I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Monday, November 19, 2012

                  The Next Big Thing (part deux)

Author, Jo Kittinger
     I am delighted to share my space with a wonderful children's author, Jo Kittinger, who also happens to be the Co-Regional Advisor of the Southern Breeze Region of  SCBWI. 
Jo has written some FABULOUS picture books (see them listed below) and her "Next Big Thing" sounds amazing. Let me turn this over to Jo and her 10 question answers.

What is your working title of your book? 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was brainstorming with Tony Barash about what subject should be a follow up story to A BREATH OF HOPE, dealing with some legally related topic. We decided to go with a Post Traumatic Strees Syndrome storyline, offering help for those dealing with war-related stress. Tony is the impetus behind the series, which has been picked up by the American Bar Association.
What genre does your book fall under?  
Good question! It's a fiction picture book, but with a definite intent to educate. A page of back matter will offer information for those dealing with PTSD.
*** Wow Jo! I really respect your choice of tackling PTSD for children. There are many children of returning service men and women, I imagine, that are living with these issues in their families. How wonderful to provide them with a resource. Gail
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
I'm afraid I don't know any male child Latino actors to play my main character. For the friend's uncle who has PTSD, perhaps Eion Bailey.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  
Cristian helps his friend, Brie, get help for her uncle who is suffering from PTSD.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
It will be published by the American Bar Association.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  
One day . . .  after weeks of thinking about it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
I wish I could think of something other than my own book, A BREATH OF HOPE. I'm just not aware of other fictional picture books that are explicit in their purpose of teaching about a topic. I enjoy writing both fiction and nonfiction, and this blend of both satisfies both those pleasures.
*** Bravo for filling a need in children's literature. It's important tfor kids to see themselves in the stories they read. Gail
Who or what inspired you to write this book?  
Reading about the vast numbers of our servicemen and women who are struggling with PTSD was a major influence -- then, knowing one soldier and the issues he faced after returning from Afganistan, along with other individuals that deal with other mental illnesses. Individuals who return from war with physical injuries get medals, while those who live with mental injuries are often misunderstood and underserved.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
 There are service dogs who are trained to help servicemen and women with PTSD. The dogs help the soldiers stay connected with "reality". That's pretty cool!
*** Doesn't it amaze you how many types of jobs dogs can do to help humans? Gail

Thanks for the opportunity to participate, Gail!!
Thank you, Jo. I can hardly wait to get a copy of this book!
And check over at Cathy Hall's blog to read her "Next Big Thing" post.  -

Books Jo Kittinger has authored:

Monday, November 12, 2012

     The Next Big Thing

  I'm excited a writing friend, Debra Goldstein, author of Maze In Blue, has   invited me to participate in a blog tag. For those of you looking puzzled, a blog tag   is sort of like the childhood game of tag, but you're picking someone in cyberspace rather than the playground. Each person tagged answers 10 questions about one of her WIPs (works in progress). I say 'her' because this is to promote female writers!

     Anyway, the answers will give you a sneak peek into what I hope will be a future published children's book. Here goes:

1)  What is the working title of your book?
      So far, I'm calling it, The Anvil Is My Instrument, which is a quote from a speech given by the subject of the book.

2)Where did the idea come from for the book?
       I learned about Philip Simmons, a master blacksmith, during a visit to Charleston, S.C.
3)What genre does your book fall under?
     It is a nonfiction picture book.
4)Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
     Yikes, this is tough since nonfiction picture books are rarely Hollywood material. But, since I'm pretending, I'll dream big....Denzel Washington would be awesome.
5)What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
     The Anvil Is My Instrument tells the story of a humble man, blacksmith Philip Simmons, who went from simple beginnings to world wide recognition for the craftsmanship of his ironworks, and he became one of the the first individuals in America to receive the National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts. With this award, the recipient is viewed as "a national treasure."

6)Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
     I hope to find an agent and publisher with a passion for the story that matches mine. However, I wouldn't rule out self-publishing. I'm open to options. Oh yeah, there's also that movie we were talking about earlier!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
      I know this will sound crazy, but it took me about a year. Since Mr. Simmons still has living relatives and friends with whom I spoke, they wanted to see the manuscript. That brought about changes. I had two professional critiques done on the manuscript, bringing more revisions.  I think I'm on draft number 7 now. I feel good about this version, and 7 is my lucky number!
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
      When I read It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrations by Greg Christie, I felt in my heart that this was the type of book I wanted my Philip Simmons'  story to aspire to be. It's heartfelt and shows the character of the man it portrays. 
I want to do that too.

