2014 in review: Thanks to all my wonderful followers for making this year a success! Many blessings to you all in 2015!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

On Dad’s Shoulders: New PB by Oscar Hernandez

ON DAD’S SHOULDERS
By
Oscar Hernandez                         oscar pic

Picture twenty two strangers in a large room, none speaking the same language. After everyone shook hands and made an effort to communicate, the room would probably be eerily silent. There would be some staring, some smiles, some head scratching. With the room now motionless and quiet, a ball is rolled into that room. But not just any ball. This particular ball is a soccer ball. Suddenly everyone is standing and looking around again.

Everyone now has 2 things in common. The first thing being “language” or lack there of, and two, this magical ball. Before long there are two teams of eleven, two goals represented by trashcans or maybe even shoes. Now there is only one language being spoken “Soccer”- “Futbol”- “Football”- “Futebol”. The formation for pick up soccer is simple- One goalie, 2 defenders, 3 midfielders and 6 attacking players. Before long everyone is talking to each other. It may be hand gestures or head bobbing or some moving of the eyes. Within 2 minutes of starting the game these 22 strangers are no longer strangers. This game is being played on a global scale, from the Mojave dessert to Ithaca New York.

Everyone remembers their first live sporting event. Ray is about to get a big surprise for his 6th birthday party. After opening his presents he discovers two tickets to a professional soccer game. Come join Ray, as he experiences the sighs and sounds of the game. Take a walk through time as fellow soccer fans share their stories with Ray. Do you remember your first game? Relive your favorite soccer memories with friends and family as you read One Ball One Love. Start your own memory book and share your love of soccer.

For me this book was an amazing trip through memory lane. The idea for it came after my wife and I took out son to his first game. Still little, he watched the whole game, and he danced to the music being played by The Sons of Ben cheering section. After the game, I called my dad and asked him about all the games he took me to. After dinner, we went though all the pictures we had. Those pictures inspired me to interview people to get their perspective on their first memory of going to a live game. I met and talked with so many interesting people. I felt like I had enough material to start the book.

My illustrator Maria Yearicks is also a huge soccer fan so we were often on the same page. The whole process took about 2 years and it feels so good to finally let everyone see the results.

The book can be purchased through Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/One-Ball-Love-Childrens-Book/dp/1502765748/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416357122&sr=1-1&keywords=one+ball+one+love+book

Presenting Author/Illustrator and Publisher…Marissa Moss

Today it is my pleasure to bring you an interview with an amazing woman from the field of Children’s Writing: Marissa Moss.  Not only is she an award winning author and illustrator, she also happens to be the publisher at CRESTON BOOKS, the same place where my book WHEELS OF CHANGE is published. Here’s Marissa:

1. You’ve been a successful and prolific children’s book author for many years. How did you get started in this career?                 marissa photo

I sent my first book to publishers when I was nine, but, of course, it wasn’t very good and didn’t get published. I didn’t try again until I was a grown-up and then it took me five years of submitting stories, getting them rejected, revising them, submitting them over and over again until I finally got my first book. It’s a good thing I didn’t give up in year four!

2. Which of your books are most fun and enjoyable to write? Your favorite character?

Amelia’s notebooks are definitely the easiest to write since they’re based on me, so I just basically remember my childhood. The historical ones are the hardest since there’s so much research involved. But I love writing both. They’re challenging and fun in different ways.

3. You’ve recently begun a new venture as Publisher of Creston Books. How did this brave and daring move come about?

Creston Books’ first list came out in the fall of 2013, so we’re very new. The impetus was the loss of Tricycle Books, the children’s division of Ten Speed Press. When I first wrote Amelia’s Notebook in 1994, I sent it to out to all the major publishers, many of which I’d already worked with, but they all turned down the book as too odd. It wasn’t a picture book or a middle-grade novel, so how would booksellers sell it? Where would librarians shelve it? It took a small, innovative press like Tricycle to take a risk on such an unusual format. Now, of course, the journal format is everywhere, from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Dork Diaries to The Popularity Papers.

When Random House bought Ten Speed Press, they closed down the children’s division, Tricycle. That was a loss to all of us in the children’s book community, especially those from the Bay Area where Tricycle was based. At a time when there were fewer and fewer houses, the need for small, innovative publishers seemed greater than ever. Friends who are also small publishers encouraged me and I’ve been helped by the rich children’s book community here. I wouldn’t have dared to try doing something like this without all of them.

4. What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey?

I love publishing debut authors who might have a very hard time finding a home otherwise. Each list so far has featured one to two debut writers or illustrators, as well as established authors who haven’t published in a long time. When Denys Cazet’s Minnie & Moo: Hooves of Fire came out last spring, Denys, a prolific writer, hadn’t published anything in several years. And we’re currently working on a book with the brilliant, award-winning writer, Julius Lester, who also hasn’t had a book out in years.

5. What makes Creston unique from other publishers? Where do you envision the company 10 years from now?

We’re unique in that we fully promote each title. We do no more than four books a list and each book gets all of our attention, unlike a traditional publisher which puts out many titles and promotes only a handful. We also do a lot of work with our authors, editing stories, not simply acquiring them. We want our authors and illustrators to feel fully supported and listened to.
I would hope that in ten years, we’d have many award-winning books and could afford to give better advances. Right now our advances are small, but our promotional efforts are big.                    fallCrestontitles

6. Wearing so many hats must sometimes feel daunting. If you could have one super power what would you choose and why?

Juggling so many roles can be challenging, but it’s also hard in the same way writing is — it stretches me and forces me to grow in unexpected ways. If I could have one super power, it would be to time travel, so I could be even more efficient or maybe to lose the need to sleep. If I could work day and night, imagine how much I could do!

