Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Salon: November 29, 2015

I hope all my American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with good food, family and friends. We had a quiet celebration here - just the two of us - but it was nice and relaxing. The weather has not cooperated though... I'm tired of dreary days and ice covered trees. Hopefully we will see the sun again by Tuesday.

Friday, November 27, 2015

French Friday: Musee d'Orsay

While the Louvre is THE museum to see in Paris, for centuries housing some of the world's most valuable artwork, I prefer the Musee d'Orsay.

Originally built as a train station, the building was almost demolished in 1970 in favor of yet another Parisian hotel. Fortunately the station was saved and converted into a premier museum that now houses a vast collection of French Impressionist art.

The museum runs parallel to the Seine, and its twin clock towers, coupled with the high arch windows, makes the exterior as much a work of art as the masterpieces contained within.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Salon: November 22, 2015

While we did not experience the first snow of the season as some of our Midwest neighbors (I'm just a tad jealous...), winter is definitely peaking around the corner. I did light a fire this morning and snuggled with my blankie and cup of coffee.

Friday, November 20, 2015

French Friday: Beaujolais Nouveau

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!

The third Thursday of November is the official release of this fruity red wine.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes grown around Lyon, France. The grapes are harvested, fermented a short time (typically six weeks or so), and then shipped around the world.

Technically, the wine is not sold until 12:01am on the official date, creating quite a buzz of excitement for those who consider this a traditional start to the holiday season. I managed to score two bottles on Tuesday and quickly smuggled the contraband into the house before the wine police arrived.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Salon: November 15, 2015

Today is my sister-in-law and brother's birthdays. This is always the beginning of the holiday season for me. Thanksgiving is just a few days away, quickly followed by December, which means two birthdays, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. Before we know it, 2015 will be a memory.

This time of year is always a blur, yet I'm trying to enjoy each moment and live in the present as much as possible. How about you?

Friday, November 13, 2015

French Friday: First Impressionism

In 2010 I had an idea for a book.

A young American girl (Phoebe Cox) and her family are vacationing in France. While viewing artwork at the Musee d'Orsay, she finds herself transported to Paris, circa 1880.  Can the Impressionists help her find her way back to the 21st Century?

That was the gist of my idea. I had nothing else.

So for three years I researched. I explored the Impressionists, their paintings, and the time period. Slowly a story began to emerge.

Rehearsal on Stage would transport Phoebe to the past, and she is convinced another Degas painting is the secret to finding her way back home.

This would form the structure of my novel. Each chapter title would be the name of a famous Impressionist painting, and would some way feature in the storyline. While many of the paintings are by Degas, several are by other master artists of the time: Cassatt, Renoir, Monet, and Caillebotte.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

TSS: November 8, 2015

In case you haven't heard... our beloved Royals won the World Series!

I considered going to the ticker tape parade - for about two seconds. But  this reserved introvert would never survive the crowd of 800,000 people (area schools closed for the occasion, calling it a Royal Blue Snow Day). I did, however, enjoy watching the festivities from the comfort of my couch.

Now we find ourselves wondering what to do in the evenings since baseball season is over...


I completed my goal and finished the Prisoner of Azkaban - yay! I am now about three chapters into the Goblet of Fire and truly feel as though Harry, Ron, and Hermione are my close friends.

While I had read the first three books before (some of them several times), this is my first attempt to read book four. I am anxious to meet the new Teacher of the Dark Arts, and to discover the role Cedric plays in the story.

I keep the Harry Potter books on my nightstand and try to read at least a chapter a night. While the series is considered Middle Grade fiction, I still want to increase my reading in this genre, so I strive to read another MG  novel thirty minutes a day.

Currently I'm reading Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance. I won this book at a local library event, and it is absolutely perfect for me. The story line is similar to my own novel, so I can use it to help hone my writing craft, and yet it is different enough that I still think my story is viable.

Essentially Claudia, a young misfit, discovers life within famous works of art. She enters the canvas in the hope of rescuing Pim, a boy who was trapped in this alternate world several centuries ago.

I have only read the first three chapters, but so far there is enough adventure to hold the attention of a young reader, and enough art history to satisfy my desire to educate.


I spent yesterday at a local SCBWI writing convention (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). I joined the society in August, so this was my first official event. And I had a blast!

Old feelings surfaced as I walked into the building. What am I doing here? I am not a "real" author. But they didn't last long. About half the attendees were first-timers, and many of them were my demographic.

One of the benefits of attending the conference is the opportunity to submit to faculty - including agents and editors. I have six months to revise First Impressionism and then... if I dare... I can submit to Scholastic Books for consideration.

So, I have a lot of work to do!

Hopefully I will have an update next week (and each week after that). I need lots of accountability!


My objective for NaNoWriMo this year is to write 500 words/day - 5 days/week. So far I have stayed true to the goal.

This week my 500 words found their way into blog posts, which is good because I hope to develop a blogging routine as well.

On Wednesday, I wrote Introduction to Journaling, which is the first in what will be a twenty post series. I presented the basic outline from the Journaling towards Wellness class I taught this fall.

I also wrote a French Friday post, focusing on a few Paris picture books I have read to help me recognize tension and conflict in children's literature.

This week I hope to do more of the same: more reading, more writing, and even a day of photography with a good friend. I hope you have enjoyed this first week of November!

Friday, November 6, 2015

French Friday: Paris Picture Books

As many of you know, I am currently writing a Middle Grade novel. I completed the draft during NaNoWriMo 2013, but have done little work since.

Part of my struggle is the story's conflict - or lack of conflict, as the case may be. Since I spend most of my life trying to avoid difficulty, it is not easy for me to manufacture intentional struggles for my protagonist. However, a plot devoid of tension is not a story worth reading.

