Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Entering the Market of Writing for Children

If you want to gain experience and credentials as a children's writer, my post "My Experience Entering the Market of Writing for Children," over at Finders and Keepers  can help you. Every writer has a different journey, but I've shared some tips that I think will helpful to anyone. In fact, these steps apply to trying to get published in any type magazines, now that I think of it. Check it out, and say hi while you're there!

Hope you all have a very happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review at In the Pages

Last week of my WOW blog tour, and it's been a whirlwind, but a fun one! Today, there's a review of The Christmas Village over at In The Pages. Stop on by and say HI!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Reminder of What it's All About

This past weekend, the loveliest thing happened. I got an email from a woman whose 10-year-old daughter had started a book club last year, and the club has grown to 20 girls. Each month, the girls submit three book reviews each and then the group votes on which book to read the next month. And, they picked The Christmas Village! The Mom asked me if I'd be willing to write to the girls and tell them a little about myself and how I came up with the idea for the book.

What a wonderful reminder about why we do this - of course we want our book to SELL, but really, it's because we have created something from imagination and words and our hearts and souls, and we think it is the best of ourselves that we can give, and we want to share it. This girls' book club is what it's all about, and I couldn't be any happier if I sold a hundred books this weekend!

I'd also like to share a book recommendation with you: It's August Farewell by David G. Hallman, and it's a memoir of the16 days between the time his partner, Bill, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the day he died. But it's more than just that - it's a love story about two people who shared 33 years together, in good times and bad, and in sickness and in health. Hallman tells the 16 days in present tense, so we feel like we are going through it with him. He intersperses that with vignettes from their 33 years together. It's sad and moving and uplifting and spiritual, and it reminds us that, no matter our differences, when it comes to love and loss, we are all very much the same. August Farewell is beautifully written, and I loved it.

I'm thrilled to be highlighting Kai Strand, author of the children's books, The Weaver and Save the Lemmings. We're meeting Kai at an amazing time in her writing career: The Weaver is a finalist in the EPIC e-books awards, and Save the Lemmings ... well, please read my interview with her in the post below to find out Kai's BIG NEWS about that! Her story will give writers everywhere hope!

READ ON ....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Author Highlight: Kai Strand

Author Kai Strand

ME: Kai, you were just at a huge book signing event in Oregon, where they were hoping to set a world record for "Most Authors Signing." Was the record set? And tell us what that event was like!

KAI: Yes, I participated in the Oregon Book and Author Fair in Central Point, Oregon. What a fun day. There were over 60 authors there, and the titles ranged from picture book to scoliosis and all points in between. It was fun to chat with book enthusiasts and other authors. My tablemate, Ivy Smith and I got to know each other well, sitting next to one another for 7 hours or so. We did indeed make an attempt for the world record for most authors signing their individual titles at the same time. All the data has to be verified by Guinness World Records, and I can’t wait to find out if we qualify. Wouldn’t that be FUN to be in the Guinness Book of World Records? Now I have a copy of The Weaver with the official world record attempt stamp and my signature.

ME: Yes, being in the Guinness World Records would be a great thing to be able to tell people! Now let's talk about your middle grade book, The Weaver. It looks absolutely charming! Please give us the story summary, target age group and where we can buy it.

KAI: Thank you, Melissa. And charming it is…let me explain: Mary Wordsmith lives in a town of storytellers, known as word weavers. Her mother is the most revered word weaver of them all, but poor Mary suffers through her third year of Novice Word Weaving. She can’t tell a good story to save her life.

One day she meets a strange little creature that grants her a wish. But instead of weaving a better story, Mary is now weaving strange little yarn charms to accompany her still pathetic tales. Now she has two problems to overcome.

The Weaver has a little magic and a lot of storytelling. It is written for children 9 – 12 years old. The Weaver is available in paperback, hardcover or as an ebook through:

Barnes and Noble
Or direct from Guardian Angel Publishing

I’m excited to say The Weaver is a finalist in the EPIC eBook Awards!

ME: Congratulations! That's terrific! The Weaver sounds terrific - everyone - go buy it NOW!! Tell us a bit about the EPIC award.

