Monday, 15 December 2014

Someday At Christmas

                   Magical Christmas Past Present and future.

               "Someday at Christmas men won't be boys Playing with                                                          
                        bombs like kids play with toys" -Stevie Wonder

Memories are brought back so easy when you play the songs that were played to you as a child.
I received Motown at Christmas album and The Partridge family Christmas album the year Santa brought me a record player. I played them over and over, especially 'Someday at Christmas', and 'One little Christmas tree' by Stevie Wonder.
Every year I will get them out and dust them down. This year they are still brought out (in fact it was this morning), no need to dust them off these days as it is all digitally mastered, and with one magic click the oldies of yesteryear are brought back into the living room, bringing with it the Christmases of the past. 

My friends were listening to Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' about that time, and Boney M's 'Mary's Boy Child', closely followed by the classic Wham's 'Last Christmas' and Shakin Stevens (aging rocker, wears denim, Elvis look about him) with 'Merry Christmas everyone'!
 I haven't heard it in every shop like usual from Halloween onward, probably because I actually shopped more online this year than previously, due to one of us or the other in our household being poorly.
 Now that I have said that, it will no doubt be the very first song I hear upon setting foot into the forums and malls this week.  
I was all Motown and Partridge family. I loved those songs long before I was  aware David Cassidy or Stevie Wonder were popular.

So what does Christmas mean to you?
It meant family time to me as a young child. 
I put that question to my children and their views are similar to mine as a child. 
Children's views are mainly molded from their own experiences, still young enough to be influenced largely by your parents/guardians and surroundings they grown up in.
My youngest told me that her best friend celebrates Christmas going to church most of the day, and her other best friend (you can have more than one bestie apparently) thinks Christmas is no big deal and doesn't really celebrate Christmas time.
She wanted my opinions on that. 
How to put it into words. 

My thoughts were along these lines - Christmas is celebrated so many different ways to some, and not at all to others. Which is right?
Well the plain simple answer is if it feels right to that person, then that way is the right way. 
Do we have the monopoly to tell someone how or even whether to celebrate at all? Certainly not in my opinion. I don't think society should dictate 'this is the done way and any other way is wrong' or feed us information to brainwash us one way or another. Let us be happy, let us celebrate, or not. Let it be our choice.

They say Christmas has the highest suicide rates, because a lot of people feel alone more at this time of year, and see no way out. A time where some have lost loved ones, or don't know where the next meal is coming from. I'm not talking about the Victorian ages here. You could be forgiven for thinking the Victorian age has caught up with us in some ways. Society is more aware of the poor needing care and support these days and not just through the media, but through living it. It isn't just happening to someone else, it is happening to your good friend, or neighbour or you. 
True richness comes not from your income but your outcome, your own out put of a smile or a gesture to offer support or care. Whether it be a kind word on the internet, or a smile to your neighbour or a positive step in getting in touch with someone you have not heard from, for one reason or another. 
Giving a kindness.
It goes a long way, and is the only real richness a person can accomplish and be worthy of. 

So today Christmas* or whatever word you want to put there in its place. means to me, the well-being of mankind.

                                   A world were men are free*

                                   maybe not in time for you and me, but someday....

                                  I hope.

                                 I hope it is in our time.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Imagination -Our whole experience of life is filtered through our minds

 A growing body of research supports what spiritual contemplatives have known for Millennia—that the human capacity for imagination not only shapes our minds but also weaves the fabric of reality itself.- By Gabriel Cohen.

Do you have a lemon in your kitchen?
Put this down or a moment if you have, go cut the fruit in half, and squeeze some juice into your mouth. Notice how you react.

Don’t have a lemon? Try this little thought experiment: Imagine that you have one. Picture yourself slicing through the bright yellow rind, exposing the translucent fruit inside. See yourself holding it up, squeezing it, and letting a stream of tart juice splash onto your tongue. Can you feel yourself puckering and salivating—not in your mind’s eye, but in “real life”?

Western thinkers have tended to draw a line between reality—that which we “actually” experience—and imagination, seen as a frivolous, dreamlike diversion. For millennia, though, spiritual contemplatives and artists have taken flights of fancy much more seriously and challenged the firmness of that line. And surprising recent advances in neuroscience, particularly in the field of brain scanning, have added support to their conviction that our imagination and sense of reality are closely intertwined.

In some ways this is obvious. Back in 1928, the sociologists W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas conceived of what became known as the Thomas theorem, which states, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
 If we believe that little green goblins are hiding in the woods and we change our route to avoid them, then our fantasy has affected our experience.

That may seem like an extreme example, but imagination plays a very real role in our decision making. Just look at the last two US presidential elections, in which one big chunk of the electorate managed to view Barack Obama as a radical socialist, while another saw him as a moderate saint. Both views are heavily based on myth, but they had a real-life effect on how people voted.

Political races are hardly the only arena in which we project goblins into our daily lives. Too often humanity is ruled by superstitions, stereotypes, and tribal prejudices—resulting in all-too-real suffering, violence, and war. The folly of these antagonisms became especially clear when human beings made the first journey into space and saw that the supposedly entrenched divisions between countries were just imaginary lines on a map. As Frank Borman, commander of the Apollo 8 mission, put it, “When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on Earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world, and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?”

Our mind can run away with us, leading us to act through suspicion or fear, but we can also use our imagination as a tool to change our life—a process we’re beginning to understand through advances in neuroscience.

