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The Hardest Part About Writing by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown embroidered cloth, with the words "Leave your ego at the door."I have discovered the hardest part of writing.  It’s not putting those first words on the blank page. Any drivel will do for that.  It’s not even the rewriting, as painful as that tends to be.  (Did I really think that nonsense I wrote was good? Unbelievable.) It’s not even when you give your writing to another person to read.  Yes, there’s a bit of trepidation about putting yourself out there, but pride is also involved.  After all, this is YOUR baby and worthy of being read, right? Nope, that’s still not it.

The hardest part is listening to other people’s opinions and edits.

I was fortunate enough to have good training in listening to critiquing. I was writing audio/readers’ theater scripts. The scripts are dialog and sound effects. While writing, the authors can hear the dialog in their mind and later when they read it to themselves.  However, the authors are not going to be performing the dialog–other actors will be doing that.  So to help the authors, the radio theater held sessions where actors would read the script-draft aloud. Believe me, words sound very different when spoken by someone else.  Problems in the writing become very apparent.

However, in these sessions, the authors are not allowed to express their opinions; they must sit there quietly and take notes.  The directive “Leave your ego at the door” is enforced. Listening to others and not being defensive is very important in the development of a finished product.  I hate to admit it, but the critiquers are usually right–not always, but quite often.

Now that I write books, I try to continue to embrace the philosophy of “Leaving my ego at the door.” Listening to the opinions and suggestions of others has served me well. I value that people took the time to read my work and give me their honest opinions.  I tell them to “be brutal” in saying what doesn’t work, and I mean it.  I cannot work in a vacuum, and together a much better result is achieved.  As they sa,y “No author is an island.”

My advice to fellow authors is to listen with gratitude when someone criticizes your work.  To those who have given me their time and input, I say, “THANK YOU!”

My website is at: http://elaineapowers.com/.

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Rhyming is Required for Picture Books, In My Humble Opinion by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle
“Rattlers have tongues that we flick out and back. We’re not smelling your scent so we can attack. We’re “tasting” the molecules that float in the air, Our Jacobson’s organs determine what is there.”

 

I write children’s books, both adventure tales and picture books. My personal opinion is that picture books should rhyme.  It doesn’t need to be overt rhyming, it can be subtle rhyming, but the text does need to rhyme. However, rhyming alone isn’t enough for a book.  The rhyming text must have a point, purpose, or reason, meaning some lesson must be taught.

The lines and rhyming can be any way you want them to be: a few beats per line, or complete sentences. However, they must be consistent.  You can also arrange the words in a visual pattern for more fun (but no changing patterns within the book).

Even though the text rhymes, the story-line must still have an arc, which builds to a climax.

Please use correct punctuation.  Some poems today are free-form with their punctuation, but when teaching children to read, correct usage is important.

Write a book that children and adults will enjoy reading over and over – that is the ultimate goal. Repetition allows children to learn the language, ideas, and the story-line of the book.

Many people have told me they wanted to write a children’s book. I encourage them all. However, if you’re thinking of writing a “mere” children’s book, know that writing a rhyming picture book is as tedious and as difficult as writing a novel!

“With vibrant illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe, this picture book is jam-packed with scientific facts about roadrunners, delivered in verse form to keep the narrative lively. Roadrunners “…grab their victim/behind its head/And bash it on/the ground until it is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star
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For My Iguanas, Every Day is Eat What You Want Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

May 11 has been designated Eat Want You Want Day as a respite from restricting our food choices, dieting, and general self-deprivation.  So, on this one day, feel free to eat want you want: Give in to that sweet tooth, eat those carbs, have cereal for supper. No one can tell you what you can’t eat on May 11! My iguanas embrace this philosophy, but not just one day a year.

One of my most outgoing iguanas was named Loa. He had had a rough time as a young iguana, but thrived once he reached my home.  He was interested in everything, especially food.  He had to try everything I ate.  If he didn’t like it, he would never bother me about it again. However, if he found a food he liked, he would harass me to get some for himself.  Fortunately, I didn’t mind sharing (unless it was cherry pie).

Green Iguana, Loa, on a tabletop
My Green Iguana, Loa, loved human foods.

Green iguanas are tree dwellers, so they are very good at climbing and jumping. If I was eating something Loa felt was tasty, soon he would leap onto the middle of the dining room table and join me. Often I would make a separate plate of my food for him to enjoy.  But when it came to cherry pie, neither of us wanted to share. It was all his! So, I’d take to the kitchen to eat my piece and leave him to eat his on the table!

