Meet Author Vivian Kirkfield

Vivian Kirkfield was the first kidlit author who spoke to me on Facebook I when I began my journey to publication. Her nonfiction picture books are on my shelves and I go back to them time and time again as mentor texts. Her generosity and love of reading and writing know no bounds. I am honored that I get to interview here on my little piece of the web.

For those of you who do not know Vivian, she can be described in five words: Writer for children – reader forever. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting kidlit friends around the world.

When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner.

A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords and #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenges.

She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

So, step onto my porch and meet Vivian Kirkfield.

J: Vivian, thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you. I consider you a mentor because you write the types of books I like to read and hope to get published one day. I’m kind of a “fan girl.”

V: Thank you so much, Julie for having me on your blog. I know I am blessed to be living my dream…and I love interacting with other kidlit people. My mission in life now is to help other writers, published and pre-published, and to tell them to never give up because I know, for a fact, that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

J: Just like Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What drew you to writing for children?

V: As a child, I loved books. I’d take out a stack of books from the library in the summer and sit in the backyard and read, one after another. I penned little poems about horses and when I was a young mother, I put together a few dummy books to entertain my children. But I never seriously thought about becoming an author until my son took me skydiving when I turned 64. I had started blogging to spread the word about a self-published parent/teacher book I’d written, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting, and Cooking. And through my blogging about picture books, I started meeting picture book authors…and that’s when my new dream of becoming a writer for children began.

I know how important books were in my life…they were windows on the world for me – and I hope that my books will inspire young children to dream…and then build their dream into reality, the same way Sarah E. Goode did in Sweet Dreams, Sarah.

J: Isn’t that the truth! I’ve always been an avid reader. My favorite t-shirt says ,” Bookmarks Are For Quitters.” Tell us, was writing always your dream?

V: My first dream as a child was to become a kindergarten teacher…probably because I loved picture books so much! When I graduated from college in in 1967, I was only 20 years old but I got married that summer and started teaching my first kindergarten class that fall in the New York Public School System.

J: It seems like many writers for children began in education, myself included. But kindergarten…I love kindergarteners, but that’s like herding cats! I bet they provided tons of inspiration.

Who were your favorite authors /illustrators when you were a child?

V: My favorite author of all time is Louisa May Alcott…I read Little Women at least 100 times…and all of her other books. I also loved Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables. Oh, and all of the Nancy Drew, Ginny Gordon, Hardy Boys, and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. My favorite picture book author/illustrator is Tomie dePaola – I think I love every single book he has created…especially Clown of God.

J: We have similar tastes…for me it was anything with animals or mystery. I love Tomie dePaola as well, my favorite, being from Texas, is The Legend Of the Indian Paintbrush.

So let’s jump to your writing career. Most authors I come into contact are looking to be traditionally published, but as a pre-published author, I know how hard that is. I’m almost to the point of sending out my best manuscript to agents. How did you find your agent?

V: I am agented…with the agent of my heart. 😊 I’m just so lucky…and fortunately, she feels the same way about me. At the beginning of 2015, I set a goal to get an agent. I participated in #pitmad and the agent that ‘faved’ my pitch, asked to see more. I went to #MSWL and submitted to an agent and she asked to see more. I was a Gold member of 12×12 and one of the agents I had submitted to in 2014, responded in May of 2015 and asked to see more. And finally, I submitted to an agent who had just signed a friend of mine (I saw the announcement on Twitter) and she asked to see more also.

Let me clarify that I had submitted the same manuscript to all of these agents. This was the first nonfiction pb bio that I had written in the fall of 2014…and when it won the Rate Your Story contest, I knew it was ready to go. My advice to writers who are looking for an agent would be: have several manuscripts submission-ready…and send out the BEST one…the one that sparkles and sings.

J: Finding an agent is like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I love that you found “the agent of your heart” that makes this difficult journey much easier. Thank you for the great advice for pre-published authors like me.

We all have our own way of writing. Do you have a process you follow?

