Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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First Birthday Photo Challenge

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There’s a 10 year challenge going around on Facebook right now, as well as a few other challenges for this and that. I posted last week about having my first birthday without my mom. I searched high and low and through every jump drive I own for my first birthday pictures. I was so sure I had scanned them.

Turns out, I was incorrect. Oops! Instead, I had taken pictures of the pictures-on my phone. Looking for something else, I found my one-year-old birthday photos. Well. I am 57 now. My data banks are too full and need defrag services to restore order.

This is me at my first birthday (circa November 1963).

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Did you catch that? I’m old enough to use “circa.” Don’t worry. Time flies, and soon you too will be able to use that special word. Check out the definition of circa. Anyone can use it.

Let’s start a different challenge. This is your first birthday photo challenge! Post a photo of you on your first birthday and tag me. Post your photo in the comments below or on any of the other links.

Let’s see all the cuteness! Thanks for playing along.

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Need Stress Relief? Take a Weekend Trip

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What a week!

Our daughter ended up in the hospital due to cellulitis from a bug bite. As a result, we juggled child care, transportation, hospital runs, and assorted other duties while she received aggressive IV treatment to stop the infection (previous antibiotics did nothing to stop the infection from spreading).

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Every week is busy and we tend to go full speed. Writing, working, cooking, cleaning. But add one off-kilter event, such as a parent (our adult child) being hospitalized, and chaos rules the day.

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Good thing for me, I had a weekend away tucked in my hip pocket. Of course, I would have cancelled had my daughter not been released from her expensive spa treatment (that’s what we called her stay). Hooray, her bite improved, the high powered antibiotics did their job, and she went home in plenty of time for my retreat.

After handing off care of 3 grands to my daughter-in-love, I loaded the car with the important things (rubber stamps, food, clothes) and headed to Seattle to stay and play with my crafting partner. And boy did we pack in the fun.

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I was amazed at all we managed to fit into our weekend. We

~rubber stamped cards (36 total for me)

~took a ferry ride to Hood Canal

~relaxed at a cabin where we sipped hot tea, read a magazine, read the newspaper, and attempted a crossword puzzle

~completed a four-mile walk through the state park where we saw one spawning salmon and several done spawning and deceased fish, bald eagles, a seal, seagulls, gorgeous fall colors, and sparkling streams leading to Hood Canal

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~stopped at a craft market AND a thrift shop

~enjoyed a new apple crisp (with cheese!) recipe

~tasted creative and delicious meals

~talked much and solved world problems

~watched the Seattle Sounders win the national championship game

~walked to the University Village

~listened to a mystery on cassette

~kicked off the Christmas season with traditional music selections

~planned Christmas gifts and adventures

~traveled to Southcenter (a shopping area in Renton) where we perused Impress for more rubber stamping ideas and supplies, braved crowds and long lines at IKEA (plus I had coupons for a free birthday meal and stuff), and used coupons at JoAnn’s

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~slept in and snuggled kitties

I’m sure that’s not all we did, but the change of scenery and responsibilities refreshed my body and energy. I was sad when my weekend away came to an end and I had to reload the car and drive home.

What a wonderful way to recharge! Should you find yourself needing stress relief and relaxation, consider a weekend getaway. Choose a new or favorite destination, pack your bags, and hit the road. It will be worth all of your time and efforts.
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How do you relax? Where do you go to get away? What was your favorite weekend away?


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Welcome, November!

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I love November.

The scary stuff is gone. Pumpkins still hang out. Leaves whirl down and crunch underfoot. Nights and early mornings crisp any remaining plant life to bed. Birds flock and insects tuck in for the winter. November is perfect.

Also, let’s not forget Thanksgiving. When we lived in a house (bigger than the RV), I loved hosting Thanksgiving dinners. The good smells, tastes, and fun made the work all worthwhile. And after dinner, our traditional putting up and decorating a tree and watching a Christmas movie.

Notice I said “a” tree. Since I am a lover of Christmas trees, we usually had at least one in each room. Thanksgiving evening was just the harbinger of festivities in decor and traditional pastimes to follow.

AND November is my birthday. I’ve always had a fondness for my birthday month. So much fun anticipating not just my birthday, but also Thanksgiving with Christmas gaily tromping on its heels.

Apple crisp, pumpkin pie, juicy turkey, stuffed squash, toasty hot drinks. I guess I think and remember with my stomach. The nip in the air gives way to red noses and tingling fingertips. And if it’s to be perfect, the first snow falls. Just enough to whet my whistle.

November is also a time for me to focus on gratitude. Not only Thanksgiving Day, but each day of the month, I like to consider and remember the things for which I am thankful. God has been so good to me and my family. Giving thanks and naming the many blessings is the least I can do to honor Him.

