The 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest

Happy Halloween!

One of my favorite things to help me stay inspired and remain creative, is to partake in contests. Author Susanna Hill offers a spooktacular opportunity on her blog called : The 9th Annual Halloweensie writing contest.

Here are the rules:

It must be 100 words or less, use the words potion, cobweb, and trick, be kid-friendly, and focused on Halloween.

Here’s my entry:

Flying Lessons

On all hollows eve, the witches were out. They zipped and zoomed. Except for Alice. 

She leaped into the air. 

“Lift!” 

Thud. 

She dashed down the hill. 

“Lift!” 

Crash!

Alice tried a magic potion.

Poof!

Her broomstick shimmied, shook, and flew into a cobweb.

“I give up!” she groaned. 

Suddenly, the wind swirled and howled.

The broom jostled and jolted.

Alice was lifted into the air!

“That’s the trick!” she whooped and hollered.

And up, up, up she flew, whirling and twirling… 

just like the other witches.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy writing!

Book Review: H IS FOR HAIKU: A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z

When I taught fourth grade, my students studied all forms of poetry, but their favorite? Writing Haikus. They loved the challenge of discovering words to fit this precise form. Originating in Japan, Haiku poems have three lines with the first and last lines having five syllables and the middle line having seven.

Now that I teach kindergarten I still love the joys of poetry, especially Haiku’s. I’m so excited to share with you H IS FOR HAIKU: A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z by Sydell Rosenberg and illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi. It’s a perfect opportunity to expose young children to the wonderful world of poetry and it’s fun play on words.

With vivid illustrations and unique imagery, children are encouraged to slow down and enjoy the fun on each page.

H IS FOR HAIKU was selected as a  “2019 Notable Poetry Book” by the National Council for Teachers of English as well as a finalist for Cybils Poetry Award.

But that’s not all. There is a beautiful backstory to this poetry book. Amy Losak, is the daughter of the late author, Sydell Rosenberg. Her mother’s dream was to publish a haiku book, and Amy continues to help that dream come true.

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Penny Candy Books

Author: Sydell Rosenberg

Illustrator: Sawsan Chalbai

Ages: 5-11

Synopsis: In H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, the late poet Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and a New York City public school teacher, and illustrator Sawsan Chalabi offer an A-Z compendium of haiku that brings out the fun and poetry in everyday moments.

Image result for h is for haiku

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Happy Reading!

Book Review and Author Interview

Today’s picture book review post is an inspirational one. During a time when women’s choices were limited, Emily Roebling had the courage and determination to do something unthinkable. She led the engineering process in building the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge.

Illustrations by Rachel Dougherty

Title: SECRET ENGINEER: HOW EMILY ROEBLING BUILT THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 5-8

Author and Illustrator: Rachel Dougherty

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Synopsis:

On a warm spring day in 1883, a woman rode across the Brooklyn Bridge with a rooster on her lap.

It was the first trip across an engineering marvel that had taken nearly fourteen years to construct. The woman’s husband was the chief engineer, and he knew all about the dangerous new technique involved. The woman insisted she learn as well.

When he fell ill mid-construction, her knowledge came in handy. She supervised every aspect of the project while he was bedridden, and she continued to learn about things only men were supposed to know:

math,
science,
engineering.

Women weren’t supposed to be engineers.

But this woman insisted she could do it all, and her hard work helped to create one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.

Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this inspirational STEM story!

Rachel Dougherty

First and foremost, thank you for writing such a wonderful story that highlights the achievements of yet another strong, courageous woman in the engineering field. This is truly a must read for all children and a great addition to any library.

Where did you come up with the idea for Secret Engineer? Did something inspire you?

I watched a documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge, not thinking I was doing any kind of official research. I was initially just curious about how the bridge was designed and built, but when the narrator briefly mentioned Emily’s role in the construction my ears perked up. I was so surprised I’d never heard her story!


How long did it take you to write this story?

It took a few months of research and several tries to get an initial draft together, and then my agent and I worked on polishing up the draft and the first dummy for a few more months and sent it out to pitch. We received some interest from Roaring Brook Press, but contingent on some revisions to the story and art, and wanted to see a revised dummy before accepting the project, so I worked with my editor for a few additional months to change the pacing of the story and revise some of the sketches before we were even under contract. I guess I would say all told it took about a year before we were actually ready to go to final art.