For centuries, we have envisioned two separate areas of the brain: one that processes the evidence gathered by our senses, and one that spins off into gauzy daydreams. Functional magnetic resonance imaging has helped us understand that these two functions are not as distinct as they seem.

Using MRI scans, researchers like V. S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, have found that the same cells in the brain light up whether we perform an action ourselves or watch someone else do it—which might explain why some of us find action movies so exciting. But these “mirror neurons” aren’t activated just by the things we see. The effect also occurs when we simply imagine ourselves performing the action.

Talking to a novelist and writing teacher, vivid writing lights up the brain. Recently, I was excited to learn that this is not just a metaphor. In a New York Times article titled “Your Brain on Fiction,” the science writer Annie Murphy Paul surveyed fMRI studies that show that reading about sensory stimuli or physical actions activates the same brain areas that process real-life experiences.

When you read about that lemon at the beginning of this essay, you were activating the same region that would have been turned on if you had actually tasted the juice. There’s more. “There is evidence, “that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

This has a profound import, not only for book lovers, but also for those who hope for a more peaceable planet. Paul cites studies by two Canadian psychologists that show that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them, and see the world from their perspective.”
That doesn’t mean fiction writers should make their work into a gooey project to present characters as positive role models. In fact, I’m often intrigued by authors who create characters who are ornery, difficult, or downright unlikable—a good writer can help us to understand and care about people who are radically different from ourselves and to delve beneath surface differences to the common feelings and thoughts that could bind us together.
It raises the question: if humanity’s embattled factions had to write stories based on each other’s experience, how would that affect humanity’s willingness to wage war?
Imagination can provide us with rich lifelike experiences and give us a powerful opportunity to develop empathy and compassion. But it can do even more: it can literally reshape and retrain our brains.
For ages, scientists have believed that our neural networks become rigidly set and defined in early childhood, but fMRI scanning now reveals plasticity: the adult brain is surprisingly malleable. If, for example, we go blind in midlife, some of our neurons for processing vision can shift to dealing with sound.
What’s particularly exciting is the discovery that focused mental exercise can alter the brain. For example, scans of some of Tibet’s most advanced lamas found that through years of meditation they had strengthened the centers in the brain that deal with such vital life skills as attention, emotional balance, and compassion.
A number of contemplative practices directly recruit the power of imagination to retrain the mind. For many people the Sanskrit word tantra may conjure images of wild sex, but a Tantric practitioner may be more concerned with visualizing a certain deity in order to strengthen her own ability to share in the divine being’s positive attributes, such as patience or kindness.
Of course, contemplation doesn’t have to focus on deities. My introduction to Buddhism started with a simple mental exercise.
What about if you stumble into a Buddhist lecture about dealing with anger. “Let’s say you’re sitting on a park bench,” goes the Buddha teacher, “Now someone sits down next to you and they’re doing something you find annoying, like popping their gum or singing along with the music in their headphones.”
Our first reaction is usually to see the person as an external problem and to blame them for making us angry or depressed. Instead, the teacher asked us to change our thinking. “Imagine that you want to become more tolerant. Then you could say, This is great: Here’s somebody who has come along to help me work on that!”
As the Buddhist author Pema Chödrön argues in her book The Places That Scare Us , “Without the inconsiderate neighbor, where will we find the chance to practice patience? Without the office bully, how could we ever get the chance to know the energy of anger so intimately that it loses its destructive power?”
These teachers showed me that if I can use my imagination to help me perceive situations in a different light, I can turn all sorts of “problems” into constructive challenges—and radically alter my experience of life.
The transformative power of focused imagination is central to Buddhist practice, but the Buddha himself was not content to rest there. Late in life, he confounded many of his followers with a stronger, stranger notion.

The teacher of my first Buddhist lecture introduced it simply. He held up a book and asked, “How many of you think that this exists independently of your mind?” Like the others, I raised my hand. “How do you know it exists?” he pressed. Answers bounced back. “I can see it”; “I can feel it”; “I can taste or hear it.”
After some discussion, we realized that the only way we knew the book was there was by interpreting what came in through our senses. The teacher pointed out that this is true of everything in our lives: objects, our friends and families, what we learned in school, everything . Ultimately, Buddhists argue, there is no such thing as objective reality out there.
The point is not a nihilistic one, that nothing exists, but rather that no thing has a detached, fixed identity. Phenomena “do not exist in their own right,” says the Dalai Lama, “but only have an existence dependent upon many factors, including a consciousness that conceptualizes them.” Where I see a “book,” a rain forest aborigine might see only “strange object made out of pressed-together leaves.”
Our whole experience of life is filtered through our minds, and we continually project our own sense of meaning onto people and things. As the Buddha put it, “With our thoughts we make the world.”
In short, our imagination is not an alternative to reality.
Our imagination is our reality.

Imagination in the war against reality.

A home where there are house rules of -  ‘no TV or ipad/games you download' can be rare in these times,  Instead of either being sent outside to play, or mother would talk to you about what you had been up to at school, many children fend for themselves to the point when that is the only thing they wish to do; sit in front of a monitor or mobile phone pressing buttons repeatedly, trying to outdo the highest score.
While getting a sentence out of young children -and that probably being no easy feat, your chats can became a building block to their imagination – a tool that can help you on your way to becoming a celebrated children's author. So chatting and overcoming that barrier where it isn't a burden for either party will pay dividends.It will even become enjoyable.

 So if you do this with your children then by the time they go to university they come home after and recite lectures they found interesting to you and love your opinion.

When the TV is on, there is little or no thinking – instead of talking, everyone just sits around in a vegetative state. Even the smallest discussion about what we'd been up to that day had an impact on our ability to tell stories, and enhanced our relationship.