Today, I am thankful for:

God and His provisions, my honey, my family, my veteran (our son), my RV (no matter how tiny), fall in all its glory, pumpkins, food, my health, friends, chocolate, our hunter kitty who keeps the fields free of tasty kitty morsels (mice and voles), warm clothes, music, and trees.

Which is your favorite month? How will you celebrate in November?

Blessings to you and your family.

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Author Interview: Meet Vivian Kirkfield & Giveaway

Welcome, Vivian Kirkfield! Welcome, readers! Let’s get this party, I mean Author Interview, going!

Happy Universal Music Day! We decided to celebrate Universal Music Day by introducing Vivian’s new picture book, Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read more about Universal Music Day here.

I met Vivian Kirkfield online through the wonderful kidlit community. She is a fascinating online friend. I can only hope our paths intersect some day so we can meet in person. Think WASHINGTON state, Vivian. Yakima Valley.

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vivian’s new picture book releases and her fun travels and adventures. To celebrate her newest picture book release, I’ve invited Vivian to visit and answer a few questions. But first, here is her new book.

*Be sure to read all the way to the bottom. Vivian Kirkfield is offering a bound ARC of Making Their Voices Heard to one reader. Be sure to comment below to get your name in the hat!

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Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020

 

The Interview

I was so excited to read Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020). I had no idea Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe knew each other. How did you find out about this special friendship?

At the end of 2014, soon after I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books, I was surfing the internet, looking for ideas for stories (a homework assignment for that class) and came across a photo of Ella and Marilyn, sitting together at a nightclub. The blurb under the photo talked about how Marilyn had helped Ella get a booking at a top nightclub in Hollywood. I was intrigued…and I started digging deeper to find out more about it. But, as is the case with many story ideas, I couldn’t find anything to substantiate whether or not Ella and Marilyn were friends. So, I had to get creative.

I discovered that one of the books on Marilyn Monroe was authored by a former professor at a California university. I went to the school’s website and found her email. I contacted her and she suggested I ask the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, Greg Schreiner. I was able to get his email on his website and he gave me the phone number of the woman who had been Ella’s promoter for thirty-seven years. I called her – we spoke for hours – and she verified that Ella and Marilyn had been friends and both had a tremendous respect and admiration for each other.

What was your inspiration to turn this friendship into a picture book?

They say we need to make a book relatable for kids. Kids help their friends all the time. I thought it was important to show how Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe helped each other. Marilyn put her career on the line to a certain extent because in those days, there was a lot of racial discrimination and movie studios controlled what their actresses could and couldn’t do. By calling the nightclub owner and insisting that he book Ella, Marilyn stepped up and spoke out. The Civil Rights movement was just in its infancy…in fact, the nightclub incident happened in 1954 and it wasn’t until the end of 1955 that Rosa Park refused to give up her seat on the bus.

I also wanted to show how we are all complex individuals. Most of us know Marilyn as a sexy Hollywood star…and kids probably don’t know her at all. Similarly, most kids may never have heard of Ella, but her music was genius…in fact, at the first Grammys in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald won for best female pop vocalist and best improvised jazz performance. I thought it was time for kids to discover these two special women.

What was your writing journey for Making Their Voices Heard? How long did it take? Did you work with others or share your manuscript with a critique group or other writers?

As I mentioned, I wrote the story late in 2014/early 2015. I researched – using online sources and lots of library books. When I felt I had enough information to craft the narrative around these two icons, I began writing. By June 2015, I had a polished rough draft. Hahaha…that sounds like an oxymoron, right? I had the story…but it wasn’t there yet. I submitted it to Rate Your Story, an online service of kid-lit professionals who give a rating from 1-10 (1 is the best…it means the story is just about ready to submit). In June 2015, Ella and Marilyn…at that point titled: A FRONT ROW SEAT, received a ‘3’ and the judge suggested I add something about how Ella helped Marilyn to balance the story out. GREAT ADVICE which I took!

I worked on the story, gave it to some of my critique buddies, along with the feedback from the judge. And then I revised and polished it some more and brought it to a writing retreat where an editor fell in love with it and asked me to revise and send it to her. I did revise it and submitted it to Rate Your Story again in August 2015 with the title: STANDING UP FOR FRIENDSHIP. It received a ‘2’. Then I signed with Essie White as my agent and she submitted it to that editor. But even though the editor loved it, she couldn’t get acquisitions to buy it.

In the summer of 2016, I went to another writing retreat and pitched it to a different editor who asked to see it. Essie sent it to her and she asked for revisions. I revised and gave it to critique buddies again. And in August 2016, I sent it to Rate Your Story one last time with the title: DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. And it received a ‘1’. The editor loved the revision, but that acquisitions’ team wouldn’t buy it either. That’s the thing about this business…you can have a fabulous story but if it doesn’t get to the desk of the right editor…or, if it does, but acquisitions doesn’t think they can make enough money…or if the publisher isn’t looking for a book about that topic…they will pass on it. You just have to keep on writing other stories and submitting that one.

