Category Archives: Creativity

Lessons learned from my flat iron — No time like the present

cartoon-hair-on-fireI have thin hair. The kind that requires a short funeral service every morning as I mourn over the strands that have fallen out from brushing. When flat irons became all the rage, I made sure to buy the most expensive brand that promised not to damage my precious locks. I dumped a good $150 into it, so I was annoyed a few months back when I noticed the flat iron’s charging light never stopped blinking.

I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and so I kept using it . . . until a week later when I took a good hard look at my hair in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair so frizzy?”

It was burned. Irrevocable hair damage. My hairdresser said it resembled cotton candy. (Ouch, that hurt!) She cut off a lot, trying to “lessen” the damage. In the meantime I learned an important lesson.

It’s much better to take some time now to fix something rather than to continue along, assuming all will be well.

boy writingIf you know a tween who struggles with writing, the time to help him or her through this issue is NOW, especially as school begins anew. The following are five suggestions taken from the National Council Teachers of English website to encourage writing in children. (Link to the full article.)

  1. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good “talking.”
  2. Talk through their ideas with your tween. Help them discover what they want to say.
  3. Make sure your tween has a “place” of her/his own to write. Any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  4. Share letters and emails from friends and relatives. (You may need to urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Grandparents can be very helpful here. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.
  5. Think of unique ways a child can be involved in writing. For example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, etc. Each attempt at writing, no matter how small, is important and builds confidence.

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For the Reluctant Summer Readers

Writers generally love to read, but that doesn’t mean our kids always do, and with the advent of summer, some tweens are cheering the chance to toss books aside and get down to some serious video gaming or hanging with friends by the pool. No books for three months! Whoohooo!


Oh no. Not so fast. You can’t nurture a love of reading (which often comes with better reading proficiency) by ditching it 25% of the year.

photo credit:
photo credit:

So how can we get our reluctant readers involved with books during the summer?


Here are a handful of ideas.

Volunteer at the Library

Many local libraries have summer reading programs that are run, at least in part, by youth volunteers. My kids will be spending every Tuesday afternoon helping kids sign up for the reading contests and select prizes for reaching reading goals. As enthusiastic readers come in and gush about their new favorite book, it can help a reluctant reader see that peers value reading. And, well, you know… If peers like it…

Even if something like that isn’t available, youth can often volunteer to help re-shelf books with adult supervision. There is something about handling the books, seeing the shiny covers and all the different genres and subjects, that piques interest in even anti-reading kids.


Watch the Movie

No, not instead of the book. With the book. This requires the parent or guardian to be quite familiar with both, but it’s worth it. We did this most recently with To Kill a Mockingbird, reading a chapter and then watching the corresponding scene in the movie. Since books and their movies are never quite the same, we talk about the differences and which one they enjoy better.  It doesn’t take long to find out that books usually include a lot more details. The benefit of the movie, though, is that it helps a reader visualize the characters and locations. This in turn keeps the energy going when they dive back into the pages.


Bring Back Bedtime Stories

Yes. With tweens. I’m not kidding. If you are good at reading aloud with expression, this can be a truly awesome bonding (or re-bonding) experience with even tweens. That bedtime slot is great because it’s time to wind down; there aren’t friends distracting, and it gets them settled before midnight so that you can sleep, too. (They might have the summer off, but you don’t necessarily have that luxury.) This is a great time to pull out the more fluffy, popular books that don’t feel like literature class–things that are fast-paced and either full of humor or action.  Learn to stop right at a good spot, and if they fuss for you to read more, you can say, “Not now, but you can always read more and tell me about it in the morning.” (wink wink)


Make a Movie

Tweens love taking pictures and stupid videos of themselves, so challenge them to make a movie out of a chapter from a book. They can do it with their friends–both the filming and the editing–so that makes it feel like fun.  There are plenty of free, simple movie-editing programs that don’t require advanced degrees to figure out, and they’ll probably learn some new skills in the process. This isn’t, after all, a graded school project. It’s going to be the main feature for a “home movie” night with popcorn and pizza.


Pair up!

Got two readers who’d rather not? Here’s a way they can get two books read for the mental price of one. Sort of. Start with two books of similar length (especially chapter length), and have each child (or parent and child) choose one and read the first chapter. Then they come back together and report on what happened in the story, hopefully with some details and enthusiasm so that the other kid wants to know more. Now they swap books and read the next chapter (or designated time length) and repeat the process.  This can be fun for a few reasons: (1) one chapter isn’t soooo daunting; (2) they feel like they’re leapfrogging through the book faster, and thus feel more accomplished; (3) summarizing the story for someone else helps it stick in their own minds more, thus boosting their memories of the events and making them feel more real; and (4) they don’t have to read for long–maybe only 15 minutes a day–to get through more books, which also boosts confidence.  This is a good activity for social kids because that positive feedback loop will cement that “reading is fun” idea into their subconscious.


Summer can be the opportunity to kindle (or rekindle) a child’s love of reading because it isn’t school-related. Since reading is a life skill that helps with countless others, it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure their success when school starts back up in the fall.


