Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: Reading

Tips For Finding a Hobby Your Child Enjoys

The picture above is of my daughter at our local library reading to the dogs in the Love on a Leash program. I thought this was a great photo to go with this contributed post because it covers two hobbies–a love/interest in animals and reading. I agree with everything this post says about finding hobbies for your children that they enjoy. I think that is the key–that they enjoy. Also, in my family, we try very hard (although it is not always successful) to not sign up for too many activities at a time because we also need time at home as a family. 

Just like adults have interests and hobbies, so do kids. What are some hobbies you can help your child explore and decide whether or not they are right for them?   If you want to see your child’s eyes light up, it’s the extracurriculars that they are involved in that often excite them and can even lead to an early career path. Of course, there are plenty of children who find joy in mathematics and science; but if you ask most children if they want to sit and learn in the classroom, or go out and play in the sunshine, it’s a no-brainer.

Activities outside the classroom are what help to shape their personalities and their interests, with their physical and emotional health being nurtured by the hobbies they choose. As a parent, you want to have well-rounded children who are secure and happy. One of the best ways that you can do this is to encourage them to get involved in activities they like. Hobbies are the way that children can dip a toe into activities and figure out what they love the most.

Finding the right hobby could take some time. Some children don’t realize, for example, that they have a love of collectibles until they start taking an interest in location magnets, badges, figurines, or even rare coins, like the ones that you can find on this link. Collecting has been a hobby that goes back for years, and it isn’t a limited one when you can basically collect everything and anything.

You can teach your children how to find a hobby that they love by doing the activities with them and helping them to spread their wings. Here are some ideas:

Music.

One popular hobby that parents encourage in their children is music. Instruments, singing, and even dance are all ways to explore music. By exposing children to music from an early age, you can encourage a love of expression. They can learn which instruments they may want to learn to play; and if you yourself have a talent for an instrument, you can get them involved that way. Not only does music bring you closer together in this case, it helps your children to learn how to read music and understand it on a whole new level. Always encourage enrolling in music and singing lessons from a very young age if you can, as a talent for playing an instrument can be invaluable as they get older.

Art.

When it comes to hobbies, crafts are probably up in the top five that children love to do. Anything involving glitter, paint, chalks, crayons, pastels and charcoal are all messy but all very expressionist. You can encourage your children to go wild and embrace the mini artist within. If you want to go one step further, think about enrolling your child into sewing classes. It’s a bit of a lost art in schools at the moment where textiles are concerned, but the talent to be able to repair their own clothes doesn’t just encourage them to learn a skill. It teaches them the value of repairing before replacing, which can feed into their rest of their lives. There is nothing that limits craft projects for children, because you can choose to buy supplies or head out into nature and learn rubbing with charcoal and rocks or finding different colors in leaves to then put together for an autumn collage. This hobby can really help your children to be creative and expressive.

Sports.

Schools across the country are big on sports, and for good reason. Sports teams help to foster a sense of community, teamwork, and togetherness; and the skills that children learn in sports can stay with them their entire lives. To continue to play the sport that they want once in junior high or high school, they have to keep their grades up, which is an incentive . Children who are encouraged to play sports often live very healthy lives, and prefer to be outside on their bikes and in nature than cooped up indoors doing nothing. The friendships that are fostered while on a sports team can last for an entire childhood, cementing memories when they’ve grown up.

Reading.

It’s not a hobby that most think of now that we live in an age of digital books, rather than paperback, but there is a huge base for those who enjoy the smell of a new tome, or cracking the spine of a new story. Sitting with your child and reading with them creates a strong bond, especially where you are then able to discuss the story with them and help them to learn about the characters. You are encouraging them to have an imagination when you are encouraging them to read. You also help your child to develop their vocabulary and their language. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you have a child with a creative and reflective imagination, who uses their hobby of reading to make up their own stories and have fun doing it.

Hobbies can change the way that your children think.  Watch your children grow and develop, simply by encouraging new hobbies within them.

What hobbies do your children and grandchildren enjoy? 

 

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Teach a Child To Read and Open Up Her World

I am so very honored to have children’s author Fiona Ingram on my blog today with her WOW! Women On Writing blog tour for her latest book,  The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. This is a middle-grade adventure book that is part of a series, but this book can also be read as a standalone. In this book, Adam, Justin, and Kim  are hunted by their old enemy and readers will wonder if they can survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power. With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time, Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death. Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?

