Many of you may know the sad tale of Stanley, from a book by Jeff Brown called Flat Stanley. Stanley was a boy who is flattened but not injured by a falling bulletin board. Now that he is very thin he can travel all over through the mail.
Alaina in Pennsylvania asked that Flat Stanley visit me, and of course, I was happy to show him the sights. Here is Stanley at Jamestown where the first permanent English settlement was established in 1607. Stanley visited James Fort and the Native American village.
Stanley had fun in Williamsburg.
Colonial people welcomed him warmly.
And he met two lovely girls and their dolls.
Stanley visited the Colonial Capitol
and the Governor’s Palace.
Stanley even got o sit with Mr. Thomas Jefferson who was writing the Declaration of Independence.
Today I gave the Keynote Address at a meeting of the Virginia Educational Media Assoication (school librarians). I was honored to be asked to address this great group! Here I am shown with Sabrina Carnesi who arranged this terrific conference.
I love going to Langley Elementary School in Hampton to talk with students about reading and writing. Kids at Langley are avid readers and excited about learning. The students in Mrs. Stohler’s class and Mr. Humble’s class had all read Lottie’s Courage. They were an attentive audience and had wonderful questions.
I met lots of great readers, signed lots of books, and came away with two great, huge thank you cards, wonderful drawings, and a gift bag containing an adorable Easter dish, a scented candle, and a sweet picture of Mrs. Stohler and her family.
We are having yet another snowy day in Williamsburg. Usually we see only one or two flakes all winter, but this year we have gotten one snowstorm after another. My amaryllis plant hasn’t minded the snow, producing four huge, gorgeous bunches of blossom. I’m not much of a horticulturist, but I gather that usually you can expect only one blossom from the plant. I hope this splash of red cheers you on a dark day.
In summer this little statute of St. Francis in my garden is usually almost covered with flowers. In the bleak days of January, however, he must be pleased to be a convenient dining table for squirrel munching on an acorn.
Children from Williamsburg/James City County elementary and middle schools met January 13, 2010 at the Williamsburg Regional Library where they chose the winner of the eighth annual Beacon of Freedom award.
The 2010 Beacon of Freedom Award winner is Two Miserable Presidents by Steve Sheinkin. Students read five books relating to American history from 1607 to 1865, choose representatives from their schools who met to decide the winner.
Shown in the picture are Rawls Byrd media specialist Viky Pedigo and Abubakar Alawy, the student chosen to represent Rawls Byrd Elementary School.
The Beacon of Freedom Award is supported by a generous grant from the Disabled American Veterans.
Each year the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This year I chose to work on completing the first draft of an adult novel that I started last year. That project is completed at over 113,000 words. Now I’ll begin much needed revisions. The above picture shows me with Laurin Wittig and Nicole Green, two other published authors. It is the last day of the month and we are working faithfully to the end. We met at the Coffee Beanery in Williamsburg where we have been warmly welcomed.
Last week we had a convergence of Hurricane Ida and a Northeaster(a severe storm that usually brings lots of rain, wind, and high tides) in Virginia. It is being called Nor-Ida.
I snapped the above photo of a house in Newport News during the storm. Notice how the rain on my car windshield has distorted the vertical supports of the porch railing. What an interesting world we live in!
Here are more student responses to the slides of the Camino de Santiago that I showed at Crittenden as part of a journaling workshop this week.
Well done, students!
“The sky that was running away from the dark, scary clouds reminds me of Hurricane Isabel. I was playing outside when I noticed the clouds and ran home. My mother, brother, and I went to my abuelos’ house and watched the monstrous wind knock down trees.”
“The green mountains I saw reminded me of my road trip to VA Tech. We drove on a mountain and it was very difficult. The view was great though, trees, flowers, streams, and animals. Nature should be appreciated. The air was fresh and the forest smelled like pine.” Kerry
“They showed some dogs just running, but I could not let my 2 dogs do that because they would run away, bite someone or get hurt. On the buildings the detailing was really nice and you really don’t [have]that kind of detail here. You only see it in a historical and very significant place like Washington, D.C. “
“I’ve been on a 5 minute journey to Spain and I saw an old castle that reminded me of a really big black castle in church class and I had to put it away when I was done with it and it made me realize that nothing lasts forever and things eventually go no matter what it is.”
“I’ve been on a 5 minute journey through Spain and I saw a very muddy trail. The trail reminded me of my vacation to Feirystone Park. When we took my brother back to Blacksburg, VA, we decided to drive to Feirystone Park, a where the rocks form differently. We had so much fun on the way there listening to the voice on the GPS, but when we got there it was wet and muddy. That did not stop us though and we got some very cool rocks.”
“The feast is like my Thanksgiving when I was at my grandma’s house. Everyone was going there. Friends, family, kids, babies, adults, everyone! My grandma had to make two turkeys, two pots of mash potatoes, dozens of biscuits, three cans of cranberries and three pots of green beans.”
“I’ve been on a 5 minute journey and out of all the things I saw, the dirt road was my favorite because that long, wide and bumpy road reminded me of good memories. Memories of being in the country, riding my motorcycle down the endless dirt roads. Then coming home to a good family and a good meal. It was very peaceful there , and that place will always be with me.”