Imagination improves learning
Developing your child's imagination by encouraging their self-expression, play, even day dreaming, has great benefits to their life. Let them have a green sky and blue grass for as long as they can because then they'll realise it's OK to be a little bit interesting. According to Sir Ken Robinson, an international expert in learning, imagination is the "key driver of creativity and innovation" and helps children to -learn with a greater appetite.

Simple ways to build your child's imagination

Turn off the TV and read to your kids. People spend hours, years writing great picture books and stories, and you might as well utilise someone else's time.

Make up stories together
Making up stories and telling them to the kids is another great way to get your child's creative juices flowing as well as your own. Even if you think you're bad at storytelling it's a way to combine family time and creativity.

"The most important thing to remember is your kids will love you anyway, so they're not going to judge you on your bad storytelling – the fact you're there with them is what they love. They can also help you with the story – give the child licence to come up with ideas and to be part of the creative process. It makes them feel special – ‘we're in it together'.

Downtime without the screen time
Having downtime to play also helps kids to unleash their creativity.
Not video games or watching a movie but to be able to entertain themselves effectively because it makes them think.

"If they go into the backyard or into their room they will find something to do every single time – if they can entertain themselves they've got a friend for life."

Building your child's imagination really comes down to encouraging them to explore the world through their own eyes, and to allow them to think their crazy thoughts without always correcting them if it's not realistic.

"It's having their head filled with ideas. Kids often say things that are really amazing but wrong, but it's how they see the world. Encourage them to do that – let them have a green sky and blue grass for as long as they can because then they'll realise it's OK to be little bit interesting."

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Words by Carmela Dutra

 Carmela Dutra is the author of the Lorenzo the Bear Series.
Carmela is a children's author and artist, a gifted photographer and has a passion for literature, especially children's literature. Carmela is also an admin for the kid literature community which you will find links for at the top of this page.

Words by Carmela Dutra  ~ Nothing is more magical for a child than being transported to a new world where they can explore and discover unknown things.  Carmela Dutra is very passionate about children’s literacy, which is the main reason she wrote this series for her niece and nephew. With no intention of it ever going public, she wanted to create something fun and special for them to read.

Encounter at Jellyfish Cove is the first in The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear series. The reader is introduced to  the main character Lorenzo the Bear, his new friend Lucy Bear, and Lord Boris the Red-Butted Baboon. While accompanying Lorenzo on his adventures, the reader learns the lesson of true friendship. Look for the next book in the Lorenzo series to make it’s debut soon.

In addition to writing and illustrating, Carmela Dutra is also a professional photographer. Working with children is her passion! Whether she captures their  whimsical nature with her camera, or with her stories, she hopes to encourage children to find their own passion for reading and writing.

“Literature has the ability to open up a whole new world to children, but we need to have a share in helping them to find that door and open it with them. Let’s set the example and help to foster this love of reading in our little ones. ”   ~ Carmela Dutra~

Carmela talks about Reading and Children's Literature
Do you like Children’s Literature? I do! I even managed to tract down some of the old books from my childhood, and yes I have reread them. Children’s literature is amazing! It’s so simple, and yet complex. The depth of the dialog, and colorful vivid illustrations are often times over looked. Sadly some have come to think of children’s literature as just that, CHILDREN’S literature. It’s for kids, and not of any interest to me as an adult.
Do you remember though what it was like to read those stories you had growing up? The carefree fun you had. Exploring, playing, and learning with them. You likely had your favorite book that had to be read over and over and over (you get the point) time and again.  Likely you loved that book just as much as your favorite toy (in some cases perhaps it was your favorite toy).
Children’s literature is more than just fun. It’s a powerful tool to teach children about the world, themselves, and others. Children’s literature motivates readers to think, enhances language, and promotes cognitive development. Quality literature takes children beyond their own lives, broadening their backgrounds, developing their imaginations, and enabling them to grow in understanding and respect for others.
Children can connect with the characters, events, places, and problems in literature on a personal level. Such affective responses to literature provide opportunities for students to become personally involved in reading and learning. Often times bonding with that book, and lessons it holds.
Children’s literature is diverse and varied. For example, children’s literature includes the following genres: picture books, contemporary realism, historical realism, fantasy, traditional literature, poetry, biography and autobiography, and informational books. The list can go on and on… and well, you get the quote 2
Children’s literature offers so much to children, but they also offer things to us as adults too. They remind of what it was like to young and innocent to things around us. They take us back to the time when we would climb into the lap of our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They hold memories for us that we might otherwise lose.
Please. Never underestimate what children’s literature holds, for children, and adults alike.

Carmela has a wonderful bear she would like to introduce to you.
I have a number of characters I would like to introduce you to, but sometimes simplicity is best right? And since my first book is out adnd the first in the series is titled The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear, I thought it would be best to focus on him.
What’s the name of your character? Is he/she a fictional or historic person?

Meet the Character: Lorenzo the Bear

In order to answer this, I have to give you a little background story. Lorenzo was actually one of my most treasured stuffed Bears as a child. Like most youngsters I was afraid of the dark, so sleeping was hard for me. My dad told me he had something that would help me, then he handed me a stuffed bear. He assured me that this bear would protect me from whatever it was that troubled me. I loved him so much! I named him the Brave Bear Lorenzo. So between Lorenzo, and a trusty nightlight, I was able to sleep again.
Thus, when I started writing for my niece and nephew who better to write about then my most beloved stuffed animal! For me, Lorenzo is most real, maybe not in the “traditional” sense. Even though he has a new home with my niece Desi, he will always be a part of my life.
When and where is the story set?

