastic pop guns that shot big foam balls. We ended up turning off all the lights and having epic battles where we raced around the house and the dogs chased us and barked and tried to eat the foam balls. Was this what I had planned? Certainly not. But it ended up being the most memorable part of a very strange Christmas break, and one that I will never forget. 

We always have those pipe dreams . . . what would I do if the family all went on vacation and left me blissfully alone in the house for three days? What if my husband and I could actually go on a vacation together somewhere without any kids? What if I could get the house completely organized and keep it that way? The dreams seldom come to pass. What we are left with is our own messy realities, and while they may not measure up to what we'd imagined, there is much loveliness to be found if you only look. While my days of wine and reading didn't happen, I created a happy childhood memory for my son and chalked up a parenting win for me. And each time I continue to find one of those foam balls around the house - yep, still finding them - I will remember.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

History In The Making

 History is knowledge, identity, and power, said Lerone Bennett Jr.,  senior editor and in-house historian of EBONY magazine. “History is knowledge because it is a practical perspective and a practical orientation. It orders and organizes our world and valorizes our projects.” 

In these historic times, as an independent people fight for their sovereignty, I am reminded of our own internal struggle that continue the ongoing complex struggles to define  and maintain democracy.  

For today’s post, I share these resources for children that may help them understand more about the war and about Ukraine.

Deborah Farmer Kris of PBS offers some suggestions about how to talk to kids about Ukraine. As Kris offers, books are a great way to open up younger children’s understanding of the world and foster empathy. These three picture books about refugees can help kids get a better understanding of this and other conflicts around the world:

1. "What Is a Refugee?" (Ages 3-7) by Elise Gravel . This book is a simple, accessible introduction to what it means to be a refugee.

2. "Lubna and Pebble" (Ages 4-8) written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egnéus. A young girl holds on to her special pebble at a refugee camp — only to give it to a child who needs it even more.

3. "Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey" (Ages 4-8) written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes; illustrated by Sue Cornelison. The true story of how aid workers in Greece helped an Iraqi refugee family reunite with their beloved pet.

From World KidLit Month Translate This, translators Hanna Leliv and Anna Walden share their recommendations of Ukrainian books: ones already in translation and ones that ought to be translated! 

Patricia Polacco’s many picturebooks  books features Ukrainian folklore and family stories from when she grew up in Ukraine. And for a special treat comes this video From Reading Rhino, performing Rechenka’s Eggs.

Check out these books at your local library from master storyteller, Eric Kimmel.  These include The Spiders Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story (2010) and The Bird’s Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story (1999).

From Ukrainian-Canadian children’s writer, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch      features Ukraine in her stories, including the riveting story of Silver Threads (1996).  


Ukraine Colors From Wikipedia

To create change, states Elizabeth Partridge (2020), “…requires heroic, courageous people who dare to defy the prevailing narrative.”

-- Bobbi Miller

Monday, March 14, 2022

Excited to see a new "normal" -- By Jennifer Mitchell

Two years ago (exactly to the day) I put my daughters on a flight in Springfield, Missouri bound for Florida to visit their grandparents.  By the time the week was over we were panicked that we might not even be able to get them home.  The pandemic took over during that week, and has changed the course of so many things.  

As a teacher, it has changed so many of the “normal” things that we used to do daily (that I had taken for granted).  After that week, we didn’t return to in-person teaching for the rest of the year.  Once we did so many safety procedures were put into place that things didn’t really resemble what they used to be in the classroom.  To be honest, I was just so happy to be back teaching in person anything seemed great though!

Fast forward to where optimism plays in with this month’s topic.  It has been two years, but things are slowly starting to change back to pre pandemic practices (and it feels so great)!  Last month we were able to take a field trip to Kauffman stadium, where the Royals play. That may not seem like much, but for these kids who were in kindergarten when the pandemic shut things down, this was their first experience taking a field trip in elementary school!  Kids are now able to partner read again, sit on the carpet together, have desks in arrangements other than rows, eat in the cafeteria, play together at recess, etc.  It feels so good to be taking baby steps back to what it used to look like in a classroom.  Though I am proud of all of the obstacles we managed to overcome, these last two years in education; I am so excited to make progress towards getting back to some of the things I have missed so much in education.  This is the best kind of optimism I can think of!

(Sitting in the dugout at Kauffman Stadium)

Jennifer Mitchell-- teacher in the Kansas City area 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing.


     In a recent book giveaway, I was the lucky recipient of a middle grade non-fiction book by author ROCHELLE MELANDER (Illustrated by MELINA ONTIVEROS).

 MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing seems like a perfect book in keeping with this month's themes. What better inspiration is there than the heroes of the past who used the written word to create changes in their world.

Throughout history, people have picked up their pens and wielded their words--transforming their lives, their communities, and beyond. Now it's your turn! Representing a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, Mightier Than the Sword connects over forty inspiring biographies with life-changing writing activities and tips, showing readers just how much their own words can make a difference. Readers will explore nature with Rachel Carson, experience the beginning of the Reformation with Martin Luther, champion women's rights with Sojourner Truth, and many more. These richly illustrated stories of inspiring speech makers, scientists, explorers, authors, poets, activists, and even other kids and young adults will engage and encourage young people to pay attention to their world, to honor their own ideas and dreams, and to embrace the transformative power of words to bring good to the world.

Here is my review for this interesting and entertaining collection:

"A fascinating glimpse of how history and cultures around the world shared one common trait: the use of the written word to share ideas, change minds, break stereotypes, and blaze trails. This volume highlights these people from all walks of life who used writing to change their world and make a difference during their era. Should be part of every classroom writing program."

Darlene Beck Jacobson hopes that some of the things she's written have made people see the world in a new way.





Friday, March 11, 2022

The Eternal Optimist

by Jody Feldman

 I started taking French in 7th grade, continued through freshman year of college, and still know enough, should I visit France, to tell someone that I don't understand what they’re saying. I mention that bit of personal info to lead into one of this month's theme words; more specifically, to the time (high school? college? who can remember?) we were assigned Candide, ou l'Optimisme (Candide, the Optimist). 

Of course, we were to read Voltaire’s satire in the original French. Not easy. But even through my struggles, I do remember liking it. Identifying with it, even. Or maybe just sitting there in awe of of Candide’s perseverance because even through setback after disaster after misfortune – spoiler alert! – Candide retains his optimism and lives happily ever after. 

(Note to self: reread Candide to see how Voltaire pulled that off.)

I may not be as staunch an optimist as Candide – I doubt anyone is – but I do try to find at least one spark of brightness even the face of the worst situations. Not always easy, but still. 

Creatively, though, there is a downside to having such a happily-ever-after attitude. I struggle to put my characters in the tough situations necessary to create a satisfying story. 

Taking a lesson from Candide and ALL his trials, though, just may give me the fortitude to go deeper and darker with the fictional people I've come to love. Having them struggle harder, learning more, growing faster could be the key to an even better happily ever after.

Jody Feldman, author of The Gollywhopper Games series (middle grade) and forthcoming YA thriller No Way Home (Sourcebooks; August 2, 2022) is working overtime to get poor Eddie, the main character in her MG work-in-progress, into even more dire situations.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Circus at the End of the Sea

In celebration of optimism, I give you The Circus at the End of the Sea, the most delightful middle grade novel you will ever read. The Circus at the End of the Sea features an optimistic young girl named Maddie who follows a magic cat to a street circus in trouble. Maddie, a true optimist, who always follows her heart, believes she can help the circus find its lost ringmaster. Marvelous adventures ensue.

I thought it would be fun to interview Lori Snyder, the author of this fantastic book. 

1. What was your favorite thing about writing The Circus at the End of the Sea

 There were two parts: first, that I got to write a love letter to this place that is so much a part of me (Venice, CA); and next, that I decided not to write anything in this book that didn't delight me, and that was so helpful and fun! 

 2. Ophelia the octopus nearly steals the show in this book. How were you able to give such life and personality to an octopus? Did you have to do a lot of octopus research to create her? 

 Well, as a former marine biologist, the octopus is my favorite invertebrate and I think they already have a ton of life and it wasn't that hard! I did a tiny bit of research but was already so in love with octopuses and their brilliance that it wasn't too much. (As a note, I am not a fan of research. I think it's one of the reasons I write fantasy, because I just get to make everything up...) Ophelia was so much fun to write, especially once I decided she would be a mimic octopus (which really exists), but one with a magic twist who can mimic pretty much anything. 

 3. You're a yoga teacher of many years. There are yoga themes throughout the book. Can you tell us more about how you incorporated these into a middle grade fantasy novel? 