9)Who or what inspired you to write this book?
     I took a bus tour in Charleston that showcased the African-American history of the city. Something about Mr. Simmons touched me. So I went to the Charleston Preservation Society and purchased a book about him. That night on PBS, there was a program on Craftsmen in America. Of course, I turned the program on just as they began to speak about and with Philip Simmons. I knew it was a sign that I needed to write his story.
10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Tulip Gate by Philip Simmons
        I believe that Philip Simmons' character, belief system, and perseverance  make him a wonderful role model for all children, but especially African-American children. His beginnings weren't easy- raised by grandparents, working at an early age- but using both brain and brawn- and maintaining a positive outlook on life, despite its tragedies- he lived a long, productive, and prosperous life. His desire always to help others, especially children, is the legacy he left in Charleston. That and the hundreds of gates, fences, window grills, and a pavilion in the airport!          

Well, there you have it; a peek into my writing world. You'll have to excuse me now; I need to go back to my manuscript. Lucky 7, I can feel it.

I asked several writer friends if they wanted to continue this blog tag. One said she didn't have a "next big thing" right now and the others must be busy writing because I haven't heard from them yet! I'll go ahead and post this then add an addendum when I hear from them! 

Addendum for week of Monday, Nov 19th:
Watch for a posting here by children's author, Jo Kittinger and Cathy C. Hall at this link

Saturday, October 27, 2012


What's So Special About November? (Besides Thanksgiving)

       Those of you who write probably think the answer to the question above is: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Yeah, that's one option. 

       But some of you might find NaNo overwhelming and too time-consuming. Thanks to Tara Lazar, there's another option: PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month. 
   It's a simple premise: Write down 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don't need to write the whole manuscript [although if you can do that in a day, more power to ya!], just jot down a sentence or two about a character, a scene, a setting. You might even pose a "what if" question. Not so time-consuming, huh!

   There are 'benies' to signing up for PiBo. P-r-i-z-e-s. Good prizes. Really cool prizes like winning a critique from an editor or a literary agent. Now who wouldn't want those kind of eyes eye-ing your manuscript? Of course, to be eligible, you have to register by November 4th. And you need to link back to Tara's blog. Oh yeah, you need to post the official badge on your blog or web site, or Facebook page....if you have one of those.    

But why am I telling you this stuff? Just follow this  link:

I'm signed up and sworn in. I've got my idea notebook begging to be filled.

So, who's with me on this? This is less fattening than your Thanksgiving meal!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

 A Confession (even though I'm Jewish)

       It's been three, almost four months since my last post. It was never my intent to go MIA. Sometimes life events just get the best of us and a hiatus becomes important. Since June I've had a few wonderful ups but a few intense downs. The combination became overwhelming. Thus my "disappearance." 

      I took time to contemplate, analyze, be sad, be glad, regroup and now recommit to blogging, to supporters, to the craft of writing, and to forward motion. [no political innuendo intended]

      I think in the Catholic church, after a confession, there's a form of penitence or contrition. This time of year, in Judaism, we are approaching the Day of Atonement, otherwise known as Yom Kippur. On this day, while in synagogue, we recite a series of prayers confessing our sins ( and a whole bunch extra just in case we've forgotten some). So I guess I'll need to say about three "Al Chates"  [that's 'ch' as in the sound you make when coughing something up]. And lest you think that's not enough, keep in mind we are fasting 24 hours on this holiday-no food or liquid- and I'll be about 12 hours into it!!                                                                        

Monday, June 4, 2012

                    Sharing With My Community

      In my last post, I talked about my involvement in several communities.  It's important to not just be a part of a community but to give back to one's community, so today, I'm offering up some special books.

      First, I have a double autographed copy of It Jes Happened by Don Tate and illustrated by Gregory Christie. I was able to spend a little time talking with them at their recent gallery talk/book signing held at The High Museum of Art. (Don and I met last summer at the               
Highlights Writers'  Workshop at Chautauqua.)

           The second book, Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose, is written by Tina Nichols Coury, known as "The Rushmore Kid" in the blogosphere. Tina is always promoting other authors and their books so it's nice to see her in the spotlight. The book is illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.

      Both of these picture book biographies are fabulous! They share life stories of individuals unknown to many and celebrate their remarkable contributions to the world of art and to America. I have read these books several times. There's have a smooth flow to each story matched by the cadence of words. I can only hope that the picture book biography I'm working on will shine half as bright as these fine books.

     So, how can you win one? Stop by this blog and leave me a comment. Tweet, FB post, or blog shout-out and earn extra chances. You don't even have to be a follower (although I'd love for you to!) Giveaway ends at midnight on June 15th.

       Each book is special in its own way, but they have a couple threads in common: always be observant of the world around you and find something you're passionate about and participate in it. These really are great stories, so if you don't win one, go out and buy them!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

           It's All About Community

         I've been contemplating the idea of "community" for the past month. And I've come to realize how very mportant the concept is within my life.

