Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sharing Books with Little Free Libraries: Phinney Ridge in Seattle

One of the summer camps my kid attends is located in the north part of Seattle, and instead of navigating back and forth across I90, dropping off and picking up during rush hour traffic, we have ourselves a staycation. This time we rented a dog-friendly house, and I came prepared with books for a Little Free Library hunt. Hello, Phinney Ridge!

Palatine Ave

Most of the houses I find by using the Little Free Library map, which a lot of times shows a picture of the library and/or a brief description if it's in a difficult-to-find spot or off-street, like the inside a hotel lobby or in a filing cabinet in a small town grocery store. Normally, the book houses show their placards proudly, "Take a book. Share a book."

Free Little Library Map

Evanston Ave

Dayton Ave

78th Street

Creepy Cute Details

81st Street

83rd Street

74th Street

Sometimes though, I stumble across a library, like the one on 73rd Street, which seems to be run by a rogue kind of librarian. Off the beaten path, no placard, not in the system, running their own show.

Independent Library on 73rd Street

Even though my "Share a book" stash of eight ran dry, we were still stumbling across miniature book houses. Phinney Ridgers love to read and each library had some interesting inventory. The adventure continued, until over the past three days, we'd accumulated a pile of books for next month's reading challenge!

Tiny and Cute
Another Independent Free Library

 So first we shared books and then we took books. Our treasures included:

1.) Writer's Inc: A Guide to Writing, Thinking & Learning by Sebranek, Meyer, and Kemper - Writing
2.) The Work-Play Book Dictionary by Gates and Huber - Vintage Childrens
3.) Lunch Money and Other Poems About School by Carol Diggory Shields - Childrens Picture Book
4.) Henry IV Part One by William Shakespeare - Classic
5.) The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen - Young Adult
6.) Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus - Middle Grade
7.) Archie's Campfire Stories by Archie Comics - Middle Grade

Took Books
...with Tilly and Tango

8.) Paper Cut in China by Unknown - Childrens Nonfiction, Art
9.) The World of Richard Stine by Richard Stine - Art
10.) The Emerald Ring by Dorine White - Middle Grade

"Have your whole heart bent on a single purpose." ~ The Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Northern Oregon Coast: Sharing Books with Free Little Libraries

While camping at the Cannon Beach RV Resort with full hookup--which meant worry-free twinkle lights and unlimited country music on the radio--I set aside a day to map out free little libraries in the area. First stop involved a coastal walk to downtown Cannon Beach.

An Early Morning on Cannon Beach
Tilly and Tango run amok.

Baby Seal Sighting

Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach Community Church

The next leg involved a car ride north on highway 101 alongside the beautiful Ecola Beach. Lots of traffic, pedestrians in flip-flops, saltwater taffy, and ocean air. Let me tell you, touring and hunting the streets for these cute doll-houses filled with books is a really fun way to spend an afternoon. 

Seaside, Oregon

 My friend drove while I read the map and described what I thought we were looking for...Do you see it? The picture shows it's painted white with a shingle roof. Is that it? That's it! Pull over! Then I'd tuck in a book--sometimes with a handcrafted bookmark inside--and snap a picture for the blog.

Gearhart, Oregon

Gearhart, Oregon

I love the sense of achievement. Check, check, and check. When my list was completed, we headed back to our site to kick up our own flip-flops, relax around the campfire, and roast a few marshmallows. Camping life resumed.

"The camp fell quiet." ~ from Burnout by Stacia Leigh

Thursday, August 01, 2019

August 2019 Reading Challenge: Self Reflection

August Reading Challenge: Self Reflection

My August reading challenge is about self-reflection since I've been feeling a bit lost as an author, my motivation and inspiration as arid and dusty as Central Oregon's high desert. It's a place where I've spent a lot of my summer, camping and being with family.

The High Desert of Central Oregon

Lake Billy Chinook
Culver, Oregon

I'm not complaining one bit, though, because it's a beautiful area. It lead me to see that even when the creative well may seem dry, there is still something beautiful to discover. So while I had many questions for myself--Why do I write? Who am I writing for? Should I give up? Do something different? Try again?--the high desert gave me my answer: look inside, restart, finish the book in a month, go all in, and treat myself with love and gelato!