V: My writing process: I get an idea. I research. I write a rough draft…but I do try to craft the best opening lines that I can. For me, the opening lines are the doorway into the story. I also write a pitch or a one sentence before I write my rough draft because that helps me find the focus and direction of the story.

J: Getting that opening line for me is the toughest part. That’s where not only you hook your reader, but it sets the tone for the heart of you story. I’m gong to try writing my opening and closing lines first next time. See, why I consider you a mentor!

Do you write in an office or are you like me and have to get away from home?

V: Most of the time I work at my small dining room table on my laptop…there is a big picture window that looks out on 3 acres of woods…it’s a great writing retreat, for sure. And food? Hehehe…I could munch all day…yogurt with trail mix, a bowl of cut up melon, I have to force myself to take breaks from writing/social media/blogging and go outside and walk or do something else. Otherwise, I’d be at the computer 24 hours a day…I love it so much!

J: It must be nice looking out into the woods…how peaceful. I have to get away from home or I feel like I should be doing laundry! The computer is a siren. You can really fall down a rabbit hole researching for a manuscript.

Speaking of research, you write nonfiction picture books. What is your research process?

V: I love research. That’s probably why I write a lot of nonfiction pb bios. I enjoy digging in and finding information. First, I go online and get as many sources as I can…many times if you look at the bottom of an article (even a Wikipedia article), you will find the sources that writer used. I also try to get primary sources…when I researched VOICES, I had to verify that Ella and Marilyn were truly friends. None of the books stated that. I reached out to an author of several Marilyn books…she directed me to the president of the Marilyn Remembered fan club…and he directed me to the woman who had been Ella’s promoter for 37 years. And she and I talked on the phone for hours. My local librarians are also amazing resources for me.

J: That’s so exciting! Getting to talk to Ella Fitzgerald’s promoter! That is what makes research so fun. That is my favorite thing about writing nonfiction. It’s like solving a mystery, the thrill of the hunt.

Speaking of Marilyn and Ella, what was the inspiration for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE?

V: My inspiration to write Making Their Voices Heard came from a photo I saw online back in 2014. I grew up in the 1950’s and loved Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy blues and Marilyn Monroe’s comedic genius. But I didn’t know they were friends. Yes, from the photo, it was obvious they were. I had to know the story behind the photo and I began my research. The more I learned, the more I realized this was a relevant and timely story for today. I wanted young people to see that our friendships can and should be inclusive because, no matter how different we look on the outside, as I say in the book, On the inside they were alike, full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.”

J: MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD is extremely timely. I read it to my class and it prompted some great discussion. We compared it to events throughout US History and how if people just loved one another for who they are this world would be a beautiful place.

Your writing process seems pretty fast. How long did it take you to write MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD?

V: I’m a pretty fast researcher and writer. I wrote VOICES at the end of 2014…it probably took me a few weeks to do the original research and a week to write the manuscript. But then, of course, I revised it with the help of my critique buddies and submitted it to that first editor seven months later. It went through many revisions after that.

J: So you wrote it in 2014, how long did it take to get published?

V: That’s a great question, Julie. As I mentioned, I wrote the story at the end of 2014. In 2015, I shared it with critique groups and also sent it to Rate Your Story. In the summer, I attended a writing retreat and showed it to one of the editors. She loved it. But she wasn’t able to get her team to acquire it. This happened two more times over the next few years. For each editor, I revised and they loved the revision, but the publisher was hesitant. Then, in early 2018, Courtney Fahy from Little Bee Books got it and the rest is history.

J: I don’t think people realize how long it takes a book to get from inception to the shelves. It’s pretty eye opening.

My favorite line of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD is your closing line. I am planning to cut the letters out and put them on my classroom wall next year. They are really impactful.

Do you have a favorite line?

V: Oh, do I have to pick only one? I have two favorite lines…the opening lines…and the closing lines.

“On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside they were alike: full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.”

“On the outside, these two stars couldn’t have looked more different. But on the inside, they both understood that sometimes even stars need a little help to shine.”