         A dear friend of mine has lapsed into dementia, rather suddenly following a health issue. Anyone who has a family member or friend, or knows someone  connected to an individual in the dementia spiral, can appreciate the toll it takes on those closest to the afflicted. Your interactions change, your communications change and you must accept it and move forward while grieving the loss of the person you knew. It helps to have a community of people who care about the individual. Together we can hopefully help our friend still feel valued and loved.

       I find I need  a community of visually impaired and sightless people, as well as family and friends who support me through  the vision loss challenges. That's why I'm a Board Member for the local chapter of Foundation Fighting Blindness and assist with our support group. When I had to give up driving and then when I needed to learn to use a white cane, I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge. [To see how I handled it, check my archived posts for those labeled "Visualeyes"] But those in the support group knew exactly how I felt having gone through it. They reassured me I'd get there when I was ready.

     I also participate in a listserv for the visually impaired. The other day, a woman confessed to hesitation about using her white cane because she just knew everyone was staring at her and it was embarrassing. She was going on vacation and planned to use the cane elsewhere, around people she didn't know. She thought it would be a more comfortable environment to practice her mobility skills. My heart was racing and my palms were clammy as I read her post. With every cell in my body I understood her fear, her embarrassment, her sadness because I experienced it all. And guess who else tried out the cane on vacation around strangers? Yup, I took mine first to a beach town and then made my first "public appearance" at the LA-SCBWI summer conference. I was only semi-mortified in LA because I just knew 3 people out of about 1,000. 

         As writers, we definitely want a sense of community. Writing is usually solitary, and can be isolating. It's easy to feel vulnerable and lack confidence on your own. 

          But critique groups, blog buddies, web writing challenges, surround us with support, with guidance in writing, cheer us on after rejections, and understand the frustrations and snail's pace we've come to know as trying-to-get-published. 

        So many aspects of our lives involve a community. Even communities within communities. I for one, depend on them. I thrive with them. I'm grateful to be a part of them. Long live communities.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Guest Spot and a Giveaway!       
        Last May, while strolling around the Decatur Book Festival, I stopped to check out books by Indie authors. I don't know about you, but titles draw me in, not cover art. I picked up a book called Maze In Blue by Debra H. Goldstein because it reminded me of my college colors- maize and blue. I read the blurb and surprise, the mystery's setting was my alma mater, University of Michigan.    
            Fast forward....book purchased and as I began to read I discovered the main character's backstory included living in the same dorm I lived in AND the time frame was the same years I attended U of M. * insert The Twilight Zone music here* It was as if I was meant to connect to this author. Fast forward again.. I emailed Debra (who lives in our Southern Breeze region) and we've been corresponding ever since.

             Somewhere between Jewish holidays (another connection, we're both Jewish) Debra asked if I'd like to be a guest blogger on her blog!

My post is appearing today! Please take a peak over there and let me know what you think.

Giveaway Time!!!!!!!

      I've been meaning to give away a few books as a thank you for helping me reach 100 followers. Now do I hear 150?? Just kidding! 
Anyway, here's what I have to give:
* An autographed copy of Untraceable by S. R. Johannes (aka our own Shelli Johannes-Wells).
  *  An autographed copy of The Friendship 
     Doll by Kirby Larson  
        -historical fiction-


*  An ARC of Beyonders 2: Seeds of Revolution  by    Brandon Mull with swag (a bookmark and a packet  of real seeds!)  

Here's what you do:
* sign on as a follower of my blog (name goes in once)
* mention on Twitter, and send me the link (name in again)
* mention on Facebook and send me the link (another chance)
* shout-out on your blog (4th opportunity)
* cajole  threaten convince someone else to sign up and if you want the credit, they need to mention your name in the comment please. (chance #5)

You have until midnight, April 30th to enter. Winners announced on May 1st. Sorry, open to US and Canadian residents only this time.
My bookshelf loss is your gain!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

    A Springtime Walk

       Atlanta is the Spring is glorious, between the Bradford Pear trees, Dogwoods, Azaleas, and Camellias. It can take your breath away. (And if you're an allergy sufferer, the extremely high pollen counts- that would be pine tree pollen- might literally take your breath away without a surgical mask!)

     In spite of the pollen, and surrounded by the flora and wonderful weather this weekend, I will be taking a special  Springtime walk.