The post below will give you a good glimpse into Fiona and her writing.  This is a beautiful post about how she taught a young girl to read, and this  young girl became someone very special to her. At the end of the post, you will easily see why she titled it–“The Rainbow Child and Her Paper Mom.” 

The Rainbow Child and Her Paper Mom by Fiona Ingram

Anyone who has read some of my articles will know that one of my passions in being a children’s author is child literacy. I can’t imagine any author not being concerned with literacy. Literacy is a skill that must be learned, and this simple skill can deliver a child from a life of drudgery to a life filled with opportunity. It all starts at home, where children should grow up surrounded by books, and with parents encouraging them to read and discover the wonderful world of books. That’s in an ideal world, of course.

The truth is that in many places around the world, “at home’”for thousands of children offers no source of education when their parents are either still illiterate, or simply do not have the skills to assist their children with homework. Poverty also means that food comes before books. When South Africa (my home country) achieved democracy, Nelson Mandela called the country a “rainbow nation.” Sadly, there aren’t many pots of gold at the end of the rainbow for a lot of children there. But one little girl, my rainbow child, has found her pot of gold. Here is the story of the rainbow child and her paper mom. I hope it will inspire others to help children read.

I never imagined myself as a mother. Growing up with four brothers, three of them younger than me, meant I had my fair share of bottles, diapers, homework, bedtime stories and all the things big sisters do. My studies and career came first for a long time and the men I dated weren’t interested in having kids. Then the biggest drawback of all: I never felt “grown-up enough” to take on the responsibility of my own child. The year I went overseas with my two nephews, the year that inspired my first children’s book, (The Secret of the Sacred Scarab) I suddenly had this desire to adopt a child. Not give birth, please note, but adopt some little mite who needed a home. Two weeks in Egypt with my nephews aged 10 and 12 were enough to rid me of any maternal feelings and make me decide to just stick to being a good aunt. I had changed my mind about children.

About three months after this trip, I had a visit from a domestic worker who had worked for me a few years back—she had a problem. She arrived with her daughter Mabel, now aged eleven. I remembered Mabel as an enchanting child aged six, all arms and legs and a big smile. But I got married, Josephine left my employ, and we didn’t see each other for another five years. Josephine came straight to the point and asked me to foster Mabel, so she could get a better education.

Thinking for the briefest of nano-seconds that nothing would change, I said yes. Of course, everything changed. Mabel had already failed Grade 2, was advised to repeat Grade 4, and was basically illiterate. How is that possible, I asked myself? I began the slow and often painful task of teaching her all over again, supplemented by many extra lessons. It was not easy. Mabel was scoring only 19% for English at school. Opening the doors into the wonderful world of books seemed insurmountable because she simply did not understand the connection between the written and spoken word. What to do? Begin at the beginning seemed a good idea. Mabel baulked at first, never having had to apply her mind or develop motivation. She’d been told so many times she was a failure (stupid)—what else was there to look forward to? I rose to the challenge and, happily for her, so did Mabel.

I started off with my old favorites and Mabel loved them. Although we grew up poor (five children to feed, clothe, and educate), my parents always had books in the house. And then of course, there were the books we inherited from my grandparents. My very old copy of The Wind in the Willows, with those simple yet beautiful illustrations, is still on my bookshelf. Ratty and Mole were my heroes (and still are!). Other old friends are The Secret Garden, with exquisite color plates; The Water Babies; Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series; my collection of the Lucy Fitch Perkins’ Twins series, with her poignant stories of children of all eras and places around the world. I particularly loved Anne of Avonlea, The Little Princess, and many others.

I began with the Twins’ series. Suddenly, the words were not frightening because Mabel was hearing about places and people she’d never imagined. She’d lean over my shoulder, breathing down my neck as I read, my finger tracing the words as I sounded them out. The pages began to surrender the magical words, and she found them enchanting! Fired with success, we moved on to the rest of the library, slowly devouring my children’s classic book collection in very tiny bite-sized pieces. I was still doing most of the reading.

One day, Mabel decided she’d help with the words and began reading to me. It was still incredibly slow, but I began to see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We got movies of books, watched them, and then read the books, just in case the moviemakers had left out some important bits. We expanded our repertoire book by book. I found other ways to sneak words into her day, not just when we were doing serious reading. She read recipes with me when we baked; she read the instructions on the packaging to me while we prepared dinner; she read advertisements to me when we shopped. Suddenly words were a constant part of her life.