KAI: Thank you! It is exciting. EPIC stands for Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. They’ve been around since 1998. Their purpose is to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing. They hold EPICon annually and they’ve been recognizing leading books in the electronic book industry with an annual awards banquet. You know that saying, “It’s an honor just to have been nominated”, well, let me tell you, it is an honor for my book to have made it as a finalist! I have to wait until March to learn if it has earned the title of winner.

ME: Okay, we've kept people in suspense long enough about your VERY BIG NEWS. So, drumroll ...Tell us about it!

KAI: Yes! I’m thrilled to announce the sale of my middle grade novel, Save the Lemmings, to Featherweight Press. When Natalie’s Texty-Talky invention makes her an overnight sensation, the media digs until they find a way to smear her goody-goody image.

ME: Congratulations - again! That is such wonderful news, and so encouraging to everyone out there who is hoping to sell their book - it does actually happen! Let's switch gears for a minute and talk about how all this got started. From what I read on your blog, it sounds like you had an idyllic childhood growing up in Wisconsin. Did that affect your desire to write for children, or in what ways has it affected your writing?

KAI: It’s funny that you asked that. I’ve considered my idyllic childhood a hindrance to my writing more than a help. I don’t have any issues or angst to share. It’s horrible. Okay, I’m really, really kidding about it being horrible that I’ve had a great life.

Growing up in Wisconsin instilled a real wholesomeness in me that I’ve never lost. People in the Midwest are so kind and genuine and that really impacts your values. Plus my parents always stressed honesty and being forthright. I try to bring that truth and honesty into my writing. I think it is so much harder and far more courageous for people to be honest and truthful, so it is important for children to be exposed to it in real life as well as through fiction.

ME: Actually, I've seen a cartoon where a girl is writing a letter to her parents, telling them that, because of the happy childhood they gave her, they'd ruined any chance that she could ever become a great writer! There is a lot of mileage to be gotten from angst, I guess! Okay, I also see that you have FOUR children! How often do real events from your daily life with four kids show up in your stories?

KAI: Aspects of real life show up a lot in my stories. Not only events with the kids, but from my childhood and stories I’ve been told by friends, family, etc. But it is usually only bits and pieces. I have so much fun with my kids and I thoroughly enjoy the people that they are. How can I not let that impact my characters and the stories I want to share? Heck, everybody should have as much fun as we do.

ME: Are you working on a project now, and if so, can you tell us a bit about it?

KAI: I’m finishing up edits on another Weaver tale, that I hope and pray meets the expectations of my fabulous publisher.

I’m also writing a very personal story that reduces me to tears every time I work on it. It’s loosely based on a friendship circle in my life. Even though the characters in the book aren’t me and my two friends, it is close enough to us to make me laugh and cry. There is a loss in this story that is especially difficult for me to address. But it is a beautiful, beautiful story and I hope I can do it justice and one day share it with the world.

Then, when I need a break from the heavier topics, I switch out of my middle grade hat and into my young adult writer’s cap and work on the second book in my super villains series. Talk about fun! Teens with super powers who, because they are villains, get away with being bad? Yep, lots of fun!

ME: This is a remarkable time for you - tell us how you're feeling about everything that is happening .

KAI: This is an exciting time for me as a writer. I was laid off from my day job at the end of June and haven’t found any comparable work since. However, the extra time at home has allowed me to really concentrate on my writing career. I’ve been able to write and submit short stories to magazines, which is something I simply didn’t have time to do before and I have more time to research publishers for my completed titles. The extra time has allowed me to really focus my efforts and it feels like I’m finally seeing a forward progress in my career. I think 2012 will be a banner year for the writer me.

ME: It's amazing how things sometimes open up for us just when we're at those scariest of moments? You've taken a downturn and turned into an inspiring story of persistence and success. Let's finish up the interview with anything else you'd like us to know.

KAI: If your readers are interested in finding out more about my wholesome upbringing or learn where some of my shorts have been published or read more about The Weaver, they can visit my website, I love to hear from readers, too, so feel free to stalk my Facebook page or send me an email. All my contact info & upcoming events can be found on my website.

