A Snowflake in the Slush by Beth Ferry

Living in New Jersey, it is hard not to think about snow during winter.
Personally, I much prefer the singular idea of the snowflake as opposed to the general concept of snow.
Snow is not quite as endearing or beautiful as the single unique flake.    beth Ferry
And we have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike.
Which seems simply impossible, really, given the number of snowflakes that have fallen.
Which is how many, you ask?
Okay – get ready for some math!

According to the Eastern Snow Conference of 2006, the number of snowflakes that have fallen in the history of the earth is 3 x 10 to the 38th power, a truly staggering number.
Much like the number of grains of sand in the world (approx. 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power) or number of stars in the galaxy (approx. 1 x 10 to the 24th power)
Impossible to comprehend.
But there are 1 x 10 to the 19th power water molecules in a typical snow crystal, which allows for the almost infinite number of arrangements.
Okay enough math!

These immense numbers are truly beyond the comprehension of this English major, so back to the unique, single, solitary snowflake.
No matter how unique it is, once mixed with other snowflakes, it basically loses its distinctiveness and becomes, simply, snow.
Which is often how I feel about books on a shelf.
Picture books specifically.
The unique, wonderful book that stirs my heart or makes me laugh or makes me cry becomes just another book, one among thousands, once it is placed on a shelf.
So much like the snowflake.

How can the brilliance of the book shine through when it is shelved, not by degrees of brilliance, but simply alphabetically, by last name?
How many amazing, engaging books have been missed because they were packed tight together in the blizzard that is the bookshelf?
As writers, we need to think of this.
How does our unique snowflake of a book stand out among the flurry of friendship books that exist?
Among the shower of school-themed books?
Among the hail of holiday books?
And, more importantly, how does our manuscript stand out in the slush pile?

Anna Quindlen said “Every story has already been told.”
How true is this?
But she also said, “… that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has every had.”
And how true is that?
So write your friendship story.
Type up that trip-to-the-zoo tale.
Scratch down a sibling story.
Sure, they’ve all been done before, but not quite like we will do it.
Our style, experience, and voice will make a story that has been told before new and distinctive.
We are all snowflakes.
Beautiful, individual and unique.
And so are our stories.                             Land Shark_FC_3D-2

Disclaimer: all numbers are based on quick research and are meant for fun, not fact!

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. and Land Shark, 2015. Pirate’s Perfect Pet is setting sail in the Fall of 2016. Her latest picture book, Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at http://www.bethferry.com.

Exercise For the Brain.

When your kids get tired of running around in the snow, and you don’t want them glued to video games while indoors, try some BRAIN GAMES.  There are numerous studies that tout the benefits of exercising our brains with different kinds of games and riddles.  The NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES has put together a collection of riddles and brain teasers for all ages.   Below is a sampling:

http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/riddles/

PALINDROMES: A palindrome is a word, phrase, verse, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.  Example:  POP, DID, CIVIC.   Or this sentence: NOW I WON.  Check out the Palindrome riddles on this site as well as an alphabetical listing of palindrome words.

Can you create a sentence using only Palindrome words?

NOT SO HARD RIDDLES:

Where do fish keep their money?     In a riverbank

TUFF STUFF RIDDLES:

A man has to get a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across a river. He has a rowboat, and it can only carry him and one other thing. If the fox and the chicken are left together, the fox will eat the chicken. If the chicken and the corn are left together, the chicken will eat the corn. How does the man do it?  (CHECK OUT THE SITE FOR THE ANSWER)

You can also print out and play the LEAP FROG BRAIN TEASER GAME.  A perfect activity for a snow day stuck indoors.

There are REBUS PUZZLES, PROVERB FUN, NUMBER PUZZLES AND MORE.

Have fun and give your brain some exercise.

Celebrate Tea Month With…Tea Party Books.

Monday’s post was all about preparing  tea and how to have a fun-filled tea party.  Today I am bringing you some picture and middle grade books whose theme’s are TEA PARTIES.

  1. TEA PARTY RULES by Ame Dyckman, Illustrated by K G Campbell, is a delightful tale of a bear who wants to come to a little girls tea party.  But, he has a hard time following all her rules.
  2. MISS SPIDER’S TEA PARTY by David Kirk.  The title tells it all in this unique “spin” on the tea party genre.
  3. FANCY NANCY TEA PARTIES by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  Nancy at her word-licious best presenting the ins and outs of a tea party.
  4. THE BOSTON TEA PARTY by Russell Freedman, illustrated by Peter Malone.

5. A soon-to-be-released book by Marissa Moss (Abrams) is titled AMERICA’S TEA PARTIES. This non-fiction book for middle grades tells of not just the famous Boston Tea Party, but also three others that took place in Philadelphia, Charleston, and New York.         Here’s the link to pre-order a copy: http://www.abramsbooks.com/product/americas-tea-parties_9781419718748/

6. Finally, my own MG historical WHEELS OF CHANGE features a pivotal scene where the heroine Emily hosts her first tea party.  Two of the guests include her nemesis – Beatrice Peabody – and her insufferable, and opinionated mother.  Emily is doing fine serving tea to the guests until Mrs. Peabody voices her opinion regarding Henry – a beloved employee of Emily’s Papa.  This is the moment when Emily discovers an unconventional use for tea.