“The dirt road in the slide reminds me of when I ride my bike to Lake Murray. They have the most amazing natural dirt lanes to ride on. I love it when you go down the steep one, get a shot of adrenaline, then it is the hill in the middle and for a spit second you feel like you are flying.”
“The eerie fog reminded me of the when I was outside and the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see anything.”
“When I saw all the shoes on the shelf, it reminded me of my many pair of shoes that I had in the 6th grade.”
“I liked the picture of the boot on the rock near the water. The was brown and looked worn. It was alone and beautiful, just like most things in this world. It reminded me of when when I went to the beach. We hiked the giant sand dues. I made it to the top first and stood looking out at the ocean. The sand hit my legs in individual grains as the wind blew.”
“I like sheep. The little sheep guys were walking across a road cautiously. They were being careful not to get run over by the drivers.”
“I liked the view of the water. It reminded me of my trips to VA beach.”
“I think the castle is so pretty. It reminds me of my brand new house. It’s big but, not that big. I just see space when I see that castle.”
“The picture of the mountains reminded me of bliss and like how life can have all sorts of turns in it, but you can always make it through.”
“The castle reminds me of the castle our family owns in Scotland. Our family goes way back to the Vikings. The medieval castle with the pretty stones makes me think about my family’s history.”
“There was a picture of a man with a tool and I thought it was a monkey. I can relate to it because last summer I took a trip to Africa and saw lots of monkeys.
“The family reminded me about vacationing with my family in Louisiana.”
“The ship reminds me of my first fishing trip with my dad. I really enjoyed that day. I remember when I saw a fish jump out of the water.”
“The shoes reminded me of military boots lined up.”
Yesterday when I arrived at Crittenden Middle School, I saw something VERY interesting going on. I had to explore.
I learned that these young women have been learning to knit since school began this fall. They are making scarves for themselves and for charity. They’ll next learn how to make hats.
I learned all about their project from Sabrina Carnesi, Media Specialist, who is teaching them this life skill. What beautiful yarns! What a great project!
I am posting more student responses to the slides of the Camino de Santiago from the journaling workshop yesterday.
Good work, students!
“One thing that reminded me of my life is when I saw the lion on a piece of fabric. It reminded me of what I am doing in my IE class. I cross stitch and I am making a cross with two squares in the middle and I am highlighting it in orange and white.”
“I liked the picture of the cabin because it reminded me of when I went to Lake Gaston for the first time, and it reminded me of when I went camping with my family. “
“One thing that relates to my life is the cross. The cross reminds me of my life because I believe in Jehovah. But other people believe that He doesn’t have a personal name but I do and it is Jehovah.”
“The muddy road reminds me of the time I rode my go-cart right after it had rained, and it was muddy and dirty. A long time ago when I used to live with my grandma when they washed clothes to dry them they used clothes lines. When I was little my granddad owned a lot of land. I remember running with my friend in the grass.”
“The pictures of France reminded me of French toast.”
“The cow crossing the road reminded me of when we took my cousin to college at Penn State and when we drove up and down the hills. The house party reminds me of the Christmas party last year in Suffolk. It was a dark night and we had all sorts of good food.”
“The dirt road reminds me of when my family and I go to North Carolina to our family and we go down a dirt road.”
“The cross reminded me when I first went to church at Morning Star and I was little. It was my first time seeing a cross and knowing what it represented and [it reminded me] when I got baptized in front of a cross so that nothing bad would happen to me like to drown or choke.”
“I have seen a lot of animals walking across the street and lots of working people picking crops in the field.”
“This reminds me of when I went to Boston, MA. Traveling can help you by giving you ideas for writing and an open mind.”
“I think that the fireplace reminded me of my family. The last time my family was together was almost three years ago and when we sat together we had Smores, peanut butter, and pancakes and that was the happiest time of my life.”
“I liked the picture of the children playing on the sidewalk. They were having fun and that reminds me of me and my friends. I can smell the stinky sewage water and smell the fresh air.”
“The mountains remind me of West Virginia.”
“All the cars parked remind me when my grandmother died and her funeral. Everybody came to my house and there were lots of cars parked outside my house. I was very sad when I got into the cars with my brother.”
“When I went on a journey this morning to Spain the rocky and muddy land reminded me of when my mom cooks crumb cake. It always breaks apart and she adds carmel to it. So it looks like a muddy road with rocks in it, just like in the slide show.”
“When I saw the dog on the ground, it reminded me of when I was walking with my dog up a hill in Ponce, Puerto Rico and we were very tired but we never gave up because if we did the steep hill would make us fall down again.”
“The one that shows the big ship reminds me of my dad because he took me there [to the ocean] and it was really fun. I cold see the fishes and the waves. “
“One of the slides was like my trip to North Carolina. It was a beautiful trip. I remember smelling plant food in the ground [and] driving by the houses hearing the dogs barking at us.”
“When I saw the contorted tree, I thought of a tree I always used to climb on in the Noland Trail. The way it was contorted some limbs laid low to the ground and those were the limbs I would climb on to get to the top. It would always feel rough and bumpy. The tree was about 15 feet high and I would get scared sometimes to go to the top. But I always felt good when I got to the top.”