Thanks for hosting me, Melissa. It has been so much fun chatting with you and your readers.

ME: Kai, you are a gem, a wonderful writer and a kind and generous person. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing your books soar to great success.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remembering a Happy Time - My Memoir Collaboration with My Dad

Today my WOW blog tour guest post is over at the Women's Memoirs website. It's the story of how I tried to help my dad find a reason for living after a massive stroke left him paralzyed in body, but still sharp of mind. We collaborated on several memoir pieces that eventually were published. You can find our story here: Women's Memoirs

Here are a few pictures of my dad at Cuttyhunk Island, a place that he loved and which we wrote about together.

Standing in front of the seaplane that took Dad and his survey crew to and from Cuttyhunk.
That's Dad on the right, he'd be in his early 40's here, but he looked very young.

Dad's crew clowing around in front of the Jeep that Dad almost put "in the drink."

Mom and Dad in their 70's, at the home in Andover, MA that they shared for more than 50 years.
Dad was 86 when he passed away in 2009

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Thankful Week

It's Thanksgiving week! On the one hand, I'm wondering where the year has gone. On the other, I feel ready for the holiday season to roll in. It's been such a tough year for people - I don't know anyone who hasn't had a rough time in one way or the other. It's been up and down for me too, what with Mom passing away in March. But I've been blessed too and so I'm feeling like I just want to feel content with things being rather plain and simple this year.

I'm especially grateful for the wonderful bloggers who have hosted me on the WOW Blog Tour. And Robyn and Angela at WOW did an amazing job setting it all up - if you need a tour, please check them out! Here's where I am visting this week:

Memorable Children's Books and Gifts is highlighting The Christmas Village, and there's a review there of the book as well. As the name suggests, they have lots of great books and gifts for kids. Here are the links to the blog and website:

On Tuesday, there's a review of The Christmas Village" over at 365 Days of Christmas.

Wednesday, I'm the guest over at Women's Memoirs, where I'll be talking about the memoir collaboration my father and I did after his stroke - we did two pieces that were published in the Martha's Vineyard Gazette and the Andover Townsman. The post is called, "A Collaborative Effort - My Dad/Daughter Memoir Publishing Experience."

And on Friday, we wrap up the week and give thanks over at Words from the Heart, where I'll be writing about gratitude.

Thank you so much for visiting with me and for hopping over to these other blogs. It's not just all about me (WHAT??? Not about ME???) - these folks have terrific blogs and part of the fun is discovering them.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pictures from Andover Book Signing Weekend

Here are pictures from the book signing at the Andover Bookstore on Saturday, November 12th. What a terrific time we had! There are more pictures from the earlier part of the signing, when I did a reading, but someone else has them and I have to get them. These photos are mostly family and friends who were there later on. My blog tour itinerary is off to the left and the previous post - please visit all these great bloggers and say hi! Okay - pictures!

My beautiful neices, Elizabeth & Olivia, and their dad, Terry Hart

High school friends, Mary Lou and Jim Tremblay

Dear friend, Sue Thomson

Old friends reunited

Andover High friends

Good friends together again

Silver and Gold

This past weekend was one of the best of my life! Yes - in large part because I had the book signing in my hometown and it was a huge success. But more so because I was with family, and was reunited with many old friends from school and jobs long ago.  I spent time laughing with friends I had gone to school with from grade one through high school. And I got to hug work friends I hadn't seen in more than 20 years.

The signing itself was very successful. When I'd asked how many books to send, the fellow said, "Oh, send 20 or so." I thought, NAH! I'm sending 100. Good thing I did, because we sold 75 books on Saturday! I think the only time they did better than that was when Jay Leno - also from my hometown of Andover - did his book signing there!