I love these lines because they speak to the main themes of the story…that friendship needs to be inclusive…and that allyship…standing up and speaking out and doing something about discrimination is what needs to happen in our world today.

J: Those two quotes are wonderful bookends for the theme of the story. I urge people to pick up MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD, especially teachers. This story should be read to children of all ages.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing? What kind of advice would you give pre-published writers like me?

V: I wish I had known that it was important to hone my craft before submitting. I started this writing journey in 2012…but didn’t take picture book writing classes until 2014…and then I took FIVE that year. Which I don’t recommend. 😊 But I learned a lot that helped me find my voice and improve my writing.

My advice to pre-published authors:

  1. READ! In the genre you want to write – and really study the books as mentor texts…there is a ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month) Challenge hosted by two authors…they show how to use published picture books as mentor texts.
  2. WRITE! I think it doesn’t matter whether you write 20 minutes every morning or an hour in the evening or however it works for you. But you need to be writing a lot. The more you write, the better you get.
  3. JOIN CRITIQUE GROUPS! I can’t emphasize this enough. Not only do critique buddies give you helpful feedback on your manuscripts…they also encourage and support you in this business that is filled with rejection. As much as your family members may love you, most don’t understand how this business works. My husband was always very supportive…he’d listen over and over to my revisions. But he couldn’t understand why I’d keep revising. He couldn’t understand how I could keep on going, even though rejection after rejection would come in. We need to surround ourselves with people who are doing what we are doing because they understand what it’s all about and they get it.
  4. EMBRACE REVISION! The bottom line is that we want our stories to be read by children…editors are very picky because the market is filled with books and they are looking for the one that will be able to compete and rise to the top and shine. As writers, we need to understand that this is a business…it’s not personal. Publishers need to make money or they will have to close down.

J: That is fantastic advice! I’m happy to say that as an educator, learning more about something is where I always start. I spent a year learning and working on writing before I even wrote a first draft of something.

Thank you so much Vivian for giving us your time and a glimpse into how you write. I encourage everyone to add MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE to their shelves. If you cannot purchase, please request the book from your library and make sure to leave reviews. Every little bit goes to helping support authors and illustrators.

Till next time.

~ Julie

Book Review!!

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Published by Little Bee Books (January 28, 2020)

Ages 4-8

Themes: Friendship, overcoming hardships, diversity

From the back of the book:  

Ella and Marilyn: On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike –  full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.

MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE is not only a rags-to-riches story of how these two iconic women were discovered, but how they helped one another find their voices  at a time when both faced discrimination. It’s a tale of how two of the most iconic women of the 20th century forged a friendship that broke barriers and lasted a lifetime.

My favorite line:  “On the outside,these two stars couldn’t have looked more different. But on the inside, they both understood that sometimes even stars need a little help to shine.” 

This book is not only good for ages 4-8, but it should be read by people of ANY age.  I read this book to both my 7th and 8th graders. We discussed discrimination in the 50’s and 60’s, how women were viewed, friendship and helping others.  The discussions were deep and thoughtful. Books like MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD make it easier for older students to open up. They don’t feel like they are being talked AT. Instead the format of a picture book puts them at ease and they are more likely to respond, even those who are reluctant to find their voice.

Classroom Activity:  I had my students cut out stars (to go with my favorite line!) and write a kind note to someone who is different than they are..  For example, my classroom is close to the structured learning classroom. Several of my students wrote stars to a child with Down Syndrome, telling her that they look forward to seeing her everyday because she gives them high fives as they come to my room. Others wrote to students in another grade, and a few wrote to teachers.  This exercise let them see the light that shines inside others. I hope that they continue to search for that light in everyone they meet.

ReFoReMo!

Free Resource for Researching Mentor Texts!!!

If you write for children and are not participating in ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month) you should be!  Registration closed yesterday, but you can still follow along, you just won’t be eligible for prizes.

ReFoReMo was founded in 2015 by Carrie Charley Brown . Carrie is a children’s writer, teacher and offers critique services.  Carrie started ReFoReMo with a mission: to help picture book writers transform their writing by reading and researching mentor texts.