For me, how we accept and sit with the complexity and realities of life, allow ourselves to grow and change without grasping for the changes we want and rejecting the changes we don't, and encourage joy, are things I think about a lot. I also think a lot about the tendency in our culture to live in duality, to put things into categories of this or that rather than recognize the world as complex, as both or all or neither or somewhere in the middle. Hardly anything exists as a duality—maybe nothing does, but I'm not prepared to make that assertion without some study of it—and in fact, it's us as humans who make that all up! We make up those categories and then try to shove ourselves, others, the world, and everything into one or the other. It's such a dehumanizing and constricting way to live and think...and yet many conventional story structures are based on this sense of duality as well, particularly in fantasies. I wanted to write a story that was more in line how I see the world. A fantasy without a villain. A story where terrible things don't, actually, keep happening to the main character: magic is what keeps happening to her...and yet, there's still a story. A story that looks at how we move away from duality and into the fuller experience of being alive, into seeing the true nature of things with more skill. All this is woven through The Circus at the End of the Sea, and I hope I did these thoughts justice. 

 4. Many of the blog's readers are teachers. Can you speak about how your experience as a fourth grade teacher might have informed your work? 

 Oh man, do I love this age group! I think my teaching experience, both in the classroom and also on a boat for several years, taking kids out into the Pacific to see blue sharks, sea lions, and kelp forests, just helped to remind me of the vast capacity for wonder, goofiness, and brilliance we all have, and to allow all of that in with equal measure when I write, as much as I can manage. 

 5. I know you're working on a new novel for your editor, because I've gotten to read some. And it's equally as fantastic as your first! How are you able to maintain such creativity while working on a deadline? 

Um...the answers are: 1. Miss the deadlines a lot, and 2. I don't (hence answer #1). I sincerely hope that if you ask me this question for my third book, which I haven't started yet, my answer will be: oh, it's so easy! Honestly, though, mostly I'm just amazed that after all this time of trying to get published, now I'm on deadline for a second book!!! That is just the best! 

 6. You do all kinds of amazing free workshops, meditations, and writing exercises for writers through The Writers' Happiness Movement. You give writers tips and tricks to maintain creativity and calm during difficult times. What one piece of advice can you give to folks struggling to be creative right now? 

 The first thing that comes to mind is this: it's okay if you aren't creative right now. Don't worry. It will come back, I promise. If you're struggling with creativity, maybe just let whatever you do right now be as healing for you if possible. If this is writing, great—any kind of writing, by the way, whatever calls to you. It all matters. But maybe your creativity wants to come out in another way right now. Maybe you paint rocks, or bake, or call up your niece and tell her bedtime stories. I think it's really time for all of us—and this is to remind myself, too—to decouple the idea of creativity from the idea of productivity. Sometimes, creating is exactly what we need. Other times, we really just need to take a nap or hang out with a friend—all of which will inform our creativity at another time, when we're ready. We are all part of changing our systems right now, of birthing new ways of being, and I think reclaiming our own humanity and worth, regardless of what we do or don't produce, is vital.

To learn more about Lori Snyder and her book, visit her at

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

LONGING FOR SNOW -- by Jane Kelley

 My part of Wisconsin hasn't gotten much snow this winter. This is a hardship for people who love to ski and for people who make their living off of people who love to ski. I don't fall into either of those categories. But I have been longing for snow. 

After the leaves have fallen, the landscape turns brown. Intellectually I know that the roots are alive and when spring comes there will be plenty of green. But the dead stalks are sad reminders that nothing is growing now. In fact, there is a lot of death. 

Then the snow falls. And my view is transformed. 

Winter wonderlands are beautiful. But the blanket of snow does more than outline each delicate branch. It hushes the world. 

Here is my beach. You can see the large rocks that mark what used to be the shore where the waves would incessantly push against the sand. Sometimes with great storms. Sometimes with a gentle persistence. Always present.

In winter, those waves are under layers of snow and ice. There is quiet. Momentarily I feel at peace. 

The blanket of snow hasn't really changed anything except what I see on the surface. The jagged edges are still there. Even the waves still churn -- just farther away. 

Sometimes that blank white space is just what  I need. 

And then, there will be new beginnings. A few tracks lead me to something new.

Hmmm, I wonder. Who walked here? And what happened when their paths crossed? 

Jane Kelley is the author of many middle grade novels, none of which are set in the winter. Yet.

Friday, March 4, 2022

A Time For Us...

 By Charlotte Bennardo

As the song from Romeo and Juliet goes: A time for us, some day will be...

A time to do what I want- like a SNOW DAY! 

Photo by Kristin Vogt from Pexels

I have a select group of things I love to do on a snow day. When my kids were younger, it included making snowmen, sledding down a hill, then coming in, wet and cold for hot chocolate and a movie. Then there would be baking together as a family. Keeping the boys busy and out of trouble was the main focus of the day.

