What do you do when you have a conundrum about a story?
Why you stop and write a blog post about it, of course!
Before I started writing books, I wrote audio theatre scripts. These scripts were intended to be broadcast over the radio or as audible stories. My first full-length script was recorded and published as a CD. Shrine of the Seven Iguanas is a tale of good and evil and about protecting the environment. It’s an action-packed story that includes a were-iguana (not a werewolf!).
After I moved to Arizona, I changed to writing books. I wanted to write murder mysteries but discovered the joy of writing science-based children’s books. However, Shrine really wanted to be rewritten as a novel. My first attempt was to make it into an adult thriller, but a novel is very different from an audio script. Instead of using sound, I had to describe the settings and scenery. The story just didn’t turn out.
Then I heard about how there was a strong market for middle grade novels. So, I tried to convert the script into a story with a pre-teen antagonist. I stumbled across how to change the minor character of the niece into the new protagonist, instead of the adult woman. But that was unsatisfactory, too. So, the story sat and waited.
One of my friends has started trying to write romance novels, something I really had no interest in doing. But then again, romance novels are number one in fiction sales. Shrine would make an excellent romance! I’ve tried scripts, mysteries and children’s books. Maybe a romance is the next genre for me to try!
(I’ll let you know how this works out.)
If you’d like to perform Shrine of the Seven Iguanas!, the use rights come along with the purchase of the two-part script, which is available at amazon.com.
However, not all trees are revered. Today, I’m going to discuss two that I have met in my citizen scientist work in the Caribbean. The first one is Poisonwood, Metopium toxiferum. A character, Polly Poisonwood, based on the poisonwood tree, is featured in the adventure tale Grow Home, Little Seeds. You can probably guess from its common name, the poisonwood is not a tree to embrace. Poisonwood belongs to the cashew family, which includes poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. There seems to be a theme in the names. Poisonwood resin contains urushiol, which causes severe dermatitis. It is so potent that water dripping off leaves is enough to irritate.
So, why don’t we just get rid of all the poisonwood? Even though the tree is not useful to people, the fruit is a major food source for the endangered white-crowned pigeon and the Bahamas parrot, as well as many migratory and local birds. These trees really are “for the birds.”
The second unloved tree is the Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, which I encountered in the Cayman Islands. It is considered to be one of the most deadly trees known to man. It is believed this tree was used to kill Juan Ponce de Leon. The name is from the Spanish word for little apple, manzilla, due to its fruit that resemble apples.
Every part of the tree contains toxins, which cause strong contact dermatitis. A drop of rain washing over the tree will cause blistering. The sap will even damage the paint on cars.
Machineel is a member of the spurges, so named from “purge,” because of their toxic saps. Poinsettias are also members of this family.
Why do people keep such a dangerous tree around? The fruit is deadly poisonous and toxic to birds and mammals. Most plants want the fruits to be eaten, so the seeds can be dispersed during defecation. Why have a toxic fruit? One group of animals is immune to the toxins and enjoy eating the machineel fruit. It’s my favorite group of animals – iguanas! These large lizards eat and disperse the seeds for the birds.
So, remember: Even though we may not like certain trees, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important to the certain birds or animals in the environment. They do need to be preserved for them and their eco-systems.
The two trees above are characters in the delightful children’s book, Grow Home, Little Seeds, about seeds that are raised together in a greenhouse and decide that when they are dispersed, they will all try to stay together. However, they learn along the way that they each need they own special place to put down roots, to grow up to be strong trees; but they remain good friends–as neighbors.
Writing is a solitary activity. Sure there are write-ins where authors gather to write en masse, and the absolutely essential critique groups where writers discuss what they’ve written, how to write, and bounce ideas off each other for story points. Let’s not forget the valuable writers’ organizations like Sisters in Crime and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators). All of these group activities are very important but, in reality, writing involves one person and a piece of equipment for recording the words.