For writers to truly understand the craft of writing, the “nuts & bolts” of picture books and the children’s book market, one must read a wide variety of picture books. By participating, you can build a library of knowledge from studying the texts.

I’ve participated in ReFoReMo for the last 3 years.  I use a composition notebook to keep a list of the recommended l texts with notes on layout, the writing style, opening lines, plot, etc.  Over the years, I’ve refered to my trusty notebook when looking for a mentor text.

I strongly recommend you participate in the blog posts and readings to help your writing!

Free Course in Writing Nonfiction!

NF Social MediaFebruary brings cold temperatures, thoughts of love and nonfiction fest.  I’m looking forward to the NF Chicks’ nonfiction fest the most.

The nonfiction fest is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children.  They have lined up 29 award winning nonfiction authors and people in the publishing industry to help us learn the craft of writing NF.  There will be daily posts that include activities to get you writing and researching.

The best part…it’s FREE and there will be prizes!!!

Registration begins January 15 and ends January 31.  Join the Facebook group and visit their website for directions to register.  Now you have plenty of time to get a fresh new notebook to take notes in!

According to their website,  this is the all-star line-up:

Karen Blumenthal/Candace Fleming
Beth Anderson
Carla McClafferty
Melissa Stewart
Heidi Stemple
Barb Kramer
Sophia Gholz
Nancy Turminelly
Donna Bowman
Mary Kay Carson
Traci Sorrell
Cynthia Levinson
Jen Bryant
Jill Esbaum
Kerry McManus, Marketing Director
Don Tate
Meeg Pincus
Lisa Schnell
Susannah Deevers
Vivian Kirkfield
Kelly Halls
Stacey Graham, agent
Bethany Hegedus
Alice Duncan
Rob Sanders
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Chris Mihaly
Steve Swinburne

Make sure you go follow all of these awesome, generous people on Twitter & Facebook.

How can you pass up an opportunity to learn (for free!) from these incredible talents? Go to their Facebook for all of the details and to sign up.

Let me know if you sign up so I can say HI!

Mentor Monday

So sorry to have been absent for so long! 2018 has not gotten off to a great start.  Between traveling to Houston twice for my father’s surgery, an ice storm  trapping in us in the hospital and the flu/strep/pneumonia hitting everyone in my household it’s been one heck of a ride!

But, I’m jumping back on the wagon and working on revisions and researching a new nonfiction topic that I think will be quite fun. I’ve got several debut authors lined up for some interviews and giveaways, so make sure you subscribe to the blog!. You can also be on the lookout for my #50PreciousWords challenge (you can se my previous entry here) entry over at author Vivian Kirkfield’s web site.  If you aren’t familiar with Vivian, please go visit her blog. She not only writes fabulous books but has tons of activities for kids and writers alike.

I’ve been trying to find more nonfiction books to evaluate since I prefer to write nonfiction, but today’s book is  fiction with a twist. Wilma Rudolph was the fastest woman in the world in 1960. This lovely story of friendship revolves quickestkidinclarksvillearound two girls who think they are the quickest girls in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma Rudolph’s hometown.

So, I present, Pat Zietlow Miller’s The Quickest Kid in Clarksville.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville  Mentor Study Worksheet

Remember, you can find a blank copy of the Mentor Study Worksheet here.

Also, do an author a favor, if you read a book, please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Till next time!

J

 

Master Study Monday – Mighty Mac the Bridge That Michigan Built

Back on January 10, I was lucky enough to help author Jacquie Sewell celebrate the debut of her nonfiction picture book Mighty Mac the Bridge That Michigan Built. coverfinal_2_origIf you missed my interview with her, please hop over and learn about her process and how Mighty Mac came to be.  It’s a great story!

Today, I am using Might Mac for our Master Study Monday.  I haven’t’ used the  form on a nonfiction story before and I’m thinking I may need to create one specifically for the elements of nonfiction. More on that at a later date!