What kind of research did you do to help write this story?

Oh, so much research! I started by reading everything I could get my hands on that covered the bridge, the construction, the Roeblings, and especially Emily. David McCullough’s The Great Bridge and Marilyn E. Weigold’s Silent Builder were immensely helpful. I also visited the Brooklyn Bridge and contacted the Cold Spring Historical Society (they’re now called The Putnam History Museum), which is the town in New York where Emily was born, learned a lot from the Roebling Museum in Trenton, read tons of information on civil engineering and pulled the equations that appear throughout the book from a text I found dated to 1916 called The Civil Engineer’s Pocket Book.  Once I started sketches, I pulled tons of reference photos from the Library of Congress – I needed so many construction photos of the bridge, photos of 1870s Brooklyn, photos of period-appropriate clothing and interiors, elevations and construction drawings,  you name it. My reference collection for this project is absolutely enormous, but every photo was essential to making the art as accurate as possible.

There is a lot of new vocabulary throughout specific to the engineering process. Were you familiar with these terms or was it something new for you?

Most of it was new to me! I really learned so much throughout the process of working on this project, and I had a great time doing it.


How many revisions did you go through?

I’m not exactly sure what counts as a revision, so it’s tough to answer that. Some changes were really quick and could be turned around in an afternoon, and some were absolute overhauls. I guess it’s easiest to say a whole lot. I do think that every revision we made help to make the book stronger, I wouldn’t take any of them back.

At the end of the story, there are historical photographs of the Brooklyn Bridge and a drawing of the bridge. How did you go about acquiring these?

My editor and book designer sourced the photos from the Library of Congress and I found some additional ones myself to throw into the mix. Ultimately, we agreed on the set that appear in the endpapers, and I think they really help readers get a sense of the construction-era bridge versus the modern bridge.

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m working on a manuscript about colors in historical and cultural context at the moment, but it’s in pretty early stages. I’m hoping it will grow into something as wonderful as Secret Engineer.

If any readers want to learn more about you or follow you on social media, where can they find you?

Readers can find me on:

Twitter @r_dougherty

Instagram @racheldoughertybooks

Or drop by my website at www.racheldougherty.com

Thank you again for sharing this remarkable story with us!

You can purchase SECRET ENGINEER: HOW EMILY ROEBLING BUILT THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE here

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


Book Review and Interview: Yevgenia Nayberg

Today’s picture book review post is about creativity, passion and the power of being true to yourself.

Yevgenia Nayberg is the author and illustrator of this unique and heartwarming story based on her own experiences as a left-handed artist growing up in Russia.

Title: ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Author and Illustrator: Yevgenia Nayberg

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Synopsis:

In Russia, right-handedness is demanded–it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya’s creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.

Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.

Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this gorgeous story!

Yevgenia Nayberg

It’s great to have you, Yevegenia!

Thanks for having me, Katie.

I’d like to jump right in with a quote that I absolutely love from your story.

“The right hand took care of the world around Anya. The left hand took care of the world inside Anya. Anything she imagined, the left hand could draw.” These are such beautiful words within your story. Where did your inspiration for this story stem from? Are you left-handed?

Yes, I am left-handed! Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.

You include a very informative author’s note at the end of the story that shares some more about you growing up in the Soviet Union and unusualness of seeing someone left-handed. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include this integral backmatter?

I did not plan on including the backmatter. It is still a concept that I struggle with. I prefer to explain less and leave more space for mystery.

Is this story about you?

Simply speaking, yes, because I am a left-handed immigrant artist who enjoys her imaginary worlds. Unlike my character, Anya, I moved to the US as an adult, and my immigration experience if quite different from Anya’s. Anya is an improved, more exuberant version of me.

Did you have your own ‘Secret Lefty Society’?

I still have a secret society of my own, but, of course, it must remain secret!

Not only did you write the story, but you illustrated it as well. You use a lot of textures. Can you tell us more about your process?