Mabel also began to show her imaginative side at school. Her poems and creative writing pieces began to change, reflecting more color, bigger words, more complex themes and emotions. Her first big word was “camouflage.” Sounds silly, but for Mabel it was a breakthrough! We still laugh about it. In all her subjects, her marks began to inch up. The final moment of success came when she turned to my mother and said, “Gran, will you buy me a book?”

My mother nearly fell off her chair and replied, “You can have as many as you like, darling.”

Mabel grinned. “Oh, then can you buy me all the Twilight books please?”

Mabel has developed more serious reading habits since Edward and Bella (phew!), listing Angela’s Ashes, To Kill a Mockingbird, and (Mary Shelley’s) Frankenstein, among her ‘fave books. I adopted Mabel in 2009 at the specific request of both her parents, thus becoming her “paper mom,’”her mom on paper as she describes it. Mabel is in regular contact with her biological family and considers herself fortunate to have two families!

Isn’t Fiona amazing? Don’t forget to check out her middle-grade book series! Find everything you need to know on her website here. 

 

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3 Books I Want to Tell You About Plus One More

Looking for a book to take on vacation this summer or to read on those nights when the kids are in bed and it’s still light out? How about one of these…

Breaking Up and Bouncing Back: Moving On To Create the Love Life You Deserve

What I love about this book is how comprehensive it is. It’s divided into three parts: dealing with the breakup, learning about yourself and practicing self-love (and figuring out what kind of healthy relationship you want), and getting back out into the dating world. This is not a book that you have to sit down and read through all at one time. It has exercises. It has real-world applications. It gives practical advice and things to try. I see this as a manual for your life after a breakup. And Samantha Burns has done her research. She has an extensive bibliography in the back of the book and other books you may want to check out, depending on where you are in your life. She does use some of her own experiences, but the whole book is not based on that. She has done the work to write a book like this!

I will admit that I was skeptic–how much can a book really help someone with dating? But here’s the thing–she isn’t really telling you what to do. First she is telling you about her experience (after a bad breakup) and how she found someone. Then she is explaining what YOU deserve and this is all based on your life, your choices, your goals, and your morals. She provides plenty of examples, and the message she makes loud and clear is: If you don’t feel like someone is treating you correctly, then REALLY examine why you are settling. She also asks you to look at any hand you might have had in past breakups and ask yourself why that happened. So if anything, when you finish this book, you will love and understand yourself more and know what type of partner you are looking for. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to really learn from past relationships and work on finding a new one that is healthy. BONUS: I was able to interview Samantha for WOW! Women On Writing, and so if you want a taste of her writing style and advice, then check that out hereLink to buy the book on Amazon.

Murder is a Dirty Business

This is a cozy mystery book with a fantastic new amateur sleuth, Cece Cavanaugh. Besides this book being extremely well-written, it is funny and unique. How can a mystery book be unique you ask? Well, Cece is no regular heroine. She is going through a divorce from a rich, country club husband, and she has to figure out how to support herself. So, she gets a job as a crime scene cleaner, and this is how she discovers a murder with the wrong person (someone she knows!) being accused, or at least she hopes the wrong person is being accused. That’s what she is trying to prove!

The author has stated that her husband is a retired police officer, and I didn’t notice anything in the book that seemed unbelievable. There’s also a bit of a love story developing–CeCe is in her late 40s with two daughters–one still at home with her–and so she is not really looking for love, but she can’t deny the attraction she feels for one certain man that pops into her life.  This is the first book in a planned series, titled, “GCrime Pays Mystery”.  If you are looking for a new series, you must check this out on Amazon.  The second book is Death, Diamonds, and Freezer Burn and is due in November! Here is an interview with the author.

Emergence (Voodoo Butterfly Series Book 2)

If you like New Orleans, voodoo stories, intrigue, strong female leads, romance, and a bit of magic, then you will like this book! So Emergence is actually book 2 in the Voodoo Butterfly series, so you may want to start with book one. Emergence just came out this summer and is available on Amazon. People who read book one (like me) have been anxiously waiting to find out what is going to happen to Sophie, Taj, and Poppy, and if Sophie is really going to embrace her powers and her role in the New Orleans voodoo scene after inheriting her grandma’s voodoo shop in book one and narrowly escaping death! Book two starts with things going well for her and the new man, Taj, in her life, except she hasn’t told him about her secret Voodoo life, and maybe he has a few secrets of his own!