Poppy Hills Place is Lorenzo’s home town, where he has/is growing up. It’s filled with rolling hills, trees, a lake, and you guessed it. Poppies! Every story in this series will have some part in his home town. But remember, the title of this series is The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear. He will travel and explore new places, the only limit to his adventures is my imagination.
What should we know about him?
When my dad gave me Lorenzo, he said he would protect me so I could sleep. He told me that Lorenzo wasn’t like my other bears, he was brave, never fearing anything. I felt safe, like Lorenzo was always there when I needed him. That hasn’t changed. Lorenzo is still that same loveable, brave bear I had as a child. The only difference now, is that Lorenzo helps more than just me.

Lorenzo tells us  =You can come visit me in Poppy Hills Place. I do meet some not so nice animals like that evil pirate Lord Boris the Red-Butted Baboon! I had to swordfight him, then I gave him a good talking to! I try not to let my imagination stop me so I can always look for the good in others.

The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear is the name of the series. The first book Encounter at Jellyfish Cove has been published and received a 5-Star review from Readers Favorite. Encouter at Jellyfish Cove is available as an eBook, or print edition on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. He also has his own website
Can we expect any new books to be released?
I’ll let Lorenzo answer this, he’s jumping out of his seat.
-Yes! My next adventure Journey to Honeysuckle Mountain will be coming out very soon, you simply must be there for the release, it is beartastic!-


We can not wait for the next Lorenzo book called  Journey to Honeysuckle Mountain , so make sure you like Lorenzo's links to follow and keep up to date with the release! Carmela on Facebook 

Read the latest in Carmela's blog for your thoughts.
Carmela blogs about the-language-that-is-music

"Music is a common singularity that crosses all borders of nationality, race, and culture. A tool for arousing emotions and feelings, music is far more powerful than language. An increased interest in how the brain processes musical emotion can be attributed to the way in which it is described as a “language of emotion” across cultures. Be it within films, live orchestras, concerts or a simple home stereo, music can be so haunting and overwhelming that it can only be described as standing halfway between thought and phenomenon.
Music unquestionably affects our emotions". . (Read more at above link)
Blog for your thoughts by Carmela Dutra

Kid Literature blog by Karen Emma Hall 

Monday, 24 November 2014

The wonderful journey of creative inspiration

The best part of the whole book making process, for me, is that moment when the idea comes—that spark is lit! and when ignition fires up, there no time to lose! You have got to make the most of it, wherever you are.
So get your fast paced fingers at the ready.

It’s mystical, it's mysterious, it’s magical, its fun!
It's inspirational, it's creative, it is wonderful and free.
Oh its a writers life for me.
Yes that is how you feel when the pen or the brush or the ends of your fingers takes you on a wonderful flowing journey and creations are born in front of you. Often it can take you quite by surprise so that when you go back to reading it at a later time, you wonder where it all came from.

But how do we get to that point where this happens? When we want it to happen. What if it doesn't happen?
Sometimes it's just one of those things that can’t be forced. For many of us when we have a window of opportunity in the day to write we have to take that time, and it doesn't always go to plan. It can be hard to summon inspirational thoughts and ideas at the precise moment we want them to come shooting through.

So how do you get primed for the muses to start entering the brain and coming out through your bic pen? If I knew how to summon it every time, I would be sure to tell you.
But first don't ever feel guilty for making time for yourself, or procrastinating when you should be writing.
Procrastinating can be good when the brain is overloaded or overwhelmed.
If you ever find yourself overwhelmed with work and what you need to get done, sometimes procrastinating is the brains way of relaxing. As once you are relaxed the brain is more likely to work better. Everything flows better, so it makes sense.
 There is nothing healthier than a change of scenery or trying something different.
The best solution I find is to pick up that book you have always put off and let your brain relax and switch off.
Plus there is nothing like reading a book to bring out ideas, and also sometimes the words; 'Oh I was thinking of writing something like this, and reading that has giving me a good idea'.
The beauty of it is, you don’t have to be an artist or illustrator or professional in anything to write. Anyone can be creative and have inspirational thoughts that can be transferred into words that make sense.

Everyone works in their own way, at their own pace. Procrastination I feel leads to creativity, and doodling can help relax and allow the mind to think clearer again. So can window shopping and browsing for some, as when you are relaxed or looking at craft stalls or books you enjoy (add anything into here that you like browsing for) you are recharging the mind, body and soul, and readying yourself for some new creative inspiration.
Once you get a good thought, idea, or a sentence you want to add to your writing, you must try to write it down as soon as possible. Do not think, oh I will remember that when I get home, believe me you won't, especially if you have more than one idea fighting among the wired jumbles of your mind.
 It is good to make a quick note of that particular idea, but try not to write in code, or short hand squiggle, you will have such a time deciphering the doodles. So make sure you understand what you write. Always keep a pen and paper to hand at all times.

Other things to do to relax
Do something you think is frivolous. Spend some time watching a funny video, or allow yourself time to watch something you have been meaning to watch but keep putting off. Go for a walk, feel your body unwind when you are out in the open air.
Maybe listen to some favorite music while you do it. The trick is not to have any expectations about what you doodle or write. Trust me, it will free you up to get those ideas flowing. Then that leads onto more ideas.

Who knows, maybe one of them will lead you, like the white rabbit who lead Alice, down the rabbit hole to a wonderland of inspiration and make believe!
 Procrastination is good. It is as good as making lists and sticking to fixed schedules.