My iguana, Algae, almost got me in trouble during a dinner party. She was enjoying a romp around the house before I had to confine her when my guests arrived (they weren’t as enthusiastic about iguanas as I am). I had made a lemon cake topped with mandarin oranges, a very refreshing dessert. I went to take a shower, only to return to Algae with her head buried in the cake, happily eating.  She turned to me with a look of innocence on her cake-covered face! Fortunately, my friends had a sense of humor and we enjoyed the part of the cake Algae hadn’t eaten.

Green Iguana, Algae, on an enclosure.
My Green Iguana, Algae, who loved lemon/mandarin orange cake.

And yes, I gave Algae and the other iguanas the remaining cake!

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook for Grades 2-4,  My Unit Study on Iguanas.  The  workbook includes Cyclura or Rock Iguana?, Iguana Facts, Iguana Puzzle, Iguana Lifecycle, Reptile Facts, Name the Reptile, Label the Parts, Compare Traits, Ecology Word Problems, Printing Letters,  Short i Sound, Counting, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, True or False; Mean, Median, Mode, Range; Using a Histogram, and Converting Grams to Pounds.

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

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The Land Building Tree by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A botanical Illustration of a Red Mangrove Tree SeedIf you’ve ever visited the ocean’s edge, you may have seen one of my favorite trees, the Red Mangrove, Rhizophora mangle. Red Mangroves are remarkable plants, able to live in salt water, thriving along the edge of the ocean. A Red Mangrove has prop-roots that extend down from its trunk to anchor the tree in the shifting sediment; the roots also are used to breathe air.

Fallen leaves and the prop-root structure encourage the buildup of sediment. Red Mangrove wood is unusually dense, so when a tree dies, the trunk sinks in water. The green leaves are darker on top than on the underside. Pink flowers appear in the spring. The trees have both sexes and are capable of self- or wind-pollination. A Red Mangrove produces a propagule, an elongated seed pod that lodges in sediment, sprouts roots, and grows into a new tree. The propagule can float in brackish water for over a year before rooting.

Red Mangrove seed sprouting its first green leaves in the water

So what does this process look like?

A mangrove seed came to rest offshore on a beach in Fort Myers, FL.  The seed sprouted out in the water in the sediment which is still being moved by the waves.

Red Mangrove leaves from a new tree break the surface of the water

The tree continues to grow, adding more branches and leaves that rise above the surface of the water.

A body of water with a large bird perched on a Red Mangrove tree barely showing above the surface of the water

Eventually, this one seed may grow into a dense group of red mangroves which will then provide habitat for other plants.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

A botanical illustration of a Red Mangrove seed, a character named Cerise in a children's book, Grow Home, Little SeedsIf you want to read an adventure story featuring a Red Mangrove, check out Cerise in my story called Grow Home, Little Seeds. A bundle of seeds have grown up together and want to remain close as they head out into the world. But Nature carries them to their own perfect environments to establish roots and grow into the magnificent trees they are each meant to be. They are not far from each other, however, and remain fast forest friends.

Learn about the following trees while sharing their seed-adventures with your favorite little one: the Black Mangrove, the Bromeliad, the Christmas Orchid, the Gumbo Limbo tree, the Lignum Vitae, the Mahogany, the Poisonwood, the Red Mangrove, the Sea Grape, the Shell Orchid, and the Silver Thatch Palm.

 

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Why Poetry is Important to Children by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A green and blue book cover, with a castle, title: A Child's Garden of VersesI was asked once, What was the first book I remembered reading as a child? It was Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. All through the years, I have enjoyed revisiting my favorite poems. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it is not age dependent. Sharing rhymes creates a special bond between children and adults. Both can learn and enjoy together.

Poetry has been shown to support cognitive development in children. Poetry improves language skills. Interestingly, children learn new words even if they don’t fully understand their meaning at that time. This helps prepare them for academic success, not only through language development, but also by increasing information and confidence. Poetry also improves imagination and creativity, and encourages an interest in reading and, in some people, writing poetry.

The rhythms in poetry are exciting to small children who love to dance and move to the beats and sing rhymes. This continues into adulthood. After all, song lyrics do usually rhyme.