My Blog Tour continues this week at some wonderful blogs. I hope you'll stop over to visit. The title of this post comes from that old song we used to sing as a round in Girl Scouts, "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." I'm grateful for reuniting with old friends, and I'm grateful for the new friends I've made here in bloggi land. I'll post pictures from the signing later, but for now, here's this week's Blog Itinerary:

November 15: Donna's Book Pub
Guest Post: The two writing techniques that improved my writing the most

November 16: Sue Fitz's Books Books The Magical Fruit
Guest Post: Channeling Your Inner 10-Year-Old

November 17: Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them
Guest Post: Every Town Has a Story (finding ways to encourage kids - and grown-ups, to write)

November 18: Jill Franclemont's All Things Jill Elizabeth
Guest Post: Heroes & Villains - two faces of the same coin

Hugs to all,

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Hi everybody,
Well, today is a day of dreams come true - my book signing at the Andover Bookstore in my hometown of Andover, Massachusetts. I'm looking forward to seeing friends from grammar school and high school - people I haven't seen in 40 years! And our old neighbors too.  And I'll be at my favorite place on earth that doesn't have palm trees - the bookstore! It's the old-fashioned indie kind, with a real fireplace, wing back chairs and nooks and crannies. We'll try to get some good pictures.

Thanks for all the kind words and support!

Hugs to all! XO

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Can you believe it's Thursday again already!??!!  In a few hours, I'll be flying to Massachusetts for the book signing in Andover. I'm looking forward to seeing friends I haven't seen in years - we're talking 40 years for some! And, looking forward to spending time with my family too. The last time I was home was for Mom's memorial service in March, so it's nice that we'll be getting together for a happier reason this time.

My blog tour continues with a guest post Today at Nancy Brown's Capability Mom blog - the topic is "The Benefits of Being a Late Blooming Writer." Those of you who feel like you are getting a late start at writing - or whatever your calling is - take heart! There are reasons why it can be better to come into your own later in life.

And Robyn from WOW put a nice post about the book on her blog too. You can find it here: A Perponderance of Things.

Okay, back to Thankful Thursday! This week, I'm grateful for:

  • Having had four years with my adorable MINI, which we traded in today for a Honda Fit. But I'll always love MINI, and when you see her, you'll understand why! (There's a photo of her at the end of the post.)
  • Being able to spend time with my beautiful neices, Olivia and Elizabeth this coming weekend
  • That I really am going to have a book signing at my favorite bookstore on the planet: The Andover Bookstore in Andover, MA
  • That first cup of really good coffee in the morning
  • My friend Darla, who always makes me laugh
  • A big fat issue of Instyle magazine to read on the plane
  • Animal crackers
  • Having the parents I had, who gave me the most wonderful gift imaginable: a happy and carefree childhood
  • Angela at the Santa Fe library, who was extraordinarily helpful to me
  • Tony from the Liverpool Blue Coat School in England, who found the 88-year-old woman who was mother's friend there more than 70 years ago

MINI, please come back, please!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Mother's Friend

If you've been following for a while, you know that I had been trying to find out more about my mother's experience in England and Wales at the start of World War II. At the time, she was 14 years old and attending the Liverpool Blue Coat School - a boarding school for "orphans and fatherless children." Mom qualified as a "fatherless child", because her father had disappeared. Her mother worked as a governess in the U.S. and sent Mom to England to be cared for by relatives. But she ended up being shuffled around and wound up in boarding school. In September 1939, on the eve of WWII, millions of children were evacuated with their schools from major cities to the "country." Mom was evacuated, with her school, to Beaumaris, Wales.

I've been in touch with Tony from the Blue Coat Brotherly Society, who has been wonderful. He found a woman who remembers my mom! Her name is Carrie and she is 88 years old. She wrote me a letter, saying that Mom was her dear friend. The students had been sent back to Liverpool in 1940, because the expected bombings didn't come that first year of the war. But Mom didn't go back to the school. Instead she returned to the U.S., and her friend Carrie never knew what had happened. I don't know why Mom never got in touch with Carrie after coming home. Carrie said that Mom was the first friend to sign her autograph book, and she sent me the page from that book, with Mom's handwritten note- which Carrie had held onto all these years.

To have found someone who knew my mother back then was what I hoped for, but I didn't expect it to actually happen.I can't wait to write back to Carrie and tell her about Mom's life after she came back to the U.S.