Early in 2018, the manuscript was still circulating (Essie really believed in it) and the editor from Little Bee Books asked for a revise and resubmit. I revised (are you seeing a pattern here…no matter how polished your story is, every editor or agent sees it with their own eyes and from their own perspective of experience…and we have to be willing to make changes as per what a particular editor is looking for), with the help of my critique buddies, and the editor bought it. And the week after she made the offer, we spent five days of back and forth emails as she made suggestions for a few minor tweaks and additions. Every day, my inbox would have her marked up manuscript…every evening, her inbox would have my revision. On the fifth day, she said…We’re done! It’s time to get the illustrator.

And she did. The illustrator, the fabulous Alleanna Harris was signed on almost immediately and the publication process began.

Which just goes to show that if you believe in your manuscript and your writing is good, your story will find a home!

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of Making Their Voices Heard?

I have several thoughts…the book launches January 14th, 2020. And the NYSCBWI conference is the first week in February. If Little Bee Books can arrange a book launch at Books of Wonder or some other NYC bookstore for that week, I might do that. One of my dear friends, Maria Marshall, is going to interview me for her Picture Book Buzz blog series on January 13th…and she’ll also do a Perfect Picture Book Friday review on January 17th. Several other friends are already doing posts (like this one here on Angie Quantrell’s blog!). I don’t have a book birthday post yet…but I think maybe Kathy Temean might have said she wants to do that. The mid-winter ALA is at the end of January in Philadelphia…I’d be happy to go there if I could sign the book at the Little Bee booth. And of course, the Grammys are January 26 – that’s a special day for this book because, as I mentioned earlier, Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Pop Vocalist and Best Improvised Jazz Performance in the very first-ever Grammys in 1959. I’d also love to attend the LASCBWI next summer – Greg Schreiner, the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, thinks Hollywood is the perfect place for this book. 😊 And I am always open to suggestions – if anyone has a great idea, I’m all ears. 😉

What else would you like to share about this lovely book, your writing, or your life as an author?

I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world…I am truly living my dream…and best of all, I’m able to work with other writers, both old and young. At every conference presentation, I encourage writers to never give up – the only failure is the failure to keep trying. And at every school I visit, I hope to inspire children to follow their dreams—because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

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About Vivian

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020).

You can connect with Vivian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

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Thank you, Vivian, for the wonderful interview! I’m fascinated by the journey of this book on its way to publication. Great job sticking with it! Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday!

Don’t forget to comment and share some love with Vivian! Comment by Friday, October 18, to get your name in the hat to win a bound ARC copy of Making Their Voices Heard.

 


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Throwback Thursday: Cousins

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I found this picture while looking through my baby book, well, what is essentially my baby book from back in the days before instant photos, digital prints, and fancy printed books.

My baby album is one of the huge, sticky-paged tomes filled with blank space for inserting photos. The albums of sticky-is-not-good-for-photos type. Perhaps I should remove the photos and put them in something safer . . .

As the oldest of four, I am thankful that there are photos of me as a child. The more mouths, the less opportunity, time, and energy for mom and dad to click off oodles of pictures of their ever moving and hungry offspring.

If you squint just right, you’ll notice I look a little out of it. Kind of scary! But boy am I rocking that big bow and the golds and browns of the late 60’s.

It’s Christmas, complete with Aunt Helen’s tree trimmed in tinsel and flocking. The photo is cut in half, so I was thinking, “Why is a Christmas picture cut in half? We’re not old enough for bad relationships or family discord.” But after reading half of the back, my brother is listed in the photo, hand-written by Grandma Wheetley. My guess is that she or my mom cut it in half and my brother has his half with his baby photos. Best guess anyway.

Besides my towering appearance (and at barely 5’1″ now, this was nearly the extent of my towering over anyone), my cousin Melissa stands next to me. I wonder if this is when she started loving red clothes? She has some great red pieces I’ve seen her wear as an adult. She doesn’t suck her fingers (that I’ve seen). Instead she is an accomplished pianist, mama, and professional woman. Those jobs probably keep her fingers out of her mouth.

Family and friend, that’s what Melissa is to me. We’ve had each others’ backs for a very long time. Proximity, similar ages, family gatherings, overlapping interests, and time spent together through the thick and thins of life have cemented both our family love and our deep friendship. Blood AND friend.

