Of Bunnies and Birds and Apples and Poetry

Ever since I learned to crochet, I’ve always loved discovering and trying new crochet patterns. I’ve made sweaters, afghans, and numerous amigurumi patterns including these:

Exp Crochet1

Traveling Tu bunny pattern by Doris Yu

Apple and bird patterns by The Wandering Deer

Exp Crochet2

I had the same love of experimentation back when I first put pen to paper. Case in point: Back in first grade I wrote my first song with a friend.

We don’t wanna play with Jennifer
Jennifer
Jennifer
We don’t wanna play with Jennifer
Because she’s soooo bad.
Yeah!

We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna play with Jenn-Jennifer

We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna play with Jennifer!

We actually sang this to Jennifer. Yes, I was a brat, I am ashamed to say. Needless to say, this song did not make the Billboard list.

Anyway, besides song writing, over the years I dabbled in other poetic forms (haiku, iambic pentameter even!), and also wrote stage plays and screenplays, short stories, devotionals, graphic novels, novels, newspaper and magazine articles, and product ads. Now, when I say “wrote” the above, I made several failed attempts at some of them. But I at least wanted to try my hand at every form of writing I could, because experimenting was fun. And I netted some sales as a result

So why is it that nowadays, I have steered less toward experimenting and more toward the tried-and-true forms of writing I have done over and over again? I don’t actually expect you to answer that question by the way. I know the answer: fear of rejection. You would think after receiving literally hundreds of them I wouldn’t fear rejection so much. But I realize now how much having a fear-of-rejection mindset has hampered me.

I love how Jill Weatherholt, who is the winner of When in Vanuatu by the way (click here for the interview with the awesome author, Nicki Chen), kept trying to get a story published by Woman’s World. She didn’t let “no” stop her. She kept writing and submitting stories because she loved to do so.

90216397F079 9781647420345_fc-2

I want to return to my writing experiments. I’m in the middle of a novel that needs more of my past pioneering spirit.

What about you? Do you like to experiment?

Author photo and cover courtesy of Nicki Chen. Author photo by LifeTouch. Other photos by L. Marie.

Ready for Work for Hire?


Over the years, people have stated to me that they want to do certain types of editorial work. These statements usually occur after the person hears of a project I’m working on—copy editing; line editing; developmental editing; indexing; ghostwriting; devotional writing; fiction writing; nonfiction picture book writing; curriculum—whatever.

Wanting to do something and being ready to do it are two completely different things.

What does that mean? you might ask. If I want to do something, that means I’m ready to do it.

Not necessarily, if you don’t fully know what you’re getting yourself into. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

Work for hire, being hired to perform a specific task, has certain demands. Since work for hire is a broad topic, I’ll narrow it to writing. Many publishers hire freelancers to write series they have developed, curriculum projects, etc. You’ve seen many of these online and at stores like Walmart and Target. For many of these projects, you either have to know an editor who is hiring or have an agent who can get you in. But sometimes publishers cast a wide net and advertise that they are looking for writers.

So you want to be a freelancer? Ready to stick your oars into the waters of work for hire? Here’s a quiz to test that readiness.

• When it comes to writing, I like to have total say over whatever I write. True False
• If I have written something, when the final product comes out, I want to see pretty much what I’ve written—nothing (or not much) altered. True False
• I see deadlines as guidelines, rather than hard-and-fast rules. For example, if the deadline is Monday, I have met the deadline if I get the work to the editor by 9 p.m. True False
• If I have written anything, I want to receive a royalty for it. True False
• I cannot write for someone else’s vision. True False

If you answered True to most of the above, work for hire might not be the direction to steer your boat toward. Usually, a flat rate is offered for the work. This is not a royalty contract (for which a certain amount in advance is given). Once paid, that’s all you get, even if what you’ve written sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, since you are not the copyright holder, whoever holds the copyright has the right to make whatever changes are deemed necessary.

On some occasions I looked at the finished product and barely recognized a single word I wrote.