I used a mixed media/digital collage. A story usually dictates a technique. If I write about the old masters from the past, I want my style to reflect that. It is a technical trick, if you will, achieved through texture and lighting.  In the book, when Anya moves from Russia to New York City, I make a subtle stylistic change as well, but that change is made through color and composition.

If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?

Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!

What is coming up next for you?

My next author/illustrator book, Typewriter, is coming out in 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story told by a Russian typewriter, that (who?) immigrates to America. My latest picture book is called Mona Lisa in New York. Mona Lisa is currently looking for a publisher.

Do you have any social media channels or a website you’d like to share?

I am on Instagram and Twitter as @znayberg

My Facebook page is  https://www.facebook.com/nayberg  

My website is https://www.nayberg.org/

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and for letting me interview you!

You can purchase ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY here.

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Book Review and Author Interview: Evelyn Bookless

Did you know that every year over 8-million metric tons of plastics enter our seas? That is equivalent to five plastic bags filled with trash for every foot of coastline in the world. That’s madness!

Author Evelyn Bookless felt the urge to write a story that engages and educates the children of our future in this fight against ocean pollution. She has found a way to take this crucial topic and make it kid-friendly!

The result? An awesome pollution-fighting superhero!

CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE couldn’t be more timely and needed! Let’s dive in and learn some more!

Title: CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE

Don’t you love the cover? I do!

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 5-8

Author: Evelyn Bookless

Illustrator: Danny Deeptown

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International

Synopsis:

Fresh out of Superhero School, Captain Green gets a call. Dolphin is tangled up in plastic, and there’s trouble for Seagull and Turtle too. When our brave superhero rushes off to help, he finds himself on a major mission: saving sea creatures from plastic. Using his incredible powers, Captain Green promises to save the day. But can he clean up this mess for good?

Now let’s meet the real superhero behind this entertaining, yet educational story about protecting our environment, author Evelyn Bookless!

Evelyn Bookless
Evelyn Bookless

It’s so great to have you!

Thanks for having me!

Can you share your inspiration behind CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE?

I was inspired to write Captain Green and the Plastic Scene while on holiday in Indonesia several years ago. I was saddened by the huge amount of plastic that had washed up on the beach not too far from our hotel. Such an incredibly beautiful place was destroyed by our actions. I thought, this pesky problem needs a superhero, and Captain Green was born! I immediately began researching and writing the story with the goal of engaging children, in a fun way, in the fight against ocean pollution.

You’ve taken a very serious subject and found a way to make it easier for children to understand. What was that process like?

Thank you! I adore animals and nature and when I began to learn more and more about the way plastic is polluting our oceans and hurting sea creatures, I wanted to shine a light on the problem while, most importantly, telling a story that children would enjoy and connect with. I watched documentaries, read widely and talked to a marine biologist to learn as much as I could. Then I chose three animals to include and studied their habits and habitats.

It was important for me to not overwhelm children but show them some ways that they can make a difference. The story ends positively with Captain Green reminding us that “you don’t need superpowers to save our seas, it just takes a superhuman.”

What is something you would like your readers to take away from this story?

That if we all make some small changes in our daily lives, we can make a big difference to ocean pollution and the well-being of our sea creatures. It’s not too late!

When writing CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE, did you get to work directly with illustrator Danny Deeptown? How did you determine the superhero look for Captain Green?

I did get to work closely with Danny Deeptown and it was a fantastic experience. I was thrilled when he came on board to illustrate the book. He has brought so much emotion, life and action to the pictures.

Danny felt that it was important to get Captain Green’s innocence across so that all children can relate to him, or even better, want to be like him. Captain Green loves nature and does his best to protect the planet. He shows everyone ways that they can help save our seas and empowers us all to do our bit.

I loved all of Danny’s initial character sketches for Captain Green and, in the end, he amalgamated ideas from two different drawings to come up with the final look. Children have responded so well to the character and I adore seeing pictures of little ones pretending to be Captain Green.

If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?

I would advise writers to read as many current picture books relating to their WIP as they can. I read countless books about adventures, superheroes, the environment, and animals to order to find suitable mentor texts that I could use.

What is coming up next for you?

I have some more school visits coming up soon. I love to visit schools to share the book and hear children’s bright ideas for saving our seas.