(Pinterest= One of our favorite relaxing time activities, sitting beside each other in recliners and sending Pinterest ideas back and forth, even though we could easily just tilt our tablets and share. LOL)

So. I love all of my cousins, even if we don’t get together as often. Life is busy, and my calendar is just as crazy as the next person’s. Merry Christmas to my cousins, even if you were cut in half by Grandma and shared elsewhere! Love to you all. Anyone want to Pinterest?

Do you have any special friends or relatives? Of course we know they are ALL special, but what life pieces came together to build that bond? We’d love to hear.

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Said brother, Mark, who may have been cut off in the other half of the photo. I’m about 3 1/2 here. Since it’s May, Mark has probably just turned 2.

 


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Merry Christmas!

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I can’t believe that Christmas is tomorrow, and fast on the heels of this special day, a new year waits to be born!

Thanks so much for visiting and hanging out with me this year. I’ve had fun exploring Haiku and photos, books, recipes, family antics and adventures, travels, and writerly topics. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts, learned something new, laughed, or maybe wondered into which deep end I’ve fallen.

Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends! Praying that your time together will be blessed.

Peace to you!

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The grands, (l-r) Donavyn, Hayden, Autumn, Khloe, and Gage


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via Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Renauld!

Porcupine’s Pie

By Laura Renauld

Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Beaming Books, October 2018

 

Happy book birthday, Laura and Jennie! What an adorable picture book! I know I can’t wait to get my hands on it and read about Porcupine and friends. And I hear there is a great pie recipe at the end, so let me at it!

Congratulations!

Note to writers: This interview is chock full of information about the Laura’s publishing journey. I loved learning more about the process.


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Happy Hump Day Haiku Challenge: Drink

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burbling, calling drips,

water-tongue speaks peace, quiet

drink serenity

 

drink by Angie Quantrell

 

A dear friend (college buddy and fellow Jello Molder) recently shared her lovely home and serene garden with several of our solidly middle-aged Jigglers. I could sit for hours beside this potted fountain, just resting. Listening. Dreaming.

Or wondering. Who lives beneath the leaves? Besides the dog drinking with noisy laps, who else visits for refreshment? Birds, squirrels, cats, frogs? Do bees bumble along the edges and butterflies dance above the leaves? Do raccoons dare to stop for a wash of dinner? Maybe spiders consider nearby locations to capture insects who venture in for damp moisture. I could imagine larger wildlife guests if the high fence disappeared. Do children press against the fence, hoping to spy the source of splashing? Are passing adults desperately wishing to sit and ease their minds beside the talking water?

A drink of serenity goes far to refresh a heart heavy with life.

 


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Book Report: Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

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Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

by Natalie Rompella

Sky Pony Press, 2017

 

What’s a girl to do when she is suddenly placed in a class WITH the hard-nosed teacher and WITHOUT her best friend and co-chef? The project they have been planning for years is swept off the table and the friends are paired with new partners.

Ana is devastated to learn she must partner with Dasher, a new kid from Alaska. All the new girl talks about is sled dogs. Worse, she has no culinary skills! Even worse, best friend Lily is paired with Via, another non-cook but super cool girl.

AND only Lily knows the truth about Ana. OCD dogs her every waking minute, leading Ana to obsess over germs and wash her hands to the point of cracked, chapped skin.

There are so many great things about Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners! I loved the characters and the middle school angst. The finer details of friendship, making new friends, OCD, school, projects, hobbies, teamwork, trying something new – all of these important issues play together in this engaging chapter book.

I learned new information about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and treatment for this disorder. I also learned many new things about racing sled dogs and creating unique recipes. Readers will find at least one thing to identify with through the characters in Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners. Readers looking for books about dogs, friends, cooking and creating, going to school, or OCD will love this book.

Two thumbs up for Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners by Natalie Rompella.

P.S. ACTUAL recipes are shared in this book, creations by the main characters.

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I won a copy of Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners after reading an interview with Natalie Rompella and commenting about her new book at groggorg.blogspot.com. You can read the interview here.


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Fun Friday: Rubber Stamping Holiday

Welcome to the wonderful world of stamping!

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Stamping is always a holiday of sorts, taking me away from the regularly scheduled program. Mixed media (stamps, inks, water colors, markers, patterned papers, trinkets, ribbons, glitter glue) form the foundation of creativity.

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One other ‘most important’ component of rubber stamping and creating is engaging with a partner. The back and forth bouncing of ideas, materials, and suggestions energizes the joy and productiveness of the hobby.

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In addition, two or more crafters mean combined stamps, tools, and resources! In essence, the community of supplies multiplies opportunities for creativity!

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Besides, it’s much more enjoyable to chat and solve the world’s problems with a friend while I’m involved in a fun pastime.

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I suppose this habit of working with a partner to be applied to nearly every pursuit in life: writing, rearing a family, hiking, building a career, preparing meals, cleaning, going to college, pursuing spiritual growth…

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Thanks, friends, for joining my journey!