Category Archives: Inspirational

How I Fell in Love with Reading. Twice.

When I was young, my mother had to literally force me to learn how to read. I remember she would make me sit for what felt like hours (but was probably only 10 minutes) and practice reading. I hated it. But my mom knew that it was an important skill and so did not give up on me.

Even once I finally started getting the hand of the whole reading thing–I was still really slow. But I did enjoy stories. Then a single book changed everything.

The Boxcar Children, Book 1
The book that changed it all for me.

My mom got The Boxcar Children from the library. We started with book 1 and that was it. I was hooked. My new favorite place was the library and I read everything I could get my hands on. In the course of one summer I went from being two grades behind in reading to being three ahead.

And it was all because of this one book that sparked my love for reading–for the first time.

I recently fell in love with reading again, and not only did it spark my imagination it set me on the right path for my on stories.

See, back then when I was devouring everything I could get my hands on–I quickly found and became fascinated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. But I could not find many for my age group. So I started reading young adult and adult books. That may have helped with my reading comprehension going up so quickly.

Fast forward to my adult life. I had written my very first novel. An adultish/young adultish type story that was a high fantasy and had been my main writing project for over 10 years. I wanted to submit it to a specific publisher. So I went to what is still my favorite place: the library.

I checked out several books published by this company and set about reading them. They were all middle grade science fiction and fantasy stories. And an amazing thing happened. That same spark, the excitement that I got sitting on my mom’s bed while she patiently helped me read The Boxcar Children out loud, came again.

I got to fall in love with reading once again and it revitalized me.

Since then I have been on many reading binges. I really like middle grade but I still read books for young adults and adults. I enjoy it all pretty much. But something else amazing happened after I fell in love with reading again.

I found my niche in writing. Yep, I really liked writing middle grade level fiction. That path led me to releasing my very first novel. (Check out our catalog to see my book and other great books to read).

Now that I am mother, I plan to work as patiently and tirelessly as my mom did and hope that my children get to experience falling in love with reading.

~Krista Wayment

The Most Important Thing a Child Should be Doing

When a child reads a book they view it as a type of mirror world—as if by magic they become the main characters, living and breathing in that character’s mind. Gender holds no boundaries when it comes to this mirror world. Whether they are a boy or a girl, when they read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they become Harry Potter. When they read The Lightning Thief, they are Percy Jackson. The mirror world is not only beneficial to children because they get to learn about new places, but they get to experience emotions and situations they otherwise might not get to experience. The mirror world is why reading is the most important thing a child should be doing.

81zdSFzJh+LRecently I read a fantastic middle-grade book entitled, Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. This book is about an eleven-year-old boy named August Pullman (Auggie) who was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, a very rare facial deformity. The book is written in first person so you really get to see into the mind of Auggie and how much others struggle with his face. People cringe, shy away, even scream when they see him. As I stepped into the mirror world and saw things the way Auggie did, I began to feel things I have never felt before. I was suddenly more aware of how I spoke to others and how I treated them. I wanted everyone to feel important. So often children don’t see how their looks and words can hurt others. One of the best lines from the book is: “… sometimes you don’t have to be mean to hurt someone.” Empathy is learned in the mirror world.

The mirror world can not only help children learn to feel what others go through, it can help children overcome fears and challenges. Bullying is something that happens all the time and there’s not much parents and teachers can do to stop it. The best way to extinguish the problem is the victim empowering themselves. The mirror world can do that. I was ecstatic when two years ago I received an email from one of my readers who had been dealing with a bully issue at school. readingThey said after they read about Kaelyn’s experience in The Dream Keeper they felt they could stand up to their bully. Reading had empowered them and their problems with the bully went away. They learned to stand up for themselves through a book! I think that’s amazing.

As parents, as teachers, as librarians, as human beings, we should be encouraging all children to step into the mirror world and embrace the magic within. Share with them good books that made you “feel” something when you read (yes, that means YOU should be reading too). The more they experience the better they will be able to deal with the world around them and understand the people within it.

-Mikey Brooks

 

Drowning Out the Siren’s Call

music-note-clip-art-musical-notes-clipart-cropped1Out on a lonely island sits a group of women. Their song is so heartbreakingly beautiful that the mere sound of it is enough to override basic survival instincts. The moment that song reaches mortal ears, the listener throws away all restraint and flings himself into the sea in a mad desire to reach the singers. Only too late do they who are stricken realize that the island cliff’s are unassailable. All who swim for the Sirens drown, accompanied by the beautiful music of their own seductive funeral dirge.