Here's the Self-Reflection line up:

"That frown wasn't coming along." ~ ESPIALdesign

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Teaching Blackout Poetry to Kids

How awesome was today? Very awesome. I was invited to teach a fifth grade class about blackout poetry, and somewhat warily, I agreed. I used to be an art docent, but after a year off I felt out of practice with getting organized and engaging twenty plus kids. It's always a crap-shoot.

However, once I got the ball rolling, the kids listened! They seemed interested and attentive and that right there is more than half the battle. Not to mention, I had the help of Michael Nyers (@fade.into.a.blackout). He sent me an outline to get started, which I modified for the age of the audience and the time allotted for the lesson. I also gleaned some "how-to's" from Spark Creativity's blog: The Easy Guide to Blackout Poetry.

I had one hour, so I needed to keep the up-front talking to a minimum. Here were my notes:

A 1-Hour Blackout Poetry Lesson 

- Book pages
- Scratch paper to protect work space and to make notes
- #2 Pencil
- Staedtler Mars plastic white erasure
- Markers, colored pencils, crayons...
- Blackout Poetry Books for examples 

Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest says:“A blackout poem is when a poet takes a marker (usually a black marker) to already established text–like in a newspaper–and starts redacting words until a poem is formed. The key thing with a blackout poem is that the text, AND redacted text, form a sort of visual poem.” 
The process can also be called found poetry, erasure poetry, redacted poetry and even Wite-Out poetry. 
It has a history that can date back to 1760, when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor would make funny word associations between the two columns of text in the newspaper, calling them “Cross-readings.” 
Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout (copyright 2010), says:“Blackout poetry’s history looks less like a straight line and more like blips on a radar screen.” 
I wanted to recycle the proof copies of my YA books and was inspired by a community of blackout poets on Instagram, like Michael Nyers and Collette Love Hilliard. 
I carry a "blackout" travel bag and can create poems anytime I have to wait, like in an airport, riding the bus, a museum, the dentist's name it. I'm never bored. My bag contains:
- Proof book pages from Dealing with Blue and Burnout.
- A Mead Pencil Pouch with Prismacolor pencils, #2 pencils, a pencil sharpener that holds shavings, a hi-lighter, a black ultra-fine-tipped marker, and a Staedtler eraser.
- A compass.

- First skim the words on the page without reading for content. The idea is find words that catch your attention or inspire you in some way.
- Very lightly circle the words directly on the page. OR if preferred, write the words you find in order on another sheet of paper to keep track of them. 
- Go back and reread the chosen words to find a theme and fine tune your poem. Need connecting words like a, an, the, in, on, and…etcetera? Try to find them as letters within words.
- Boldly outline the words you do want with a marker and erase the pencil lines you don't want.
- Then, with a pencil, lightly sketch a picture, add shapes, or draw symbols that relate to the theme of your poem. Outline the lines you want to keep with marker. Maybe add arrows or flow lines to help reader follow the words of the poem (typically a reader reads from left to right, top to bottom).
- Last step, blackout the words you don’t want--and if you have a sketch, color it in-- using marker, colored pencils, paint, paper and glue, or other.  

Take fifteen minutes or less discussing notes and showing samples from the books. Allow forty-five minutes to work.

Other links on the topic:
John DePasquale of Scholastics - Blackout Poetry
Teachers Pay Teachers - Blackout Poetry: Make poetry fun!
Emily H. Vogel - A Middle Grade Lesson on Blackout Poetry (Grades 6-8)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Blackout Poetry Book Pile

Blackout Poetry Books

I interrupt my June Reading Challenge to introduce a stack of blackout poetry books. I've been asked to teach a 5th grade class next week on how to make a #blackoutpoem and ordered some books to share, mine included. Big thanks to @fade.into.a.blackout for the teaching notes and the great read: Finding Light in the Darkness by Michael Nyers. I also particularly loved A Wonderful Catastrophe by Colette Love Hilliard.

I've truly been enjoying Austin Kleon's writing style by reading his motivational series on creativity and art and am currently reading Newspaper Blackout, which includes the history of the blackout poem. So far, really well done.

