Sunday, February 20, 2011

"The King of Mulberry Street" by Donna Jo Napoli (Book Thoughts

Donna Jo Napoli has become one of my favorite juvenile fiction authors.  (Thank you, Courtney Rene

When I open a book, I want the author to transport me to the time and place of the story.  I want the author to show me how to live and breathe the same way as the characters in the book and maybe teach me something along the way.  Ms. Napoli has succeeded in doing those things with every book I've read so far.

The King of Mulberry Street follows nine year old Beniamino's journey from Naples, Italy to New York in 1892.  When he reaches Ellis Island, he takes the name, Dom Napoli.

This is no romantic story about an immigrant family coming to America.  Dom, an Italian Jew, is alone, penniless, and living on the streets.

When I was young, I remember the older women of my family sitting at the kitchen table and drinking coffee.  They spoke of another relative that came from the other side when he was only a boy.  I had so many questions, but back then, children were seen and not heard.  By the time I was old enough to ask, nobody was alive that knew the story. This book is like sitting at the feet of that relative and hearing the story we all want to know.

Ms. Napoli leaves nothing out.  We get a taste of the good, the bad, and the in-between.  I laughed and cried and wondered and marveled at the bravery of our ancestors.   Their ambition, motivation, and sometimes just plain survival is what made this country an amazing place of opportunity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life Measurements

Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.
David Frost

How do we know when we have become successful?

We've all heard the old saying, Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees. Is it possible to stand still and take stock of our possessions, blessings, and accomplishments and be satisfied?

I found as I go through life, my success meter is changeable and looking back, I see that I’ve raised the bar more than a few times. But, come to think of it, I don't know if I’ve ever defined success for myself.

Without a written goal, how do we know WHAT to achieve? Have you ever felt trapped by goals? When we reach our goals do we bask in our happiness before setting another?

Almost everyone has heard someone, or maybe even heard ourselves, say, "Oh sure, I'm blessed but if only...."
I believe it is human nature to want to be better, have more, and do more. But how do we know when enough is enough and do we ever truly feel happy and satisfied?

I recently came across an equation that pretty much sums it up for me:
Success=Happiness + Satisfaction

Some people's success is visible. They’ve somehow made a difference in the world by being a humanitarian, wealthy, or famous. But we all can't make millions of dollars, cure disease, or write Harry Potter.
 So tonight, after we close the doors to the auto repair shop that we own, and sit down to a hot meal in our home in the country, I think I will tell my wonderful husband how much I love him. And maybe I will work a little more on my novel before I crawl into my warm bed and thank God for our healthy, happy children.

Sounds like success to me.

How do you measure success? Have you achieved it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Irresistably Sweet Blog Award

WooHoo!  I got an award! 

The Irresistably Sweet Blog Award

Thank you, Courtney Rene for thinking of me. 
This is a truly wonderful gift and I am so honored. 

Here's how the award goes:

1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award.

2. Share 4 guilty pleasures that you have.

3. Pass the award along to 6 other sweet blogs.

Here are my guilty pleasures: (of course, I have a lot more than 4.)

1.  Crayons.  Yup, I've got tons of them.  Do I use them?  NO!! (And no, I don't share.  Keep your hands off, lol)  My dream trip would be to go to the Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania but I need to borrow a friend's child so I don't look so silly.

2.  Naps.  I love to nap. Especially on rainy days.

3.  Double Stuff Oreos.  No explanation needed.

4.  Boxes.  If I had it my way my whole house would be filled with boxes of every size made of wood, metal, stone, whatever.  I especially like ones with really cool clasps to close them.  Something about boxes intrigues me.

Six Sweet Blogs

1.   Julie's  Julie Rose Sews

2.   Boo's  Tattooing Angels

3.   Kristi's R.A.W. Random Acts of Writing

4.   Claudette's Claudsy's Blog

5.   Lindsay's Silly Mom Thoughts

6.   Terrie's Write What Your Heart Desires

Congratulations to the six sweet blogs receiving this award from me! As a request, disseminate this award to six other bloggers not on this list. You don't have to return the favor by giving me the award again. I'm thankful enough as it is for receiving it.