Now the kids are grown and doing their own things. Instead of playing in the snow, I take a walk, listening to the susurration of the snow falling (I'm excited I got to use that word!), snuggling on the couch with the cat, a good book, and tea, and then later baking something with whomever is awake and willing.  Now the time is more personal and I do what I want. I usually have several ideas and manuscripts that need working on so I don't lack for things to do, although that time may be challenged again because my husband retired and it always seems to us writers that just as you're sitting down to bang out hundreds or thousands of words, someone wants your attention. 

While I love the new softer routine of a snow day, I'm hoping there are no more this year. With warmer weather, although I have more chores like taking care of my gardens, washing winter off the patio furniture and the windows (I've got a LOT of windows), and such, everyone is so glad for the warm weather they go off and do warm weather things leaving me at home alone. Ahhh, golden time for a writer. I sit on my patio and write. I can draft a whole novel from start to finish in just over a month.  Snow day or sun day, as an author, I sneak in writing no matter what. The other things, like enjoying the comfort of my home or my backyard, are shared between what I want and what the family wants. 

So if a snow day comes, I'll enjoy it (especially since I don't have to shovel it!). Hope you enjoy yours!

Charlotte writes MG, YA, NA, and adult novels in sci fi, fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal genres. She is the author of the middle grade Evolution Revolution trilogy, Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons. She co-authored the YA novels Blonde OPS, Sirenz, and Sirenz Back in Fashion. She has two short stories in the Beware the Little White Rabbit (Alice through the Wormhole) and Scare Me to Sleep (Faces in the Wood) anthologies. Currently she is working on several novels for both children and adults. She lives in NJ with her family, two demanding cats, and a crazy squirrel couple who just moved into her backyard oak tree.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

This Poet's Ideal (Snow) Day

 Hello, Irene Latham here! I live in a state (Alabama) where snow doesn't come all that often...and when it does, EVERYTHING shuts down. It's kind of wonderful. :)

Now that our children are grown, snow days are...quieter! Here's how I like to spend mine:

waking up, rushing to the windows

taking/sharing pictures

quick breakfast

back in bed to write for a while

bundle up, head out in the snow for snow angels, snow man, etc. (depending on type and amount of snow) and always always more pictures

snow cream! (in your favorite mug or bowl, mix snow + milk + vanilla flavoring. Yum!)

back in bed to read

up for lunch

meditation/short nap (yep, back in bed! I love my bed! :)

walk outside with Paul and Rosie (if it's safe/not too slippery)

writing a couple hours at my desk (maybe...maybe back in bed!)

cello practice (something like this)

art project (currently I'm obsessed with papercutting!)

whatever-we-got soup for supper (makes for some interesting flavors!)

movie/Netflix with Paul (currently All Creatures Great and Small)

more reading before bed

dream of snow!

For more snow (and other weather) poems, visit my ArtSpeak: Four Seasons gallery! Thanks so much for reading. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Reading about Ukraine


Reading about Ukraine


Our blog’s themes for March are optimism, forward-thinking, and passion. It seems difficult in recent days to muster any optimism. The past week has seen horrific images of a democratic country under attack by a dictator. A military convoy miles long travels down the road toward Kyiv; Kharkiv is surrounded, with heavy loss of life. Thinking forward, it’s hard to imagine that Russia’s brutality will end any time soon. But passion…that’s something we’re seeing every day, as Ukrainians make Molotov cocktails, sign up to fight, and display courage under extreme pressure.


One middle grade author who’s written frequently about Ukraine and its history is Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. A Ukrainian-Canadian author, Skrypuch’s books include a series of historical novels about two Ukrainian sisters, Krystia and Maria. The first two novels, Don’t Tell the Nazis and Trapped in Hitler’s Web, focus on the girls’ experiences during World War II.


The most recent, Traitors Among Us, was published last year. It focuses on what happens to the sisters when they are imprisoned by the Soviets after the war. In an interview I did with her last September about the novel, Skrypuch said: 


“From my research, I realized that refugees like Krystia and Maria were far from safe at the end of the war, even though they had been given asylum in an American refugee camp. 


Thousands of survivors just like them ended up being kidnapped right out of Allied refugee camps and taken into the Soviet Zone, where they were interrogated and tortured into signing false confessions, and then held in secret compounds called ‘silence camps.’ 


I wanted to know how Maria and Krystia would cope if this happened to them. I especially wanted to know how they would (or if they could) escape. There were 10,000 young people who had the experience that they did after the war and I wanted to shed light on it.”


Asked what she hoped readers would take away from the book, she said: “History as we know it only scratches the surface of all that has happened in the past. There’s so much that we don’t know and what we don’t remember and learn from, we’re bound to repeat.”


At a time like this, these books are important reading.


--Deborah Kalb