“For all the world, I’d like to go to the field because it reminds me of those dark orange dirt paths at the Bonx Track. When you touched it, it felt like the sand you’d find at the beach.”
“The bus reminded me that I’m always on the move because I move to different places a lot. “
[I liked]the family sitting together at the dinner table. I sit at the table along with my family and the people were sitting at the table eating really good food.”
“The picture of the town that had the Molana sign on the town restaurant I liked because it reminded me of my grandma’s home town, Frankfort, Germany.”
“The picture of the thunderstorm clouds remind me of dark times when it is rainy outside. I love it. This may sound weird, but I love the days when it’s raining because that means you have an opportunity to do nothing, you can just sit there and relax and watch movies.”
“[I liked]the big, huge blue and black bus with soft leather seats and the smell or morning and stinky and smelly window. [It] reminded me when I used to rise the bus with my grandma to work and when we used to go out to eat.”
“The lady with the flowers reminds me of my grandma.”
“If I went to Spain and hiked up all those mountains, it would remind me of hiking up the mountains in Australia. It kept getting colder and colder as you went up. It had a lot of dirt, but some trees and we did a scavenger hunt on the mountain.”
“Out of the things that I saw in the slides the one that looked like a storm coming reminded me of how when I went to North Carolina and there was a big storm coming in. I can remember during the storm the rush of the wind was blowing in my face and leaves [were] slapping me back and forth.”
“The bus that is at the beginning of the show reminds me of how I like to go places. I like to go everywhere.”
“How wonderful lots of animals crossing the road just like when my little sister was crossing the road.”
“The statue reminds me of a picture I saw in a book in the library.”
Journaling requires careful observation of the world. I challenged students at Crittenden to watch five minutes of slides from the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain, and describe what they saw.
Students were eager to share what they saw. This was the easy part. I next asked students to relate what they saw to something in their lives, promising to publish the “gems” I found on my website. As I look over what the students have written I’m impressed.
Remember students had only minutes to write these thoughts. They are not finished prose, but reactions to the slides. Also keep in mind, the students were sixth graders, seventh graders, and eighth graders.
“The bunk beds in the cabin reminded me of the yearly trip to North Carolina beachfront. The cabin was almost identical to the slide. There was a bunk bed and single bed and swing outside. Conner and Ho were sleeping the bunk bed. I was sleeping in the single. Will slept on the swing. I stayed up all night watching Batman movies. Conner was playing my video game.”
“The brown dog reminded me of my pet dog Lollipop because he is always laying around.”
“The beaches and great views reminded me of when I go to Old Orchard Beach every summer since I was two. When I go there, my family and I would check in at a motel right on the beach with an amusement park 5 minutes away. We always go the park every night unless it is bad weather.”
“The bus going to New York was stinky. I hope I do not go on that bus again.”
“The woman holding the red and white quilt reminded me of my warm, soft comfortable cowboy blanket. It was my favorite quilt to sleep and bundle up with. Whenever I go over to my dad’s house, I love to sleep on the couch with my blanket.”
“The dark clouds reminded me of Hurricane Isabel (2005).”
“The nice restaurant reminds me about my life because I love to go to fancy and non-fancy restaurants. I love their good food and I love having a good time. When I go to a restaurant I love to eat dessert. My favorite restaurant is Cheese Cake Factory.”
“The religious statue in the slide reminded me of the many statutes my grandmother has in her home. Her friends’ mother makes most of them by hand. they are really beautiful.”
“The mountains were evergreen. There was fog slightly around it. I closed my eyes and imagined Arizona mountains. They were so different. Arizona with the craggy rocks, cactus, and snakes versus the evergreen mountains. I missed Arizona and I couldn’t wait to go back. So I sat there and admired the mountain. It was green about 1000 mixes. It had flowers of colors I thought I had never seen. But in my head it reminded me of home. I think I could smell the cooking of my aunt and hear the laughs of my cousins playing.”
“As the photos were being shown on the projector one really caught my eye, it was the picture with the beautiful green tree. I apply this to my personal life because it mostly reminds me of the way my family sticks together. The way the roots sprout out of the tree represents the way my family was brought up to always stick together whatever the circumstances.”
“The slide with the boot reminded me of the song by Genesis “Home by the Sea.” That particular slide also reminded me of Hampton University.”
“The blue sea reminds me of when I am sitting on the beach with my family, watching colorful fireworks beating down on the ocean after sunset on the Fourth of July. I feel comfortable and the fireworks are just beautiful.”
“It reminded me of my large beautiful dog. One morning I found him lying in the kitchen on the concrete floor lying next to his food bowl with a foul smell of dog food. I wondered why he was lying there so I looked around the dirty floor an found the bag of dog food all over the floor. Then I heard a noise. He was still awake, eating his dog food.”
“The bunk beds reminded me of my room because I own a bunk bed. The dirty path reminded me of my backyard because it is useless thing and dirty things are everywhere. “
“The mountains looked like a picture I drew in my notebook. I felt like I was climbing a really steep mountain. It was a huge blizzard and I was about to break a record for the quickest time for climbing a huge mountain. The snow tasted like vanilla ice cream.”