WoCCover01

Wheels of change is available at Amazon or bookstores nationwide.   ISBN: 978-1-939547-13-2

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE TEA PARTY BOOKS?

 

Celebrate Hot Tea Month: Tea Parties Take 1

If you’ve never attended a formal tea ceremony or party, you’re missing a real treat.  I had the pleasure of sampling teas, finger sandwiches, and sweet treats like biscuits (what the British call cookies), and scones with clotted cream several years ago at a high tea ceremony in Vancouver.  But you don’t have to travel anywhere to enjoy a delicious cup of tea. Even kids can enjoy one…there are so many herbal varieties, so we don’t need to worry about caffeine.

January happens to be HOT TEA MONTH.  Here’s a link on how to brew a “Proper cuppa tea”.   http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-proper-cup-of-tea/              100_0382

While you’re enjoying sipping tea,  why not make some OLD FASHIONED TEA CAKES to have with a your tea?  Here is a link to one recipe:

http://southernfood.about.com/od/buttercookies/r/bln331.htm

You can also check my  previous blog posts for sugar cookies, and gingerbread.  Both go perfectly with a cup of tea.

Enjoy a tea party of your own in style. Set out cloth napkins, your best china and dress up for the occasion.  Kids love to pretend and it’s a great opportunity to review table manners and wind down from a hectic day.  Everything is meant to stop during tea time.  Just enjoy a relaxing hour of warm drinks, sweet nibbles, and pleasant conversation.  For more ideas on how to set a table, themes, and what to serve:  http://www.tea-party-circle.com/tea-party-decorations.html

Here’s a link for some make-your-own PAPER TEA CUPS AND SAUCERS and some nifty tea party games you can play. http://www.redtedart.com/2014/05/06/paper-teacup-printable-tea-party-games/

Friday I’ll show you some picture books and middle grade stories that feature tea parties.  Stay tuned.

Celebrate Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Why not join the celebration by reading some great books that honor all kinds of cultures.  Here are some old and new ones from my collection:

1. THE PEACE BELL by Margi Preus (Illustrated by Hideko Takahashi (Henry Holt 2008): This story is inspired by the American-Japanese Friendship Peace Bell that was brought to America by a US Navy Peace crew who found it abandoned in a Japanese ship yard after the end of WWII. They later brought it back to Japan as an act of friendship and peace.  Another book by Margi is the MG historical WEST OF THE MOON, that takes place in Norway.  A wonderful introduction to Scandinavian culture and a riveting folktale.

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2. IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books 2015): A beautifully illustrated and tenderly told circular tale of a Vietnamese fisherman and the family who waits for his return. This book has received numerous starred reviews and well-deserved accolades.

3. LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt DeLaPena just won the 2016 Newbery Medal.  Take a peek at this delightful story honoring Hispanic culture.

What are some of your favorite multi-cultural titles?

Why not gather your children around and read them again while enjoying a piece of chocolate cake…The 27th is also National Chocolate Cake Day!

Interview With YA Author Mimi Cross + Book Give-away.

My friend and fellow author MIMI CROSS, just launched her debut book, BEFORE GOODBYE,  a YA contemporary that’s has all the elements of a page turner – teen angst, love lost and found, dealing with loss, friendship and who to trust, and more.  One lucky reader of this blog will have a chance to win a signed copy of the book.  See the end of the post to learn how.  For now, here’s Mimi:

Hey Darlene, thanks for having me on your blog.          mimi photo

You’ve asked me to answer a few questions, including how I came to write children’s books. This is probably the only thing about writing prose that’s crystal clear for me: the inspiration came from my son.

Up until my son was born, for nearly twenty years, I’d been a singer songwriter. I taught music in the schools for fifteen of those years, after receiving my Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College. I wrote stories as a kid and then again during grad school at NYU, but nothing really came of those efforts, probably because I was so focused on creating a career as a musician—although even as I write this I’m thinking: that’s not totally true. Writing is cumulative, and all creative efforts contribute The Work in some mysterious way.

Performing became impossible after my son was born, mostly because I wanted to spend every second with him. Plus, performing has a lot of moving parts. Some people can tote a couple of guitars and diaper bag at the same time, but not me.

Thankfully, the desire to create didn’t disappear, and when my son was a few years old, I wrote a bunch of stories for him. Two of those stories evolved into projects that were a lot of fun for both of us: The Crankamacallit an iPad app published by Polymash, and The Alligator Waiter, which was published by Abe’s Peanut.