Odysseusand-thesirensbywaterhouseHow did one resist these singers? Well, Odysseus strapped himself to the mast and plugged all of his sailor’s’ ears with beeswax. Even still, he nearly tore the mast down in a desire to reach the strange birdlike women. The Argonauts? Jason recruited Orpheus. The skillful musician was able to drown out the Siren’s song with music equally beautiful from his lyre. Butes, however, heard the song and leapt into the sea. Only the divine intervention of Aphrodite kept him from becoming another victim.

The Sirens and their song have long been used as a teaching tool. Usually, we apply it internally. We ask ourselves “What is my Sirens’ song?” “What calls me away from productivity and forward momentum?” “What keeps me from moving forward and realizing my full potential?”

Those are all excellent questions, and it can take a lifetime to find the answers. However, that is a discussion for another day. Instead of thinking about our own Siren’s song, I would invite you to ponder the Siren’s call to others. In lieu of taking the Odysseus route and tempting fate by immersing ourselves in the seductive sound, let us consider Jason’s solution.

NES_controllerIf we are Jason and our readers are the Argonauts, what are the Siren’s songs? Video Games? Electronics? Toys? Sports? Social Media? Yep, I’d have to say that those are definitely things that I compete with to win and keep readers. Are there more? Of course. Those are simply the songs that hit closest to home.

lyreSo, now I ask, What can be my Orpheus? Well, to be frank, I haven’t found a permanent solution yet. In competing with video game/social media/one-click downloadable app market, I am losing horrendously. Honestly, since those Siren’s also sing to me, I can’t really blame the readers. More than ever before, we are flooded with cheap (and not so cheap) entertainment. It is easy to be enticed by the song of a quick game of Clash of Clans, a dip over to Netflix for a binge movie watching session, or a late night game-a-thon.

As parents and teachers, we can help influence young potential readers. If we want to make our own songs heard above the cacophony of sound, we have to start with those we can influence. I know that I am preaching to the choir here. It is because of people like you that pleasure reading has not already been completely drown out with the more mind-numbing Siren songs. I can still remember reading days and read-a-thons in schools.

Perhaps they are still happening, but kids don’t seem to rave about them the way they did in the past. Maybe if we encourage and support similar events in the schools and even our own homes, it will increase the chances of seeing a teenager flip open a book during ten minutes of downtime instead of plugging away on a phone to check Facebook, Text Messages, or the latest app. Who knows, maybe one of those books will even have been written by an Emblazoner.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read!
J.R. Simmons (Author of the Ragesong Saga)

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#ThanksgivingIn5Words

ThanksgivingPic2Recently #ThanksgivingIn5Words trended on Twitter. Among the plethora of submissions a few I thought were particularly fun and poignant included:

Family isn’t here, that’s nice
Real men kill their turkey
Have the Cowboys lost yet?
Stuck at the kiddie table.
Coerced family reunion and gluttony.
Loud music drowns out relatives.
So stuffed, must lay down
Instead of Turkey, Pardons Hillary (referring to POTUS)
First world problems over dinner
Vegan cousin won’t shut up
One day off for chickens.
Today turkey lives don’t matter.
Three hours till Wallmart riot
Turkey, family, dysfunction, xanax, vodka

And a few with a more reflective mood:
Getting together with good friends.
THANK YOU to our Military!!!
Be thankful every single day

For no reason other than pure curiosity, I enjoy researching my family history from time to time. Just this past week, I was able to finally link one branch of my family tree way back to 1480!  Leonardo da Vinci was painting and the age of European exploration had begun. I also found that one of my ancestors, having crossed the ocean in a sailing vessel, was an early settler in Fairfax, CT in 1635, one of the settlements that later became the colony of Connecticut. With the possible exception of two or three notable figures, my “kin” were not famous for brilliant inventions that changed the world, politicians or even industrialists, but ordinary farmers and laborers working hard to get by. Unless you are American Indian or your family came to the United States more recently, you probably have a similar story to tell.

Discovering these ancestors got me reflecting. In every branch of my family tree, one person was inspired to leave what was familiar, get on a ship, cross the daunting ocean, and start a new life in America with only the hope that life would be different. While I’m sure many left because of religious persecution back in the 1600s and more for economic opportunity in the 1800s, a decision to leave everything they knew for a completely unfamiliar situation had to have been difficult. But they did it, nonetheless.

Don’t gloss over that, but take a minute to reflect. What a scary decision that had to have been with significant and lasting consequences. They arrived in America and had to start over—build or find housing, perhaps learn a new language, establish an occupation, endure brutal winters, survive disease, and more. But it is because of these people, enduring all they did, that we are here today, enjoying the freedoms we do in the USA. I’ve been a CPA, a company founder, and now I’m an author. You’ve probably changed occupations multiple times as well. We can be anything we want to be and do anything (legal 🙂 ) we want to do.