“A dead dog reminded me of my grandmother’s dog because I grew up with him and he meant a lot to me. His name was Bubbles. The dog in the picture was brown, black and big. So was Bubbles.”
“This is a picture I can relate to. It is a statute on a building and it is silver. In New York there is one building that looks like it.”
“When I saw grass covered mountains that reminded me of my view of my room in Colorado. When I was depressed I would look at the mountains which made me feel better.”
“The bus looked like [one from] the Martin Luther King boycott.”
“I have a beautiful golden retriever that is very lazy, so she sleeps a lot in and outside.”
“The rugged hard road with many bumps and cracks, with many big rocks also with lots of dirt reminds me of my aunt’s rugged road going up to her house.”
“In one of the photos, I saw some kids playing with one another and it immediately brought back memories when I was about that age playing with my friends.”
“There was a big blue bus, and it relates to my life [in that] my grandma rides the bus to her job at 4:00 am in the morning before the bus even starts running and she works at the shipyard on a boat cleaning the inside.”
“One of the pictures that related to me was the one with the two people hiking and that reminded me of the time me and my grandma hiked last year in Wisconsin.”
“I used to watch my little cousins play outside in red jogging suits. When I jumped in, they all ganged up on me.”
“The storm reminded [of] my life because I ‘d seen a cloud similar to that and I thought a bad or horrible storm would come soon. It was dark gray and large! I was scared.”
“I ride a bus to school.”
“I have a bunk bed in my house.”
“My great granddad has two boats.”
“The bus reminded me of the bus trip when I went to Florida where I stayed for 5 years.”
The lady up on the stage dancing reminds me of me dancing when I [had] a concert in Mississippi and I had a lot of people looking at me and screaming.”
“The field I saw reminded me about football. I used to play football [and] ran the ball all the way to a touchdown.”
“Flowers make me think of my porch.”
“German shepherds remind me of cops because of K-9 dogs. I like K-9 dogs because they are nice and help people.”
“When me and my mom went to Kings Dominion, we rode the city bus.”
“When I get bored, I go out and go hiking in North Carolina. When I go out in deep fields, it feels weird.”
“The big gray statue of the man attackin a fierce dangerous animal reminds me of the stories my fun, cool cousin told me about when he was in the war.”
Avi is one of kids’ favorite authors. He has written 70 books and won many awards including the prestigious Newbery Medal. He came to Williamsburg this weekend to receive the Beacon of Freedom Award for his novel Iron Thunder.
The Beacon of Freedom Award is a child-chosen award supported by a generous donation from the Disabled American Veterans. Local kids read five or six books chosen by a committee and vote on their favorite. So kids, if you haven’t read Avi, please make it a priority to do so. You can visit his website at: http://www.avi-writer.com/
Friday evening at the award presentation, Avi spoke at the Williamsburg Regional Library. Hehad valuable things to share with kids and other writers.
As a student, Avi was a lousy writer. Kids, there is hope for you even if you find writing challenging.
Avi stressed that each of his books goes through as many as 60 or 70 revisions. He explained that if you see something that looks easy, for example like someone playing tennis well, it is the result of lots of hard work. It is the same with writing.
A student asked Avi what was the favorite book he had written. He replied that is is always the book he is working on. He has to believe that it is his best work. There is a lesson here for us all. You must believe in what you write and strive to make it your best work.
Being able to go to dinner with Avi was very special. Not only is he a good writer, but I found him to be lively and likable, humble and humorous, knowledgeable and kind.
I was delighted to learn that he, like yours truly, can’t spell and relies on spell check.
We have returned to the US after being out of the country for nearly six weeks. After a delightful visit to Paris, seeing friends, my husband and I walked over the Pyrenees Mountains on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a 1200-year-old pilgrimage route during the month of September. It was a tremendous experience. We walked 391 miles. I carried a twenty pound pack.
Not everyone carried a pack! My husband, Otis, seen below is the second-oldest pilgrim we met. He has just turned 75. We heard rumors of older pilgrims, but we didn’t meet any. His pack weighed 25 pounds.
The youngest pilgrim we met was just 13 months old. He was from Brittany in France and he wasn’t walking. His dad was carrying him in backpack.
We’ve been getting ready for our third pilgrimage. We leave next week for Paris and we will walk over the Pyrenees (Mountains between France and Spain) starting on September 1, my birthday. We’ll walk 30 days, ending our trek at Leon, Spain where we began our first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2007.
Pilgrims have been wearing scallop shells to identify them as pilgrims for over 1200 years. The pilgrim shells my husband and I wear are five-million year-old Virginia fossils, named for Thomas Jefferson.
My son and daughter-in-law sent me pants for my birthday. The pants, shown above, are blue and white with tiny scallop shells embroidered on them.
On my recent trip to New Hampshire, I attended a concert held in a traditional New England bandstand. Many years ago it was common for small towns to have a bandstand, usually in the center of the town for summer concerts.
For more than 20 years, every week in the summer, my friend and former colleague Angela Robinson has arranged free public concerts in the small town of Henniker.
The concerts were so successful that the “town” decided that they needed a bandstand. Angela Robinson was not pleased with the proposed location of the bandstand and complained loudly to everyone in town. Then she found out that it was NOT the town building the bandstand. Her husband was building it in her honor.
