Monday, October 20, 2014

Autumn Has Arrived


This past week was the first week in quite a while that I wasn't outrageously busy. The only real event was Bobby and I celebrating our Anniversary this past Saturday. It was a lovely and relaxing day, and I didn't even feel guilty about doing the bare minimum of house chores. I cooked and did dishes, and that was the extent of my domestic efforts.



Autumn also arrived at our house and was made evident by the massive littering of brightly colored leaves covering our front yard. The site of all those leaves was both beautiful and tiring as I thought about raking. I decided to rake later this week which left me time to read a beautiful book titled Count Down to Fall. It's an older book from 2009, but it is still available and is well worth checking out.




Count Down to Fall is told in rhyme, and while I didn't think every page flowed as well as it could, the story line was pleasant. The illustrations, however, are what really sets this book apart. They are very detailed and quite beautiful. The leaves and forest creatures invite you to spend an extra few minutes admiring every page. And as an added bonus, at the end of the story, there are activities and facts that would make this book a wonderful addition to a teacher or homeschooler's curriculum.

Emily also read a book to me that I enjoyed very much. It was called Elmer and The Dragon. Although written in the seventies, it is a fabulous book that has stood the test of time and is still available today. Elmer is a  young boy who runs away from home to save a baby dragon in distress. After saving the dragon, it is grateful and offers to take Elmer home. On the journey, they encounter a wild storm and a strange island. The adventures are highly entertaining and certainly kept my interest as well as Emily's.
 
 
 

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seasons of Change


Just as the seasons change without fail, so do the seasons of our lives. And although change is often difficult, it can also mean new opportunities and fresh beginnings. So as sad as I was to see this past weekend usher in the very last farmer's market of the year in my home town, I really am ready for a breather.

Farm Market

I am eagerly contemplating how I will now use my Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays which for some time have been spent madly baking. One of my short term goals is to finish the third book in my Fern Valley series and then to move onto a completely different work in progress that I have been mulling over for quite some time. This also leaves more time for reading and reviewing!

And speaking of reviewing, I decided to read a book that Emily recently read entitled Ben Franklin's Big Splash - The Mostly True Story of His First Invention. She seemed to really enjoy the story, so I sat down to see why.  What I found was a humorous and well written story that made Ben Franklin seem real to me and not just a part of ancient history. Curiously enough, it also inspired me to keep writing and keep submitting despite the numerous rejections I regularly receive.

Ben Franklin's Big Splash

Ben doesn't worry about what other people think about him or his inventions, he just keeps inventing. One of my favorite parts of the book says, "Most kids might have felt sad, ashamed, or stupid. Instead, this smart, stubborn, sensible son of a soap-maker simply thought he'd made a mistake___ and wouldn't stop seeking, studying, and struggling until he SUCCEEDED."

My dad always told me that the only way you fail is to not try at all, so just like Ben I will not feel sad, ashamed,  or stupid. Instead, I will keep seeking, studying, and struggling until I succeed. I will keep writing and submitting until an agent or publisher realizes what I already know. That my writing is worthwhile, and I deserve representation.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Iowa City Was An Icy Blast!

I don't normally post on Thursdays, but as promised earlier in the week, I am posting to share pictures from my trip to Iowa City where I attended the Iowa City Book Fair. To say I had a blast would be an understatement. To say I had an icy blast would be chillingly accurate since the wind was blowing about fifteen miles an hour. Despite the frigid temperatures, I met a wonderful table mate and fellow author named Heather Young. She has written an interesting memoir called Ezra and Hadassah all about her and her brother's journey through the foster care system, and it looks like it would be an excellent non fiction read for the young adult crowd.



I also wiled away the cold hours chatting and admiring the bagpipe music by a local musician.


The next day at a much warmer event held downtown at the quirky women's shop called Dulcinea, I met a fantastic young man named Ayden, who at the age of seven, shared with me his love of chickens, cooking with eggs, and his grandfather's farm. Now I don't know about you, but just like Ayden, I love a good hard boiled egg or an egg sandwich.


After the festivities were wrapped up, we managed to do a little sight seeing. One of my favorite moments was when we found the largest wooden nickel I have ever seen. I think we could all use a little common sense!


I also enjoyed the unusual architecture,


 The World's Largest Truck Stop,
 




And a history lesson on the underground railroad found at an Iowa rest stop.
 


 
Iowa turned out to be a very interesting place to visit and if you every have a chance, I suggest you swing out that way. And don't forget to check out Heather's book!

