Still wondering after all these years…

Reading the Sunday Chicago Tribune was an all-day affair in our house. By dinner time, sections of the paper were scattered everywhere – on the kitchen and dining room tables, the living room floor, on beds…

I remember my brothers and me racing out the front door to the bottom of our driveway to get the paper. The first one to get the paper was the first to get to read the comics.

I could never get enough of Andy Capp, Archie, Beetle Bailey, Broom-Hilda, Cathy, Brenda Starr, Blondie, Funky Winkerbean, Peanuts… All week, I quoted the characters and re-told their stories at the dinner table, at school….and wondered, what would happen next. Now, it seems crazy to wait an entire week to find out what’ll happen next. But, I fell in love with all the guessing, predicting, and wondering.

In less than a hundred words, each comic strip provoked me, entertained me, and mystified me. Oh, and the artwork! I was completely fascinated by the colors of the characters clothes, hats, shoes, everything.

My family didn’t discuss what we read in the Sunday paper. We just read and went about our business. It was a rather quiet day. As a teen, I couldn’t wait to read the editorial pages. The letters to the editor were my favorite. I always tried to picture the writers, where they lived, how they dressed… Sometimes, I imagined meeting them.

I don’t remember us reading books, other than occasionally skimming through a set of Encyclopedia Britannica that collected dust on our basement shelf. To me, reading was what I did all day at school, for homework and well, something that I had to do.

My parents didn’t read us bedtime stories. Actually, I never thought of story as being contained in a book. But, looking back, I always knew story. It filled our two-story house.

Story was what my brothers and me passed around the dinner table every night. It was the entrée. My brothers reenacted scenes from The Marx Brothers and Star Wars; I delighted in laughing, making up stories, imitating teachers and telling what happened in school. I clearly knew story was something you make up, can’t wait to tell – and that it gets better every time you tell it, especially when my brothers would chime in, add on, and we’d just keep going, weaving our tales. No one ever said “stop” or “stay focused” or “don’t do that”. We just let it rip. It was a loud feast of one “and then, and then” after another; it was what we did naturally.

On a recent visit with one of my brothers, we told stories for hours. You know, the kind that make you laugh till your stomach hurts. I lost track of time. We let it rip. It felt just right; it was dang fun! I didn’t want our storytelling to end.

I think it’s why I write and keep revising. I don’t want it to end. I’m still in love with all the guessing, wondering, and still mystified by the art of writing.

How about you? Why do you write or do other art?

 

“I never thought Cathy would get married.” –Cathy Guisewite, author of the comic strip, Cathy.

 

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The Magic of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking

On a recent trip through Scandinavia, I committed myself to reading the works of Scandinavian children’s authors. I wanted to reread the books that I had loved as a girl, to view them from the perspective of a writer and to read them in their native lands. I delved into the haunting fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, the whimsical odd adventures and wisdom of Tove Jansen’s Moonintrolls and the very dark adventures of Astrid Lindgren’s Lionheart Brothers. But the best part of my reading journey through Scandinavia came from becoming reacquainted with Pippilotta Comestibles Windowshade Curlymint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking.

I loved Pippi Longstocking. I wanted to have red, wild hair, to live alone in my own wacky home, to create my own rules and (most importantly) to have a pet monkey. All along, I knew in my heart I was just another Annika, a regular, good girl… but wouldn’t it be fun if I was different!

With a statue of Astrid Lindgren at Junibaken, a museum that celebrates children’s literature in Stockholm, Sweden.

Pippi has enchanted millions of children like me over the decades since she was created in Sweden in 1945. Forever nine years old, she sprang to life in the post-WWII world and has been shocking the world ever since. Pippi is still wildly popular in Scandinavia and is one of their most notable literary exports. Astrid Lindgren is a national hero and is even pictured on the 20 krona banknote. A children’s author… imagine that!

Pippi is quite the child. She turns the tables on bullies by hanging them from a tree, terrifies policemen who want to put her in a children’s home, refuses to learn her “pluttification tables,” rolls out her biscuits on the floor and heroically rescues children from a burning building. The fantastical is presented as commonplace and the world Pippi lives in is magical. The books are funny, irreverent and entirely enjoyable.

I realize that my girlhood admiration of Pippi was because she was a person who could do anything and was never bound by the rules that govern everyone else. The books are anti-authoritarian, with an undercurrent of feminism. It turns out that Pippi Longstocking often ends up on banned book lists because of these themes. One of the hallmarks of her character is that she never conforms to societal norms and that the adult world is held up to scorn and critical evaluation.