So when I visited my friend I planned my visit so that I could attend one of “her” concerts. It was very special.
When I was a kid when someone was beaten badly at a game, we said he or she was “skunked.”
Recently, we stopped for ice cream at an ice cream store near our neighborhood. And to my great surprise, i saw two skunks traipsing around the tables behind the store. They were quite tame and very beautiful and they obviously liked ice cream since they were foraging for bits of cone or dropped ice cream.
I couldn’t help but feel that the poor critters had been “skunked” that is, in this case their habitat destroyed by a new housing development. They were beaten and doing their best to survive in spite of it.
We are again training for another pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. This year we’ll start in France and go over the Pyrenees to Leon, Spain where we started our first pilgrimage in 2007.
The picture is of my husband, Otis, crossing a stream on the 14.36 miles hike we took on Tuesday around Charlottesville, VA on our 30th wedding anniversary. We both carried nearly 20 lbs. in our packs. After our hike, we joined friends for dinner at the Boar’s Head Inn.
One of the real joys of being a writer is meeting readers. Today I met Christopher from New Orleans. He and his family are visiting Williamsburg from New Orleans. I look forward to hearing from Christopher after he has read Divided Loyalties.
A new housing development adjoining our neighborhood has destroyed the habitats of many animals. The builders clear cut the area and the woods disappeared. As a result, we have had an invasion of critters. My flowers have never looked worse. Hungry rabbits have eaten things they never touched before, dahlias and even marigolds.
We have two fenced vegetable plots. But the fences haven’t kept out the squirrels. They got our first ripe tomatoes. So we have placed an animal-friendly trap in the garden. We’ve caught three squirrels and relocated them. Now I’ve covered nearly ripe tomatoes with brown paper lunch bags. So far the score is squirrels four tomatoes, Haislips one tomato.
Our trash bin was overturned the other morning and we suspect a raccoon.
We have a wildlife camera which we have set up in the yard. It is activated by motion. Our string beans, growing up the side of one of our gardens, have been ravaged by deer.
Writing is all about having readers enjoy what you have written. Today I got this email and I was thrilled!
Ms. Haislip, I am the girl who stood in front of your signing table in the Williamsburg Visitors Center and read half of the book,Divided Loyalties, before deciding to buy it. As soon as I got back home from Williamsburg I read your book. It was awesome! I’m usually not that interested in history, but I love your book. It summed up the whole idea of the struggles that people where going through at that time with the war and was appealing to me since it was not just a history textbook type of thing, but a fun story about a boy and his family. I can’t wait to read more of your books soon! -Laura
My newest book is called Lili’s Gift, and it’s about two kids that become orphans during the Civil War. And I’ve felt a bit like the book is an orphan, too since I haven’t heard from many readers about it. As a result, I was delighted to get this email today:
Hello, My name is Anna Lee and I am now in 7th grade. I just read one of your books: Lily’s gift. It was excellent!This book was one of the best books I have ever read. You really combined fiction and history together and created an adventurous story. I am so glad I read your book. Thank you so much, Anna Lee
The Dodger game was great fun, especially since the Dodgers came from behind to win.
A trip to California would be incomplete without visiting one of the California Missions. At the Santa Barbara Mission there were many chalk drawings by kids on the pavement in front of the Mission.
Photographs inside the Mission thank the firefighters for their efforts during the recent fire.
Jugglers on stilts were only part of the street show in Hollywood.
We went to see the La Brea Tar Pits where prehistoric animals had become trapped and their fossils preserved. The museum was full of kids and these two girls were playing a hand game.
Huntington Library is a terrific place to visit. I particularly was interested in seeing a famous manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. When I first went to the British Museum in London, I wanted to see Magna Carta. Can you guess I have spent many years in love with Medieval and renaissance history?
The Aquarium in Long Beach was filled with amazing things to see.
It is never supposed to rain in Southern California, but we actually had a rainy morning, and the next day the sky was unusually clear. We went to the Getty Museum where we had spectacular views of Los Angeles and also enjoyed the art collection, flowers, and architecture. Here is a view of downtown Los Angeles as seen from the Getty Museum.
The world is filled with so many wonderful things, we all should be as happy as kings.
A reader sent me the letter below and make me a flashing gold star. I couldn’t copy the star onto my website, but I was thrilled to get it. Thanks Jimmy!
AWESOME!!! I love your book. It kept me pulled in almost 24/7. This email took a while because I lost the book while I was in the middle of reading it. But I love the book. The book was so life-like. When Eddie put the leech on Luca after they tied him up, I was holding my breath in suspense. As well once Madre was showing Luca around the hospital, I almost felt as if Madre was showing me around with Luca. Thanks for giving a really good book to read. Hope you can respond soon. Keep making books!!!
I snapped a photograph on Saturday of this huge snapping turtle. He had just crossed the road and his tail was still on the highway. Thursday while hiking at Green Springs I walked within a yard or so of a copperhead snake. I didn’t have my camera, but I did stop to examine that fearsome fellow. And I’m glad that he wasn’t on the path. Never a dull moment!