At first glance, Might Mac is a traditional nonfiction story. It tells us about how the idea for the bridge grew, to bridge construction, the people involved in its construction and types of bridges.  Jacquie covers it all in an interesting and well-researched manner.

The photographs of the construction are interesting and show the readers what bridge construction was like during the time period.  And can I just say that those guys were fearless! No safety harnesses, or any type of safety measures are visible!

At the top of each page, is a fun play on “The House That Jack Built” nursery rhyme.  The first page begins with,

“This is the man, daring and wise, who said, “Yes we can!” and believed in the bridge that Michigan built.”

This is a creative way for readers to learn about an important event in Michigan history.

 

Mighty Mac Master Study Worksheet

Master Studies Blank Form

 

If you read Might Mac, please help Jacquie out and leave your review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. You can learn more about Jacquie at her website jacquiesewell.com  .

If you have any books you would like to see mapped out for a MSM, please leave me a comment.

If you or someone you know will have a debut book in 2018, please let them know about my offer to help promote their book.

Much love,

Julie

 

Mentor Monday-After the Fall

Welcome to another Mentor Monday! I am very excited to review and study this week’s book AFTER THE FALL:HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN by Dan Santat.

This well crafted picture book quickly became my favorite of 2017. Dan Santat took a well loved nursery rhyme, difficult subjects (depression, fear and overcoming obstacles) and made it kid friendly. His accompanying artwork not only adds to the story but TELLS part of the story.

Told in first person, Humpty explains what happens to him after his great fall. What makes this story so poignant is that he wrote this in response to something he was personally going through with his wife. He tells about it in a podcast interview on All The Wonders.

This book is the perfect choice as a mentor. The page turns are impeccable, the plot is perfectly crafted and the ending is a beautiful conclusion to Humpty’s tale. This book is due to become a classic! If you don’t already have a copy, I urge you to get one for your shelves!

Now, here is the breakdown on  Humpty Dumpty After the Fall.

Remember, you can download your copy of a blank worksheet here.

Till next time,

Julie

Mentor Monday -Still a Gorilla

still-a-gorilla_cover

Still a Gorilla is a charming rhyming preK-first grade story by author Kim Norman.

Willy the gorilla wants to be another animal in the zoo.  After each try, he’s still a gorilla.  In the end, he realizes that it’s ok to be himself-a silly Willy gorilla.

The rhymes are spot on and make this a fun, interactive read-aloud.

Here is my Master Study worksheet for still a gorilla.

 

Remember, you can always grab a free copy of the Master Study worksheet here.

You can also find Kim Norman on her web page.

Twitter https://twitter.com/KimNormanAuthor

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/authorkimnorman/

 

 

 

Setting Goals for 2018

Can you believe it’s already 2018? 2017 flew by like a hawk after it’s prey. 

Most people look at the new year as a time for resolutions and goal setting. How many of us have failed or forgotten our New Year’s resolutions by the third week of January? 

ME!

Come on, I know I’m not alone!

98% of New Year’s resolutions are not kept.

80% of those who make resolutions fail by January 20 according to a recent poll.

Ya’ll, that means only 2% of New Year’s resolutions are kept!

Why? I’m sure there are many reasons, but for me, it’s planning.

If-you-fail-to-plan

Years ago, I decided that New Year’s resolutions were just a marketing scheme by gyms! I don’t make resolutions, I make PLANS!

Plans have a definite and reasonable goal; steps to make it happen, and a definite resolution with a deadline.

I sit down frequently to review and set new goals.

IMG_6880[2685]

I found a free printable online created by blogger Abby Lawson at Just a Girl and her Blog.

She created this printable and wrote a great post on setting goals.  Go check her out.

Print out the worksheet, fill it out, and post it where you see it everyday. 

Come back next week and I will have a great list and links of writerly resources to help you attain your goals in 2018.

Julie

 

Top 10 (or more) Awesome Resources for Writers

“On my desk is a stack of books. Some people call them mentor texts; I call them guardian angels. These are the books that guide me with a whisper of words, inspiring me to find my own voice as I write. They give me the knowledge and wisdom of what good-quality writing sounds and feels like.”