     Tomorrow is the annual Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB)  5K VisionWalk. So far, the Atlanta Chapter has raised $104,000 for research. Go Atlanta!!  That beats last year's total of $100,000 and money can "bloom" until the end of June.  
        I'm the co-captain of the Atlanta S.P.A.R Team. We chose the name because we're sparring (fighting) to find a treatment/cure for our retinal conditions and because the letters stand for the 3 guidelines our chapter represents: Support, Public Awareness, and Research. I tried the letters in different arrangements but somehow RAPS, SRAP, ASPR, RASP, PRAS, and PARS didn't make sense. Thus, we became the SPAR Team Good thing our guidelines/principles didn't spell out DORK or SPAZ or SH*T!!! 
      If you're looking to take a walk on Sunday March 25th, in Atlanta, join us at noonish on the meadow at Piedmont Park. You can't miss us. We'll be 700+ people, some with white canes, some with guide dogs, and many fully sighted folks all walking in support of finding a way to prevent blindness. Our slogan: A Cure Is In Sight!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

          A Rare Opportunity

February 29th is a rare day. We only see it once every four years. So it's the perfect day to observe Rare Disease Day.

All around the world, there will be events and projects  introduced to increase awareness of diseases that don't always make the news, that may not have a huge marketing organization. You might not realize that the following are considered "rare" :
       * Cystic Fibrosis
       * Huntington's Disease
       * Gauchers Disease
       * Spina Bifida
       * Ushers Syndrome
and my "favorite" one, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

Did you know:
 According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are nearly 7,000 such diseases affecting around 30 million Americans (about 1 in 10 people).  Also, less than 5% of these diseases have any type of treatment options and none of the 7,000 have a cure. Yet.

One in 10 people in the United States suffers with a rare disease. That makes it seem not so rare, doesn't it? It also makes you realize that you probably know a half dozen folks dealing with a rare disease!

 "Solidarity" is the 2012 theme and it focuses on the importance and the need for collaboration as well as mutual support in the field of rare diseases. 

In solidarity with me, a member of the rare-disease-club, check out this site  or go to this site  and click on the Raise Your Hand Campaign button. Each click = a $1.00 donation by Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals that goes toward research for rare diseases. (They're contributing up to $10,000 so click away!)

Happy Leap Day everyone. Please take a leap of faith and help out the millions of Americans who are hoping for treatment options and cures. Like me.        


Sunday, February 19, 2012

                                     Where Did it Go?

I've lost my writing mojo. I don't know why or where it went. It was strong in January. And i've had some ideas running through my head, but nothing comes out on paper. None of the thoughts blossom.

I'm going to my regional SCBWI conference next weekend. I always find it inspiring and motivating to gather with other writers. So maybe I'll find my mojo there. Or maybe it will secretly tag along with me, hidden in the corner of my book bag.

I want my writing back. Soon. Please.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What I Did on My Vacation  
(and book giveaway winner)

    Sounds like the school assignment we always got after Winter Break, right?

    Well, I went to visit my family in Boston and we continued our holiday tradition of spending four days over Christmas in New Hampshire. It was slightly different this year as my oldest nephew was missing. Don't feel too bad for him; he was on a trip in Israel for almost 3 weeks! He'll be back this week with tales to tell, I'm sure.

     We had a cold (-4 degrees Christmas Eve) and somewhat snowy day or two that you can see here. 

Not a fault line crack; it's the creek through the property!

We ate dinner Christmas Eve with my nephew's friend and his family in a charming, quaintly decorated New England cottage with antique furniture, old-fashioned floral wallpaper, floor vents in the creaky, hardwood floors, and a dining table smack in the middle of the small kitchen (complete with a cupboard that had hammered tin inset panels in the doors). No pictures, unfortunately. I'd never met these folks before and thought it might seem a little creepy to start taking pictures of their house! 

     The drive to their house took us on isolated roads and we saw some of these signs!  Dusk is feeding time, I'm told, for moose. We were driving at dusk. Yeah, I hear some of you going "big deal, the moose is probably more afraid of you and won't come near you."      Oh how wrong you are!

     Last fall, my family was in New Hampshire, traveling on similar roads, at a similar time. Without warning a HUGE female moose came running across the road (even girl moose don't want to miss feeding time) right in front of their car. So close that she left moose mud- at least they think it was mud- on the bumper and hood. Thank goodness they were only going about 40-45 mph and were able to stop. But it scared the bajeebees out of EVERYONE. [And although no one admits it, I'm betting there was some extra laundry to do that night, if you get my drift.] 
For many of us this picture to the right comes to mind  when one says "moose".                

The reality is more like this one on the left and between 10-15 feet tall. So next time you're in moose country, remember WE are the visitors there and you need to brake for moose!  

                            *drum roll*

The winner of Untraceable by S.R. Johannes is..........

Jenelle R !!        
Congrats to you. Please email me your snailmail address so I can get this fabulous book into your hands.  kidlitgail at gmail dot com