It was delightful to get together yesterday with one of my readers. Hunter was up to my shoulders the last time I saw him. He is now almost six feet tall and sixteen years old. Hunter asked to be a character in one of my books and in order to write about him I had to get to know him well. The name Hunter was not popular in the 1930s, the time the character lived. So Hunter chose the name “Ben.” Ever since, he has been Hunter/Ben. The book starring Ben is still unpublished, but I remain hopeful.
Thank you Hunter/Ben for keeping in touch. It was great to see you!
Hunter/Ben was in town on a field trip with the chorale and chorus from Franklin County High School in Western Virginia. What a nice group of young people!
It has been amazing to me as an author and very gratifying that readers feel close enough to me after reading my books to send me a gift. I have received other gifts from readers, a lovely bracelet and a darling skate pendant, and today I received a very special gift. It was a photo album made for me by Tristen.
Tristen even had her teacher and classmates sign the back of the book. How very special!!!!
Needless to say I was thrilled! Tristen copied photos from my website to make me the photo album. How thoughtful of her. I’ll treasure it always.
John, shown here with a copy of my fife and drum book, Marching in Time, is a student of famed drum instructor George Carroll who was the moving spirit behind the foundation of Colonial Williamsburg’s own fife and drum corps.
On Sunday we attended a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The cherry blossom are in full bloom and we found it impossible to get near the area around the Washington Monument. It was impossible to park and the streets were gridlocked with cars.
I’ve never seen the city look so beautiful. Flowers were everywhere.
As much as I love flowers, the highlight of our trip was the concert. We have a Bose CD player and I’ve always thought the sound was terrific. But the quality of the music in the cathedral was rich beyond my experience.
The concert began at 4 P.M. and as the setting sun came through the great rose window, stones pillars of the nave were bathed in colored light. I was so awed by the experience how must have medieval people felt when they had no experience of electric lights? We had a tour of the cathedral. And a few pictures really don’t capture it’s magnificence.
I was pleased to see that the cathedral contains a children’s chapel.
If you look very closely, you will see Flat Stanley just above the “a” in Williamsburg. Kids, if you are unfamiliar with Flat Stanley and the Flat Stanley project, check it out: :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley
I loved seeing this. What a poignant reminder of how important children’s books are to young readers. A reader’s grandparents took Flat Stanley on a tour of Williamsburg.
On Friday and Saturday, I attended the Christopher Newport University Writers’ Conference. I enjoyed the chance to meet with other writers and learn new things.
Last year I won a first prize for the pages of a children’s novel that I submitted to the annual writing contest. This year I won a third prize for the first pages of an adult novel. Now all I have to do is write the rest of the novel. The bottom line is that I keep trying to become a better writer.
Sunday I met with readers at a book signing at Colonial Williamsburg. Sarah from near San Francisco above convinced her parents that she should have all four of my books for kids.
Danny from Orlando got a book for himself and also for his teacher Will Ogle.
We have just returned from two glorious days at Nags Head, NC. With the promise of unseasonably warm March weather, we drove to the beach Saturday. We enjoyed walking on the shore and watching the waves from the balcony of our motel.
Each time we visit the beach we find a new and different marvel. This trip, Otis found the tiny, perfect starfish above. Under a magnifying glass its body is pink and every little detail is perfect, even to the sand still adhering to one of the arms of the star.
They get bolder and bolder as their habitat continues to shrink. Here are two deer in our back yard one afternoon this week. They have eaten all but the very tops of my azaleas and my mock orange bush. I have given up on trying to grow day lilies and impatiens.
Today I returned to James Blair Middle School. I had visited two classes in December and worked with them on stories they were writing. Today I was delighted to hear the final stories read aloud. Well done eighth graders!
Today we drove to Virginia Beach to see an exhibit featuring the work of Johnston Foster. Outside of the exhibit, there was a special kids program in progress. Kids were using junk, fabrics, and other materials to make art works of their own.
The Johnston Foster art was terrific and the kids did a great job too!
On December 9, I met with a group of donors to Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania who were visiting the Historic Triangle. Some of the members of the group are on the board of White Mane Publishing Company, the publisher of my historical novels. The board members from White Mane generously arranged that everyone on the trip would receive a copy of Lottie’s Courage, my award-winning novel. I was invited to speak at the luncheon and sign books.
I enjoyed meeting with members of the group and learning about the valuable support they give to education.
Eighth graders at James Blair Middle School in Williamsburg are writing stories. I visited the school on Tuesday and talked to them about writing. I’ll be returning next week to check their drafts and again to see the final products. I stressed that good writing is specific and writers should show rather than tell.
We discussed the necessity for stories to have action. I recommended that they put their characters in a dangerous situation and then get them out of it.
Students were polite and attentive. I look forward to seeing their stories and getting to know them better.
Give up? This is a picture of shells on the beach. The wind has sculpted little shell mountains. Every year we spend Thanksgiving at the beach at Nags Head, North Carolina and there are always interesting things to see.
I am a homeschooler, and a typical for me begins with getting up. While I’m eating breakfast I can talk with my mom or dad about what subjects in school I want to do. Maybe it could be Science? Reading, History? Who knows? I just make sure I have enough work to last at least 4 hours because it’s the law. My mom knows what is required for my state.