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Blast From the Past...



It's Monday again and that usually means book review time on my site, but I am still in transit from the Iowa City Book Festival I attended this past weekend. Being that as it may, I could not leave you without a post of some kind, so I am re-sharing author advice I handed out in 2011. Think of it as recycling of classic  material which never goes out of style. And I promise, I will have an extra post later this week sharing pictures from my trip!

 
 
 Five Ways To Help Yourself By Helping Others



Often authors think of other authors in terms of competition. And while this is true in some sense, it is much more helpful to think of other authors as partners and support systems. The old saying what goes around comes around is very true. When you help others, they are inclined to help you also. Below are five ways that you can help yourself by helping other authors.

1. Offer to do book reviews for your fellow authors. Book reviews posted on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Library Thing, and Shelfari not only help other authors spread the word about their book, but usually will be reciprocated.




2. Share marketing tips that work well for you. Knowledge is meant to be shared not horded. When you share tips, not only are you helping others, but you are branding yourself. You are promoting yourself as a caring individual who wants others to succeed in life as well.




3. Promote similar books by fellow authors on your website or blog. One great way to do this is to add an Amazon widget to your site. My favorite is the Amazon carousel which is a rotating collection of books with prices and links. When you sign up to become an Amazon associate and someone buys a book through your link you earn a small commission. There's even a helpful video on this subject by marketing guru Tony Eldridge.





4. Offer words of encouragement to other authors. This costs absolutely nothing and helps bolster moral. Many times a small word of encouragement has helped me to forge ahead when instead I felt like giving up.



5. Include other authors in your social networking. For those of you who belong to Facebook or Twitter, share a fellow author's link or tweet about other authors on #Writers Wednesday or #Follow Friday. Not only does this help your author friends, it also gives you a broader base of potential followers. People who follow your fellow authors may see and follow you as well.



There  you have it my friends, five really simple things you can do for others that will benefit you as well. And  in case you were wondering about the fabulous clip art that is a staple on my site, It is created by the wonderful Phillip Martin.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gone Reading!

Generally I write about books, but today I want to share about reading related items from a great site I recently learned about. The site is called Gone Reading, and it is a non profit run by Bradley Wirz. A few months ago, Bradley contacted me and asked if I would be willing to try some of the products he offers and share about them on my blog. I agreed and excitedly waited to see what would show up in my mail box!

The first item Bradley sent me was a beautiful Wilton cake pan that is in the shape of a book. I immediately knew that I wanted to make a book cake for my latest book, Return to Fern Valley. RFV just released this month, and I was planning on hosting a book birthday party at my local library. At first I was worried about how many boxes of cake mix I would need for such a large cake, but after I peeled the label out of the pan, I realized there were directions on the back. Three cake mixes and an hour later (oven time) I started decorating. I was pleased with the final results and I think my birthday guests were pleased as well.






The second item Brad sent was a card game called Once Upon A Time, and it turned out to be a card game with facts to test a person's literary knowledge of beloved children's classics. I was excited to guess the first question about Beatrice Potter correctly.


And the third item he sent was my daughter Emily's, favorite item. It was called Reading Rumpus and consisted of a passport like book for rating books, rating cards with stars, and book marks to mark spots that might be scary, funny, or gross. Since we started homeschooling this year, Emily has found this little book passport to be one of the best parts of her school week. After she reads a book, she loves to get out the stars, rate the book, circle descriptive words like inspiring, fascinating, or great, and tell who her favorite character was. I think any item that excites a child that much and makes her want to keep reading is worth purchasing whether you home school or not.
 

I also got to know a little more about Bradley and his non profit, and I really felt like I could connect with him and support his literary efforts. There was a time when Bradley had a job that sucked the life out of him, but one day he shucked it all and started his new adventure. He founded Gone Reading to specifically spread the joy of reading in developing nations by supporting several global charities. He is also very hands on, participating in events like building libraries in places like Honduras.

Bradley Wirtz of Gone Reading
Bradley and Honduran Children

So with Christmas just around the corner, I would just like to encourage you to check out Bradley's site and buy a few book related items of your own or to give as gifts for those readers you love. There are all sorts of fun items beside what I have shown here such as book holders, journals, and window decals of a family reading books. And there is quite a nice article in the Huffington Post about Bradley that you might also want to read.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I Write Just Like Sam!