Welcome to the world of work for hire. Still, I have worked on many fun projects. Since all of them were done under my given name (L. Marie being a pen name) or someone else’s name (in regard to ghostwriting), don’t expect a list of them here.

As for why I brought up the deadline issue, many editors are sticklers about the deadline, which means handing over the manuscript during the workday (not after five p.m.). Some editors are a little more lenient, especially if you have an excuse for being late (illness, family emergency, etc.).

So that’s just a small taste of the work-for-hire life. I didn’t get into the tax aspect, because that’s a whole ’nother ballgame.

Now Hiring from shareicon.net. Royalty image from somewhere on Pinterest.

Butterflies

I don’t know about you, but on a sunny day at this time of year, I think about butterflies, even if this is not the season for them. Sure, it would be lovely to see a Monarch butterfly, which are common in my area in late summer.

But I can’t help wondering about butterflies that are a little more unusual, like

The glass-winged butterfly. This wonder can be found in Panama, Mexico, and Colombia.

The dead leaf butterfly, aka Kalima inachus, which can be found in Vietnam, India, Japan, and Thailand. This butterfly should sign up to join a surveillance organization immediately.

Photo: Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 380m a.s.l.

88 butterfly aka Diaethria anna and Anna’s eighty-eight, which can be found in Central and South America and sometimes in Texas

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, which was named after Alexandra of Denmark). It can be found in Papua New Guinea. I’m sure you’ve heard that this is the world’s largest butterfly, with some having a one-foot wingspan. I have this one on my island in Animal Crossing.

Zebra Longwing, which can be found in Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies

I also think of butterflies because of the idiom, butterflies in my stomach. Why do I think of this? I am auditioning for freelance writing. I usually get butterflies with an impending deadline, especially if there is no guarantee that I will get the gig. But I have to turn in a sample chapter this coming Monday.

Do you have a favorite butterfly? Please comment below and tell me. (I am partial to the Monarch, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, and the glass-winged butterfly.) And Charles, get ready to see the light with your alpaca lights! (Click here for the post on that giveaway.)

Monarch butterfly from Wikipedia. Glass-winged butterfly photo from allpicts.in. Dead leaf butterfly from bugsaliveblogspot. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing butterfly photo from sakepedia.blogspot. Zebra longwing from Wikimedia. Alpaca lights from Amazon.

This Is Winter

 

Don’t let the sunshine fool you. I took these photos while standing outside in -7 degrees Fahrenheit/-21 Celsius air (-25F/-31C wind chill at the time). Lest you wonder why, I was on my way to start my car. When your car is old and you’re parked outside in weather like this, you need to start it every day, even if you don’t go anywhere.

The car gave me attitude, acting like it didn’t want to start (I have a sudden flashback to my teenage years and how I was in the morning), but I was determined that it would start.

The next day, the temperature was a balmy 14 degrees to allow for more snow. Wheeeee!

On the day that I’m writing this, earlier I crunched outside (snow crunches, in case you are wondering about my verb choice) to start the car and to brush the powdery snow off so that I could head to the store, since we’re expecting—you’ll never guess what—more snow.

At the time (6:48 a.m.) the temperature was one above zero. A thirty-two-degree day seems almost tropical. I can’t remember the last time we had one. Maybe the week before last? Three weeks ago?

It’s amazing what you get used to. I’m now used to the rhythm of going outside, armed with my tools, just to be able to move my car.

My best friends now.

  

The shovel is the MVP. Not shown is the windshield screen a pastor gave me out of pity.

I can’t help thinking of the line spoken by Richard in Richard III, Act I, Scene I—the first line in the play in fact:

Now is the winter of our discontent.

But you have to read the next line to get more context:

Made glorious summer by this sun of York

Okay, maybe that line doesn’t provide a ton of context. It is interesting how Richard is being sarcastic here as he contemplates his misery during a supposedly happy time, thanks to his brother becoming King Edward IV. This is not a post on Richard III, so I won’t go into the why of this, though you could check out David Morrissey performing the soliloquy from which the above line derives. (If for some reason the video below disappears, click here to view it.)