Pippi is inspirational to me as a writer because she breaks with conventional ideas about how children, especially girls, should behave. Re-meeting Pippi made me want to write children’s books that make them imagine something different from what they think they know. Pippi Longstocking may not have the same effect on the current generation of young American readers that she had on me. But today’s girls and boys need to have characters like her to love. They deserve characters who can help them look at their world with a more discerning eye and give them the courage to act in new ways. We need to make sure that our children have their own “Pippi” to encourage them to have fun, to be a bit more daring and to have faith in their own abilities.

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What Are Kids Reading These Days?

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being  a judge in the Colorado Humanities Center for the Book’s Letters About Literature Contest. This is a literary competition where students in grades four-twelve write letters to authors of their favorite books. Since most of these children have teachers who are passionate about reading and writing, the books chosen are some of the very best out there and many of my own favorites.

So what are kids reading these days? I am a judge in the fourth-sixth grade category. As you would expect, many eleven and twelve-year-olds are drawn to humorous titles such as Jeff Kinney’s THE WIMPY KID and Rachel Renee Russell’s THE DORK DIARIES. Others enjoy dramatic non-fiction like Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR, or inspirational biographies like Misty Copeland’s MY LIFE IN MOTION and Malala Yousafzai’s I AM MALALA. There are also the lovers of fantasy  who are obsessed with JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series and JRR Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

But more than any genre, these pre-teens are choosing books that touch their hearts and evoke emotion. Titles such as John Green’s A FAULT IN OUR STARS, RJ Palacio’s WONDER, and Wendy Maas’s A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE and GRACEFUL, show up year after year. Pam Munoz Ryan’s classic, ESPERANZA RISING, Katherine Patterson’s A BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, Jerry Spinelli’s STARGIRL, Jennifer Nielson’s A NIGHT DIVIDED, and anything by Kate DiCamillo, are also favorites. Like adults, children want to be moved in a profound way by the books they read.

When drafting their letters, the students are required to use good grammar, strong word choice, and creative devices such as metaphor and simile. They have also been asked to relate an event in their life to the book they have read. This might be a problem with a friend, a family crisis, or the competitive nature of school and sports. One student wrote about being lost on a hiking trip, another expounded on coping with a parent’s illness, and a third described the agony of moving to a new town and school. But when a student vividly described how much she wanted to “jump into the book” to comfort a character, I was impressed. She showed me her deep sense of empathy and insight, and articulated what I had felt when I read the very same book.

Books can surprise the reader. Years ago, when one of my sons was in high school, I gave him A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE. I was hoping that when the main character discovered she had a sensory disorder called “synesthesia,” it would resonate with him. And it did. I will never forget the smile on his face when he bounded into the kitchen. “I’m just like her,” he announced. “Like who?” I asked. “The girl in the book, Mia. I have what she has. We’re both amazing artists, but algebra and Spanish make us crazy.” A year later, when he wrote his college essay, he described his synesthesia in full detail, emphasizing the point that he was “hard-wired” to be an artist.

As a writer of middle grade fiction, here’s my takeaway from reading these letters – The books we write are important. They help children navigate the ups and downs of their roller coaster lives. Writers have an obligation to dig deep and create characters and stories that will touch their readers in ways that make them say, “That’s me.” Your character can challenge the reader to keep going, to try harder, to be compassionate. More importantly, your book can help the reader understand that he/she is not alone.

Being a judge in this contest has been inspirational. Kids in this age group are often considered  anti-social, phone-obsessed, video-game-addicts, even bullies. But these letters have convinced me that after reading a powerful book, these same children are empathetic and deep-thinking.  After attending literary agent Donald Maass’s workshop on “The Emotional Craft of Fiction” last weekend, I know he would agree with me. He told us over and over that we change lives by writing good fiction… that a great story opens a reader’s heart and gives them a sense of hope.

So get to it people. Sit down, open up that computer, and write a book that makes your reader feel something. You might change someone’s life, and in doing so, improve our world in ways you can only imagine!

What books have moved you or affected your life in some way? Send me some titles and I’ll put up a list.