Perhaps because of the recent Paris attacks and being reminded how fragile life is, I am drawn to deeply appreciate the struggles and hardships my ancestors endured. I’m clear they did it to improve their lives and the lives of their children, but I am a beneficiary of their actions. So this Thanksgiving, I stop and thank those who came before—those who made that tough decision to radically change where they lived, not knowing what they would face or if they would endure, but with hope alone to guide them.

May your Thanksgiving be one of reflection and giving thanks for the bounty we enjoy every day and for the choices and endurance it took to be able to do so.

PLEASE NOTE!  If you enjoyed this post, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series.

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Final_300x300L. R. W. Lee is the author of the Andy Smithson coming-of-age, epic fantasy adventure series of which four of the seven total books have been released to date. Book five in the series, Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, will be released January 13, 2016.

She writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. L. R. W. Lee lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband. Her daughter is a senior at UT, Austin and her son serves in the Air Force.

Connect with L. R. W. at: Twitter   Website   Facebook

Making Hard Choices

My name is Daniel Kenney, I write books for kids, and this is my first post for Emblazoners, this awesome group of writers I’ve been so fortunate to recently join.

Since I started publishing kid’s books last September, this is as good a time as any to share with you what I’ve learned over the last year. But before I share with you what I’ve learned, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve done.

Since last September, I have published eleven books for kids. That’s right. ELEVEN. Here they are (just to give you an idea of the kinds of stuff I write)

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For some writers, this isn’t that much…but for many, eleven is a lot.  And so far, things have gone really well. My books mostly sell, I’m able to make extra money for our family and everything is hunky dory…right?

Well, not exactly. Let me tell you a little more about myself and then you’ll see why. Along with writing kids books, I am a stay at home dad of eight. That’s right. EIGHT. I have eight crazy, loud, and mostly fun kids.

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These may not be my actual kids but this is a fairly close approximation of what our house looks like on a daily basis.

You see, my wife works outside the home. I take care of the kids, get them to school, bus them from practice to practice, clean the house, cook the meals. You get the deal. And inevitably, whenever I post a new book on Facebook I get some comment like….”Dan, how on earth do you get so much done AND be a stay at home dad of EIGHT KIDS?”

For awhile you can delude yourself into thinking that you’re some kind of super genius wonderkind. Or, at least that’s what I did…at least a little. But that’s not the truth. The truth is something that became very apparent in the last month. The truth is…the reason I’ve been able to get so much writing and publishing done over the last year is because I just haven’t done a very good job at doing the DAD stuff.

Now, before you go with the whole “Don’t be too hard on yourself” I’ll just say up front that I’m not being too hard on myself. The truth is, I am not a person who can do everything. I am not a person who can survive on 4 hours of sleep. I’m not particularly good at getting lots of different things done and doing them quickly. So for me to pull off what I’ve pulled off over the last year has meant that I have had to take valuable DAD time to be a writer.

So what does this have to do with writing and why am I blogging about this? Very simply because I’m also not one of those people who believes you can really have it all. Choices must be made. Time has to be carved out of something else. Something will suffer. And, each of us has to decide what we are willing to let suffer. For me, the path I took over the last year is not particularly sustainable for me. So I need to find a new path that WILL be sustainable…for me…and my wife…and our kids. Our family. Long term, this whole writing thing can’t be just about me. It’s got to work for us.

So, in year TWO of this publishing journey, I’ll be trying to carve out a new path, one that lends itself to a healthier and happier path for my entire family. For example, as I write this blog, I’m in the lobby of a gym while my 2 youngest are in the daycare twenty feet away. I’m using my workout time to write this blog post. Then, I’ve got to grab the kids, get an electronic game fixed, bake a cake, feed the boys lunch, get them down for lunch, clean the house, pick up the kids from school, drive one daughter to soccer, take my son and two friends swimming for my son’s birthday (which by the way is today, HAPPY TENTH BIRTHDAY BRENDAN!), then I’ve got to race them home, cook them dinner, have a party, get the friends home, make sure everybody’s done homework., pray our family rosary and….well, you get the point. THAT…that truly is my life and at least for awhile longer, the writing will have to fit into my life…as opposed to my life fitting into my writing.

It’s so great to be a part of this community and a pleasure to get to know you all.  Happy Writing!  Daniel

Daniel Kenney is the author of the popular THE MATH INSPECTORS series along with the hilarious graphic novel, THE BIG LIFE OF REMI MULDOON. He and his wife Teresa live in tropical Omaha, Nebraska where they raise eight children, one gecko, and two rather unhappy toads. Find out more at www.DanielKenney.com or see all of his books by searching for Daniel Kenney on Amazon.com.