Spread the love!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"On Writing" by Stephen King--A Memoir of the Craft (Book Thoughts)

Stephen King began writing about his craft and his life in 1999.  On Writing gives us a view of Stephen's childhood and glimpses of the inspiration for situations that provoked best sellers such as Carrie, Misery, and The Stand.

He wrote his short book about writing and figured "the shorter the book, the less the bullshit."  Mr. King's book is filled with anything but bullshit.  Although I have been a fan of his work since high school, I haven't read any of his recent work.  I don't know if my heart can take it anymore, lol!

His worries about sounding like "a literary gasbag or a transcendental asshole" are totally unfounded.  Reading On Writing almost felt as if Mr. King is one of my good friends who had come over for dinner and a chat. 

His straightforwardness not only made me stop and think about so many things in my writing laugh but better yet, the book made me laugh out loud.  (I love when a book makes me laugh out loud!)  He even inspired me to put my desk in the corner and get to work, leaving a few great quotes rattling around in my brain.

"Life isn't a support system for art.  It's the other way around."

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

I have tons of reading hours under my belt and continue to read one or two books at a time so I think I'm heading in the right direction.
If you are a fan of Stephen King's work, you may be surprised about where the ideas for some of his best work comes.  If you are a writer, you need to read this book for inspiration.  And if you are a little of both, you will definitely enjoy this gem.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rebel Tales has closed

Holly Lisle had a wonderful idea.

Duotrope Digest said:

"The purpose of Holly Lisle's Rebel Tales e-zines is to publish longer short fiction and serialized long fiction in an accessible online format, in complete units called seasons.
Holly Lisle’s Rebel Tales e-zines have specific technical requirements that you must hit in order to sell to us. If you do not read and follow the guidelines, EVERYTHING you submit will miss the mark, most of it by huge margins. To be accepted as a Rebel Tales story, the story must meet my personal definition of “good story.” And my definition of a good story is not a vague definition full of artistic or emotional terms with lots of elbow room for interpretation: it is instead very specific, with concrete, absolute requirements. You will find these requirements, with definitions and examples as necessary, listed in the following sections: Purpose, Characters, Plot, Theme, Style, Cliffhanger, Submission, and Specific Genres. Rebel Tales is open to beginners as well as pros—so long as you are writing good fiction. You do not have to have been previously published to submit."

Then, we all got an e-mail.  Rebel Tales has been closed permanently.  Its seems a prospective editor misrepresented herself as a full editor with Rebel Tales and also misrepresented Rebel Tales as a publisher already in business.

Holly's writer's criteria was a great guideline for any manuscript a person wanted to submit and I'm sure her criteria for editors was just as specific. Because there was no way for Holly to guarantee something like this wouldn't happen again, she thought it best to close Rebel Tales before it ever really took off.

I'm so sad I won't be able to send her one of my manuscripts for approval and especially sad I hadn't had a chance to be a part of her wonderful idea.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Finding Our Calling

Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.
Frank Borman

This past month, I've read a number of articles in various magazines that discuss the search for one's true calling.  According to all of the articles, it is never too late to change careers.  Personally, I think that's a really good thing. 

Of course, some of us have no idea what we want to be when we grow up and there are many factors involved in determining our perfect career choice.  But there are research facilities who, for a modest fee of approximately $650.00 (!), can help you find the job you were born to do.

Oprah suggested we write down the times when we are the happiest.  So, I sat down to recall the times and things that made me the happiest and of course I had a fairly good list.  After some thought, I realized that life is meant to be lived and maybe we're supposed to try different things.  Maybe we're supposed to fail at things, even things we enjoy doing.

Of course, I wish I had mustered up the courage or motivation to try my hand at writing when I was much younger, but I think the careers I've tried in the past may influence the way I write.  Maybe I was meant to flounder around until I found my passion and who's to say I won't find another passion somewhere down the road?

I've had 20 jobs in the past 31 years and while I've had some horrible jobs like delivering newspapers and full-time data entry--even though it WAS in the Twin Towers, I hated keying in the same information over and over again into a computer all day.  I've also had some cool jobs like when I was data entry teacher in a business school in the Empire State Building and my job as warehouse office manager in charge of shipping.  I was in control the inventory of many corporate accounts including Candies' shoes and Kenneth Cole's first line of shoes!  Bartending was fun while it lasted until I couldn't stand the smell of beer and I definitely couldn't get out of telemarketing fast enough. 