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Author Interview with Denise Vega

By Denise Schurr

Denise Vega is the award-winning author of seven books from toddler to teen, including her newest picture book, If Your Monster Won’t Go To Bed as well as Build a Burrito: A Counting Book in English and Spanish, illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz and Grandmother, Have the Angels Come? illustrated by Erin Eitter Kono (Colorado Book Award winner, Colorado Authors’ League Award, Américas Award Commended Title). Denise is a former co-Regional Advisor for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI, on faculty at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and a Young Adult Mentor for the Regis University MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Denver with her family where she loves to hike, walk, swim, read, eat French fries and watch out for monsters. Find out more about Denise, her books, and her idiosyncrasies at www.denisevega.com.

What was your inspiration for the story If Your Monster Won’t Go To Bed?

I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was a combination of things. I had written another monster story and also a “role switching” story with kids putting parents to bed–an idea that I abandoned when I found out it had already been done by a much more skilled author than myself. I think my subconscious started putting these two ideas together at some point and the story began to prod me.

Which came first, the characters or the plot? How did you blend the two?

The plot came first–this idea of an instruction manual for putting your monster to bed. Then I heard the unseen narrator’s voice in my head. I had originally envisioned the story with dialogue bubbles coming in from the sides and then maybe getting a glimpse of the narrator slipping away at the end. But that changed as I continued to hone and revise the story. Because of the second person point of view, the characters are actually the narrator and the listener/reader (represented by the girl in the story) with the narrator taking center stage in terms of voice and the girl coming into her own through the text and a lot through the illustrations. The ending reflects me coming to terms with these two characters. Early versions ended with the child playing after the monster is (supposedly) in bed, but something didn’t feel quite right with that approach. It wasn’t until I circled back to the narrator at the end that I got that “Yes!” feeling and knew I’d found my ending.

What was your favorite part to write and why?

I had so much fun coming up with all the silly things that were the opposite of when you put a kid to bed and loved creating the hyphenated words! It was just a big Wordplay Fun Fest!

Can you share your favorite line?

My favorite line by far is the last line after the narrator tells listeners not to ask their parents for help: “It’s not their fault; they’re just not good at it.” It still makes me smile when I read it.

Were you afraid of monsters when growing up?

Yes! I was convinced there was one in my closet and I often did the popular leaping from afar onto my bed in case there was a monster lurking under the bed–I didn’t want it reaching out and grabbing my foot! Sometimes if I woke up in the middle of the night, I would think my bookcase was one. Oh my gosh. Writing all of
that down makes it sound like I believed there was a whole family of monsters living in my room! Good grief.

OTHER INFO:

Denise will be sharing the story and activities at several locations around Denver and Boulder. Visit her Facebook Fan page to find an event close to you. https://www.facebook.com/pg/denise.vega.books/events

@denisevegabooks

More about the book and purchase options: http://www.denisevega.com/books/if-your-monster/

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Cocoon!

By Susan Wroble

Photo: “Cocoon” by Dawn Huczek is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

I was born with a hip that didn’t fit quite right, so I always knew I was going to be a candidate for an early hip replacement. The past few years gave a steady decrease in the things I was able to do. When I stopped being able to ride my bike around the neighborhood, I knew it was time to talk to an orthopedic surgeon.

The surgery was scheduled for early January. Our neighbors graciously loaned us every conceivable type of device I might need, from a cane to a shower stool to an amazing walker. Our daughter set up a Meal Train account, and emailed the link to friends, so we had meals delivered a couple times a week for a month.

Surgery was easy, with no complications. But recovery was a fascinating period. For the first few weeks, I was simply exhausted. I couldn’t wait to go to bed. Each night, I’d throw the covers over my head and think: “Cocoon!” Yet even as I thought it, I had no idea why.

The surprise to me was that it was indeed a cocooning period. The me that emerged was different. With all my normal activities on hold, my attention was increasingly focused on writing. It was the one thing I could still do.

A month after surgery, we went to a party, and someone asked the standard “What do you do?” question. For years, my typical reply has been that I volunteer too much. This time, however, what came out was completely unexpected. “I’m a writer,” I said, surprising myself with the answer.

For years, I’ve wanted to make that switch to writing. I just never expected hip replacement surgery to be the precipitating piece. My nighttime cocooning was indeed transformational, and I emerged feeling incredibly blessed.