But the contrast of happy days (summer) to dark days of war epitomized by winter was too apt for me to ignore. And yet . . .

I have to let the temptation of yearning for summer, or even spring, pass. It’s so easy for me to long for what’s to come (warmer temperatures), instead of living in the now (the freezer).

After all, freshly fallen snow enabled me to spot these:

Coyote tracks from a couple weeks back; the pack has taken shelter somewhere else lately.

I’ve also gotten to know several neighbors simply because we were all out shoveling snow around our cars.

This is winter. This is now. And yes, that wreath hangs on my door.

When the snow photo above was taken, the temperature had climbed to 16 degrees Fahrenheit /-8 Celsius. Good job, Winter! I knew you had it in you.

Photos by L. Marie

Gripped


I always think of the branches of this tree as the fingers of a cupped hand. Yes, winter has a firm grip in this area. It simply won’t let go. Even last night we had a fresh snowfall, one of many we have had. Even as I type this post, snow continues its “take that and that and that—mwahahahaha” approach.

While I might think of winter as the ultimate supervillain, I can’t help thinking of Wintersmith, in which the late great Terry Pratchett depicted winter (aka the Wintersmith) as an extremely confused would-be lover determined to woo a love interest, regardless of the cost to her community.

The fingers of winter, which that tree represents, inspired me to think about the things that have gripped me lately. One of those things has been discouragement and rejection. Okay, that’s two things, you might be saying. But I typed one and the other came along for the ride. Glancing at some of my old posts (I don’t make a habit of doing that; from time to time I copy photos and links from old posts), I can’t help noticing how I use to write more from a well of greater joy. But within the last year or so, the well had run dry.

Even in other types of writing—short stories, novels, nonfiction—I picked at the words like a young kid might pick at a vegetable on his or her plate. (“Do I have to eat that? Okay, how many do I have to eat?”) It was just a chore.

Some of the feeling of writing as a chore came from discouragement over the rejection of others. (See, that’s why I only said discouragement and rejection were one thing, rather than two. Totally planned it. . . . You’re not buying that, are you?) It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve queried agents and publishers. Gotta expect a certain amount of rejection, we’re told. But every once in a while, it gets to you. I’m not made of stone after all.

And then last week, I watched a video of a guy singing and playing the piano. He had so much joy. And I realized what was missing—the joy of writing.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to trade stories back and forth because we loved writing them. We didn’t care about style or how “good” they were. We wrote for the fun of it.

That’s joy.

I let the measurement of others take that from me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying I should never go through rejection. What I am saying is that I started second- and third-guessing myself because of what others have said. Consequently, writing became onerous. It bore a weight—the weight of trying to measure up to whatever standards someone else has—it should never have borne.

Please don’t misunderstand me again. (I have to throw that out there, because I’m really thinking this through and realizing things as I write this.) There are standards of excellence. I believe in that wholeheartedly. What I am saying is that I want to take myself out of the grip of a pre-rejection mindset—thinking that whatever I do will be rejected, so what’s the point?

If by now you’re scratching your head and wondering what on earth I am babbling about, think of this as a therapy session you stumbled into inadvertently. Or maybe you too have been gripped by something you want to shake free of. (See, that sentence was not exactly grammatically correct, but we’re shaking ourselves out of the grip of stuff right now, so . . . yeah.)

So I wrote this post and didn’t give it two thoughts. Just wrote it because I wanted to write it. And the fact that I wanted to write it—really wanted to—calls the tears to my eyes and a hope in my heart that I’m back. Back to joy.

Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: A Home for Her Daughter

I’m so pleased to welcome to the blog today the fabulous Jill Weatherholt. Many of you know her and love her. She’s here to talk about her latest Love Inspired novel, A Home for Her Daughter, which was published on August 25.

 

      Here’s the synopsis:

One little girl could change her mom’s mind about love…To give her daughter a brighter future…she must leave the past behind. Inheriting a house, money and a camp is the fresh start Janie Edmiston has been praying for. But the will stipulates Janie must work with her childhood friend—and crush—Drew Brenner, to get the camp running…or lose it all. The newly divorced mother and the widower aren’t looking for love, but sometimes it takes a child to show two broken hearts the way forward…together.