But I do know each and every one of my career choices taught me something I hadn't known before about life (owning a business is a 24 hour job!), people (there are many people who have life-threatening chemical allergies), or myself (I am capable of much more than I realize.)

It's been quite an adventure and perhaps if I had found the straighter and quicker path to where I am now, I may not have met all the wonderful people I know and may not have done all the things along the way which helped create the person I am today.

So tell me...Have you found your true calling?  What was the most interesting job you've ever had?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Fever" by Laurie Halse Anderson (Book Thoughts)

It's summertime, 1793.  The heat in Philadelphia is overpowering and leaves everyone drained and tired, including fourteen year old Mattie.

Matilda Cook wishes her mother would stop nagging long enough for her to escape their family coffee house and cool off at her favorite place, the waterfront.  But after Mattie's childhood friend and coffee house employee, Polly, suddenly dies of the fever, everything changes in Mattie's world.

Laurie Halse Anderson plunges the reader into 18th century Philadelphia and you can almost feel the stifling heat as Yellow Fever spreads from the docks and invades the Cook Coffeehouse and the city that was once the Capital.  The author opens our eyes to life in the 1700's and a devastating epidemic.

When Matilda is separated from her sick mother, she takes on the responsibility of caring for her grandfather and faces a life or death struggle.  The young girl is forced to make decisions and grow up much too quickly.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the novel's appendix.  The appendix is filled with facts about Philadelphia, life in the 1790s and very interesting information about the Yellow Fever epidemic and the various treatments that people used (to no avail.)

This is a great read!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some Things I Think...: My EASY & Fun Winter beat the winter ...

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I've always thought of the act of writing as a solitary activity.  Although I'm a fairly social person, I also covet my 'alone' time.  The time when I can go deep within myself, whether I am daydreaming, meditating, or writing, is pure bliss for me.

When I began my course at the Institute of Children's Literature, I learned about the Writer's Retreat where past, present, and prospective students could go for information, homework help, and general support.

At first, I stalked the forum and like the shy student that I am, tried to remain invisible when questions were asked or topics were discussed on subjects I knew nothing about.  I happily remained anonymous for the better part of a year.

It seemed the people in the Writer's Retreat had been friends for a very long time.  People shared good news and bad news and their friends cheered and prayed.  Some people even shared market information!  I figured they must have been friends because in this dog-eat-dog world where publishers folded faster than I could finish my first lesson, there was way too much competition for writers to share such golden info.  Unless they were very, very good friends. 

Envious of the writer's circle, I continued to prowl the forum and eavesdrop.  Then one day, I took the leap.  I knew the only way I could become a part of their circle was to jump in and introduce myself.  Before I knew what happened, I was not only part of the writer's circle, I was invited to be part of a critique group made up of some very talented writers.  I also became very good cyber-friends with an amazing YA author. 

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd genuinely care for people I never met in person but
Facebookput faces with the names and suddenly we all knew about each other's family and pets.  We pass along market info and give each other swift kicks in the rear when we need them.  I find myself cheering over every body's good news and praying for each other's good health and happiness.

Even though most of us have never met each other in person, we know that when our turn comes for celebrating or praying, everyone else will be there for us.  We guide each other, inspire each other, and offer our shoulder's to cry on.  We do the "happy dance" together and understand the importance of every acceptance AND rejection.

We still live in a dog-eat-dog world and unfortunately, plenty of magazines and publishers still close their doors in these uncertain times, but that is exactly why this ever-expanding circle of writers choose to watch each other's backs and hold each other's hands as we chip away at the wall separating us from publication.  It is amazing and so unselfish how the successful ones continue to hold onto our hands and guide us through also. 

Every time one of us breaks through the wall, we rejoice because we know there is hope for the rest of us.

We all continue with our eyes on the price, and reach for the golden ring that will make us the next JK Rowling, Stephen King, or Maya Angelou.