In Emergence, there is a mystical monster lurking in New Orleans, sucking blood from children (not as gross as it sounds, LOL) and a fog that is hurting her best friend and co-worker at the shop, Poppy. Blackbirds are falling dead from the sky! What can Sophie do to solve all these problems while figuring out what it is that Taj is keeping from her? This is what you will find out in this well-written, page-turning sequel to book one. You can find book one at the link above and book two here.  To read an interview with the author, go here.

 

And finally, I’m currently reading The Lemonade Year!

Amazon description: 

Nina’s once-sweet life has unexpectedly turned sour. Her marriage is over, her job is in jeopardy, and her teenage daughter is slipping away from her. Then her father dies and issues with Nina’s mother come to a head; her estranged brother, Ray, comes home; and her sister, Lola, is tempted to blow a big family secret out of the water. They say the truth will set you free, but first it will make a huge mess of things.

All Nina’s got left is her final photography assignment shooting images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Well, that and the attention of a younger man, but Oliver’s on-again-off-again romantic interest in her ebbs and flows so much she is seasick. And then Jack, her ex-husband, shows up, wanting to get back together.

As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.

 

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Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez (A Review of a GREAT Novel)

I was excited to read Wendy Brown-Baez’s novel, Catch a Dream, when I read the synopsis that it was about a woman on a healing journey in Israel.  Someone very dear to me is from Israel, and this blog (and my life) is often about self-care and healing, so I thought this book fit into my life at just the right time. And I was not wrong! I loved Catch a Dream, and I think you will too, if you enjoy well-written women’s fiction with complex characters and an interesting setting.

Here’s a quick synopsis (by the way, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review AND as part of WOW! Women On Writing’s blog tour):

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings; and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen, and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

What I really enjoyed about this book besides the setting of Israel was two things:

  1. The love story between Lily and Levi
  2. Lily’s struggle, determination, and strength at being a single parent (even though she does have help!)

I’m sure these two plot lines resonated with me because of where I am in my life–dating after divorce and raising my daughter as a single parent (and I also have a lot of help and support). Because Wendy’s writing is beautiful and honest, the book is easy to read, and I flew through it. It’s also not too long–only 181 pages with book club questions in the back. (One last thing, the main character does suffer a traumatic event (which I don’t want to put a spoiler here), but I always think it’s important to let readers know to ask about this, in case certain things trigger them. )

Any reader who enjoys women’s fiction, stories about life-changing events and other cultures, and well-written prose will love Catch a Dream. Check it out! 

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Congratulations to These Reading Challenge Winners and the Amazon Gift Card Winner

I’m happy to announce these 6 people finished the Pre-Summer Reading Challenge!

  1. Kathryn S.
  2. Sara L.
  3. Sue B.
  4. Sophie L.
  5. Sebastian L.
  6. Katie B.

And the winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card, which will be awarded on June 15, 2018 is….(pretend drumroll here)…

Sara L.

(The winner was chosen randomly using random.org.)

Besides being entered to win the gift card, each person will receive this digital badge:

 

They also receive a 25 percent off coupon for editing services.

Thank you to everyone who checked out the reading challenge and who decided to sign up. And thank you to those who finished! I know it’s not easy to read every day, especially at the end of the school year, and then to also keep track and turn in your sheet. Congratulations again to Sara L. for winning the Amazon gift card–it will be coming by email on June 15, 2018.

What’s a good book you are reading this summer?

I’m currently finishing up a great book–Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez, which I will be reviewing tomorrow AND was lucky enough to host a great guest post on motherhood that you can check out here.

 

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Reading Challenge Update

How is the reading challenge going for those of you participating? Katie and I are doing pretty well. I think since April 30, we have each only missed one day of reading.

I have been reading 3 books: Codependency and Shame, Anxious for Nothing, and a novel–Catch a Dream.

Katie has been reading a whole bunch of books, of course, from Magic Treehouse to Splat the Cat. Together, we finished a book, Abby in Wonderland, in a series she likes,  where the main character Abby goes into different fairy tales to try to save Maryrose who is trapped by an evil fairy.