Since Jill is known for her Would you rather . . .? interviews, I decided to use the same format with her.

El Space: Would you rather research and write your next book in Paris or Hawaii?
Jill: Definitely Hawaii. I’m not a city person at all. The ocean is my happy place. The sound of the waves, the smell of the salty air, the gentle breeze, the feel of the sand on my bare feet. I’m ready to go now! I could walk for miles and miles. For me, it’s the perfect place to be still.

El Space: Would you rather have to write a novel next to a room in which a baboon will screech for three minutes every hour for nine hours or write with the knowledge that at some point in the day, an unknown animal will suddenly appear (no advance warning) and brush you with its tail feathers for fifteen minutes?
Jill: I’ll take the baboon. I’m not a fan of surprises, so the idea of something suddenly appearing without notice, would scare me to death. Plus, I’m very ticklish. I could prepare for the baboon’s visits. I like to be prepared.

El Space: Would you rather have coffee or tea for deadline days?
Jill: Coffee for sure! I do enjoy tea, and I drink a lot of it in the winter months to stay warm, but I’ve yet to find one strong enough. I need that jolt. I drink my coffee black and extra strong. Derek has often referred to my cup of joe as “motor oil.”

El Space: You’re celebrating the release of your novel. Would you rather have a slice of cake, a cupcake, or the world’s finest granola bar?
Jill: Granola bar? Seriously? No way! I’m celebrating. Give me the slice of cake and cupcake, but only if it’s chocolate. Anything else is wasted calories.

Thanks, Jill, for putting up with my strange questions!
Looking for Jill? You can find her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Looking for A Home for Her Daughter? (I couldn’t help chuckling at how that question sounded if taken out of context.) Head to Jill’s website for places to purchase. But one of you will find this lovely book in your very own mailbox. Winner to be announced on October 15.

Author photo courtesy of the author. Baboon image from blogspot.com. Hawaii image from Wallpaper Cave. Coffee image from Cup of coffee from clker.com. Granola bar image from the Food Network.

Check This Out—War of Nytefall: Ravenous

The world of the Dawn Fangs is about to explode into chaos thanks to Desirae Duvall.

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

In the shadows of Windemere, fangs are sprouting from the least likely of maws.

News is spreading that wild beasts with vampiric natures have been attacking mortals and carrying off random victims. With the Dawn Fangs still a secret from mortal society, Clyde fears that these strange creatures will reveal his peoples’ existence before they are ready. Old enemies and trusted friends begin to disappear as the investigation goes deeper into a business that has been lurking in the shadows of Windemere for decades. Those who return are beholden to a new master whose cunning is matched only by her primal desires. As his allies disappear, Clyde is left with the one he trusts the most in all of the world to help him solve this mystery. Too bad Mab has her own secret that can cause more damage to Nytefall than any vampiric beast.

Is this how the Dawn Fangs will be revealed to Windemere?

Still need more to wet your appetite? Then enjoy this excerpt:

Titus shrugs the girl off his shoulders and grips his blades, but refuses to draw them to avoid causing a scene. The warriors around him are on edge from overhearing Lost’s words and seeing his reaction, but they follow his example and keep their weapons sheathed. The Vengeance Hounds know that it is only a matter of time before the mortals with weaker wills lose control and drive the others into panic. They can hear the rumors of a deadly beast stalking the hunting party ripple through the crowd, each telling more gruesome and bone-chilling than the previous version. Several warriors ignore the warnings of their companions and draw their weapons, but keep them out of sight. Two of the casters begin to chant, which is revealed by the sparkle of magic on their lips. One by one, the lines of warriors stop walking and assume various defensive formations. Frustrated by the collapse of her army, the priestess turns around and tries to assure everyone that they are safe. Standing in the middle of the blossoming chaos, the Vengeance Hounds can only watch as the woman loses her temper and shouts at the archers who were supposed to maintain control.