I definitely have work to do and decided to do a bit of research to help with the process.

I went the library and checked-out several picture books about Paris. I wanted to learn how children's writers develop conflict for their characters, in the hopes of inspiring me to create conflict for mine. While I found a dozen or more books to read, these few captured my attention both as a textbook and a storybook.

Emma in Paris by Claire Frossard. Emma is a sparrow from New York City who travels across the pond to visit family in Paris. The first task is to find her cousin's apartment, but that proves difficult when she doesn't know the language. After purchasing a French-English dictionary, she still has trouble finding anyone who knows the way. She finally meets a cat who can help, but Emma isn't sure whether to trust her or not. This is a sweet story that is suitable for young children, and it proved beneficial as a textbook as well.

A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino. A sweet story about a young girl and her grandfather as they wander the streets of Paris. More of a travel guide than a narrative, the main text is accompanied by additional historical footnotes. There is a wealth of information in this short book, making it great for older children who wish to learn more about Paris, as well as younger children who enjoy vivid pictures and simple story lines.

Minette's Feast by Susanna Reich. This is really the story of Julia during her early years in Paris, as told through the eyes of her adopted cat, Minette. Readers get a glimpse of Julia Child as she learns to perfect French cooking, even though her cat would much prefer catching a mouse for dinner. A great story for any Francophile or budding gourmet.

Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari. A young ballerina discovers M. Degas mistook her ballet bag for his paint case. She must find him before the evening performance, or she will not be allowed on stage. This is my favorite book of the group, probably because it closely relates to the subject matter of my own novel. I love how the ballerina runs into several Impressionist painters while chasing Degas through the streets of Paris.

Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen. Madame Martine loves routine... and is not a fan of the Eiffel Tower. It is nothing but a tourist trap, according to her. But one day her pet dog runs away and leads her up to the top of the tower where she discovers the beautiful view. Now she adjusts her weekly routine to include a visit to this iconic sight. I adored this book and Madame Martine. I am anxious to read the second book in the series, Madame Martine Breaks the Rules.

Charlotte in Paris by Joan MacPhail Knight. Charlotte is a young girl living in Giverny at the time Monet painted his famous water lilies. It is told in diary form over a nine month period. The text is accompanied by whimsical illustrations, renditions of famous paintings, and old photographs of the time period, which gives it the look of an art journal. Because there is so much text as compared to the pictures, I would recommend this sweet educational story for children older than pre-schoolers.

I enjoyed my wanderings through the picture book section of the library - and look forward to sharing a few of these stories with my four-year-old granddaughter.

My next lesson will be to read a few early-chapter books set in Paris to help me further hone my writing skills.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

TSS: November 1, 2015

Can you believe it is November 1st?!

My October was crazy busy with all sorts of fun, interesting, educational activities, but I am ready for a return to my comfort zone. My blogging routine suffered, as did my reading and writing, but I am now back on track with a plan to stay on track for the long term.


I continue to read Harry Potter, although I have fallen behind my original goal of finishing the series by the end of the year.

I should complete the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, tonight and then promptly start the next book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I plan to write a short review of these first three books sometime soon, however my review will probably be slightly different than most.

I am reading Middle Grade books for entertainment, of course, but my primary reason for focusing on this genre is to help me write Middle Grade fiction. I am not reading these books as a young student might enjoy them, but rather as an adult author who wishes to hone her craft.

To that end, I not only plan to continue reading this classic series, but I will also read new MG releases, especially those classified as historical fiction. It is also my goal to start reading past-as-well-as-present literary award recipients (Newberry, Cybils, and William Allen White). A writer must read... and I need to do more of both.

Hopefully I can develop a reading and reviewing rhythm by the first of the year. It is my sincere desire to post regular book reviews throughout 2016.


Ah November. That time of year when the solitude of writing becomes a popular cultural event. I am referring to NaNoWriMo, of course.

I have enjoyed this writing frenzy in the past, having written 50,000 words of an adult contemporary novel in November 2010 (which will never see the light of day)... and another 50,000 words of a middle grade historical fiction novel in November, 2013. I am currently struggling to revise that mess of words into a cohesive storyline.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year - or at least in the traditional sense. However, I do plan to focus on writing this month.

I have decided to take this hobby to the next level. It is time to be serious or stop talking about it.
Serious writers write. Serious writers read. Serious writers submit their writing - and learn to accept rejection. Serious writers do all these activities whether they feel like or not.

So my goal for November is to write 500 words a day - five days a week. This can either be a blog post, an article, a scene for First Impressionism... anything. But it has to be a focused piece of writing that can be later revised and polished for the public's eye.

I'll let you know how it goes...


I continue to teach the Storytelling Workshop for high school students, and the class of six continues to inspire me. They are working hard to develop believable protagonists and tight storylines. I soon plan to write a review of the curriculum I am using, The One Year Adventure Novel. It is fabulous!

I just finished teaching a new adult course called Journaling towards Wholeness. Three dedicated women came to the class every Wednesday night during the month of October. Each week we focused on a different type of journaling: spiritual, expressive, and reminiscent. I plan to offer the class again next semester, but in the meantime thought I would share the information online, for anyone who might be interested.

I started a new blog for this purpose: Revising Life after 50. While many of the posts will focus on journaling and how it can help us discover our purpose post-empty nest and retirement, I will also share thoughts and ideas on other areas of personal interest, such as Traveling, Photography, Scrapbooking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

I'd love to have you stop by for a visit sometime, if you are so inclined.


Well, I don't know if you are into baseball, but we are pretty excited here in Kansas City.
Our beloved Royals are now ahead in the World Series, 3 games to 1. They could clinch it tonight. Each game has left me a nervous wreck... but I love cheering for our boys in blue. #GoRoyals.

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