A day could also begin with a class or activity. I always check with my local ice-skating rink and they usually have home school ice-skating classes. It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends. My day is pretty fun!
I always enjoy my schoolwork and I never have to worry about fighting or the drama at a public/private school. I like to do crafts with my mom. Sometimes we use art for science. I enjoy making dioramas with leaves, sticks, paint, etc. to learn about layers of the earth. I can use art for practically anything!
Being home schooled is so much fun, even though I sometimes have to do work on Saturday! Another great thing about homeschooling is that I get to travel. This year I went to the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in NYC. I also got to spend a week in Williamsburg with my mom and grandmother. And in January, I am going to Washington D.C.
When I first started I felt sort of friendless because I didn’t have any of my old school friends. I was really shy and I tried to grow out of it just because it was sort of hard for me to make new friends. I made new friends by going to acting class, dance class, choir, etc. It not only helped me to improve my skills but it helped me not feel so shy because I got so much confidence.
Now my day always has at least one activity with friends so I never feel lonely! If you want to homeschool go to this link and get involved! http://www.homeschoolinginamerica.com/
Today I visited Crittenden Middle School in Newport News. I hope students learned something from my presentation on writing skills. It was a big group, more than 120 kids. And it is hard to have an interact presentation with so many students. However, I found the students to be welcoming, interested, and responsive. Well done Crittenden students!
Students, when you write, I hope you remember to be specific, use strong topic sentences, and don’t forget the 5 W’s.
The presentation took place in the Crittenden Library. I couldn’t get every one’s picture, but I captured a few group photos.
You didn’t find your picture, above. Sorry! Below is a familiar face. Media Specialist Sabrina Carnesi and the student who interviewed me on video after the presentation.
Thanks, Ms. Carnesi for inviting me to Crittendon. It is a great school to visit.
Librarian Tom Michael invited me to travel to Windsor, Virginia to attend a lunchtime meeting of the Wildcat Cafe, a reading program in Windsor Middle School. A group of sixth graders had read Divided Loyalties and they would be discussing it at a special colonial lunch complete with Brunswick stew, ham biscuits and ginger cookies. Of course, I was delighted to attend. What could be nicer than meeting a group of readers who had read a book that I had written.
Librarian Tom Michael with readers.
Getting ready for lunch
It is great meeting readers! Thanks for inviting me to your school.
I wanted my readers to know that I am still learning. This picture of Professor Jack Willis I took during a class I am taking on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I’ve taken a number of excellent classes before with Professor Willis who combines his great learning with a wonderful sense of humor.
In addition to my class with Professor Willis, I’m studying French conversation two hours each week. When I was in France, I so enjoyed being able to communicate a little with the people I met that I am determined to improve my French language skills.
At a recent book signing, twins bought three of my books and one of the twins began to read one book while I was signing the other two. What a great inspiration for an author! Thanks Jeremy and Joseph for making my day!
I’ve been corresponding with Mary, one of my readers. She has published an article about the Star Barn, an historic site in Pennsylania. To see Mary and read her wonderful history, check out this link. http://www.thestarbarn.com/FeaturedStories.aspx
One of the wonderful things about being an author is that you never know who is reading what you have written. I’m always thrilled when Lottie travels to far off locations. I’ve copied an e-mail I received today:
Hi Phyllis, You may recall having met me during spring break in Williamsburg where you were selling your book. I mentioned that I was traveling to Ghana and would be donating the book to the slave castles at Cape Coast in Ghana. As promised, here is a picture of the slave castles along with the library director, Mr. Yanons holding a copy of your book. Mr. Yankons runs an after school program for over 150 primary and middle school students from the area. Many of these children are the descendents of enslavers as indicated by their British, Dutch and Portuguese last names, as well as descendants of enslaved Africans from the interior and coastal parts of Ghana.
What a thrill to know that kids in Africa have the chance to read something that I’ve written!
The Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps is so special that I wrote a book about it. This past weekend the corps celebrated their fiftieth reunion with a gathering of more than 250 alumni, including my son Alex on the far right of the picture of the book above. He is leading the Junior Corps.
Below is a video of the my son’s group of alumni marching at the reunion. Alex is in the yellow shirt.
Colorado teacher and writer, Mark Wilensky, has written The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine. His book makes accessible one of the most important documents of the Revolutionary War period. Check out this interactive work at : www.newcommonsensebook.com
We have returned from our wonderful 30-day pilgrimage in France on the Cheminde Saint Jacques. And we are recovering from our more than 30 hour flight from Toulouse to Richmond. Last year we trekked in Spain from Leon to Santiago deCompostela, the end of the 1200 mile pilgrim route. This year we began at Le Puy-en-Velay, France, one of the medieval starting points for the Chemin.
We enjoyed meeting pilgrims from all over, the delicious cheese and pastries, the bible stories in stone on the medieval cathedrals, tiny, quaint villages, Roman ruins, painted churches, fields of flowers, cute little cars, and much much more. A very special memory is the kindness shown to us on a number of occasions by the French people.
We took over 1000 photos. I have created a slide show with sixty of them for those of you that are interested. The pictures give a sample of the riches we experienced on the Chemin.