The warriors go silent when a booming roar erupts from above and a large shadow passes over the area. With a gurgling scream, the priestess collapses in a heap and stares unblinking at the sky. The archers move away from the drooling woman, whose breathing has stopped as if she has been instantly turned off. Landing in front of the hunting party, a crimson-scaled Verenstone Dragon unfurls its muscular tails with one to each side and the other arching over its reptilian head. The thick ridge of black hair going down its back rustles and shivers in the breeze, which heats up as the monster bellows once more. Curled against its side are wings composed entirely of blue flame that licks at the trampled grass, but they are not hot enough to ignite the emerald blades. Leaning forward, the terrifying predator sniffs at the braindead priestess and chuckles before swallowing the body whole. In the brief moment that its mouth is open wide, the Vengeance Hounds notice that two of its teeth are changing as if they are stretching out of the gums. The plaque-covered ivory is curved in a way that makes it clear that they are fangs and the beast is in desperate need of a fresh meal. Its eyes scan the mortals and stop on the three Dawn Fangs for a moment, but it is enough to tell them that the cunning creature recognizes their true nature.

“A vampiric dragon,” Titus mutters under his breath.

Get War of Nytefall: Ravenous on Amazon for $2.99!
Add it to your Goodreads To-Read Lists!

*****

Need to catch up? Then, check out Volumes 1-4 of War of Nytefall!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere? Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy the adventure by clicking here!

Hi! L. Marie here. Comment below to be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of War of Nytefall: Ravenous. Winner to be announced on September 15.

Hand Sewn/Sown

When I was a kid, my mother taught me to sew by hand. Though we didn’t own a sewing machine, she said I needed to learn the basics, like sewing on a button or sewing a hem on pants or a skirt. So I learned two basic stitches—the running stitch and the whip stitch. Later I bought this book, which lists other stitches. (This article lists some of the stitches I learned.)

Sewing anything by hand takes time and patience, especially if the goal for whatever you’re working on is that it be neat and durable. One day, however, I’d like to learn to use a sewing machine. (My sister-in-law has one.) That would certainly save time.

  

Stitches on felt

As I pen this post about hand sewing, I can’t help thinking of how I used to write everything—stories, poems, and even novel drafts—on legal pads or notebook paper. But when I acquired one computer after another, I stopped writing most things by hand, with the exception of some letters and some journal entries. (Yes, I still write letters. Not a ton, but a few in a month.)

The thing is, I type faster than I write by hand, which is why I turned to the keyboard many years ago. I reasoned, why not cut out the middle man by writing on the computer, rather than writing on paper and then having to type my handwritten text. But the words I’ve sown by hand on paper seem to have more depth. When I take time to physically write, I wind up writing more.

At first I thought that was just my perception. But an online article “Your First Book: Handwriting vs. Typing. How to Write It?” by Zoe Nixon states

Depending on the individual, some people confess that writing by hand allows their creative minds to work easier than when they type.

Here is yet another article on the subject: https://www.simonandschuster.com/getliterary/benefits-writing-longhand-versus-computer/

And another: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/03/creative-writing-better-pen-longhand

While I doubt that I’ll return to writing a whole novel by hand, I know the value of writing tricky scenes by hand. As one of the above articles suggested, I often doodle as I write. If I have multiple characters to maneuver in a scene, drawing their positions on paper (standing or sitting? punching first or dodging?) helps me write about them more effectively. This tactic also helps me discern if a scene is too overcrowded and in need of adjustment.

What about you? Do you first write by hand or do you enter your text on a computer first? Let me know in the comments!

Though her chicken is excited at having written her first novel, Pinkie Pie thinks it needs a revision. All of the dialogue consists of only one word, “Cluck.”

Computer from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie.Pinkie Pie, computer, and chicken are from the My Little Pony Equestria Girls Minis Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set by My Little Pony.