I am working on another Captain Green story about a different environmental topic and I hope it will be finished some time later in the year. I am playing around with different ways to tell the story.

I am working on a whole host of other stories that are much more silly so fingers crossed that I find a good home from them too.

Thank you for writing a kid-friendly, fun story with such a vital theme for children. Also, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Katie!

Keep It Green!

I also wanted to include this informative short three-minute video from National Geographic that shares the detrimental effects plastic has on our oceans.

Check out these classroom activities regarding the impact of plastics for various age levels here and more resources here.

Children everywhere are already taking a stand against plastics entering our oceans. Check out the 4-minute video below.

You can preorder CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE on Amazon or purchase it now by visiting here or here.

To learn more about author Evelyn Bookless and see what she’s up to check out her website: https://www.evelynbookless.com/

Or visit her social media feeds:

Twitter: @evelynbookless

Instagram: @evelynbookless

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


Susanna Hill’s Valentine Contest

In the midst of revising a story and writing a couple of articles, why not add a fun little contest to the list! Ha! Children’s author, Susannah Hill, is hosting her fourth annual Valentine contest.

While I wasn’t able to put as much time into it as I’d like, I still enjoyed participating and giving it a whirl!

The story has to be kid appropriate, maximum 214-words, in which someone feels guilty. What fun!

Here we go!

Lovey-Dovey Ollie

214-words

Ollie Octopus swirled and twirled on a wave of love. After all, Octopuses have three hearts.

Ollie blew a kiss to a swimming Seahorse.
“Bleck. Enough of the smooshy-wooshy love,” cried Seahorse.

Ollie wrapped her arms around a grumpy Hermit Crab.
“Please, no hugs.” He snapped.

She batted her eyes at the Banded Butterflyfish.
“Is something the matter?” wondered the Butterflyfish.

When Ollie swam near, the snails squirmed, the fish flittered, and the seahorses raced away.

They were tired of her lovey-dovey ways.

With broken hearts, Ollie hopped on a current and surfed out to sea.

Whoosh! The water crashed and thrashed around her.

“Help!” cried a voice.

“Oh no!” gasped Ollie.

Grumpy Hermit Crab swirled and whirled past on a current.

Ollie flexed her arms and STRETCHED as far as she could reach.

Sloop!

She suctioned Hermit Crab and pulled with all of her might.

Plunk!

Ollie wrapped Hermit Crab in a hug.

Whoa! Ollie thought. I have superstrength!

“You saved me!” thanked Hermit Crab.

Ollie blushed.

“I’m sorry for being a little too lovey-dovey,” said Ollie. “ From now on, I will focus on using my super strength.”

Back at the reef, Hermit Crab shared Ollie’s heroic story and Ollie flipped and flexed her arms.

“Three cheers for Ollie!” The sea creatures chanted.

Book Review and Author Interview with Lindsay Leslie!

I’m super excited to share with you a new picture book that is ready for little hands and creative minds everywhere on February 19th. Along with a sneak peek of the story, author Lindsay Leslie was so nice to answer my questions about her engaging new book. So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and join me. I’m glad you’re here.

Title: THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Author: Lindsay Leslie

Illustrator: Alice Brereton

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Synopsis: Using the five-senses this wary and ‘spineless’ book tries to figure out what kind of story it might have on its pages.

Does it hear spooky wails from a ghost story?
Can it see a mysterious something peeking around a corner?
Is that the dizzy feeling of zero gravity it senses?
Might that be the stinky smell of animals in nature it detects?
Could it be tasting the saltiness of a story on the high seas?

Playful and humorous, Linsday Leslie invites the reader on an adventurous journey as the book grows braver and braver with each page until finally, it grows a spine!

The illustrations are quirky, textured, shape-oriented and colorful. They have an optical illusion effect begging the reader to take a closer look.

Now, it’s time to meet the awesome author, Lindsay Leslie.

Welcome, Lindsay! First and foremost, what was your inspiration behind this engaging title?