That is why I have written three science-based children’s books in rhyme. It makes learning all about the creatures fun and interesting. Plus, I love vivid, colorful illustrations, which is a trait of my books. I get a lot of oohs and aahs from others, too. You’ll find the rhyming “Don’t” series here.

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle

 

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Photographers on the Beach by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Must I share my beach?

Ocean Florida coast with two birds where waves lap

I’m a morning person and I’m a beach person. I enjoy being on the beach, walking in the gently lapping waves as the sun rises. Sunrise also means I might have a chance at being alone on the beach with the birds and sea creatures.

Ocean, beach, photographer on knees with camera and huge lens on tripod

However, I often have to settle for an almost-empty beach. Invariably, there are photographers on my beach, taking photos of birds, waves, whatever. Most of the time you can tell they are serious photographers–their cameras sport huge lens and their backpacks are full of other lenses.  They wear vests with lots of pockets and hats to protect their gear and heads. I try to give them a wide berth.

ocean, beach, man in swimsuit squatted, photographing water, while a bird creeps up behind him

But then you have photographers like this guy.  Same huge lens, obviously dressed for a day at the beach. That’s more my style! And look, he’s walking in the waves, just  like me—well, kind of. I and that magnificent bird creeping up behind him as he intently photographs something else (oblivious to what’s going on right behind him) are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. LOL.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of the Curtis the Curly-tail Lizard Children’s adventure stories, which take place in the Bahamas, and of Fly Back to the Brac, Brian Brown Booby, which is based on a true story.

Brian Brown Booby, a young resident of Cayman Brac, finds himself stranded on a beach on Grand Cayman. It’s too far back for a booby to travel, even if Brian could fly, which he can’t. Does Brian make it back to the Brac? What happens to a booby that can’t fly? Based on a true story.

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Do All Turtles Have Hard Shells? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Do all turtles have hard shells?  No, they don’t. Some have “soft” shells.

A Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) swimming near the surface of a body of freshwaterPictured here is a Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox), native to the southeastern United States. This large turtle has a flat, pancake-like body, webbed feet, and a long neck which ends in a long head with a long nose. I looked across the lagoon to see several heads, but just the eyes and snouts above water.

In my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle, I describe turtles and tortoises having scutes, the individual panels of their hard shells. However, the softshell turtle’s carapace (the top shell) is cartilaginous, covered with a leathery skin. This the largest softshell turtle found in Florida, but more interestingly is that the females are often three-to-five times larger than the males!

Softshells spend most of their time in the water and can be found in freshwater and brackish environments, but they don’t like fast-moving water. They also enjoy burying themselves in the muddy substrate. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as sinking one’s self into mud.

Even though they are omnivores, these turtles are significant predators in their ecosystems, feeding primarily on meat. The lagoon where I enjoy viewing the softshell turtles also has alligators. So, when ducklings were being eaten, the gators were blamed, of course. Usually softshell turtles eat small aquatic animals and insects, but now and then, ducks are on their menu. It’s not always the gators!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

Don’t Call Me Turtle is a fun children’s book written in rhyme that tells the differences between turtles and tortoises–and there are LOTS of differences!

For those parents, teachers and tutors using educational supplements, Lyric Power Publishing offers high quality workbooks on turtles and tortoises, for lower and upper grades.

A light blue book cover with images of freshwater turtle and green sea turtlea green book cover with an image of freshwater turtlesa white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Terror on the Beach – It got Gnatsy! By Elaine A. Powers, Scriptwriter

A black book cover, with an illustration of a skeleton in a canoe, in a swamp

One morning, when I got out of the car to walk on the beach, I was assaulted. Instantly, I had the feeling of being stabbed by thousands of tiny knives. From my head to my ankles, and everything else exposed, I was being stabbed. I slapped, rubbed and wiggled, but nothing alleviated my torment. I looked at my arm and saw a multitude of tiny black specks – gnats! Due to their small size, they are also called no-see-ums. (Give me a big bulky mosquito any day.) The scientific name of the tiny, black, stabbing specks is Culicoides furens, though I shudder to type it.

I ran for the ocean, hoping to elude these vicious pests and found respite in the onshore ocean breezes as I waded out into the water. But this nasty gnat encounter did bring back memories of similar encounters that had inspired one of my favorite audio/reader’s theater scripts, In the Swamp. The full title is actually In the Swamp No One Can Hear You Scream. At the time I wrote it, the movie Alien was very popular and had the tagline “In space, no one can hear you scream.” I couldn’t resist.