But the thing is? WRITING PICTURE BOOK STORIES IS REALLY HARD. Also, picture books have an extremely important audience, the most important audience, so they have to be great. Or—they should be great. Their simplicity and beauty, among other traits, places them (at least in my mind) among the highest forms of—

Whoa. That’s a lot of pressure.   And under that pressure, I did what any writer would do: I read. A lot.

I’d always been a big reader, but at that point I became a voracious reader. A chain reader. An armchair traveler in every way. I read for escape and for—

Inspiration.

This inspiration, plus Chris Baty’s brilliant and irreverent book No Plot? No Problem got me going—I started writing novels. A few friends had already suggested I might enjoy NaNoWriMo, the wildly popular 50,000 words-in-thirty days writing marathon that Chris Baty founded, and they were right. I loved it. The words started gushing out like blood from a wound.

Another thing that helped the blood flow? Yoga.

I’ve been doing yoga on and off since I was twelve and in 2001, and after living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for a month while taking their rigorous teacher training program, I became a certified Kripalu yoga instructor. Yoga is a transformative practice for the body, mind, and spirit—but don’t take my word for it. There are a ton of books out there, and a million yoga studios. If you do start taking yoga classes, one thing I can guarantee is that you will begin inhabiting your body in a different way. And if you’re a writer, this way will help you inhabit the bodies of your characters.

A couple of years ago I created a workshop called Body of Writing that combines yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, visualization, and meditation with writing exercises. Our bodies hold our stories, and Body of Writing safely supports the release of those stories onto the page. I’ve taught Body of Writing as a series, in private standalone sessions to boost creativity, and as a four-hour intensive at writing conferences. It’s such a pleasure to share the very things that have helped me be more creative. I love watching the magic happen.

This same magic is what helped me write Before Goodbye, a process that took several years to complete. I wrote Before Goodbye in between working on two other novels, one of which will be coming out in May 2016, called Shining Sea.

A dark fantasy, Shining Sea is a very different novel than Before Goodbye, which is a realistic, contemporary romance. And while both books are character driven, I think of Before Goodbye as a series of vignettes, while Shining Sea is an epic tome. Out of the two, Before Goodbye surprised me the most. It started out as a completely different story!

But that’s the joy of writing.             Cross-Before Goodbye cover

Cate Reese, one of the main characters in Before Goodbye, is a musician, and tries to control her music. But close to the end of the book, Cate concludes, “Singing with a band is trampolining with your breath. A sound you make that makes you too.”

I hesitate to say that Before Goodbye has a message—that’s not how I think when I write. But I can tell you that one of the main themes of the book is this: If you let it, Art will shape you.
Website: http://www.mimicross.com
To pre-order book: http://www.amazon.com/Before-Goodbye-Mimi-Cross/dp/1503951286/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Twitter: @mimicross
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mimicrosswrites             

Here’s the press release:

BEFORE GOODBYE
A Novel  By Mimi Cross

Can Cate recover after losing her friend and muse?

Mimi Cross, an award-winning and celebrated musician/songwriter, delivers a brave and heart-wrenching YA novel with her debut BEFORE GOODBYE (Skyscape, January 1, 2016). During her musical career, Cross has shared the bill with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, and Jon Bon Jovi, and Grammy award-winning artist Rosanne Cash has praised her saying, “Mimi fuses delicacy and power, heart and gut. Her writing and singing are inspiring, evocative and refreshing.” As a novelist, Cross channels the same raw passion and intensity to tell the story of Cate, a young guitarist coping with hurt, confusion, and heartbreak.

Music means more than anything to high school student Cate Reese; it’s also what unites her with Cal Woods. Devoted classical guitar players, Cate and Cal are childhood friends newly smitten by love—until a devastating car accident rips Cal out of Cate’s life forever. Blaming herself for the horrific tragedy and struggling to surface from her despair, Cate spirals downhill in a desperate attempt to ease her pain.

Fellow student David Bennet might look like the school’s golden boy, but underneath the surface the popular athlete battles demons of his own. Racked with survivor’s guilt after his brother’s suicide, things get worse when tragedy darkens his world again—but connecting with Cate, his sister’s longtime babysitter, starts bringing the light back in. As Cate and David grow closer, the two shattered teenagers learn to examine the pieces of their lives . . . and, together, find a way to be whole again.

Beautifully written and emotionally resonant, BEFORE GOODBYE is a mesmerizing debut that reminds readers that you can find hope in times of tragedy—and harmony in times of discord.

 BEFORE GOODBYE by Mimi Cross * On-Sale Date: January 1, 2016
Price: $24.95 hardcover, $9.99 paperback, $5.99 eBook * Skyscape

Now, if you’d like to win a signed copy of BEFORE GOODBYE just leave a comment on this post.  Your name will be entered once.  Tweet about it or share the post on FB and your name will be entered again.  Let me know what you are doing so I can give you the correct number of entries.  You have until Wednesday, 1-27, 2016, when the winner will be announced.  Good luck!