Now where’s that library card?


A shot B&WAncientsLia London

Recent release for young readers: Ancients of Drandsil and the Circle of Law (new edition of formerly called The Circle of Law).

Celebrate With a Good Book

I’ve always done events in a big way. When I say “big way,” I mean the jaw-dropping, time-devouring, kill-yourself-off, massive-effort kind of way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to scale back a little whenever I get involved in a project, but the truth is: I love to throw myself whole-heartedly into making something fantastic and fun for other people, especially kids.

Birthdays around my house are usually a slice of over-the-top. I don’t go out and rent ponies or anything, but I always let the birthday girl choose a theme and plan the party around that theme. My favorites are the ones based on books. (I am a chronic bookaholic, after all!) It’s a great way to not only encourage kids to read, but to get them super excited about it! It brings the book to life!


fablehaven-05When my oldest daughter was ten, she became obsessed interested in Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. So, I put together a Fablehaven party for her. It was so much fun! I really enjoyed stretching my creative muscles.


Since her birthday is in the summer, we set up the Fablehaven “preserve” in the backyard, complete with fairies and a naiad pool.


There was a dragon cake (as you can see, I’m not so great in the cake department, but I try), and a bag of goodies, complete with “umite” wax and “milk” candy to give the kids magical sight.fablehaven-04


I loved the Fablehaven theme so much, that I also used it for a haunted house on Halloween. For that, I set up a black light fairy village that was being taken over by the shadow plague.fablehaven-01


We also used an animatronic “Fur Real” dog dressed in a costume to play the demon Graulas. He really moved, which was fun for guests!fablehaven-02

So, why not choose a book for your next party theme? I can totally see a Dreamkeeper party. (Hmmm. Maybe that’s my next Halloween haunt!) and a Ginnie West party, complete with horses and a rodeo, or Andy Smithson …. Okay, okay! I could go on and on. With all the tons of books right here on Emblazoners, you’re sure to find something fantastic that can spark a passion for reading in your kids!

Writing Something New

For the past four years I have been publishing an action/adventure series  that takes place in ancient Nubia. There are currently four books in the PRINCESS KANDAKE series and right now I am working on book number five, Decisions of a Queen. It started out as a labor of love for my granddaughter when she asked me one question. “Nana, where are all the beautiful brown princesses?” My research led me to creating one story that turned into a series of five books.

I have truly enjoyed all of the research that has gone into making the stories and culture as real as possible. Along the way, I learned quite a bit about history, African culture, and the rulers of past kingdoms. There were times when I got so caught up in the research that only deadlines could tear me away from the facts and occurrences of ancient times. I was surprised by the number of things in current African American culture that have their roots in ancient times on the continent of my ancestors. But now it is time for me to move on, time for me to return to my first fictional infatuation…science fiction.

Because many of my readers are accustomed to my writing about things of long ago, I determined that it might be helpful to break them in gently to the odd and strange twists of my imagination. So, last year I published a book of short stories entitled Obscura. Each tale is designed to keep the reader thinking, to cause their imaginations to carry them beyond the end of the story.

This year I will be releasing the first book of a new series that is considered contemporary science fiction…and that is only the beginning of my foray into the odd and strange. Switching gears from the old and ancient to all things new and nearly unimagined has been tough, but oh so much fun. My imagination is totally unleashed. Keep an eye out for the strange and obscure, you’re likely to find me lurking somewhere nearby.

Don’t Destroy Good Writing

Sometimes writers don’t trust themselves. We write a paragraph, reread it, backspace (a lot), and write it again. And then we repeat the process. Several times.

For me personally, I’m not so sure if the sixth time I write the same paragraph is really all that much better than the first attempt. What I do know, however, is that writing this way takes forever and turns something that is naturally hard to do into something that is excruciatingly difficult.

Lately, I haven’t been making progress because I keep writing the same stuff again and again. I’ve decided to take a lesson from history and break this bad habit. Let me explain:

Over Thanksgiving break my family went on a little adventure. Our favorite stomping ground is Southern Utah (near the Kanab area). First we hit Cutler’s Point, which is a fabulous cave (albeit shallow) inside the side of a mountain plateau. (See pictures below.)

We drove back from the hike using an old highway that used to be the
main road into Kanab.  On some of the red cliff walls right next to the old highway are Native American Fremont petroglyphs dating from 700 to about 1300 A.D.

writingOn top of some of these wonderful writings from a culture lost hundreds of years ago, business men from the mid 1900s wrote big advertisements in black paint—everything from law services to painting for hire. It was a “natural” bill board of sorts. People noticed the cool petroglyphs, so writing a business advertisement right over the top of them would ensure better visibility for their ads.


What were they thinking?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question when I “write
over” my own writing again and again, hoping to improve it. Am I actually making things worse?

My new game plan is to write whatever comes out and move forward. In the end, I know I’ll be going back and rewriting/cleaning up my manuscript. I don’t need to keep writing over myself during the creative process. After all,  I may be destroying things that should be left alone.

Here are a few more pictures from our outdoor adventure:

Cutler's PointIMG_1338