Category Archives: nature as inspiration

Planting Story Seeds

I grew up in Queens, New York, in a small apartment complex where gardening/lawn maintenance was done for the tenants. My family never owned their own home. I’ve always loved flowers, but I never gardened while growing up, except on one occasion where I planted some seeds from a flowering tree I admired in nearby Whitestone Park.

Imagine my surprise when a few years later a small tree began to sprout in our little shared garden plot. Beginner’s luck. When I bought my first home as an adult, there was lots of land.  A front yard, big backyard, and plenty of other side plots next to the left and right of our house to garden. When we first came to view the house, it was in the late winter and I was only looking at the inside of the house with a young mother’s eyes. Would there be enough room for our two daughters to grow inside?

The next spring, to my surprise, little purple sprouts popped up next to our driveway. Soon, some pretty purple plants were showing. I googled some images and found out they were hyacinth.  On the right side of our house dozens of daffodils grew quickly. I loved flowers and soon began to plant our front garden with the help of my young daughters. To my dismay, however, everything would be eaten by the local roaming deer population. It took a few springs until I could research what to buy and plant that wouldn’t be decimated by deer.

Geraniums, tulips, lilies; all were experiments in growing and were quickly consumed by the deer, groundhogs, wild turkey. But annuals like marigolds and perennials- the daffodils, newer planted gladiola and butterfly bushes, in all colors of the rainbow, thrived. After about ten summers, my garden and my daughters have grown. And as I started to spend more time writing during my summer vacations from teaching, my younger daughter, who has a natural green thumb, has become the primary gardener in the family.

Now what does this all have to do with writing, you may ask? Well, I have always loved to write. I won writing contests and awards in elementary school, wrote for college and professional newspapers as an adult, but put it on the back burner for a while. As a children’s librarian, I started to see a void in kids literature, so I decided to try my hand at writing biographies for kids. Two years, almost three, since my story seeds were first planted and watered. A big NYC publisher gave me a chance with my first non-fiction children’s manuscript, but then my story, like the first plants I had tried to grow, withered and died. In May of 2015, devastated by the rejection of almost two years of edits to my first story, I almost gave up entirely.

Just like the first flowers in my garden, my first stories needed editing to grow. New ideas were more successful than the first ones and I finally sold a first story this spring. Four summers of writing have passed and I have five manuscripts to show for it and am starting on a sixth this summer. Just as I had to nurture and find the right seeds for my garden, I have persevered and am planting story seeds that will grow tall and strong.

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A World Without Octobers- STEM and roots of growing lifelong readers

Writers’ block has haunted me for a few weeks after the death of my dad. Finally, my creative juices are flowing again and I have to thank my kindergarteners I teach library skills to for that.  It’s true- everything you need to know about life you learn in kindergarten. Because of my love of nature I feel inspired to teach my PreK and K all about its beauty, especially since they live in a very urban environment, an inner city. Every year we read favorite picture books, like “The Leaf Man,” ” How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” and “The Runaway Pumpkin.”   Every year I bring in mini pumpkins in October and teach them about the parts of a plant and the life cycle of a plant from seed to sprout.  At the end of October, I always give the pumpkins to the kids to keep, after they have graced the library desks. There are actual arguments about who gets to take the pumpkins home. I have to raffle them off and still some kids are upset. I cannot possibly buy 200 or 300 pumpkins for all the Prek to 2 graders I teach, but I do know that I have instilled in them a love for reading and learning about nature. We count pumpkins, look at the fall leaves and read so many books about them, fiction and non-fiction. The fall is probably my favorite season. October’s glorious colors and the crisper weather inspire me.  I discover migratory birds returning back south or west in my garden during October and November.  My lovely garden plants start to hibernate for winter, turning brown and dry. And I wait for the spring when I will again teach my students about the life cycle of nature, but this time of the miraculous monarch butterfly.

Bless the Beasts

woodpecker

 

One of the  recurring themes I write about here on the blog, is nature as inspiration. This morning I saw, for the first time a Pileated Woodpecker in my backyard.  My husband thought he had seen one a few days ago and knowing that I am an avid birdwatcher had tried to get some pictures of it. I had kept my eye out for it the next few days and there it was this morning, attacking a knot on a tree with abandon.  I grabbed two cameras and ran out my back door trying to get a shot of this elusive creature I had only heard about from books.

It’s a huge bird, almost two feet long, with a fantastic head, red crown and sharp beak.  It was hammering away for a good half hour with persistence at that tree. And for me it was a sign. I have been waiting years to see one of these birds in NJ and had not yet given up, a metaphor for my writing. I have been waiting for more than two years now for my first children’s picture book manuscript to come to fruition, while feeling like giving up many times. Hopefully it will not take as long as the bird sighting. I was also inspired this month by seeing some beautiful hummingbirds and butterflies in the Desert Botanical Garden on a trip to Phoenix, AZ.

And while I usually like to write historical fiction or biographical books, I think that this time I will turn to nature as an inspiration for a book for kids.  There are many ideas I have brewing for a new book about exotic animals for children.  As the weather gets colder here in the Northeast I will begin a new manuscript or two and hope that my writing takes wings and inspires others.

November: Native American Heritage Month

005As I plan a short trip to the Southwest this weekend, I am reminded that it is Native American Heritage month. So many people think of the Southwestern tribes when they think of Native Americans, but as a New Jerseyan and  kidlit writer  I have recently been doing a lot of research about the tribes of  the Northeast.  It is so sad to see how all Native American tribes were mistreated. The Lenni- Lenape of NJ  were basically driven off their land in NJ, Pennsylvania and Delaware to upstate NY and  to live in parts of Canada and the Midwest, even after William Penn promised to let them keep their land.     I am awaiting  patiently for a publisher for my second manuscript for kids, about the Lenape.

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Here are some pix of the beautiful Taos pueblo in New Mexico that  I visited a couple of years ago. I hope to add some more pictures of the beauty of nature after I return from Arizona next week.  I’m sure to get inspired with some new ideas for writing as I check out the Monarch Butterfly migration path on my trip in Scottsdale.