I did have my reservations starting Hidden Messages of Hope by John Carroll when I cracked open the first page. With credits like squishiepuss, Manleyfunwithrobots, Cummings, DeBenedictis, and Jessica Hunt, I couldn't help but wonder if some kind of pervy word-play ensued. What kind of book did I just buy, again? I looked up the people and their links and everything seemed legit, though coincidental and curious enough. I read on and found the poetry and art, the overall book, delightful.

The two skinny numbers on the right without titles on the spine--*shakes fist* Damn you Amazon!--Well, those are mine. The colorful and whimsical duo known as Sounds Complicated and Distance Between.

I'm happy to be a part of the blackout poetry community and to support this group of artists/poets/authors. I know the fifth grade teacher is excited to learn this process, too, and that's a good start :)

Enjoy the reads!

Friday, May 31, 2019

June 2019 Reading Challenge: Leftovers, Again.

It's June, the year's half-way mark, and the month to catch up on books that were in previous reading challenges but never reached the top of the TBR pile. It's time to review those leftovers.

June Reading Challenge: Leftovers, Again

Perusing the March reading challenge, Kismet: Books I felt "destined" to read, I chose to finish:
1.) Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson

From the April reading challenge, The Kids' Picks: Middle Grade books recommended by the young team, I selected:
2.) Orphan Islandby Laurel Snyder 
3.) The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm

And from the latest challenge for May, looking for titles containing the word "dirt," I picked:
4.) Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols
5.) Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah N. Lemon

* A recommended read!


Playing in the dirt!
A tall, bearded iris

Friday, May 24, 2019

On the Production Line: BIG heart corner-bookmarks!

Packaging Completed!
Top: "Just My Type" and "Happiness is Coffee"
Bottom: "Love Bees" and "Adventure Awaits"

The corner-bookmark factory of one--that's me, thankyouverymuch--is back in production mode! The Doodlebug Design paper and die cuts I ordered arrived and did their trick. I was inspired by the cuteness overload. So in between writing, camping, and worrying about everyone's health in my family (a quagmire of cancer, congestive heart failure, hip replacement surgery, and even the common cold), I decided to find some kind of outlet. Picking at my fingernails and staring at the floor doesn't really accomplish much as it turns out. Plus, the fingernails are in short supply--pun intended. So...paper therapy.

As the stash of heart corner-bookmarks grows, I'll list them on Etsy, hide them in Little Free Libraries, or tuck them here and there...whatever. Wherever! Just going to have fun and see what happens, letting my true Sagittarius nature reign.

Here's the latest:

"Just My Type"

"Happiness is Coffee"

"Love Bees"

"Adventure Awaits"


"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down." ~ Charlie Chaplin (Sagittarius)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May 2019 Reading Challenge: The Dirt!

Thomas C. Haliburton said, "Money is a necessity; so is dirt." are books, dude, so get ready to get your hands dirty with this May's reading challenge. I don't necessarily mean naughty, but more like the place where you plant seeds and grow things, the important stuff under your lawn, the reason you have a washing machine, you know...that stuff. Just plain ol' dirt. 

May 2019 Reading Challenge: The Dirt!

My list of "dirty" books for the month include:

1.) Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols - Contemporary Romance

2.) Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein - Middle Grade

3.) Dirty Little Secrets by Kerry Cohen - Nonfiction

4.) Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren - Contemporary Romance

5.) The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski - Middle Grade

6.) Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon - Young Adult

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." ~ Unknown

Monday, April 01, 2019

April 2019 Reading Challenge: The Kids' Picks

I asked my kids for their top five middle grade recommendations and those book nerds gave me a list of eleven! There's no way I can get through that many reads in a month...but I'll share them here and then flip a coin...

Kids' Picks

1.) Wings of Fire Book One: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

2.) The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm

3.) Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

4.) The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle* by Leslie Connor

5.) Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

6.) City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

7.) Ungifted* by Gordon Korman

8.) Schooled by Gordon Korman

9.) Restart by Gordon Korman

10.) It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

11.) Orphan Island* by Laurel Snyder

* A recommended read!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Burnout Rides Again!