 

 

 

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Lessons From My Accordion

Three years. Three teachers. I guess I should be embarrassed that it took this long for me to find an accordion teacher. I’m not. I’m thrilled! My search had nothing to do with the teachers. I knew my needs and was determined to find “the” teacher who was just right for me. Of course, I didn’t plan on it taking three years, but WOW, it was worth it!

Every teacher had a different expertise and passion. Teacher No. 1 filled a wipe board with scales and loved expounding music theory. I was lost; I was bored. Teacher No. 2 devoted a lot of time to practicing scales and reminding me to do so 30 minutes a day. I wanted to quit and sell my accordion. Teacher No. 3 said, “Quit worrying and let’s just play,” within a few minutes after I entered her studio and unpacked my accordion (and after I rambled off way too many questions). I laughed. She laughed. I relaxed. She said my fingers even began to relax on the keys.

I can’t explain why Teacher No. 3 is just right for me. Maybe it’s her hearty laugh or, her authenticity and pragmatic instruction; maybe it’s because time flies and I disappear during our lessons. I have fun and want to go home and practice – and learn more. And, she’s in love with playing the accordion. What could be better?

The day after my first lesson with No. 3, I had a revelation and shared it with a close writer friend: Everything that No. 3 said is exactly what we strive to do as writers. It’s what I want to do more of in my writing practice. My friend commented, “Sounds like an essay on lessons from an accordion.” Great idea!

It also gave me another idea. I committed to practicing my accordion every day for 30 days. My goal was to do what my teacher said, just play. I didn’t set a time for each practice session. After all, No. 3 never said how often or long she wanted me to practice. She just expected it.

Here’s what my accordion taught me about writing over the 30 days:

Quit worrying and just play.

Lesson: Just sit down and write. When I play a wrong note, I usually keep going and make up my own song and just let it rip. Then, I go back and learn the correct note. When I’m stuck on a scene, I go much deeper in my writing if I simply type “STUCK” and move on. Even if I get off track as I keep writing, I always discover something new about a character or what’s off or on in the scene. Yay!

Don’t think so hard when learning to simultaneously play the bellows, chords and keyboard. Take your time.

Lesson: Yes, it takes crazy concentration to play all three parts! But, when I relax my fingers and keep moving on after a mistake, it happens. Suddenly, I’m playing the ENTIRE accordion. When I’m trying to balance a zillion parts of a scene – voice, personalities of characters, tension – I eventually find “it”. Lately, I’m delighting in the tiny pieces that work and smooth out after long revising sessions. Perhaps, I’m finally learning patience with my writing process and finding the fun.

Practice every day.

Lesson: On busy days, I practiced accordion right before going to sleep, even if it was only 10 to 15 minutes. I also started carving out more writing time. For example, I printed pages and started carrying a chapter or entire picture book manuscript in my purse, so I could revise anytime anyplace.

Trust yourself. You’ll figure out how far to open the bellows.

Lesson: I assumed there was a golden rule on how far to open the bellows. Wrong! No. 3 told me that I’ll feel it and slowly find what works for me. Whether writing a first draft or revising, I find not only what works, but what doesn’t work. Lately, I’m finding entire chapters and characters that need to be cut. Oh, it’s painful to say goodbye to a character! But, nothing beats seeing the other characters rise, take off and move the story ahead.

Listen and you’ll hear when a note is off.

Lesson: No. 3 says, “It’s a good sign when you know a note is off; it means you’re listening and learning.” That’s exactly what happens when I read my work out loud! Lately, as I revise my young adult novel, I have to remind myself to stop and read an entire chapter out loud before moving on. Immediately, I hear what’s off. Magic!

After my 30 day commitment ended, I kept practicing every day, except when I had to travel by plane. I need to figure out how take my accordion with me. I miss it!

For now, no time to worry. I’m off to just play my accordion and write. Oompah!

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The Tuesday Writers

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

Every Tuesday morning, I clear off my dining room table, plug in my laptop, and wait for the writers to arrive. They bustle in around 10:30 carrying cups of coffee and bottles of water along with their computers and notebooks. After putting their lunches in the fridge and setting containers of nuts and assorted baked goods on the table, we settle in. Mostly, we sit in the same chairs. Some add a pillow, while others lower window shades to block the sun’s glare. Then, after a bit of schmoozing and noshing, we set the timer. Our chattering stops and the room becomes quiet. It’s time to write.

