September 30, 2013

Latching on to Inspiration

Today, the Children's Writer's World welcomes Donna McDine.

Every day life inspires me. The occurrence does not have to be an extraordinary moment. Often times my most inspiring moments have come when I was not concentrating on my writing. From watching my children play with their friends when they were younger to listening in on conversations at the local coffee shop. I always keep a little note pad and pen in my purse for these unexpected moments. 

Several times inspiration has struck me when I’ve been driving and I keep a handheld recording device on hand for these moments. This way I’m sure to remember a thought because before I know it my thoughts are elsewhere or the current conversation has taken me someplace else.

As for my two latest books, Powder Monkey and Hockey Agony, the inspiration of the storyline of Powder Monkey came from a call for submissions on the historical fiction topic of the late 1700’s pertaining to the Royal Navy. Always fascinated by history, I jumped at the chance to create a manuscript worthy of submission. Through research I came across information of the Press Gangs the Royal Navy utilized to kidnap boys as young as eleven to work on ships. The conditions were deplorable and the determination of survival by so many inspired me to stay true to the historical events. Even though my initial submission was rejected by the publishing house putting out the request I did not give up. I eventually submitted to Guardian Angel Publishing and after several rounds of edits GAP accepted Powder Monkey!

The inspiration of Hockey Agony came from everyday life. Coming from a family of sports lovers I often find myself watching my daughters, nieces, and nephews competing in one sport or another. Unfortunately, over the years, bad sportsmanship is often found within the spectators, players, and coaches…sometimes even encouraging the players to cheat and to inflict personal injury to their opponents. And as many of us had read, some of these horrific occurrences make the local and national news. It’s our duty as adults to maintain a calm disposition at sporting events and to encourage competitive clean playing. For without honesty and integrity what will our children have in store for themselves when they enter adulthood?

For me inspiration is just a thought away or an article in the newspaper. Inspiration comes for me at the most unexpected times; and, I latch on to each and every thought making notes to hopefully use at a later time.

I’d enjoyed hearing about what inspires you! So please comment and tell me about your moments.  Thank you and here’s to your inspiration!


September 29, 2013

Milton, The Square Shell Turtle

In today's guest blog, MaryAnn Tatro reveals the inspiration behind her new book. 

The inspiration for my book started twenty eight years ago.  I didn't realize at the time there would be a book in my future, but it was there....waiting.

My son (then five), his day-care, and a selected number of other day-cares were asked to participate in a project that would change the look and hopefully attract the local public to a certain park in the Cleveland, Ohio area that needed much attention and clean up.

The children were given a 10" x 10" tile and asked to paint anything on their tile that they wanted. There were approximately one hundred participants who took on the task. After the tiles were painted, glazed over and hardened, they were finally arranged and displayed at their new home—the city park.

My son painted on his tile (you guessed it) a turtle. He made short brush strokes and fingerprint marks he said were grass and a few light blue areas he called water.  Now to the average viewer, my son's tile painting could be deemed abstract, but to me it was a masterpiece.

A few years ago, I heard some rather disappointing news. This particular park was to be renovated and all the tiles had to be removed.  My husband and I decided, before all was lost, to make a special trip to Cleveland and photograph our son's tile.  To our amazement, the tiles were not damaged but relocated to another area park; and, I am pleased to report that is where they are to this day.

And so that takes us back to the beginning, the inspiration for my book, Milton The Square Shell Turtle. Now, I can't leave my husband out of the story completely. I gave Milton my husband's laid-back personality and his ability to avoid a problem (or as he puts it) SOLVING a problem by finding another way and keeping peace. Lastly, I wanted Milton to be different from other turtles.  And so he is, because in real life, we are all different and unique.

September 22, 2013

Not Even the Sky is the Limit!

Today, a guest blog by Denise Zarrella
When it comes to inspiration for my children's book Not Even the Sky is the Limit!, there is no doubt that my daughter Gianna was the spark that ignited my passion for this project.  My book showcases the abilities of children and adults with Down Syndrome.  Since the moment my husband and I found out that we were going to have a child with Down Syndrome, we began to see the world in a whole new way.  We began to think about every person we knew who had a child with Downs.  We imagined what our life together would be like; and above all, we wanted to know that we could look forward to a life that would be full of love, laughter and all the things everyone else enjoys doing as a family.

My reason for writing this book, geared for toddlers, goes even deeper than that, though.  I spent a lot of time on the computer "Googling," Down Syndrome.  I was shocked to see how many parents, who found out that they were going to have a child with Downs, decided to terminate their pregnancy.  The parents, siblings and close friends of people with Down Syndrome that I've connected with admit there are some challenges to having a special needs child, but none of them could imagine a world without their son, daughter, brother or sister.  They don't want to.   

Not Even the Sky is the Limit! is modeled after my kid's favorite book when they were toddlers.  It was called the ABC for You and Me Book.  It went through every letter of the alphabet and had a child with Down Syndrome demonstrating a word for each of those letters.  My kids loved this book so much we are missing the "Q is for quilt," page!  My kids loved the pictures of the other kids, and I realized I loved how happy and well adjusted all the children in the book appeared to be.  The book put me at ease and got me excited about our family's future.

Since day one, I have enjoyed talking to parents of children with Down Syndrome and learning about what their kids love to do.  I've heard stories of lead singers with Down Syndrome, weight lifters, actors and actresses, the list goes on and on.  Every time I hear one of these stories, I think the reporter in me feels the need to document it, and the mother in me wants to publicize what I've heard and seen, because I believe a lot of people are unaware of all the cool things people with disabilities are doing. 