I arrived home yesterday afternoon from my yoga class to find that UPS had delivered Lili’s Gift. Needless to say, it is a thrill to hold a book you have written in your hands. The book looks great! The cover artist, Wes Lowe, did an excellent job capturing Lili.
The publication of Lili’s Gift has taken almost three years . The average children’s book takes two to four years to appear. So kids, don’t be discouraged in this age of instant messaging and the Internet if you don’t immediately see the results of your writing.
Today I was one of five poets reading their poetry at the James City Library. Every year I hopefully enter the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Annual Poetry Contest and in the last couple of years I’ve gleaned a Second Honorable Mention, a Third Honorable Mention, and once a citation. (Whatever that means!) This year I won a third prize. There were over 1800 submissions in 30 categories.
I was delighted to be able to read the winning poem today.
I received two e-mails today from Ms. Starr’s Fabulous 5th Graders at Meldrige Elementary in Concord Township, Ohio. They are reading Divided Loyalties, and they sent me a few questions about the book. They have learned about “necessaries” and I have learned about a great site that publishes kids’ writing. This link will take you to stories written by Ms. Starr’s kids.
A choral competition brought a reader, Bailey, to Williamsburg. Her mom let me know they would be in town and so I attended a wonderful concert by Woodlawn Middle School from Mebane, NC. The choral group sang a moving Agnus Dei. I hope they win the competition!
The ARC (Association of Intellectually Disabled Children) of Williamsburg is sponsoring a monthly program for adults in Arts and Literature. They asked me to join the group to discuss poetry during National Poetry Month.What a lively, responsive group!
I hope the participants had as much fun as I did!
We discussed poems that explored the senses.
In this picture participants are studying pussy willows that I brought in. We talked about the sense of touch and we found words to describe how pussy willows feel. I followed up with a short poem where a poet emphasized the fuzzy, wuzzy feel of the pussy willow. I think I have managed to get everyone present in one of the pictures, everyone that is, except Nick, who kindly took the pictures. Thanks Nick! And thanks ARC for visiting me to your program.
Today I was coming out of Farm Fresh, a local supermarket, pushing my grocery cart when I was thrilled to meet Anna. She is a first grader who had read Lottie’s Courage EIGHT times. It is her favorite book. Anna’s mom recognized me from years ago when I taught with her in the history department at the College of William and Mary.
Thank you Anna for making my day!
Until I met Anna, Aaron held the record. He read Lottie’s Courage FIVE times.
I have been working very hard during the last months on my writing. It is time-consuming, lonely work. Sometimes I wonder if I am wasting my time. Today, thanks to Anna, I was reminded again how great it is to write something that kids enjoy.
I submitted the first two chapters of a new book I am working on to the Christopher Newport University annual writing contest. And to my surprise and delight won first prize! Writing is hard work, and it was great to learn the newest book is headed in the right direction.
Valentine’s Day I visited Langley Elementary School. What a nice way to spend a special day! Two of Mrs. Stohler’s classes had just finished reading Lottie’s Courage, and she invited me to talk about writing the book.
Yesterday I visited Spratley Middle School in Hampton, Virginia. Students were respectful and attentive.
Spratley students have a dress code and they looked terrific wearing school colors.
I enjoyed my visit. I hope the students learned a little about how writers work. I also hope they became interested in contraband slaves in Hampton, the Emancipation Oak, and other treasures of our local history.
After completing the National November Novel Writing Challenge, the Christmas avalanche swept me away, and I am just now coming out from under it. We had a wonderful Christmas this year, but it entailed dropping everything else to make it happen. Our son brought his fiancee to visit and we babysat for Stefan, her cat, shown here investigating our son’s new tiger slippers.
I have written to readers who remembered me at this holiday season. I am thankful to have you all in my life.
It looks like the cover of my newest book, Lili’s Gift, is finally on schedule. Huzzah!
Aaron from Ohio, shown here with me at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor’s Center, made my day today. Several years ago when he was in sixth grade, he and his family visited Colonial Williamsburg, They purchased Lottie’s Courage, my first book in the bookstore, but they didn’t meet me.
Today I met Aaron and his family. Aaron’s mom told me that Lottie’s Courage was Aaron’s favorite book and he had read it five times. Wow! How gratifying for an author to know that someone liked her book enough to read it more than once.
Thank you, Aaron! Readers like you make the arduous work of writing, rewriting, and revising all worthwhile.
Today while signing books at the Visitor’s Center at Colonial Williamsburg, I met a delightful group of readers. Right to left, they are Janna (Germany), Brittany, Karen, Carol, Beatriz (Spain) and Hannah (Germany). It was great to meet foreign exchange students and their sponsors.
I have managed to write 50,047 words in the last month. The challenge was to write 50,000 in the month of November. And I have finished two days before the deadline on Friday. I found the challenge exhausting, particularly toward the end when I seemed to run out of story.
Getting a first draft on paper is the merest beginning to producing a novel. I am always amazed when people assume that the first draft is the novel. Much, much more work will be needed before the draft becomes the novel. But the first draft is a start.
I am glad that I took part in the challenge. We can all do more than we think we can.