Three of us met a few years ago at a “Write-In” during NANOWRIMO – National Novel Writing Month. Although we were complete strangers, we were all determined to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Then, on the last day, after we had all become “Winners,” someone suggested we keep going. We hardly knew each other’s names. We certainly didn’t know much about each other’s books. But we had something very important in common. We were passionate about writing.

We decided to continue working at our local library every Tuesday morning. We reserved a conference room for two hours, kept our voices down, and got to work. It was wonderful. So wonderful, that when the library decided to do a major remodel and close their meeting rooms, we knew we had to find another location. I volunteered my dining room table.

Our group of three has now grown to five. Other writing buddies pop in now and then, but the core group is extremely reliable. Frigid temperatures, snowy roads, and needy relatives cannot keep us away from our beloved writing projects! And, when I’m out of town, others host at their dining room tables. On some days, we even write remotely, and text each other when timed writing sessions are about to begin. We typically get in three, forty five-minute sessions. And here’s the best part: the discipline of writing consistently has spilled over to other days of the week. I now find myself carving out short writing sessions almost every day.

Our projects span the genres. Two of us are writing MG fiction and picture books, while the others are focusing on women’s fiction, murder mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy. Although our content is widely varied, we often share information about local classes, conferences, webinars, and books on craft. We sometimes read paragraphs aloud, give each other immediate feedback, revise, and read again. We talk about query letters, character arcs, plot twists, even murder suspects! One member has been independently published and we all cheered when her cover designer came up with Book Two’s gorgeous graphics.

But most importantly, we write. Every Tuesday, no matter what, we set aside other commitments and scribble “10:30-2:30-NANOS” on our personal calendars. We put our work ahead of doctor’s appointments and lunch dates. I even had my hairdresser stop me when I was about to set up my next visit on a Tuesday. “Isn’t that your writing day?” she asked. “It is,” I replied. “It most definitely is!”

 

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Submission Schedule

With the start of a new year, comes resolutions. One of my writing resolutions was to be more consistent with submitting my polished stories. To help me achieve this goal, I decided I needed an organized way to manage submissions. That is when I first developed my submission schedule and broke it down into three parts.

First, I decided that since I had put time and energy into writing my manuscripts, I owed it to myself to set them free into the querying world. I picked a time frame that felt comfortable for me and put it on the calendar. Submission Sunday was born. That is when I either spend an hour researching or writing queries to send out.

Next, I needed a way to track my submissions. There are many resources that writers can use, Query Tracker, spreadsheets, or a simple spiral bound notebook, which is what I decided to use. I’ve tried to maintain tracking on the computer in the past and I haven’t followed through. Using a simple spiral bound notebook that I keep close to my computer is something I will be more diligent in maintaining.

Finally, I set goals. It was important to me to decide on a number of queries I wanted to send out each week which felt attainable. Two weeks in, I am right on track. I know there may be weeks where I won’t be able to send as many or weeks where I may send more.

Do you have a submission process?

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My NaNoWriMo

“You’re a WINNER!” I entered my official work count into the NaNoWriMo website on November 30 and was treated to triumphant music and a blinking WINNER message.

I had done something I was sure I could not do. I had written whole novel in one month.

Friends in the writing community had participated in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which  is a national movement that challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel during November. I listened to them and shook my head. No, I write too slowly, my ideas don’t arrive fully formed and I get off-track too easily. After all, it took me over two years to complete my 40,000 word middle grade novel and it still isn’t quite what it should be.

No, I could never do NaNo.

It was in mid- October that I wrote and rewrote a sentence in my new novel. I had been working on the sentence for days. I realized that I hadn’t moved my book forward in over two weeks. I wished that I could free myself up from the constant perseveration that dogged my writing. My need to make things perfect before I moved on. My discouraging experience of spending so much time on an interesting scene that even I was bored.

People around me were deciding whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I had never really considered it. Dejected, I thought, why not give it a try?

I set aside my current novel and spent the rest of October outlining a book that I had thought about writing for years. I needed to have a whole new book for  this frantic, blast-out-the-words NaNo style of writing.

To complete a 50,000 word novel in a month, I needed to write 1,667 words a day. I am certain that I had never written 1,667 words in one day. In fact, there had been days when my daily word count was in the teens. I usually wrote a couple days in a row, then took a break for a day or two. There would be none of that with NaNo. It would be 1,667 words every day or failure.

But I didn’t want to fail. As I prepared, I realized that I wanted, more than anything, to write a whole novel in a month. Just to prove to myself that I could do it.