7. What’s next for you?

I’m always working on the next book. Right now, that’s the fourth and final book in the time travel series, Mira’s Diary: California Dreaming.

You can learn more about Marissa and CRESTON BOOKS  at: marissamoss@crestonbooks.com, marissa moss and creston books on facebook, @marissawriter and @crestonbooks on twitter.

Wildlife in Winter: What’s Out There, Anyway?

Wildlife in Winter by Shiela Fuller

It’s cold outside and there is snow on the ground. Have you ever wondered what happens to wildlife in winter?

Wild creatures have been preparing for winter long before it arrives. During the summer and fall some animals are getting ready for hibernation.

Hibernation occurs because food becomes difficult to find when the air outside gets cold. It is a sleep-like state when the animal’s body temperature will lower, their breathing will slow down and body functions like urinating and defecating will cease. The black bear hibernates. In late summer or fall, the black bear will locate a suitable den and then prepare it for winter sleeping by filling it with leaves and debris for bedding. Chipmunks and brown bats hibernate, too. Chipmunks prepare for hibernation by filling their cheeks until they are bursting with seeds. Then they will store them in their burrows for winter.  Brown bats will huddle in clusters with a lot of other bats to keep warm during the coldest months.

Reptiles like garter snakes and box turtles bruminate. When the temperatures turn cold, the reptiles will protect themselves by burrowing below the freeze line in the soil. The reptile’s body functions will slow down just like the mammals that hibernate. The reptiles stay awake but are sluggish.

Not all animals hibernate or bruminate. For the animals that don’t, winter can be hard on them. Food can be difficult to find under a layer of snow. This will prompt some animals to venture to locations outside of their normal range leaving tracks as they go. Tracking animals can be fun on your first snow day.      

possum prints in the first snow of December 2014.

possum prints in the first snow of December 2014.

Before you head outside in the snow for your track walk, look up what kinds of animals are found in your region of the country and draw simple pictures of their tracks. A reference book like Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch may be helpful. When you go outside, take your drawings and you will have your own track identification guide. Take pictures of the tracks, too.

The first tracks you see might be your own. Notice that you leave a trail as you walk. What kind of shape do your boots make in the snow? Are your tracks close together or far apart? Step in the tracks of another person. Make running tracks, if the snow is not too deep.

Search for animal tracks. Do you have a dog? Take your dog along for the winter walk. Check out your dog’s tracks in the snow. Compare your tracks to your dog’s.
Look for bird tracks under a bird feeder. Are they all the same or different? Follow the birds’ tracks. Why do they end?    Here’s a link to some tracks:

http://cottagecountrypestcontrol.blogspot.com/2012/11/animal-tracks.html  

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

  

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

If you’re a bit tired of cookies this holiday season and want to add a simple, festive dessert to the menu, try this super easy APPLE CRANBERRY CRISP.  The oldest kids can peel and slice the apples while younger ones stir the topping ingredients.

apple crisp 2

This recipe used 5 C. of peeled and sliced apples, ( I like to mix several varieties for taste.  The only kind I don’t recommend is delicious…it has no flavor) mixed with 1C. dried cranberries that have been soaked in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Pour off the water and add the berries to the apples along with  3 T of sugar, and 1/2 t. cinnamon.  Stir until coated with the sugar and pour into a 8 x 8 inch pan. (see photo above).

Prepare crisp mix using the following ingredients: 3/4 C rolled oats, 1/2 C. whole wheat flour, 1/3 C. brown sugar, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 C. cold butter cut into chunks.  Process this in a mixer or food processor until butter is reduced to pea-size crumbs.  Sprinkle over the apple mixture until covered.  Lightly press to an even layer.    apple and cranberry crisp (See photo below).

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until a fork can pierce the apples easily and the top is crispy and browned.

You can serve this warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.  It’s also great stirred into plain yogurt.  It can be made a day or so ahead of time and is perfect for a covered dish or buffet party.

A Chance to Pay it Forward.

I had a special afternoon meeting with KERMIT ROOSEVELT, the great-great grandson of TR.  I met him at his office at U Penn to give him a signed copy of my book, WHEELS OF CHANGE as a thank you for his providing such a kind and thoughtful blurb for the book.  He graciously allowed me to take a photo of the event. It felt great to meet him and be able to pay back his kindness.  Baked him some of Emily’s homemade Sugar Cookies as well.

Me with Kermit Roosevelt at his office in the Law School at U Penn. 12-17- 2014

Me with Kermit Roosevelt at his office in the Law School at U Penn. 12-17- 2014

How Characters Can Become Stories – Erika Wassall

I love this post and wanted to share it here.

Writing and Illustrating

snowman familyTalk about character, here is a steampunk snowman family Sylvia Liu recently made, as part of a new daily creative challenge blog that she started titled, Create One a Day. You can see her portfolio at: http://www.enjoyingplanetearth.com)

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here on….

How Characters Can Become Stories

I enjoy character studies. Books that give perspective into the mysteries of human nature, and how we deal with intense mental, physical and psychological difficulties.

Give me a character I want to sit down and have a drink with, or even observe from afar and watch their interactions and reactions… and I’m sold.

When I write, I’m often focusing on a character in my mind. They’re more than a name, more than any description I can put on paper. I can sense them, know their thoughts, feel their emotions.

Which is great, right?

Well… yes. And sometimes no.

I tend…

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