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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The 'Magic' Of Literacy

“I discovered writing children's books was a way to keep living in my imagination like a child. So I wrote a number of books before I started 'Magic Tree House.' Then, once I got that, I never looked back because I could be somewhere different in every single book.” – Mary Pope Osborne
Born in Oklahoma on this date in 1949, Osborne has authored more than 100 books for children and young adults, including novels, retellings of mythology and folklore, biographies and mysteries.  She is best known for her award-winning Magic Tree House series, now translated into 35 languages with nearly 150 million copies in print.   Her writing, she said, has opened doors for her to the world and allowed her to experience some of the thrills of traveling. "Without even leaving my home, I’ve traveled around the globe,” she said.
Osborne is an ardent advocate and supporter of children’s literacy and created the Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures Program with the mission of inspiring children to read and to love reading.  Free of charge, the program provides a set of online educational resources for teachers and allows for Title 1 schools to apply for free Magic Tree House books.   In partnership with First Book, her program has donated hundreds of thousands of Magic Tree House books to underserved schools.  It is, she said, her way to share her love of reading with kids everywhere.
                                           “I love reading all kinds of books. I usually have about ten books going at any one time - books about the past, the present, novels, non-fiction, poetry, mythology, religion, etc.,” she said.   “Reading is my favorite thing to do.”

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Day-to-Day Reflections On Life

“Being in this fine mood, I spoke to a little boy, whom I saw playing alone in the road, asking him what he was going to be when he grew up. Of course I expected to hear him say a sailor, a soldier, a hunter, or something else that seems heroic to childhood, and I was very much surprised when he answered innocently, 'A man.' “ – W. H. Davies

Born on this date in 1871, Davies was a Welsh poet and writer who spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or hobo, both in the United Kingdom and United States. He also became one of the most popular poets of his time.

Davies’ principal themes were on his observations about life's hardships, the ways in which the human condition is reflected in nature, and his own tramping adventures and the people he met.  For Saturday’s Poem here is Davies’

A Greeting
Good morning, Life - and all
Things glad and beautiful.
My pockets nothing hold,
But he that owns the gold,
The Sun, is my great friend -
His spending has no end.

Hail to the morning sky,
Which bright clouds measure high;
Hail to you birds whose throats
Would number leaves by notes;
Hail to you shady bowers,
And you green field of flowers.

Hail to you women fair,
That make a show so rare
In cloth as white as milk -
Be't calico or silk:
Good morning, Life - and all
Things glad and beautiful.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Real Life, Great Stories

“The best stories come from real life.” – Diane English

Born in Buffalo, NY, on this date in 1948, English is a screenwriter, producer and director, best known for creating the television show Murphy Brown and writing and directing the 2008 feature film The Women.

After studying communications at Buffalo State University, English began her career at WNET, the PBS affiliate in New York City, working first as a story editor for The Theatre in America series, and then as associate director of TV Lab.  From 1977 to 1980, she wrote a monthly column on television for Vogue magazine.

Among the many awards she has earned over the past 30 years are 3 Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her television work,  and “The Women in Film’s” Crystal Award (it’s most prestigious), for her work on The Women.    
                                                                     Her advice to writers trying to break into the market is succinct.  “You have to be creative. It's the basics. You can't be Picasso unless you know how to draw a real face.  (After that) you can turn it upside down.”

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Get Ready To Jump ... And Fly

“Ideas are all around you - everything gives you ideas. But the real source is the part of your brain that dreams.” – Bruce Coville

A native New Yorker born on this date in 1950, Coville said he became enamored with the idea of becoming a writer in 6th grade and started working on it seriously by age 17.  Today, as an author of young adult fiction, he has over 100 books in his repertoire … and counting.  

His first novel, The Foolish Giant, came out in 1977 and he has produced two to three books a year ever since.  Among his many award winning works are his novels My Teacher Glows in the Dark and  I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and  his audio adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones.
                                      In 2012, Coville was named for the "Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People,” presented by the New York Library Association.

“Like most people, I was not able to start selling my stories right away,” he said.   “So I had many other jobs along the way to becoming a writer, including toy maker, gravedigger, cookware salesman, and assembly line worker. Eventually, I became an elementary teacher and worked with second and fourth graders.”  All of those things, he said, shaped his life and writing.  And he encourages beginning writers to to dream big.

“If you don’t jump,” he said,  “the wings never come.”

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Living Vicariously Through Her Writing

For me, being a writer was never a choice.  I was born one.  All through my childhood I wrote short stories and stuffed them in drawers.  I wrote on everything.  I didn’t do my homework so I could write.” – Laura Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand, born on this date in 1967, became the writer she felt destined to be, telling stories about two amazing sports figures from the 1930s; one the great horse Seabiscuit, the other the great Olympian Louis Zamperini. 

The first story became a bestselling book and award-winning movie simply called Seabiscuit.  The second, one of the most gripping reads of the past decade, was called Unbroken. These two books dominated bestseller lists in both hardback and paperback. Combined, they have sold more than 13 million copies.

Hillenbrand, as she says above, was born to be a writer, and that meant writing through some of the most debilitating pain and isolation a person might ever experience.  Confined to her home for years because of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she still pressed on and created remarkable works.   And, she says being confined while writing helped her live her stories more completely in her mind, and she believes made them more interesting and exciting.   
                                     As she was writing, she said, “I’m looking for a way out.  I can’t have it physically, so I’m going to have it intellectually.  It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination.  And it’s just fantastic to be there alongside Louie as he’s breaking the NCAA mile record.  People at these vigorous moments in their lives – it’s my way of living vicariously.”

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Every Writing Effort Is Worth Saving

“The thing about reading is that if you are hooked, you're not going to stop just because one series is over; you're going to go and find something else.” – Eoin Colfer

Irish author Colfer, born on this date in 1965, is best known for his Artemis Fowl children’s book series, although he also gained considerable fame after being selected to do the 6th edition of the popular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series – titled And Another Thing ... published in 2009.

Acclaimed for his creativity, Colfer grew up in southeast Ireland and started his adult life as a schoolteacher, following in the footsteps of his parents.   After trying a couple of stand-alone books for young readers, he created Fowl, a 12-year-old criminal mastermind.  His SciFi-Fantasy tales have been wildly popular around the globe, spinning off into a graphic novel series and slated for movie production.    
                                             Ever the teacher, Eoin (pronounced Owen), is a popular speaker at both writing conferences and workshops and to aspiring beginning writers, where he encourages persistence and faith in your ideas.

“I often meet frustrated young writers who say they've only got so far and just can't finish a book,” he said.  “Even if you don't happen to use what you've worked on that day, it has taught you something and you'll be amazed when you might come back to it and use it again.”

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Poet As Bemused Spectator

“Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.” – Charles Simic

Born in May1938, Simic is a multiple award-winning poet including a Pulitzer Prize  for his book The World Doesn't End.  He’s also two-time Pulitizer finalist for his Selected Poems, 1963-1983 and Unending Blues, and winner of the Robert Frost Prize.   
                                        Critics have referred to Simic's poems as "tightly constructed Chinese puzzle boxes.” He himself stated: "Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator."  For Saturday’s Poem, here is Simic’s
               Country Fair
If you didn't see the six-legged dog,
It doesn't matter.
We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.
As for the extra legs,

One got used to them quickly
And thought of other things.
Like, what a cold, dark night
To be out at the fair.

Then the keeper threw a stick
And the dog went after it
On four legs, the other two flapping behind,
Which made one girl shriek with laughter.

She was drunk and so was the man
Who kept kissing her neck.
The dog got the stick and looked back at us.
And that was the whole show.

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