– Georgia Heard,

Finding the Heart of Nonfiction

Books

There is a plethora of books on the craft of writing, but these are my guardian angels. The books I go to time and time again.

WRITING PICTURE BOOKS-A HANDS-ON GUIDE FROM STORY CREATION TO PUBLICATION, by Ann Whitford Paul is the bible of writing for children.  The author writing for childrenhelps you to develop the skills needed to create a well written picture book.  Ms.Paul walks your through generating ideas, creating characters, identifying your point of view, crafting attention grabbing beginnings, plot, word count and tackling rhyme.  At the end of each chapter, you have an assignment that will help build your story layer by layer.  This is a MUST HAVE if you want to write picture books.

ANATOMY OF NONFICTION – WRITING TRUE STORIES FOR CHILDREN, Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas and FINDING THE HEART OF NONFICTION – TEACHING 7 ESSENTIAL CRAFT TOOLS WITH MENTOR TEXTS, Georgia Heard.

Anatomy of NFThese two books are my nonfiction go to advisors.  ANATOMY OF NONFICTION delves into the nuts and bolts of research, and finding the voice of your story (Extremely important!). The authors also walk you step-by-step through submission and different avenues to pursue for publication.

NF nutshellLike the Georgia Heard quote above, FINDING THE HEART teaches you how to use mentor texts as a “guardian angel” to guide your writing so that your topic reads like a traditional story book, not a dry emotionless book report.

 

Several other books that guide me are Martha Alderson’s WRITING BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS and SAVE THE CAT , Blake Snyder, and SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody.

Next topic? How about my favorite websites?  One thing about the kidlit community is that they are the most generous and kindest people around.  Most of these author/writer websites or blogs offer contests, advice, and writing challenges.  If you find anything helpful on these sites, please let them know by either writing a review or purchase their books.

In no particular order-

  1.  SCBWI.org  If you want to be a kidlit author, joining SCBWI is the best money you will ever spend.
  2. Kidlit411  your one stop information shop for children’s writers and illustrators. They also list upcoming contests, information of writing query letters, marketing, courses, and the list goes on.  You’ve got to visit to see everything!
  3. Susanna Hill – offers fun contests, critiques and the Art of Arc courses
  4. Manuscripts & Magnolias – great interviews with debut authors a year after their books are released.  You get some great insight from newly published authors.
  5. Vivian Kirkfield  #50precious words contest, critique services, author interviews, giveaways
  6. Julie Hedlund founder of the 12X12 Challenge (awesome writing community!), Complete Picture Book System and Picture Book Summit

There are hundreds of other great websites out there.  The more you connect with the kidlit community, the more you find!

I want to leave you with one more resources that has helped my writing tremendously.  The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas, offers on-site and online courses.  I completed a course in the fall with award winning, nonfiction author Nancy Churnin. The course was about breathing life into your nonfiction work.  The classes were small and we met online once a week.  It was almost like having a one -on-one mentorship with her.  It was, hands down, THE best writing course I have taken.

I hope that these resources will help you as much as they have helped me.  I’d love to hear your favorite resources, so please leave me a comment and share my blog so that it may help others on their journey to publication. Also, Don’t forget to subscribe so that you can be notified of my next post which is  all about a really fun, free and informational crash course in writing nonfiction!

 

“An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”

-Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird

 

Goodbye 2018, I’m happy to see you go!

My last blog post was in February of this year. 2018 has been a year that I am happy to leave behind. It  has been full of changes and loss.

Changes:

I have returned to the classroom after  15 years as a stay-at-home mom. I am teaching Social Studies at a fantastic school. to a bunch of sixth graders. They definitely keep me on my toes!  I love my team and have made great friends, but I’d be lying if I said it has been easy.

My writing has been shoved into the corner  and I have found it very difficult to find a healthy balance between family/school/writing. I am promising myself that 2019 will be different.

Better.