My inspiration was two-fold. One, I really had no control over. I remember walking into my youngest son’s room and stepping on one of his picture books because naturally, they were littering the floor. My subconscious took over. I thought things like: Did I break the book? Did I mess up its spine? What if this book were spineless? And, then, I said out loud, “This Book Is Spineless!” I immediately put the title in my notes section on my phone. I knew I had something with that title.

The second inspiration for this book is my personal experience with anxiety. I was an anxious kid and tried to hide it always. I was the kid who didn’t want to go on the roller coaster even though my mom bribed me with a puppy. I was the kid who didn’t want to learn how to swim. I was the kid who feared and feared a fair amount of things. The anxiety shifted over time and became different and not very fun as an adult, but I have developed better coping mechanisms. I was interested in looking at fears, fear of what’s inside all of us, and putting that on the page in a quirky, fun, relatable way. I also wanted the narrative to mimic the anticipation and heightening of anxious emotions and then the calming down.

You also use many sensory elements (hear, see, feel, taste, etc.). How did you come up with this unique twist to the story?

Oh, wow. How did I come up with that? Great question! I haven’t really thought about how that came to be until now. The sensory elements were not in my first awful draft, so it didn’t flow out of me in a flurry of words. They showed up in the second draft. I think with the first draft I was getting to know my character, which is the physical book, and with the second draft, I was exploring more of what the book was experiencing. I think I was trying my best to bring the book to life and to dig into its experiences. Because the book is afraid of the story on its pages, pulling on the senses became more apparent to me as I wrapped in various genres of stories that might be there.

There is a lot of fun play on words using alliteration in your story. Is the Thesaurus your go to?

The Thesaurus is my friend. Oh, yes it is. While some of these words popped into my head, I did spend a lot of time looking and searching for just the right words, like how to describe a particularly odoriferous animal or an alleyway that looks less than inviting. I love nothing more to go on a word hunt because I find some real treasures.


The illustrations are out of this world. There is very much an optical illusion element to it. Is this how you imagined them to be when writing your story?

No, not at all, which is FANTASTIC! I hold these illustrations close to my heart. Alice Brereton is a magician with her powerful, quirky, and thought-provoking art. If you can’t tell, I’m elated that what Alice created looks NOTHING like what was in my head.

How long did you work on this particular story?

I began writing this story in August of 2016. Page Street Kids offered me a contract late June of 2017. Together, my editor and I worked on it well into 2018. Word changes here and there.

If you had one piece of advice for writers, what would it be?

I’ve got so much advice that I could really annoy everyone with it. How about one piece of advice that would resonate no matter where someone is in their writing journey? That piece of advice is to enjoy. Find the work you enjoy, the topic you enjoy, whatever inspires you to start typing or scribbling on paper. Don’t chase the trends. Don’t watch what everyone else is doing. That all changes and you aren’t everyone else. When you write with joy, the reader will read with joy.

What is coming up next for you?

I’ve got some cool stuff going on that I’m excited about. I’ll be at TLA this year, so if you are attending or anywhere Austin, swing on by and do let me know! My second picture book, NOVA THE STAR EATER (illustrated by John Taesoo Kim, Page Street Kids), comes out May 21. I have a third book called DUSK RAIDERS WANTED slated for Spring 2020 with Page Street Kids, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. And, I’m on submission with other work, so fingers crossed!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your amazing story with us!

Thank you for having me!

And there you have it.

To check out and purchase THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS visit here.

Want to read more of Lindsay’s picture books? Check out NOVA: THE STAR EATER here.

If you’d like to learn more about Lindsay and see what she’s up to visit her website: https://lindsayleslie.com/

Or visit her social media feeds:

Twitter: @LLeslie

Instagram: @lindsaylesliewrites

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


Forest Bathing: Nature’s Therapy

Need a break from the fast-paced world we live in? Or perhaps get away to quiet your mind and return feeling re-energized and renewed? Try Forest Bathing, but please, leave your towel at home. No bath is required.

Developed in Japan by Tomohide Akiyama in 1982, Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is a term that means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’ It’s simply being in nature with no destination in mind and allowing yourself to just be.

With Americans spending over “93% of their time indoors,” and over 11 hours online every day, we’re in desperate need of quality outdoor time.

How Does It Work?

To achieve forest bathing to its fullest, set aside two to four hours. But if all you have is twenty minutes, allow yourself that total amount of time.