I hope you’re enjoying finding the time to read each day. Remember, if you do read 21 days for 20 minutes before Memorial Day weekend, you are entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Plus, hopefully, you will have developed a love of reading and a habit for it, too.

Remember, you can earn extra bonus entries into the reading challenge by:

  • Post a photo of yourself on Facebook or Instagram! Take a screenshot and email it to me or tag me in the post.
  • Write a review for any book on Amazon.com. Comment on this page with what book you chose: https://margoldill.com/pre-summer-reading-challenge. (This one is actually worth two entries!)
  • Here’s one more way to earn an extra entry into the contest: Comment below this post and include the title of a book you or your family members are reading during the challenge!

Also,I should point out, if you don’t finish the challenge, you can still earn these entries into the contest for the gift card by doing the above 3 things! Because what is actually important here is reading and supporting authors. 🙂

Any questions? Let me know.

Happy reading!

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Join the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for Adults and Kids

Most libraries have a summer reading challenge–St. Louis County has a great one each year. Katie and I have participated for several years, and we plan to again this year. Most of them work like this: Read a certain number of minutes or a certain number of books and  earn prizes throughout the summer, accumulating in a bigger prize at the end of the summer.

I thought it would be fun to do a 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for kids and/or adults (or both!) during the busy springtime when weather is warmer, sports seasons are in full swing, days are longer, and school is busy. It’s still important to read, right?

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. —Mark Twain

Let us read and let us dance—two amusements that will never do any harm to the world. —Voltaire

More great reading quotes...here.

What is the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge? 

Between April 30 and May 25 (the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend),  you need to read 21 days for 20 minutes each day (of course, you can read every day if you want!). You can read anything! It can be books to your kids; it can be a novel or self-help book; it can be a magazine; it can be a blog you’ve been meaning to check out. Anybody of any age can participate, by the way!

What it can’t be is Facebook posts or tweets or something similar…if you’re not sure, email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com!

How do you sign up? 

Go to the sign-up form on this page here.

How much does it cost to participate?

Participation is free!

How do I keep track of what I read or my child reads?

You can download a record sheet at the link above for any member of your family who wants to participate! You record daily readings on this sheet.

What do I get if myself or my child completes the reading challenge for 21 total days before May 25?

  1. Each person who completes the reading challenge, and turns in their record sheet by May 30, 2018, will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. One gift card will be awarded on June 15,2018 to one person who completed the challenge and turned in their sheet. A bonus entry if you read every single day of the challenge (April 30 to May 25) for 20 minutes! (Plus, there are more ways to receive EXTRA entries–please see the record sheet on this page!)  
  2. Each person who completes the reading challenge will be acknowledged on this blog!
  3. You will receive a digital badge, which you can post on your blog or social media account.
  4. You will receive a 25 percent off coupon for any of my Editor 911 services. This does NOT expire and can be used for any member of your family.
  5. If you or your family have any service, charity, event, anything family-friendly to promote, and you finish the challenge, you can do so on my FB page and/or this blog.
  6. Hopefully, you will also receive a good reading habit that will last throughout the summer and even further!

So what are you waiting for? Go here now and sign up for the reading challenge today! 

 

 

 

 

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Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here

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Harry Potter Fans: Many of Us Need to Calm Ourselves Down (re-post)

This post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing. It’s a great blog/resource for writers here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

downloadOne of my dreams came true when J. K. Rowling co-authored the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and someone in the publishing world wanted to make money and decided to print and sell it as a book. I did not stand in line at midnight to buy it, but it is one of the only hard-cover books I’ve bought in a long time. Before I had a chance to read it, (I was finishing up another lovely book, Me Before You), I read a lot of negative tweets and Facebook posts about the story. And I’ll admit I was disappointed. I was hesitant to read the book because I didn’t want my excitement to go away.

But I did read it, and I loved it. Yes, it is a play and it is harder to read than one of the seven tomes all us Harry Potter fans love so much. But I thought it was an excellent story–it brought in all the beloved characters–even the dead ones, and one of the most heartbreaking plot events in all seven books, Cedric Diggory’s death. Also while reading, I kept thinking: I really want to see this as a play. How will they do all this magic on stage? This will be so cool!