This Past weekend my daughter, Emily, and my husband, Bobby, joined me as we traveled to beautiful Huntington, West Virginia for the Ohio River Festival of Books. I had high hopes of meeting lots of readers and visions of selling many books, but as often happens, reality was a totally different experience. Extremely few customers ventured into the civic center where the event was being held, and those who did, spent their time in the next room buying used books from the library volunteers.

Despite the less then stellar book event, we managed to make it a mini vacation. Emily was thrilled to swim in the hotel pool, wander the square with her father as they looked into small shops, eat ice cream, and have a picnic at a nearby park attractively nestled next to the Ohio River.



As I thought about our time in West Virginia, I remembered something my mother always told me when I was growing up, "It's not your circumstances that matter, but your attitude towards them." This is a lesson I try to live by, and so we talked of all the things that were good about our trip as we drove home Saturday evening.

So when it came time to read and review a book for this post, I found it quite interesting that my chosen book, Library Mouse, reminded me of why I write just like Sam. Sam is a small mouse that lives in the library behind the children's reference section where at night he reads, and reads, and reads. Then one day he decides to write a book of  his own, and then an other, and an other. When the librarian and the children want to meet Sam, he comes up with a creative idea for a meet the author day that encourages children to write their own books because there are so many stories to tell.
 

So what does this have to do with me. How is it I write just like Sam? I write like Sam because I too was a voracious reader. I too wanted to write books of my own. I too believed and still believe that there are many stories to tell. Stories to tell that will encourage young readers to keep reading and will possibly make them want to create books of their own one day.

And although I only sold two books during the festival, they were purchased by a man who generously uses his time to read to first graders in Mrs. Thomas' class and who was going to give them to her class as a gift. Only two books, but two books that can possibly change the destiny of the children who will hear those stories. Children, who just like Sam and I, will read, and read, and read. Children who also might just write, and write, and write!
 
Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.
 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Give Them A Hand - They're Wearing Two Hats!


 
Last week was a great experience as we headed into week two of our homeschooling journey. We even managed to fit some unexpected fraction practice in when Emily made Amish Sugar Cookies as her contribution for Cook Book Club last Tuesday. As she placed the balls of dough deliciously rolled in cinnamon and sugar onto the baking tray, I told her there would always be three rows of four on the tray. After she quickly calculated that there would be twelve balls on the tray and had actually placed six, I asked her what fraction she could make. She came up with 6/12 and we discussed how that was equal to 1/2 when reduced. She added three more yummy balls of dough and I asked her what fraction that would be.

I was completely taken by surprise when she answered 3/4. Of course that was correct, but I was expecting the answer of 9/12. When I asked her how she came to that conclusion she told me, "I saw a pie in my head Mommy. And three of the four pieces were in the pan so it had to be 3/4." I was wowed. She had looked at the dough, had seen that three of the four rows we talked about were filled in, and had come up with a fraction. Next, we needed 3/4 a teaspoon of cream of tartar. Unfortunately, there is no 3/4 of a teaspoon; so she figured out that she could use the 1/4 teaspoon three times to equal three fourths. I was excited because we were able to make math fun. Not the strange mean, mode, median math that no one ever uses, but practical math one uses use every day in real life.
 
 


While I truly love being able to spend so much time with Emily and being able to instruct her in her daily lessons, I still respect those great teachers in the school system that love children and work hard to make learning fun. Teachers that go beyond just showing up for the job. Many of the teachers that I am proud to call my friends are also children's authors. Wearing two hats, that of author and teacher, is definitely going beyond the call of duty in my opinion. So please give a sincere round of applause to these fine folks below and take some time to check out the books they have lovingly created.

Lisa Tortorello is a teacher in Chicago and has written two books for children. The first is The Moose at the Manger a unique telling of the nativity tale, and the second is Mark the Missing Moose a story of sharing grief and not keeping it bottled up inside.






Laura Eckroat is a teacher in Fort Worth and has written four books for children. Her first book Life of Bud is the story of life and death and all that is in-between as perceived by a tree bud. Her second book, and my favorite is A Simpler time. It is the story of slowing down and appreciating the simple things. Her third book, Went Out For a Donut and Came Back With A Muffin, is the story of her rescue dog Muffin. And finally, What's In The Corner - A Muffin Tale.
 

 
 



Judi Cheshire is a teacher in Pipe Creek, Texas who has written My Finny, Fin, Fin which is a wonderful retelling of The Three Little Pigs done with dolphins and a big bad shark.
 
 
 
 
Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, and my sequel, Return To Fern Valley! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.