You don’t have to have a forest nearby, a park will do.

First, put the phone away or anything that will cause distractions. The focus is for you to be present.

Go for a walk or find a private spot. If you’re walking, don’t worry about your final destination. Go slowly and wander.

During this time, observe your surroundings and your breath. What do you hear? What do you smell?

Be present.

See an interesting leaf? Pause and look at it.

Close your eyes. Listen to the rustling of the leaves. The sound of the birds. Try to leave the everyday stress behind.

Once your time has come to a close, reflect on how your body feels. Your mind. Let the feeling linger.

Dr. Qing Li, a researcher from Japan, is an expert on Forest Bathing. He believes trees promote health and happiness and has made it his mission to spread awareness about Japan’s age-old practice.

The Benefits

According to Dr. Qing Li, he believes Forest Bathing can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy level
  • Boost the immune system and more

Living in a world where screen time is at an all-time high, it’s no wonder Forest Bathing has become such a trend. In fact, there are retreats and classes dedicated to the practice. You can even become an official guide.

In the end, it sounds like nature’s calling. Perhaps we should listen and visit it more often.

From the words of John Muir, naturalist, author, and environmentalist, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”

In other words, have you had your bath yet today?

New Year, New Ideas

The new year is upon us, and there’s another writing challenge about to begin.

If you’ve ever visited my site before, you know how much I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. If you’ve never been here, well, I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. 🙂

Why? They push me to create. While some of the ideas remain locked inside my GoogleDocs without seeing the light of day, others take on a different form and are like a jumping off point a.k.a. somewhere to get started.

It’s about creating. Getting words on paper that can, and often do, spark a new idea. The best writing feeling in the world? When that idea pops in your mind and BAM! You write, and write, and can’t stop until every last word is down. Obviously, the story is nowhere close to being finished. But, it’s not about that. It’s the feeling of motivation and inspiration all in one. That, you’ve-just-got-to-get-it-down-on-paper feeling.

Where am I going with this?

Each January another awesome and free (yes, free!) writing challenge begins. It’s called Storystorm. Chances are you’ve heard of it. If not, you’re in for a treat! Hosted by Tara Lazar, a fabulous children’s book author, Storystorm is for all writers. “Any genre, style, student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author, or professional,” can join Tara says.

Intrigued? Here’s how to start:

Begin by signing up on her website. Then, every day in January you will receive a daily post with a writing challenge. The objective is to garner 30 new writing ideas by the end of the month. Some might see the light of day, others may remain locked in your GoogleDocs. 🙂 Again, it’s about creating.

But wait! There are prizes! If you create 30 ideas by the end of the month, you sign a pledge on her website, and you’re eligible to win some awesome prizes like professional consults, book signings, original art, and more.

So, if you’re looking for some extra motivation in the new year and want to have more ideas in your back pocket, come join us. If you’re looking to take part in something fun just because, come join us.

If you have another idea that keeps you writing and creating, please share in the comments below. Like I said, I’m always open to new ideas. 🙂

Cheers to the new year and happy writing!

How National Parks Helped Teach our Kids about the Environment

“Mom, what are those big white things?” my daughter asks while peering out the window as we drive through the grassy plains of the Midwest.

“Those are wind turbines. The wind helps make energy which gets turned into power. Like the power that turns on the lamp in your room or the lights in the house.”

Immediately following my explanation came the rounds of questions that spilled out of a curious five-year-old’s mouth after being told that a giant monster-like structure uses wind to create power. It is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Our conversation ignited a critical discussion that my husband and I felt we needed to start sharing with our kids about caring for our environment. How can we instill in them an appreciation and respect for the natural living life around them? After wrestling with this big idea, we finally realized the answer is a lot simpler than we thought: It’s about giving our kids opportunities to interact with nature starting at a young age.

What better way to explore this idea than by visiting and discovering the national parks across the United States and exploring the incredible landscapes of our country? With a map of the U.S. displayed in our family room and pins to mark our destinations, we were ready to explore the history, nature, and learn all about the preservation of our land and animals as a family.