Check This Out: An Impossible Distance to Fall

On the blog today is the second of my awesome Secret Gardener classmates, the marvelous Miriam McNamara. No stranger to the blog is Miriam. (Click here for her last visit.) She’s here to talk about her young adult historical novel, An Impossible Distance to Fall, published by Sky Pony Press on July 2. (Click here for a synopsis.)

   

Miriam is represented by Linda Epstein. After our conversation, stay tuned to hear about a giveaway of An Impossible Distance to Fall.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Miriam: 1. I’ve never flown a biplane or wing walked, but like Birdie, I’ve always loved to dance! The dance scenes were some of the most fun for me to write as I played with how movement and emotion interact in the body creatively. Yum!


2. I went to college pretty young—when I was sixteen—around the time a lot of upheaval in my family of origin was happening. When I got to school, I was kind of adopted by a group of queer upperclassmen who looked out for me and invited me to things, and made sure I was doing okay. Birdie’s departure from her family and integration into the barnstorming circus is based on that experience.
3. I started this novel during the Recession after 2008, when the stock market crash of 1929 and how it affected people seemed particularly relevant. My generation and the young adults of today are still dealing with a lot of financial uncertainty, so I think these lessons of the past are particularly interesting.


4. I have a lot of tattoos, but Birdie’s tattoo that she gets in the novel is based on a stick-and-poke tattoo that I gave my friend Ivy in college. It was a flock of bird silhouettes, just like Birdie’s, and done in the same manner, with a needle and thread and India ink.

Miriam at her book signing at MOON PALACE BOOKS in Minneapolis

El Space: Your last novel was about pirates. What was the inspiration behind this novel about wing walkers and a barnstorming circus in 1930?
Miriam: A nonfiction writer read aloud from a work-in-progress about a real-life wing walker from the ’20s at a workshop I attended, and my mind was blown. I’d never heard of such a thing. As I listened to her read I thought, I would NEVER take such an insane risk as walking out on the wing of a flying airplane! But at exactly the same time, I remembered who I was when I was sixteen, and knew that that me would have done it in a heartbeat. It made me want to write a story about that person.

El Space: What do you hope teens will gain from your main character Birdie’s life and the times in which she lived?
Miriam: Birdie’s external life explodes when the stock market crashes—but what causes her deepest pain is the loss of her father when he disappears. For young Birdie, life and her dad both seemed ideal. She has to learn to accept that things aren’t always perfect. People and circumstance will let you down over and over. You have to love and honor the good stuff while acknowledging that other stuff sucks and it’s okay to be hurt and to grieve. And when your life explodes or falls apart, it also leads to so much possibility and openness that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Storms bring rainbows, you know?

El Space: Birdie interacts with a large cast of characters who aid in her evolution as a character. Who were the most fun or the most challenging to write about?
Miriam: I think the most challenging for me was Gilda, the woman that Birdie’s father chases after. Birdie initially thinks of her as this Jezebel character who has stolen her father away. It was challenging to really communicate Gilda’s complexity. She plays this seductive character professionally as a lounge singer, but she’s actually a real person who did nothing wrong, and Birdie’s anger is misplaced. It took me a few tries to show who she really is beyond the role she plays in Birdie’s life, which leads to a lot of growth in Birdie.

The most fun to write, though! It’s so hard to choose. I loved writing Colette, the tattooed lady; she’s so cranky and deadpan and soooo NOT impressed with Birdie—but then at the crux of the novel, Colette lets Birdie know that she sees and values the person struggling inside of Birdie’s perfect veneer.

But then there’s June. Sigh. . . . I love writing a love interest! June is so sexy. I loved writing her lanky tomboy-in-a-flight-suit Southern Charmer personality.

 

El Space: This is your second historical fiction novel. What is it about historical fiction that appeals to you?
Miriam: I love reading historical fiction, but queer people, especially queer women, have been so written out of history, always relegated to tragic plot devices if they are included at all. I want to write them back into history, and give them so much love and life and joy along with their struggles.