You might also find once you have started writing or drawing more ideas come along, so actually during work you can find more ideas build up on top of each other, and sometimes more than you know what to do with. Yes this can happen when you find yourself on a roll. On a roll like that rolling ball, the more you 'roll' the more 'ideas' you pick up. The same I found when I lost interest, and had patches where I just didn't feel like it. The more you don't do something the more likely you will leave it to one side and find it harder to go back to.
I have been like that lately since being poorly. Goodness how hard it was to come back to work, as if my brain had switched off and was objecting to turning back on.
So again you go back to doing activities you enjoy, or relax until the inclination filters through. Even if it takes its time. You might think you are making excuses to avoid writing, and maybe you are, I was, but this is ok, you need time to do other things, it is ok to take time off, and who says it has to be just the weekend. It is okay not to feel inspired. It is ok to take time out.

Some people set themselves a time slot for writing and they will use it just for writing. That is fine as long as you are a person who can write at any given notice. You said you would at 10am and so you must!
And even though writers need that magic word inspiration, they cannot always just summon it like the genie in the lamp, unless of course you are the genie or a genius. So you could well be sitting there at 10 am and have a blank page for the next 2 hours.
Oh but I do love it when inspiration comes, and at those times when you least expect it, say for instance when you are washing the dishes, or just getting into bed, make sure you always have a pen and notepad or notebook on your phone handy at all times! Unless you are actually sitting in the dentist chair that is. Sods law that would happen after waiting so long in the waiting room with a big blank thought.
 Inspiration conjures up wonderful thoughts in itself, like magic and intelligence. Like motivation and magical creativity. But when it comes down to it, do not get anxious if you get held up by that blank wall of thought when you sit down to write.
Just go and do something less boring instead.
Go read a book.
Go out for a walk
Or go shopping!
A little doodle and colouring for artists
Just do not feel guilty, and think procrastinating is the enemy, embrace it, and think on, if you do something that makes you happy or relaxed, your inspiration flows like ink.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Kid Literature

Read a little about how we started the kid Lit group.

 Excerpt taking from interviews and conversations- from Nelson Suite at Inkspokes  as well as publishing companys. Promoting Children’s Literacy and Kid Literature Authors: This is Karen's conversation about her writing and her collaborative work at Kid Literature Authors.

Karen Emma Hall is an illustrator, author and promoter of children’s literature. Also the author of the children’s book Hello Teeny Pheeny, a charming story that takes place in a magical village of owls (in which we see some of Karen’s owl illustrations – cozy, enchanting, full of character). Which gets its debut very soon in print after a successful start in ebook form last year. It was not out long before it was accepted by publishing company, so you may not have even read it or seen all of the illustrations in it, designed and copyrighted also to Karen Emma Hall.

As many children’s book authors also know, Karen is the founder of the Kid Literature Authors group, a group of children’s authors (and others passionate about children’s literature) who promote children’s literacy and kidlit authors on the group’s website and on its Facebook page. Karen’s a bit of a dynamo. She has made connections with countless children’s authors and illustrators and has built a vibrant following for the group’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Kid literature has taken off and has now platforms on pinterest, instagram, google+ and goodreads.

We've come to learn that writers often requires a community (e.g., from collaborating with other authors to working with beta readers, editors and illustrators). The same might also be said for book marketing or promotion. It often works better when you are not doing it all alone. It might also be more fun.

  • So what is it that makes this book compelling, special or unique?

Teeny Pheeny was born one day quite by accident, after my visiting a beautiful rescue owl called Phoenix. My children gave my storybook owl the name Teeny Pheeny, naming him after this amazing creature we helped rescue. It is a name (and an owl) that children will love and want to know more about. The day Teeny Pheeny was born I knew he was going to be rather special.

•  What is the author’s back story? What makes you uniquely qualified to tell your story?

I developed a love for reading and writing very early on in childhood. I received so much enjoyment out of my treasured picture books, and I just loved visiting whatever magical land they took me to. I would become completely absorbed. I fell in love with books and, you could say, fell right into them, much like Alice did when she fell down the rabbit hole. It was always a magical place. It still is.

Creativity and reading have always been my main passion, even today. It is a therapy like no other. After leaving university with a BA in Art, I worked with children for many years, from being a qualified N.N.E.B nursery nurse to a teachers assistant. I have always enjoyed reading aloud to children of all ages. I find enjoyment and satisfaction in helping children and people with disabilities with reading and writing.

During my time as a classroom assistant, I also saw first-hand how a great story combined with captivating pictures can ensnare the attention of a child. I read from countless books to a cross-legged audience and learned which characters engaged their imaginations and which types of adventures captivated their attention. I have four beautiful girls who inspire me, and my first book, Hello Teeny Pheeny, is dedicated to them. I also have two amazingly humorous cats, who fascinate me with their antics and so I had to write about them as well.

                                                           Karen Emma Hall

  • How did you start Kid Literature start and what inspired you to create it?                                                                                                                                                                                         My first magic book about a special owl called Teeny Pheeny actually inspired me so much I was propelled into the media stratosphere! I only started working on Teeny Pheeny in August last year (2013) and started to talk about the book on Twitter. I already had an account but had never used it. I had to start learning how to tweet, but I got the hang of it pretty quick. That is where I go to relax and chill.