The Gamut

I made so many mistakes with this cover that I had to go above and beyond the "three's a charm" and hit "Final Four!" I'm so happy with how this latest version turned out that I'm ready to celebrate! Free ebook anyone? Hell, yeah!

But before we head over to Amazon for a freebie (Free on March 22 - 23, 2019),  I want to review the pain so I can relish the gain. First, I started with the wrong font, all chunky letters and tough looking, which had readers assuming the story was some kind of biker erotica. People do judge books by covers, myself included, but what I'd created couldn't be further from the truth! In reality, this is a chaste love story with road trips and adventure for the young adult (YA) crowd and the young at heart. 

By the second cover, I'd decided to use a more fun and youthful looking font but stuck with the leather jacket/zipper motif I had going on, mostly because I had a vision of using fabrics on all my covers. Dealing with Blue had denim, and in the case of Riding with the Hides of Hell, I envisioned black leather. But I was getting raised eyebrows whenever I mentioned the title.

While considering a title-change, a friend was busy giving me flack about the dark cover and how it needed to be brightened up. So I went gung-ho and gave everything an overhaul. I drew a motorcycle, added a pop of color, threw in some angles, but I couldn't let that leather jacket go. Ugh...I really disliked this cover! As it turned out, the third time was not a charm.

However, I did need that third step to get me to the fourth and final cover, which I love! This represents the fun, the love, and the adventure that I put into this book. Aesthetically, it works for me. I ditched the leather jacket that had initially gotten this project off the ground and brought in some asphalt, instead. I couldn't have gotten to version four without failing three times before. *I'm a poet, and didn't even know it.*

The take-away?

* Check the title...make a list of five or ten and whittle it down from there. The first one you think of is rarely the best answer.

* Brainstorm multiple cover layouts while mocking up thumbnails. Hit the bookstores and review covers in related genres. Compare and contrast. I peruse the ads at to see how they have fonts set up on the page.

* Where can a pop of color be added to draw attention? Where's the focal point? Where does the eye travel to next? Does it stay on the page?

* How does the final cover look when it's a thumbnail size on shopping sites? When I reduced my cover, the motorcycle got lost in the darkness, which had me going back to the drawing board. For the final, I framed the bike within the yellow beam to make it visible on the cover, big or small.

Boom! Done.

Now, ready to head over to Amazon for that free ebook? Give it a go, or buy a paper copy to really get the full effect. And don't forget to leave a review...this book's a lot of fun with tough luck and tough love, not to mention it's had a pretty tough start. Mercy.

Most of all, I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, March 01, 2019

March 2019 Reading Challenge: Kismet!

Kismet: fate; destiny; the will of God.

Recently, my kids and I were at our local thrift store, shopping for books, when my daughter pointed down the row and said, "Look, Mom! It's your book." Out of all the books showing off their spines, mine--with its original cover--sat face forward on the shelf as seen in the picture I took below. 

Talk about kismet. 

So for March's reading challenge I pulled together a list of reads that somehow spoke to me or seemingly came my way as though it were "meant to be."

The Kismet Pile

1.)  The Raft by S. A. Bodeen - I had this one in hand at the thrift store before seeing my book sitting face out on the shelf. "It is your destiny." ~ Darth Vader

2.) Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson - A spontaneous purchase after listening to the author's sales pitch online. I bought it, so I guess I should read it, too.

3.) The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang - I've been eyeballing this book ever since it hit the shelves but the trope didn't really call to me. When I saw it on the "Choice Reads" table at the library, I picked it up. Free read, great cover, and a great first sentence. Good start.

4.) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin - A friend gifted this one to my little bookworm, who loved it. Personally, I wouldn't have looked at it twice - judging books by covers, yadda, yadda - but when my kid recommends a read, I listen.

5.) Tisha by Robert Specht and Anne Purdy - This book has been kicking around for a spell, Montana speak meaning one copy was on my mom's bookshelf probably since 1976, the copyright date. Another copy was found at my grandma's and was later bequeathed to me. *shrugs* Popular book in my family...guess I should check it out.
Excerpt from