How and where the writer writes is as varied as the individual. I like using my laptop but the where varies. I find I need a variety of inspiring locations, even if it is to change from the dining room table to standing at the counter, or sitting at my desk overlooking the desert. Of course, the solitary nature of writing is well known—definitely suited for the introvert.
But what about afterwards? What about after your words have become a book and you have to . . . market it? This is the terrifying part of the book business. Many authors say they are content with just giving copies of their book to friends and family. That’s sufficient.
I admit to those same thoughts in the beginning. But as I progressed in the world of book writing, I was forced to be more extroverted. I don’t believe I will ever be a true extrovert, but I have learned to enjoy being more extroverted. I have met many amazing people in the world of books because I dared to open up.
Walking into a shop to ask the manager to consider selling your book has to be the most terrifying act ever for an introvert. Yet, I have consistently found people to be receptive and willing to give an author consideration.
Most rewarding, however, is when children show interest in the books you’ve written for them. I know there is hope for the future when kids want to read a book instead of being consumed by an electronic device.
Writing and the end result can be the metaphorical key that opens the door to meeting many wonderful and interesting people. It may be uncomfortable at first, but is so rewarding in the end.
Elaine a Powers‘ most recent book is a favorite in Southern Arizona, where The Queen of the Night–the Night-Blooming Cereus blooms only one night per year in June. This rhyming book is available at amazon.com.
Writers really can be inspired by any situation. I’m a member of the Tucson Poetry Society. The best part of the meeting is the sharing of our poems and receiving friendly critique of our work. Everyone who attends is encouraged to participate. I usually have at least a few stanzas to share, but at the May meeting, I had no work to submit. After I admitted my lack of material with, “I ain’t got nothin,'” my creative juices began to flow. I had the poem below by the end of the meeting.
Yes, a meeting of poets can be inspiring. And the most amazing thing about the feedback, which was positive, was one comment that reptiles are not alluring. Hmmmm, another poem inspiration, perhaps?
No Title, Either Elaine A Powers
I ain’t got nothing,
I’ve nothing to read.
“Bring something to share,”
Were words I didn’t heed.
The muse, she wasn’t with me,
The words, they wouldn’t flow.
How would I create a poem?
I honestly didn’t know.
I listened to the others
Deep with insight and emotion,
There were frogs and bears
And fishes in the ocean.
Verses of faith and death,
And one about, What is still?
Which made me think of alcohol . . .
My mind does wander at will.
But I had nothing to offer,
I hadn’t had time to write.
I vowed that by next month’s meeting
I would accept the critique invite.
Oh, I have plenty of topics
Of that you can be sure.
Would a poem about iguanas
Convey their reptilian allure?
Perhaps something about impaction,
Since it had come up that day.
I could write about my iguana, Reggie,
And his foolish eating ways.
But listening to the others
My creative juices were squoze,
Maybe I will be inspired,
A worthy poem to compose!
Lyric Power Publishing‘s Supplemental Children’s Workbooks and Activity Sheets are used to dispel boredom during the long weeks of summer. Learn all about “alluring” reptiles such as iguanas, tortoises and turtles while completing the pages of the workbooks. 🙂
This is a tale of friendship. . . . a wacky tale involving a writers’ group, a funeral, a red woolen coat, long black hair and a master seamstress–but friendship is the heart of the tale.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, a woman’s mother passed away. This woman had lived in Arizona for many years and did not own a coat that would keep her warm in the snow when she went home for the funeral.
The woman’s writing-friend said, “Here, take my long, red, woolen coat. It kept me warm in New Jersey. It will certainly work in Nevada.”
The woman gratefully accepted the red woolen coat and set off on her journey. When she stopped at her son’s house a few hours later, she hung the beautiful coat in the closet, where she left it.