One day, I shared one of these many stories with my husband, Tony.  I said, "I just wish there was a book with all of these stories of what people with Down Syndrome are out there doing in it so I could look at it whenever I feel discouraged or worried."  He just looked at me very matter of factly and said, "Why don't you do it?"  I stopped for a second and then said, "I think I will." A little over a year later, Not Even the Sky is the Limit! was published. My husband cried when he saw the book for the first time. It was one of our most emotional moments in our relationship, ever. Tony calls this book, "your love letter to Gianna," and he's right. 
As someone who has written for television for years, I really always thought my first book would be something like The World According to Garp, but clearly God had other plans for me.  Gianna was born, and Not Even the Sky is the Limit! would bring me to one of the most satisfying and rewarding milestones of my life.

If one person is enlightened by reading this book to one of their children, or a child is able to see the world through more accepting eyes as a result of turning the pages, then my mission is accomplished.  My biggest hope yet:  that someone will see this book and decide to move forward with their life and their child, a child they will know with Down Syndrome. 

September 16, 2013

I Am an Author

Today, a guest blog by author Patti Jefferson.

I am at the airport and as I look around me, I wonder if anyone knows. When they look up at me from their Candy Crush and text messages, can they tell? I feel different. I know that what I am about to do will affect some people’s lives - changing them forever. Their bags are full of souvenirs from their trip just finished or gifts for loved ones they are headed to see. Not mine. My bag is heavy and for the hundredth time this morning, I wish it was lighter. Soon it will be.

No, I am not a terrorist. I am an author. Today, my carry-on bag is full of copies of my first children's book How Long Will You Love Me? and I am starting my first book tour. This week I am going to stand in front of hundreds of students and explain what an author does. I am going to share my love of books and of reading and of writing & illustrating. Some of those children may be inspired to be storytellers too or at the very least, better readers. Maybe I'm wrong ...maybe they will all grow up to be firemen, florists or CEOs and only have a vague memory of the lady who came for an author visit at their elementary school years ago. In my heart though, I hope that out there in the crowded cafeteria is at least one kid who will just get it. We will connect and I will make a difference.

Standing at the gate to board my flight, I straighten my posture. I make eye contact with the people around me & I smile. I doubt that the little girl in the pink dress near the window will tug on her mother's skirt, point and whisper "Mommy, do you think that lady is an author?" but I do know one thing with absolute certainty. One of the books in my overly heavy bag will reach a little girl just like her and even if she has no idea what an author is yet, she will grow up remembering those moments when her mother read my books to her.

That's why children's book authors do what we do: to create not just a collection of silly stories printed on paper but to create those precious bonding moments.

Maybe none of my fellow travelers today will know that I am an author. Maybe no one will question why my bag is almost too heavy to get in the overhead bin. But I know.... and that makes me smile. I am an author and that is my inspiration.


September 7, 2013

Three Messages

After four attempts, Diana Nyad swam the treacherous Florida Straits and completed a 53-hour, 100-mile swim from Cuba to Key West.  Nyad, a 64-year old endurance swimmer, is the only person to have succeeded in swimming from Cuba to Key West without fins or a wet suit.  Her 35-member support team kept a close watch as she swam the ocean brimming with jellyfish and sharks. 

After two nights and two days of the torturous swim, Nyad greeted onlookers and her support team.  “I have three messages,” she said.  “One is we should never, ever give up.  Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams.  Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

When I read her messages, I immediately thought about writers who were pursuing the path to publication.  Her messages certainly apply. 

1.  We should never give up—no matter the rejections, the writer’s block, or the lack of confidence.  

2.  We should never dismiss our dreams, regardless of our age.  Laura Ingalls Wilder, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Joseph Conrad, and Henry Miller and more were published late in life.

3.  We should never believe that writing is a solitary sport.  It takes the team of critique partners and editors to reach the goal of publication.

Nyad said that with each attempt to swim the ocean, she vowed it would be her last; yet, the quest nagged at her.  She tried again.  On the fifth time, she succeeded in reaching her most difficult goal.  What an amazing woman!  Though her quest is over, her words of wisdom remain.  I urge you to think of those three messages often.  Use them for inspiration.  Allow those three messages to encourage you, to spur you on as you journey the road to publication.  

September 1, 2013


While I was on vacation in the Smoky Mountains this summer, I met an unusual lady. We sipped on soft drinks as our families zip-lined through the hills.  In a conversation which lasted over an hour, we learned about our hometowns, family histories, and likes and dislikes.  We discovered that we enjoyed doing the daily word jumble, we both knew brothers named Kenneth and Edward (friends of my family and her son's names), and both of us had a scare with cancer (her's far more serious than mine).

That afternoon, she shared a deep secret.  She revealed that she had lost one of her sons in a tragic car accident.  But the strange thing was, even though she grieved for him, she never shed a tear.  Her revelation surprised me and this sad moment touched the writer in me.  It made me wonder what behaviors we expect of others in a given situation.  What other occasions do people act in unexpected ways? Our chance meeting taught me that character is more complex than what meets the eye.  

If you want to create complex characters, then one thing you can try is to allow your characters to act in unexpected ways.  You can polish this skill by talking to others. Strike up a conversation while you wait in a grocery check-out line or at a doctor's office. Get to know others at sporting events or at after school activities. Listen well.  You'll see things from another’s point of view.  You'll learn how other people handle tough situations.  Later, you may find yourself weaving bits and pieces from these real conversations into a character for a story. 

My Smoky mountain acquaintance lives far north, many miles from me, but I am thankful that we were able to connect and share.  She had surely made an impact on my life, both personally and professionally.  She's made me think harder about developing richer, more complex characters. Though chances are unlikely that we’ll meet again, I will think of her often, knowing that we are both enjoying and unscrambling the daily word jumble.