I promise dear readers, I have set a goal to begin with one post a month. I don’t know what that is going to be, but there will be something. Thank you for hanging in there with me!

Now to loss.

In February my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had his  kidney removed.  The doctors believed they got it all and he began chemo as a precaution.  Chemo sucked! I watched an otherwise healthy man of 81, who was exercising at his local YMCA almost daily, become a feeble man who had a hard time getting out of a chair.  He swore that if the cancer didn’t kill him, the chemo would.

But he pushed on and was determined to get past it and live the rest of his life as best he could.

Then in May, my family lost a dear friend, who was more like family, from lung cancer.  Lois was an amazing woman who had a long career with the Veteran’s Administration at a time when there very few women in her position. She had a passion for animals and our church. She became Aunt Lois to my family and she blessed us immensely. We will miss her greatly.

In July, may dad got to “ring the bell” after his last chemo treatment. Still feeling weak, but thankful, his last PET scan came back clean. No more cancer.

We had a great August, he was regaining his strength, he even spent time out in his workshop building things.

Then September hit.

He began having pain in his side. Doctors thought it was his appendix, a hernia, even possibly an ulcer. No one thought to look for cancer.

His cancer had returned with an angry vengeance. I lost my dad on September 16.

I lost the first man to ever love me. The first man I ever loved. My hero. The man I wanted to be proud of me.  The man who made history interesting and fun for me. The man who would pay me a quarter a page to write reports for him. The man who would spend hours  with me researching our family history. The man who could fix anything.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to tell him that it was ok for him to stop fighting. It was time for him to rest.  Thirty-five minutes after I told him I loved him, he joined my grandparents, and Lois.

The second hardest thing I’ve ever done is to write his obituary. You see, my dad was a published author. He wrote technical articles for various magazines, authored papers, and was working on his memoir. I promised him that I too would be published someday. I just didn’t think it would be this way.

So, as a tribute to my brilliant, always inquisitive dad, here is my first published work:

 

John Cover Bergmann, 81, of Alvin, Texas, passed away on Sunday, September 16, 2018. John was born in the early morning hours of December 9, 1936 in San Diego, California to United States Navy sailor , Commander John F. Bergmann and wife, LiDadllian R. Cover Bergmann.

His earliest memories were of his fifth birthday party when a next door neighbor ran in announcing that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  Within thirty minutes his father was on his way to the Pacific.

In 1952, the Navy moved the family to Japan where he attended high school at Eta Jima High School on the naval base. While in Japan, John and his other two classmates decided to paint a target on the schoolhouse roof as a senior prank.  Until a ranking officer happened to fly over the school.

Upon returning stateside, John attended the Colorado School of Mines before entering the United States Navy. Sworn in by his father, Commander John Bergmann, John became a meteorologist flying in the nose of a P3V Orion.  During the Cold War, he was stationed atop a secret mountain on Kodiak Island monitoring the air for radioactive fallout from Soviet nuclear tests.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy, John purchased a 1961 International Harvester Scout and set out for the canyons and deserts of the Southwest where he explored and camped with his German Shepard companion, King.

In 1963, answering an advertisement for overseas work, John found himself working on the development of a ballistic missile early warning system for RCA in Thule ,Greenland.

Returning back to the states in 1965,   John headed for Alvin, Texas where he met the girl who would become his wife of 52 years, Joyce Marie Lukens. After knowing one another for three weeks, they eloped. That year, John also began his career at NASA Johnson Space Center working for Lockheed at the Manned Space Flight Center where he worked on the space vehicle motion simulator. While at NASA, John ayoung dadlso worked on the Gemini and Apollo missions, as well as the Space Shuttle.

John is survived by his wife of 52 years, Joyce Marie Bergmann; his daughter, Julie Bergmann LaCombe; her husband, David; and granddaughters, Madeleine and Kaitlyn of Lubbock, Texas. He is survived by son, John S. Bergmann; Yola Lawson; granddaughters, Amarriea and Amaya; and grandson Jacob Bergmann of Friendswood, Texas.

I love you and miss you daily dad!