Then those negative social media messages really started to bother me. I put a post on my own Facebook page about how I guessed I was in the minority, but I was not afraid to state that I really liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Shockingly, I discovered I was not alone. Several of my smartest friends (wink, wink) also loved the book and were obviously not afraid to share this fact on someone else’s Facebook wall (i.e., mine).

So this post is not for those of you who loved the book, although please put in the comments that you did or why you did, if you would be so kind. But it is for those of you who didn’t like it and feel the need to spew everywhere your negativity. I feel you need to CALM DOWN. I mean, you are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong. Here’s an example of a tweet, which is negative, but on the tame side:

Look, why are you fighting this? We all know J.K. (Jo above) Rowling is a genius. Her novels brought back a passion for reading children’s and YA books. We also all know that if she writes book 9 or releases the next segment of the Harry Potter story as a series of haiku, written in Sanskrit, we are still going to buy and devour it, and shed more tears over Snape and Dumbledore. I mean, have you, personally, ever written an eight-book series worth more money than you could spend in your lifetime? I didn’t think so. Please CALM DOWN.

Take a deep breath, write your tweet/review/Facebook post in a nicer way, such as: I just finished HP8. Okay, I didn’t love it, but I did like _______________________. (Fill in the blank with something you liked.) There you go, I bet if you’re a true Harry Potter fan, you can find one thing in the play that you liked.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m just trying to convince you that as readers and writers, we owe it to other authors to perhaps offer constructive criticism, but to be respectful of the talent and time it takes to create these masterpieces, and show each other a little more love.

As for me, you’ll find me passing on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to my family members. My mom currently has it.

Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, editor, blogger, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books by visiting her blog at https://www.margoldill.com, where she is currently musing over the meltdowns of Kindergarten. She also teaches a novel writing class for WOW! in the WOW! classroom.

Last chance to enter the new blog contest: https://margoldill.com/share-your-sayings-with-me-1st-official-new-blog-contest/

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How I Finally Finished a Book by a Shameful Writer (re-post)

This post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing on September 3, 2016 at this link.  WOW! Women On Writing is a great site for writers, full of helpful articles, online classes and a quarterly flash fiction contest.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Both of those quotes are by the great Stephen King, whether you like him or not, read his books or don’t, he gives practical and sage advice to writers. I’ve had the time to read. I’ve started countless wonderful books by amazing authors, but I haven’t been able to get through them for one reason or another–mostly due to my divorce, maybe due to exhaustion from anemia (which I just discovered I had) and single parenthood. But I hadn’t finished a book in ages. It’s embarrassing. I am a writer after all, and I wasn’t reading.

I had this conversation with my neighbor one day–she loves to read. She handed me the book Me Before You, and said, “This is a great book. You will get through this. It’s a movie right now.” (I’ll admit I’m so out of touch with movies for adults that I didn’t even know this!) That night, I started it. JoJo Moyes is a very good writer. She drew me in with her quirky main character, Louisa Clark, and the surly hero, Will Traynor. But as I started reading along, and got to maybe page 100, my usual pattern took over. I was reading maybe 1 or 2 pages a night before I fell asleep or thought of a reason to check Facebook. I was sure I knew what was going to happen, and I felt disappointed, and didn’t really want to read just another love story.

But one night when I read my obligatory pages (to not feel like a total heel), there was a conversation between Lou and her sister Treena that was so well-written, I fell back in love with the book. Then I read some of the back material about why JoJo wrote the book, and I told myself: give it a chance. One day this past week, I was in bed with a cold, and I read 166 pages to finish this book. When I finished, I was so in love with the story and the ending that I rented the movie On Demand, which I have literally never done before in my life.
And I’ll have you know since then, I’ve already started two more books–a self-help book, where the author wants you to read one exercise a week, and the new Harry Potter play–on page 45 already!

So what happened? I found a good writer. I found a good writer that brought me into her story world and made me fall in love with these two characters even though things might not have ended the way I would have written the story. She made me think about life. She made me think about love. She made me think about what is really important, and she gave me back my belief that love is possible even under the worst circumstances. I know that sounds like a lot for one book, but that’s the thing about books–they really do change the world.

So even though I titled this post–by a shameful writer, I’m not as shameful about reading as I was a week ago, and I’m praying this continues because I think I’m on the road to a writing/reading recovery. I feel myself taking baby steps and it feels good.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books at https://www.margoldill.com and her writing class in the WOW! classroom here. 

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