With over fifty national parks spread across the U.S. and nearly 300 million visitors each year, these natural wonders can be a cornerstone in the way we address environmental topics with our offspring. The big question is, where do we begin?

Badlands

My family and I found ourselves beginning our journey by trekking through the rough and jagged trails of the Badlands in South Dakota, witnessing the damaging yet, renewing effects of a natural forest fire that had happened near Jewel Cave National Monument. The charred, black trees were the only remains of what once existed in a dense forest. Through the chaos of fallen branches and rotting trunks, sprung new life. Peering through the now open land, flowers and grass were slowly taking the place of what was once alive. This moment sparked an organic conversation about the dangers and causes of forest fires, but also how they can stimulate new growth.

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My husband and I realized the value of teaching our kids about the magnitude of our actions on the ecosystems around us. While hiking on the paths in Yellowstone National Park, our children would discover a leaf or interesting rock along the way. To a young intrigued mind, this made the perfect souvenir to bring home and show friends. However, this proved to be another teachable moment as we explained the importance of leaving nature where you found it.

Kiersten Einsweiler, blogger and fellow adventure seeker from Hiking In My Flipflops, shares how she and her husband have helped their children to develop a deeper understanding of nature’s inhabitants: “We had a recent run-in with a snake on a trail, and my daughter was absolutely terrified – screaming and crying for a good part of the hike back. On the drive home, she thought maybe the snake was actually a ‘kid just like her’ and was just as scared as she was.”

With her children making this connection, Kiersten goes on to say that she believes her children see the “parallels” between how we respect human beings and living creatures and how nature is the “…home and space of a plant or animal.”

Our kids’ favorite experience on our life-long grand adventure was taking part in the National Park’s Junior Ranger program. Over the years, this program has evolved and now includes national monuments, with many being managed by the park service.

Their motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect,” quoted by the many children sworn in each year, couldn’t be more true. With the typical participant age being between 5 and 13, our daughter could take part. Our son, who is three, was able to participate in the Pee Wee Ranger program offered at Jewel Cave National Monument located in South Dakota’s Black Hills. We have found that regardless of age, all children are encouraged to take part in their programs.

Making our way to Glacier National Park in Montana, our kids were equipped with various tasks in their Ranger booklets and prepared to earn their badges. Marveling at the giant “monsters of ice” as our son called it, we talked about the correlation between human activity and rising temperatures leading to shrinking glaciers.

Next up? Yellowstone, the world’s first national park located in Wyoming. It is known for its geysers, mountain beauty, and hundreds of animal species. With nearly 4 million people visiting the park, there’s bound to be garbage left behind. After picking up bits of trash found tumbling along the backcountry trails, my husband and I showed our kids what the saying, “Whatever comes in, must come out” quote truly means.

Along with Yellowstone, the national park service has made a concerted effort to become more sustainable based on the changing climate, and the impact visitors have made in the parks. Putting this into perspective, Isle Royale, a remote island in Michigan only accessible by plane or boat, spends $15,000 a year removing guests’ trash. This issue is one my husband and I feel we need to bring to the forefront of our children’s minds. Being respectful of the land, which means cleaning up after ourselves so other’s can enjoy it’s beauty too.

Providing tangible dialogue relevant to our future existence, there is a wealth of information to be shared with our little ones. For example, restoration of the Redwood forest, the impact tourists have on soil erosion in Zion National Park, or how trails protect naturally growing plants. And let’s not forget the increased water and air pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains. How about the encounter of non-native species causing detrimental damage in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park? These are the real-life experiences exposing the significance as to why we must protect these precious resources.

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Or the other right hand…

Looking back, we’ll never forget the moment they raised their right hand and promised to preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them. From exploring the third largest underground cave to hiking, observing, and identifying animal hides, our children were sworn in and declared lifelong Junior Rangers. The quest to accomplish this noble deed and earning a badge to commemorate this momentous time will forever live in our hearts.

In the words of songwriter Woody Guthrie, “From the Redwood Forest to the gulf stream waters. This land was made for you and me.” As we move into the 21st century, our world continues to change along with its environmental issues. Taking the time to search out destinations that satisfy our lust for adventure and thirst for knowledge, let’s continue to bring awareness to our children who will pass it on to future generations.