El Space: What was your research process? How did you keep the details you gleaned from research from overwhelming the story you wanted to tell? [One of the tips offered for historical fiction writers in this post here.]
Miriam: With my first novel, I often felt like the details overtook my narrative! The struggle is real. With this novel, I let the narrative guide me into my research. How did banks fail? How did the larger stock market crash impact the financial chain? Who were some wing walkers and women pilots and barnstormers I could use for inspiration? I tried to stick to the story I wanted to tell without getting sidelined by too many interesting details as I came across them. Once I had a strong narrative, then I went back to add in a lot more fun historical stuff—and that led to a lot of richness being layered in once the story was there.

El Space: What books or authors inspire you?
Miriam: This year I decided I was going to read as many books by queer people about queer people as possible. I am very inspired by LGBTQ+ authors telling their stories, especially for young readers. So over the past few months I’ve been super inspired by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, some VCFA friends who are writing all sorts of queer stories; I finally was introduced to Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s graphic novels, which are amazing; I read awesome books by Kacen Callender and Lev Rosen and Alex Gino; and a Minneapolis author, Junauda Petrus, has a queer young adult love story coming out this fall called The Stars and the Blackness Between Them that I haven’t read yet, but I’ve heard excerpts read aloud, and I know it’s going to inspire the hell out of me.

 

El Space: What will you work on next?
Miriam: I’m taking a break from research and writing a contemporary YA novel, but I also have an idea for a historical fantasy that I’m itching to write. I’m definitely taking it slow and feeling out where I want to go from here. Publishing two books in the past two years has been such a whirlwind, accompanied by a lot of life craziness. I could go anywhere from here, you know? Kinda like Birdie. Anything is possible from here. . . .

Thanks, Miriam, for being my guest!

Looking for Miriam? Look no further than her website or Twitter. On Instagram she is booklovemiriam.

Looking for An Impossible Distance to Fall? (Taken out of context, that question is very interesting.) Check out your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound. Also look no further than your very own mailbox or Kindle (if you prefer), since one of you will get a copy of this book simply by commenting below! Winner to be announced one day next week.

Royal Bee looks skeptically on as Neon practices her wing walker routine. “Looks more like a mummy walking than like Birdie,” Royal Bee quips.

Book cover and author photo courtesy of Miriam McNamara. Author photo by Rose Kaz at Rose Photo. Other book covers from Goodreads. Wing walker image from wallpaperim.net. Dance image from clipground.com. Newspaper clipping from balkanplumbing.com. Old airplane photo from pxhere.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Neonlicious and Royal Bee OMG dolls are products of MGA Entertainment, Inc.

Check This Out: Brother, Sister, Me and You and Other National Geographic Kids Books

It’s not every day that I get to welcome to the blog one of my awesome grad school advisors. But here today is the one and only Mary Quattlebaum! She’s here to talk about the National Geographic Kids books she wrote, which were published by Penguin Random House, and include Brother, Sister, Me and You.

      

  Author photo by Michelle Rivet

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Mary: 1. I am the oldest of seven kids.
2. My favorite food is popcorn.
3. One of my favorite jobs was as an 18th century tavern wench for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
4. All the dogs I’ve lived with as an adult have been rescue dogs, in one way or the other. One dog, Charlie, even conveyed with the house we bought, because the owner was going to put him in a shelter.

Mary with her elderly border collie Shine. Photo by Christopher David.

El Space: You’ve written a ton of books for kids, including your rhyming Jo MacDonald series and other picture books like Mighty Mole and Super Soil, The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans, and Pirate vs. Pirate, as well as your Jackson Jones novel series. Today, let’s talk about the National Geographic Kids books you wrote in the last few years: Brother, Sister, Me and You; National Geographic Kids Chapters: Hero Dogs; and National Geographic Kids Chapters Together Forever: True Stories of Amazing Animal Friendships! Many of your stories feature animals and the environment. Please tell us why that was important to you.