I woke up early on November 1st. I honestly had no idea how long it would take me to write 1,667 words. I figured it could be anywhere from an hour to four hours. I had set aside the entire day.

I set an alarm for one hour. I started to write. When the hour was up, I had written about 1,000 words. At the end of the next hour, I almost had 2,000 words. Only 48,000 more words and 29 more days to go. And it was just 8:30 am. I entered my word count into the NaNoWriMo website and went about my day, just like usual.

Except that I thought about my story and characters all day long.

The next day, I knew exactly what I was going to write. I’d move the story forward by writing the scene that I had thought about the day before. And I did.

So it went. Every day I’d write, two to three hours, then I’d imagine all day long what could happened next. The next day, I’d consult and revise my outline, read the last page that I had completed the day before and just write. All I needed was to find two hours to spend on my novel, one way or another, before I went to bed. Soon enough I had written close to 200 pages and was drawing the story to an end.

Doing NaNoWriMo felt like being on a long and challenging hike that took me to a place I had never been before. Sometimes, I was astounded by my own ability and energized by being in this unexplored territory. And sometimes I felt lost and exhausted and didn’t want to take another step. But like the hiker, I continued to put one foot in front of another and kept on going. When I was finished, I was thrilled to have had the adventure and wanted to do it again.

Participating in NaNo taught me that I could write faster. I needed to learn that if I felt paralyzed, I needed to keep going and not to stop. Sooner or later, I found, I could write my way out of stuck.

Realistically, I only wrote a DRAFT of a 50,000+ word young-adult historical fiction novel about a young woman and her friends growing up during World War II. It certainly is not a polished word-perfect story, at least not yet. But, I have something, something large and complete, a book with a beginning, middle and end that embodies the story I want to tell.

There are parts of the novel that are just what I want them to be. There are other parts that need a lot of work. And there are entire parts missing that still need to be written. But what I wrote for NaNoWriMo in November, 2016 was a whole book.

I don’t know what I will do with the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo. I may decide to leave it in its draft stage forever while I focus on other projects. Or I may decide to recommit to it and do the hard work to revise it and bring it to completion.

Either way, I’m glad that I did it.

As November drew to a close and Thanksgiving arrived, I found myself brimming with thanks that someone out there had the idea to challenge writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month. The experience set me on a better course as a writer and taught me lessons about myself that I could not have learned any other way. NaNo on!

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Giving Away Treasures

By Susan Wroble

I love thrift stores. Once a month, I choose one and treat myself to a long perusal of its shelves. I love the excitement of not knowing what I may find. But I do know that having explored the rest of the store, I’ll always end up in the book section. Like all children’s authors, I can’t get enough of books.

And when that perfect award-winning book sits forlornly on the shelf, I buy it. How could I not? At thrift stores prices of a quarter for a paper-back, or two-for-a-dollar hard-covers, I’ve found true treasure. My own bookhelves, of course, are bursting. I can’t keep these books. But I’ve found a solution. I give the books away.

My thrift store treasures go into one of three boxes. One box is for a small library in rural Indiana, a library my great-uncle helped build. At the start of each summer, I mail this library a box of books, from readers to middle grade, that they use as rewards for their summer reading program. Each year, I’ve gotten a card signed by all the kids in the program, and I’ve been thrilled to see the list of names get longer each year. It is because they are getting great quality books at the end of their program? I don’t know, but I can only hope…

The second box is the hardest, but the most satisfying. To fill this box, I need to find, on my thrift store adventures, twenty-four pristine, un-marked holiday books – books like The Polar Express or The Night Before Christmas. Typically, it takes a few years to fill this box. And when I’ve finally found the last one, I wrap each book and tag it with a number, 1-24. The collection becomes a magical advent gift for a special child, with a different book to unwrap and read each night on the count-down to Christmas.

The third box is new, and its contents will stay closer to home. My own street is too quiet for a Little Free Library, so my church is allowing me to set up a Little Free Library on their grounds, near a city bus stop. This Little Free Library won’t be installed until this spring, when it’s warm enough to dig and pour concrete more easily. With an inner-city location in a primarily minority neighborhood, I’ve been able to start collecting books for a different demographic and age spectrum than those aimed for school kids in the mid-west. I can’t wait to become this library’s steward, and see which types of books will best serve the community.

 

 

 

 

 

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