I don’t see social media as a chore; I enjoy collaborating with like-minded people on there. After working out how to use Twitter, I came across authors like myself struggling to make way in the world of self-publishing and promotion. The authors needed to get their books to children and also were driven with a passion for making children’s literature popular. I set up a Facebook page some weeks ago and opened the doors to these authors. I let these authors and other inspirational people take the reins in serving as administrators of this Facebook page. It was named Kid Literature Authors.

  •  How did you find the other members of the Kid Literature Authors team? Can you tell us how you started?

 We are the musketeers in children’s literature. What drew us together was a unique passion for being positive and a deep need to be heard. What people have to realise is that we help each other, selflessly, put others before ourselves. We help others and you find they will help you in return. We are motivated by our common interests: children and reading. We soon became aware this is what sustained us. We wanted our books in the hands of those that mattered. In children’s hands. Ironically I was so involved in promoting the KL and other authors I had little time for promoting my Teeny Pheeny book and even less for writing. But the KL took off immediately and it still takes me by surprise how quickly it gained popularity.

  •  How do you collaborate on the KL Facebook page on a day-to-day basis? Do you discuss promotional ideas together and what you would like to see on the page on some regular basis or is each administrator given wide lee-way in choosing what to post onto the page? What sort of posts do you focus on?

 There’s definitely plenty of leeway for the administrators to introduce the things they like – the KL is meant to be full of personality, a place that welcomes ideas and sharing. There are, of course specific aims behind the group, and the posts are guided by this. We want to promote reading, whether it’s children on there own or with their parents, and we want to introduce not only new books, but also ideas for ways to encourage and maintain a love of books. Our administrators are chosen as people who are not solely interested in promoting their own work. They are people who look to the bigger cause and who are passionate about all forms of children’s literature.

  •  Do you find that you and your team share similar tastes in children’s books? Are there differences or character traits among you that make the collaboration particularly interesting and fun?

There’s a general love for all children’s books on our administrative team. We are from across the globe but come together for the KL. Of course there are some particular likes for each of our administrators. One of our administrators, Steve Conoboy, is interested in young adult literature, as that’s the field he writes in. Carmela Dutra is a wonderful inspiration and has a plethora of ideas for children’s literature. She has her own lovely animal story book called Lorenzo the Bear. Myself, I love how illustrations can make a book work from a child’s point of view. I write for children of all ages and enjoy making quotes and sharing them.

Another administrator, Sue Navas, creates a magical world with her series of books from Agnil's Worlds. Cat Michaels and Corrina Holyoake, are amazing contributors, very supportive, and more recently Hilary Hawkes from Strawberry Jam books has been such a great help, and I hope myself and Kid Literature give as much back as they have put in. Hilary has not long been with us and we are enjoy what they bring to the KL. We also have many contributors and friends enjoying the journey of the Kid literature community. Jill Cofsky, Geena Bean, Cathy Murphy, Olga D' Agostino, Jamie Stevens, Naomi Burman-Shine, Hedgerow Capers, and many more contributors and friends who have come aboard the Kid Literature train.

Search ResultsIt’s a definite advantage that everyone has an eye for something different. It means we can bring a wide range of great books to light on our website and on the Facebook page.

  •  What about your new  Hello Teeny Pheeny book, how did that start out? What project or projects are you spending the most time on at this point?

Teeny Pheeny was born one day quite by accident, after my visiting a beautiful rescue owl called Phoenix. My children gave my storybook owl the name Teeny Pheeny, naming him after this amazing creature we helped rescue. It is a name (and an owl) that children will love and want to know more about. The day Teeny Pheeny was born I knew he was going to be rather special.

From the perspective of my own writing, there’s another Teeny Pheeny book almost complete with brand new illustrations, in fact the first series is penned and edited. Then there is as a collaboration on a book for middle grade readers, called Cory in Cold Cliff Castle. It’s a wild adventure with gruesome characters that will hopefully attract boys to reading. Very fun, Scooby Doo meets Hammer Horror. What is more thrilling for me is that artist Eric Heyman is illustrating some drawings for Cory in Cold Cliff Castle. The illustrations are so good they are spooky-rific! Check the progress on Twitter and the website and I will be excited to share this from my new author page.

Follow us on our journey. It is so new and yet has gained so much ground. I still don’t know quite how it has, but it has. Since updating our website we have introduced a page for the Kid Literature friends, fun boards to check out. Author and Artist spotlights. As well there is now promotion packages and kid spot, video books for children to relax and just click a button to watch on our website, and also the giveaway and competition page.
Since starting the Kid literature community I have been in touch with Cassandra Clare, Derek Landy, Stephen King and Owen King,  Richard and Judy, and Sheila Jeffries, and many more lovely well known authors since starting out.  Waterstones have asked me if I would like to join their children's writers group, which will be fun and I must try and make time to get to once a fortnight.

I believe in magic and I do my best to trap it in a book. As Roald Dahl once said “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it".

More information on Karen Emma Hall and the Kid Literature Authors group may be found on the KL website and Facebook page. Karen has wrote past blogs on children and books, growing up with books, and marketing and social media platform advice.

You may also connect with Karen via Twitter or her Facebook author page. details at the top of each of these blog pages.

Monday, 3 November 2014

A book blog for Kid Literature by Sheila Jeffries.

I am very pleased to have Sheila Jeffries join me today. It is truly a pleasure to have this opportunity to have Sheila stop by to do some writing for the Kid Literature blog.  Sheila is a bit wonderful, with an insightful and creative mind. Kid Literature look forward to following the progress of  her lovely new book SOLOMON'S KITTEN published by Simon and Schuster. 