Here are a couple of pictures of Mom from that time in her life. She's 11 or 12 in the picture with the dog. The small portrait photo was probably her passport picture for the return to the U.S. - on the back it says June 1940 and that's when she came back. The third photo is after her return to the U.S. She would have been 15 then.

My WOW BLOG TOUR continues this week with more chances to win a free book. There's a book review today on Jessica Nierad's Dream Hour Blog, and Friday, my post over at Nancy Brown's Capability Mom Blog is about The Benefits of Being a Late Blooming Writer (It's Never to Late!)

Okay, here are pictures of Mom as a young girl:
Mom, around age 11 or 12

June 1940, probably her passport picture for the return to the U.S.

Back in the U.S. 1940

Time Travel Tuesday

 My WOW Blog Tour continues with a visit over at Meryl Evans Blog. It's a guest post called, "Doing It Anyway." That title is a take-off from Susan Jeffers great book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, and the post offers a few techniques that I've used to overcome my fear of writing. Stop over to check it out - leave a comment and you'll have another chance to win a copy of The Christmas Village! Many thanks to Meryl for being my host.

SO! I don't know about you, but to me it seems that the older I get, the faster time goes by. It's November 8th already! And there is a bit of snow out there this morning. I am heading to New England on Thursday for my hometown book signing in Andover, Massachusetts on Saturday. They got a lot of snow in that storm last week - hope I don't need to bring boots ....

My parents lived in their little house in Andover for 54 years. That's a LONG time. I've been back there regularly over the years, even though I moved away. It's always a little like going back in time for me - when I'm there, I'm a 10 year old kid again, and everything I loved about my street and my town surges back and swells my heart. This weekend, I will reunite with childhood friends I haven't seen in 40 years! That's a REALLY long time. And I'll be at my favorite place in the whole town - the bookstore. As a child, it was a place that fueled my fantasies and my dreams.

In The Christmas Village, when Jamie goes into the miniature village, he goes back in time to 1932 Vermont. It's the Great Depression and times are hard. But people in the village open their hearts and homes to him. When I first starting thinking about this story, I imagined that it was the Victorian era in the village. But then I started to see the potential for drawing on similarities between things going on today and the hard economic times of the Depression. The book isn't about that, but it makes for a nice subtext to the story.

I'd LOVE to go back to Victorian England! Maybe there's a book there that I need to write.

If you could time travel, what time would you go to and where would it be?

Monday, November 7, 2011


My WOW blog tour starts TODAY with an interview over at the Women on Writing Blog. This week's itinerary is posted over there to the left.

This is what I'm wondering today: Is it really possible to manifest our destiny? Or is manifesting destiny kind of an oxymoron - if something is already destined, can WE really manifest it??? Does thinking about this make your head hurt???

Over the past 10 years, I've read a lot of books on the subject of manifesting our dreams into reality. It started with a book by Louise Hays. Then I read, You'll See it When You Believe It, by Wayne Dyer, and then later, The Law of Attraction, and  Ask and it is Given, by Esther and Jerry Hicks..

They all come at the same idea from different directions: Our beliefs drive our destinies; we can attract everything we want into our lives by setting our intentions and focusing positive thoughts and energy on them; if we ask for what we want, with the right energy behind it, it will come to us.

In my book, Jamie wishes several times that he could live in the Christmas village, and that's what happens. I guess you could say he manifested his desire. But is a wish the same as setting an intention? They seem different to me. A wish seems like asking someone else with power over your life to make something happen for you, while setting an intention feels more like you are asking the powers of the universe to help YOU make it happen. See the diff?

Plenty of people poo-poo this manifestation stuff, but I have to say that I've come to believe in it because it's happened for me enough times now to overcome my skepticism. Some things take longer to manifest than others- it took a long time to manifest my book. I'm still trying to manifest an oceanfront cottage. But in recent years, many other things have manifested quickly and with remarkable serendipity.

I'm not sure that I necessarily believe that we have a "destiny" because to me that seems pre-ordained.Or perhaps there is a destiny, but there are many paths by which we can get there. It's also possible that we can make choices that prevent us from getting there.