My script tells the story of the investigation of what happened to people whose skeletalized remains are found after they don’t return from a canoe trip in a mangrove swamp in South Florida. Gnats are involved. I wrote the script as a horror-spoof, but half the audience usually feels it is a straight up, full on, frightening horror tale. Either way, it is also a fun romp through the swamp–inspired by true life events. It is one of two audio scripts compiled in my book, Mayhem in Swamp and Snow.

For more information on my scripts, visit www.elaineapowers.com. My scripts are available both as a printed book or as a Kindle e-book.  And performance rights are included with the purchase.

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Writing in Exotic Locales by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Many people go to exotic locations, like the Bahamas, to enjoy the beach and various water-related activities.  I go for inspiration and time to write.  Of course, not all locations are conducive for intensive writing.  Some don’t have a desk.  Or the sun glare is too bright to read the screen.  Then there’s the issue of having electricity accessible to keep your laptop charged.  However, sometimes, the situation comes together to make for a really special place to write.

Bahamian hotel balcony, with wooden fence, table and chairs. Laptop on table.This is the balcony of my room in the Pineapple Fields Resort on Eleuthera. It’s convenient to the beach and the Leon Levy Preserve.

Now if I could just keep my mind on the task at hand and ignore all the stories that are inspired by the location from taking over my writing time! Don’t worry, I made notes. (Ahhh, retirement. So many books to write, so little time.)

View of pool from Bahamian hotel wooden balcony. Blue pool, lush green palms and vegetation, ocean beyondYes, that’s the ocean beyond the pool.

I’ve been told that some writers go into a room with minimum distractions or an office with limited windows to do their work.

I just can’t imagine . . .

Elaine A. Powers is inspired by life and nature. It was a little fellow, well, bigger than her big toe, who climbed onto Elaine’s shoe on a Bahamian beach and hung out for a couple of hours, curling and uncurling his tail. After he left, Elaine went back to her room and the entire story, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, came to her in one sitting. Talk about your destiny calling! She weaves science into fun adventure stories or rhyming stanzas that kids and adults alike simply love. As we say here at Lyric Power Publishing, “Science is Fun!”

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where the tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers.

 

Sneakers on a beach, with a Cury-tail lizard on one of the shoes

Here’s the REAL Curtis who inspired the Curtis Cuirly-tail series of books. Heck, he even has his own YouTube channel now!

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Do You Believe in Omens? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A sunrise in the Bahamas, beach, trees, yellow, pink and purple skyDo you believe in omens, especially of good things about to happen? Or, is it that life is just better and we are more happy and positive when we are experiencing the things we enjoy?

There was the morning I wanted walk the beach at sunrise. I woke up early on my own–no need for the alarm to jar me awake. But as I gathered my keys to head out, I heard the pop-pop-pop of raindrops on my roof. I went out and stood. It was just a few sprinkles, nothing too wetting. Perhaps the sun would burn the clouds off.

When I arrived at the beach–no rain. I marveled at the colors of the sky as the sun rose. The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

Then I turned around. A rainbow stretched across the sky.  I kept backing up but couldn’t get the entire rainbow in one photo, so I’ve pieced it together here.

Composite photo of beautiful Florida rainbow

I had enjoyed a few minutes of walking in the waves when I heard thunder and the raindrops commencing in earnest.  I returned to the car and drove home, the rain getting steadily harder. As I pulled into the driveway, a male Northern cardinal landed on the tree beside me.  As I reached for my phone, the female joined him. Unfortunately, I only have a memory of them. As I entered the house, the heavens opened, releasing a good steady soaking rain.

I knew this is going to be a good writing day.

Elaine A. Powers is both a biologist and musician, two aspects of her nature that culminated in a writing career during her retirement. She creates science-based stories that are fun to read. Her first story was inspired by a Bahamian Curly-tailed lizard who climbed onto her shoe and stayed for a couple of hours–apparently transmitting his story to her! As her animal characters go on adventures, we learn about their habitats and the dangers they face, or she cleverly weaves science facts into rhyme. Her books are beautifully illustrated and loved by children and adults alike. You can see them all here.

A bright green children's book cover, showing a Five-Fingered Fairy riding a Bahamian Boa

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.