A blog for @ KidLiterature  by Sheila Jeffries

When I hold a book in my hands, I am reminded that we have five senses.  In this world of
technology, our number one sense, sight, is dominant and overworked. Our sense of touch, so important to our learning and well-being, is therapeutic. It anchors us to the planet and to our own physical body. A child who is struggling to learn to read, can be helped by drawing letters in a sand tray with the finger, because the end of the index finger is sensitive and has a sensual memory.

     I use a kindle only if I need to travel light and read. I love real books. Holding a book before you read it, smoothing the cover, imagining the secrets within its pages, the excitement, the tears and laughter. There is also a more cosmic feeling of honouring the miracle of paper, its journey from the forest trees, and the knowledge that the book in my hand can ultimately be recycled. Books belong to the earth and to us in a way that a kindle never can.

     Our childhood books are precious. I wish I’d kept mine. I had few books as a child growing up in the fifties. My parents struggled to find books for me, and libraries were then intimidating places with rows of fusty book spines in gloomy browns, reds and greens. But one day my Mum bought a grubby old copy of FRECKLES by Gene Stratton-Porter at a jumble sale. I read it hungrily, and it brought the wonder of the forest into my life. Years later I was overjoyed to find a copy on Amazon. It was like being reunited with an old friend. I believe that one book was the seed of my FOREST OF DREAMS project which you can see on my website

     Giving your children real books is like giving them friends. Books are silent. Books are reassuring. Real books are just that – REAL. 

A final note from Karen Emma Hall - I first became aware of Sheila Jefferies through her book SOLOMON'S TALE that was out this time last year when my youngest daughter was delighted to receive it on Christmas morning. It is on our Christmas day photos as well. (I must dig it out). It is a moving story of her little black cat who came to heal and had touched people's hearts. It is hard to put it down, and it does touch you deeply. It is a deep book with a light touch.

Follow Sheila and find some wonderful insightful comments, tweets and of course her follow the exciting new book release here twitter sheilajeffries

                                          See above where to keep up with Kid Literature
                                                               and Karen Emma Hall (Founder) on social media places, 
                                     and our twitter is here > KidLiterature
     facebook to like and love all our resources > KidLiterature

          Our newly designed website >
                                                      Our website

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Dream Deliverer

I would like to introduce my guest blogger this week and it is A J Cosmo!

Settling the Great eBook Vs. Print Debate
by A.J. Cosmo
They're going to revolutionize the world. Libraries will go extinct. Bookstores will be no more. A new age of reading, powered by the consumer and brilliant innovation, is at hand. This is the dawning of a new literary world order!
Or something like that.
When Amazon recently sent out emails to authors enrolled in the KDP select program to ask for help in their Hatchet publishing dispute, they compared the invention of the printing press to the creation of the eReader, saying that both machines liberated information and threatened subversive monopolies. It was a dramatic statement to say the least and showed how the mighty Internet retailer viewed its Kindle product line.
At a recent SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, the president of Penguin Books repeatedly emphasized that eBooks were simply another distribution channel. He sighted the explosive sales of young adult novels as proof. Anonymous posters on Reddit writing and reading forums have repeatedly declared that Kindles are nothing more than brown paper bag covers allowing older women to read books that would be considered too immature for their reading level.
I'm here to say that almost everyone has it wrong.
Kindles, and their eReader brothers, are not a revolution on the scale of the printing press. They are not the killing blows of traditional publishing. They are not masks for embarrassed readers nor are they simply a new distribution channel for repurposed content. 
They are their own format. Period.
EReaders are to books as cellphones are to landline phones. Both were originally created with the same intention, a digital solution to an analog problem. However, just as the smart phone has evolved to do so much more than simply make a voice call, so too will eReaders soon offer experiences and opportunities for storytelling that simply cannot be done in print. To continue with the analogy, I believe that we're currently in the clamshell era of eReaders: simple, functional, and with a great potential for more. We've yet to see an eReader as revolutionary to reading as the iPhone was to telephones. Yet, I don’t think that moment is far off.
In fact we may already have that advanced eReader in our hands, it's just that the content that exploits the medium has yet to be created. So far authors and content creators have been stuck simply translating the Word document to HTML and making sure it looks like a digital version of the printed word. Createspace, Smashwords, Lulu, Amazon, have all been culpable in providing straightforward tools that translate the same content to multiple mediums with little to no variance. Simply cutting and pasting content though neglects the huge amount of tools available on eReaders to enhance the content.
Epub3, the newest format for eBooks, contains support for advanced CSS, transparencies, imbedded video, imbedded sound, activated sound, and even some limited interactivity. Authors can now animate text, say making it rain letters when describing a hurricane, on any page that they wish. They can make a knocking sound when a reader touches a door or music play when the spooky chapter starts. Certain Kindle titles already offer an Audible read along integration, but this can be further enhanced with music and sound effects.
Adobe Digital Press, a new Creative Cloud offering that interfaces with Adobe InDesign, is capable of directly porting interactive layouts to both ePub3 and Mobi formats. In my own limited testing, we've been able to create page turns that are both vertical and horizontal. We've imbedded background sounds for environments that trigger when the page turns. We've put in play buttons so readers can hear what the monster they're looking at sounds like. We've added animations that trigger on page turns and also on touch. So far it's like working with a whole new medium; like something between a book and a film.
That's just the surface, too! Books can now be interactive in a narrative sense. Imagine a choose your own adventure book on steroids. One where the choices don’t actually just end in a forced restart but that organically changes what you are reading as you read. I experimented with this in "The Dream Deliverer," a book where children were given the choice of right and wrong and got to see what would happen as the choices got increasingly risky.
"The Dream Deliverer" could not have been done easily in print. The final book totaled over four hundred pages, way too expensive for an indie print run, and cumbersome to do in a choose your own adventure style. There were twenty-six unique endings along with six hidden illustrations (prizes for finding the different endings.) The book kept track of the reader's decisions and changed the story, and the choices, accordingly. 
And it was all done with simple HTML.
Think of what we could do with a more advanced programming language. We could create stories where the reader inputs characters, situations, objects, and the story incorporates them. Not simply Mad Libs either, but writing that could react to the reader. What if we wrote two versions of the same story, one where the lead character is male and the other is female and then the reader chooses the sex of the main character at the beginning? How fascinating would that be? Or what if we used objects to symbolize story components and allowed readers to generate stories by simply arranging those objects?
When you consider the creative possibilities of eBooks the whole argument over print versus digital seems rather moot. It's as if we debated the superiority of film to television, theatre to reading, or video games to music. They are all different mediums with their own sets of considerations, strengths, and weaknesses. The great fallacy is thinking that eBooks and print books are enemies in the first place. Print has it's advantages over eReaders as well; offering a tactile experience, a strong sense of progress, and a sense of possession that eBooks can never duplicate. 
So rather than focusing on a debate between mediums, I would admonish you to craft the story that you want to tell in the medium that most suits its telling; and do so in the manner that best utilizes your chosen medium. Use the tools you have at your disposal and create something that the world has never seen before. 
Happy storytelling.
A.J. Cosmo
Dream Deliverer link:

A.J.Cosmo amazon author page
A.J. Cosmo's website:
Twitter: @ajcosmokids

Monday, 13 October 2014

Books, real books, are magic portals made of paper and memories.

Books, real books, are magic portals made of paper and memories. 

How wonderful to hear the news that book sales have surged leaving kindle books in the dark. Paper is well and truly alive and more popular than the e version. Books-sales-surge-as-readers-prove-that-paper-isnt-dead.

All hail paper, the book reading technology resurgent. Eight years after the first Amazon Kindle and five years since the first Apple iPad, lowly pressed wood pulp is on the rebound.
Were you surprised? I wasn't. We tend to skim read on an e-reader or kindle on pc and are far more likely to be distracted by incoming emails and notifications from social sites and games online.
 Plus you just can never beat having a real book in your hand, the smell, and the turning of the pages. Just the sheer pleasure of the shape and texture of a book. The mere sight is a pleasure to tantilise the brain.

There is simply nothing better than a good book.  A real book, and by a real book I am talking about the ones made from paper and trees.
 As I flicked through the faded pages of a well read and now worn hardback book earlier today I found myself reading autographs and inscriptions, and admiring cover art, which brought back memories, not only when I last read it, but the very first time I read it.
This book was given to me as a child and whenever I open it and started reading from it, memories flood straight back to the time when I first read this book.
Remembering how my Grandad had handed it to me as a gift, and then I also remember the tune he would whistle, so now I have that tune in my mind too!
 That memory may not have been opened if I had not opened that book just now. There’s something...
just something I can’t explain, about the way a book feels to hold and read that no digital version can match. Something magic that is made from paper and memories.

You use more than your 5 senses when you pick a book up, you use your mind. The memories it evokes and still contains between its pages whenever you care to open it.
Yesterday I felt like I was holding a story, an entire world ready for me to explore- I’ve never felt that way on my e-reader. I’m talking about the weight of the hundreds of pages, bound up in your hands. I’m talking about the soft breeze of flipping through the pages, front to back, then back to front. How it fits perfectly into your hand. It must be because it is made of paper and memories.
The smell of the book. Oh wow the smell of a bookshop, is there anything  more glorious?
 A lot of people have books as decorations, sitting on a bookshelf to make the person look all literary and stuff. I have all sorts of books on my bookcase, new and old. They do not need to be in any order or a certain order, and I do not hide the tatty or older ones away so it looks neater to the eye. When I read the same book digitally or from a book, I feel completely different, and can only fall asleep properly with the paper version. Could it be the colour of the paper? the smooth feel on the fingers of each page, the size of the text, the cover, and the way I like to flick the pages all of this affects how you feel when reading a book. Sliding finger right-to-left doesn’t capture how it feels to turn the page of the book made from paper.

But I also love reading digitally because it means I can read anywhere, digitally is convenient for time and for the pocket. It can never take away a book though, so in this instant it is a totally different experience. They are both totally different things. So for this reason you can have both.

Life moves fast and just because everyone seems to be gravitating towards a life of electronic screens and wireless connections doesn’t mean you have to leave everything behind. Keep a hold of the book, and keep a hold of the memories. Relish in the 'simple and beautiful'. The Kindle may be the future, but you can't write your name in it, and you can't add it to a bookshelf and enjoy the view and the simple pleasure of watching the next person enjoy your bookcase and smell its age between the pages. Whether new or old.
You can’t fall asleep with it on your face, drifting off into a dream from the imagery it instills.
You can’t pass it down to your kids, gifting them with the most moving words of your own young adulthood.

  In a world where you can just forget everything that's going on around you; where you are swept up into a whole other universe expressing the other character's feelings, memories, the pain or anger, confusion, sadness, happiness and also forget everything. Books are our escape. Everything is forgotten about until the book is put down.

What magic a book contains, and what magic we can retain for always from the pages of a paper book.

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the-dream-deliver by AJ Cosmo