Thus, when she arrived at the halfway point, she borrowed yet another beautiful coat, light gray and suede-like—which she had in her hands for less than two minutes before she spilled coffee on it. No one could believe it, least of all the woman with the former cup of coffee. She proceeded to wash the spot and due to either grace or magic, the spot disappeared. The woman gratefully wore the second coat to her mother’s funeral and somehow managed to return it spot free.
On the way back from Nevada, the woman forgot the red woolen coat in her son’s closet. A month or so later, he returned it to her and the woman noticed holes in the front of the right side of the coat. Holes cannot be washed away…
This left the woman with quite the dilemma. She could not afford to replace the red woolen coat and could not, anyway, as it was a treasure from years back in New Jersey.
This tale of friendship deepens. The woman shared her woeful story with the owner of the red woolen coat, who was dismayed at the sight of the holes, but was very gracious and tried hard not to make the woman feel bad. The owner of the coat suggested sewing a large button over the hole. The woman loved this idea, as she was feeling very badly and wanted the hole to go away just like the stain had.
The woman then asked her other writing-friend (who happens to be a master seamstress) if she would please go with her to find the right buttons and sew them on properly. The master seamstress agreed–until she saw the hole.
“Oh, dear,” she said. “That will continue to unravel. It is going to have to be repaired before sewing buttons on.”
“Oh, dear,” the woman thought. “How can it possibly be repaired?”
The master seamstress realized the woman was beside herself and said, “I can repair it. But I need some strands of long, strong human hair.”
The woman wanted to cry. First, because her friend could repair the hole; and second, because she would have to find someone to give her some long, strong human hair.
So, what did the woman do? She called the young woman from whom she borrowed the gray, suede-like coat, the one she spilled coffee on, and begged for some of her long, dark hair. The young woman listened patiently to her sad story and said, “Yes.”
The woman could not believe it and her gratitude could not be adequately expressed. Who says yes to, “Can I have some of your hair?”
The woman waited and waited and the hair never came. Finally, she inquired and the young woman described the small envelope she had mailed her hair in. But it never came, so the young woman volunteered to send hair AGAIN. This tale of friendship deepens and the woman still can’t believe this part of the story! Easing the woman’s worried mind, when the second envelope arrived, so did the first, which the post office had held because it had only three digits of the four digit address.
The master seamstress graciously accepted delivery of the red woolen coat and the hair. She proceeded to find many small holes in the coat and decided she could not repair the big one and leave the rest. Repairing the big hole required pinning needles across the opening, first in one direction, and then the other, creating a loom, over which the seamstress sewed red strands from inside the lining of the coat onto the broken strands, using the human hair, which does not show. Suffice it to say that THIS IS A VERY TIGHT WEAVE, across severed strands and a hole about three-quarters of an inch across.
The woman did not ask how many hours this took the master seamstress because she had originally asked her friend to help her sew on a few buttons and the woman couldn’t bear to know the answer. Instead of two buttons, the seamstress chose to repair the coat, and she fixed the large hole in such a way that it does not show. She then sewed a decorative trim onto the coat, making it beautifully unique, and restored in such a way that the value cannot be measured because of her loving gesture toward both, “The Woman Who Should Never Borrow Coats” and the owner of the red woolen coat.
Though the owner of the red, woolen coat had not worn the coat in nine years, it has been agreed that she will now be wearing the coat—even if she has to drive to the snow. 😊
So, stay tuned for Lyric Power Publishing’s new not-related-to-publishing series, THE ADVENTURES OF THE RED WOOLEN COAT, just because it’s fun.
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!”
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!
I 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.
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.
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.
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.)
Yes, 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!”
Here’s the REAL Curtis who inspired the Curtis Cuirly-tail series of books. Heck, he even has his own YouTube channel now!
CURTIS CURLY-TAIL COMES ALIVE ON YOU TUBE!
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Learn about our latest science-based children’s books and workbooks. Read here about reptiles, birds, cats in a variety of locations. Read the blog to learn how the books come to be, what inspires an author to write, and many more interesting aspects of the publishing business.
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