Today I'm keeping it simple. I'm just going to try to manifest a nice, easy day. Do you believe in manifestation? What have you manifested in your life, and what are you manifesting these days?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Simple Sunday

Even though my life has moved away from a strict Monday through Friday workweek, I still think of weekends as, well, weekends. I've always loved Sundays, and still like to keep them simple and uncluttered. I even wish that we would go back to the days when stores didn't open on Sundays. Not necessarily for religious reasons, but just because it meant there was one day set aside for enjoying simple, unrushed, unmaterialistic pleasures. Family, friends, food, fresh air, fun.

Since we moved to the Southwest 10 years ago, I've been far away from family and my New England roots. I think that writing The Christmas Village was a way of keeping close to those roots, since it takes place in Vermont. (I'm from Massachusetts, but the village just spoke "Vermont" to me :-) In the book, 12-year-old Jamie is drawn to the miniature village because it looks like a perfect place where time stands still. When he finds himself IN the village, it's 1932, a time much like today, when people had lost their jobs and maybe their homes to hard economic times. Even so, the people in Canterbury - the village - pull together and help each other out.

When I wrote this story, I know that I felt the pull of days gone by. Those weren't "the good old days" by any means! But there was a simplicity to life and a one-on-one connectness between people that has, if not disappeared, at least diminished.  One of the reasons I'm looking forward to our RV adventure is that it will take us all over the country, where we will be able to spend time in person with family and friends.

Today, we're keeping our Sunday simple. We're meeting friends for breakfast, then back here for a quiet day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and it's not too windy, so a nice walk to work off that breakfast is probably in order. I'll write some posts for my upcoming WOW blog tour (starts tomorrow) and then maybe a nap. My dad, who passed away two years ago, was a great napper. I got the Napping Gene from him. Miss you, Dad. You too, Mom.

What's on your agenda today? Simple? Or not so much?

Either way, hope it's a good one.

That's Mom & Dad in the living room of our home
in Andover, MA, where they lived for 54 years.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I've decided to start something new on my blog, and it's called "Thankful Thursday." Every Thursday my post will be about 10 things for which I'm grateful. They won't necessarily be the BIG things of life, more likely the small ones.

I first started making lists of things I'm thankful for about 10 years ago when I read Simple Abundance by Sara Ban Breathnach. I can honestly say that the small act of writing down my blessings changed my life. I gradually turned away from focusing on what was lacking, and began to recognize how lucky I am.

So here we go!

Today I am thankful for:

  • The clear blue skies of Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Having the day off from work
  • An absolutely wonderful review of The Christmas Village over at Just Jingle's blog
  • This new start my husband (aka RVPainter) and I are making in our lives (sold the house and buying an RV to travel around the country in next year)
  • My husband, for so many reasons, but today's reason is for being willing and eager, at the age of 71, to set off on this adventure!
  • Robyn and Angela at WOW - Women on Writing - who are organizing my upcoming blog tour - those ladies are awesome.
  • That I will get to see and spend time with my friend Darla next weekend - I haven't seen her in over four years!
  • To have finally realized what I believe to be my purpose in life - to have written a book that I would have loved to read as a child.
  • For my family of friends at YogaSource here in Santa Fe
  • For that earthy smell of autumn leaves on the ground
  • For really warm socks with bears on them, from a store in Shipshewana, Indiana (that's technically 11 things, but I REALLY love these socks :-)

I've got a guest post on Becky Povich's blog, and we'll be giving away a copy of my book. Stop over there and leave a comment, and you'll be entered. The post is called "Finding Your People," and it's about finding those real and true connections as a writer, with others here in Bloggi Land, and in every aspect of life. Becky is a warm and wonderful lady, and definitely one of "my people!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Signing at the Santa Fe Children's Museum

I'm delighted to report that I'll be holding a book signing at the Santa Fe Children's Museum (Santa Fe, NM) on Sunday, December 11th from 2 to 4pm. I'll be donating a portion of the proceeds from all my book sales that day to the museum.

I'm very excited for this opportunity to share the joy of my book release with a wonderful cause, that just so happens to be a great fit!