 

Mary: I’ve always been curious about the natural world, probably because I grew up in the country. And now there’s the added concern about the effect of climate change and pollution on the environment. Humans are deeply connected to other species, historically and in the present moment; we’re all part of an ecosystem. With my books—whether fiction or nonfiction—I guess I try to bring that connection to the fore and celebrate it. Plus, animals and plants are pretty amazing! Did you know that beaver kits help to care for younger siblings? And that a female guppy gives birth to live fry—sometimes 200 within a few hours?

El Space: Wow! I did not know that! How did you come to write nonfiction? What is the research process like for each project?
Mary: First of all, congratulations on your forthcoming nonfiction books! I’m looking forward to reading them!

El Space: Thank you. 😊
Mary: Now to your question: I’ve always enjoyed research, and for years I’ve written freelance articles for The Washington Post and other publications. But I had a palm-to-the-forehead moment when I wrote my Jo MacDonald books and realized the pleasures and challenges of writing narrative nonfiction for kids. Now, I’m doing both narrative nonfiction and straight nonfiction books. The narrative nonfiction chapter books often involve interviews—similar to what I do as a freelance journalist—as well the usual deep research into primary and secondary sources for traditional nonfiction.

   

El Space: I always roll my eyes when someone comments that writing a book for young children “must be easy.” What were the challenges of writing these books?
Mary: Well, when writing nonfiction, one big challenge is to ensure the accuracy of each fact, while presenting it in a way that’s going to engage kids. So, writers are always thinking carefully about sound, rhythm, sentence structure, etc. For Brother, Sister, Me and You, for example, I wanted a range of animals—not just cute mammals—and I wanted strong verbs so that children could act out the movements of the featured animals. So, I watched a lot of animal videos to make sure those verbs were accurate as well as fun. I also went to a pet store and looked at a tank of guppies to make sure that those little fish did, indeed, “flash with finny flicks.”

El Space: You teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts and you review books for The Washington Post, Washington Parent, and probably others I’m forgetting. How do you fit everything in?
Mary: Writers with families seem to juggle so much—deadlines, family responsibilities, teaching! Now, that my daughter is in college, time pressures have eased a bit, which makes for more time to walk the dog and garden—or at least think about gardening 😊—and to watch Schitt’s Creek. And I have to say, it’s a pleasure to work with motivated writing students who want to learn and grow, whether in Washington, DC, where I live, or at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I had a great time working with you, L. Marie, and I’m thrilled for you with your forthcoming books.

El Space: You are making me blush, Mary! When I was a student, you told me to experiment with poetry based on the prompts in The Aspiring Poet’s Journal by Bernard Friot. I copied this quote from a handout you gave me: “The book gets one thinking not just about words on the page but about ‘seeing’ and experiencing the world in a creative, ever-present way.” Why is the exercise of writing poetry helpful for novelists or nonfiction writers?


Mary: So glad you’re still exploring poetry and wordplays! For me, anyway, there is nothing like the reading and writing of poetry to encourage a deep awareness of and appreciation for the possibilities of language. Every word and every mark of punctuation is important, sound and rhythm are paramount. And the writing of poetry seems to call for an attentiveness to the world, an alertness to the extraordinary in even ordinary moments. Dogs seem to be wonderful models for living in the present moment. I love seeing how our dog takes in his surroundings, with curiosity and gusto.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Mary: I’m now beavering away on an animal-related early-reader project.

Thank you, Mary, for being my guest!

Looking for Mary? Look no farther than her website! If you subscribe to The Washington Post or Washington Parent, look for her book reviews.

Looking for Brother, Sister, Me and You or any of Mary’s other books? Check your local bookstore, Amazon, Dawn Publications, Indiebound, or Barnes and Noble or your own doorstep, since one of you will be given a copy of this book or any of Mary’s books of your choosing simply because you commented below.

Since this week I will feature another wonderful author, I will announce the winners of both giveaways sometime next week!

The Squeezamals and Henry’s bear wonder when Mary will write a book about their friendship. They’re animals . . . sort of.

Book covers courtesy of Mary Quattlebaum, her website, or were found at Dawn Publications. Book spread courtesy of Mary Quattlebaum. See above for more photo attributions. Other photos by L. Marie. Squeezamals are a product of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company.