Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Life's Rusty Tools, A Quote by Anne Lamott

October walk 2018
"It's funny, I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools--friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty--and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do.' And mostly, against all odds, they do." --Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

As a kid, I had similar ideas, thinking that once we were all grown up we'd act, well, we'd act like adults. We've got a lot of learning to do, don't we--all the way through life. So as one month ends and another begins, especially one which focuses on thanksgiving, I propose we add gratitude to Ms. Lamott's toolbox--a very-grownup tool that never gets rusty or bent, or goes out of style.

Agree? In addition, what tool of choice would you add to the mix?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Elizabeth Varadan's Carnival of the Animals, and An Interview

One of the best parts of blogging over the past few years has been the meeting of people who share in the passion of writing. Getting to know them—even if it’s only through cyberspace—and follow them in their journey to publication is an added bonus. When one of those now-friends announces the exciting news that their book has been published, we celebrate with them.

Today I am pleased to help celebrate the publication of my blogger-friend Elizabeth Varadan’s latest book, The Carnival of the Animals (Belanger Books, 2018). The Carnival of the Animals is a story collection for children based on Camille Saint-Saëns’ 19th century musical fantasy, The Carnival of the Animals. Although geared for readers grades 2-5, the book is ‘layered’ so that older readers can enjoy it as well. There are thirteen tales based on the thirteen animals in Saint-Saëns’ work, and they all take place in different countries.

I caught up with Elizabeth to ask her about her book and her journey to publication.

Welcome, Elizabeth! First may I say I read your first book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a MG mystery that included none other than Sherlock Holmes himself, and enjoyed it very much. You obviously write in varied venues. What inspired you to write The Carnival of the Animals? 
The idea of a collection of stories occurred to me one night over dinner when my husband and I were talking about music. We both like all kinds of music, and Saint-Saëns’ musical fantasy is one of his favorite pieces of music. I said, rather flippantly, “I should write a story about each animal. Afterwards, the idea started growing on me. I love to do research, so the challenge I gave myself was that each story had to happen before the date Saint-Saëns wrote the music.

Of the thirteen animals you wrote about, which is your favorite?
Oh, gosh. That’s really hard to say. I liked each one as I wrote them, and each is so different. I like them all.

I know that you and your husband spend a period of time each year in Spain. Have any of your travels inspired one or more of the animals in Carnival?
Actually, “The Burro from La Mancha” was inspired by our visit in 2005 when Spain was celebrating the IV Centennial Anniversary of the publication of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I had seen the musical The Man from La Mancha years and years ago, and the idea popped into my head, “What about a burro from La Mancha? A burro who hears a poet relate the tale of Don Quixote and then sets off to have adventure of his own . . .? So that was great fun. I actually read Don Quixote for this story, and I must say, it is a truly funny novel. 

What is one highlight you experienced in writing this book? A challenge?
A repeating highlight was finishing each story. As I say, each one was so individual. It was like writing 13 separate books. Which was also the challenge. As much as I love research, I had no idea how much research I would end up doing. Each story called for its own special research. I suppose another highlight was how helpful people were when I contacted them for special information. It’s wonderful how supportive of writers people are.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Ha-ha-ha. I really don’t have a typical day. I have days when I read all day for information or inspiration. Other days when I write for a few hours. Some days when I write all day like a maniac. Other days when I just journal. And some days when I don’t write anything at all.

You’ve now published four books for children along with short stories and poetry. What piece of advice might you share with aspiring authors just starting out in their publication journey?
Follow your own dream, not someone else’s. Try everything. Find good writing groups that are both supportive but hard-nosed. And read! Nothing improves your own writing like reading terrific writing by masters. Most of all, persist. Keep writing your stuff and sending it out.

Congratulations again, Elizabeth, on the publication of The Carnival of the Animals, and thanks for sharing with us some insights into your writing journey. Wishing you all the best as The Carnival of the Animals makes its way into the hands of children in the days ahead!

“Thanks to Elizabeth Varadan, you will roar with the lion, bound over clouds with the unicorn, dance with the tortoise, weep with the elephant, feel the friendship of a magical bird, know the enduring love of a swan…and more. Best of all, you will enjoy the genuine magic of this carnival of creativity!’ –T. A. Barron, author of The Merlin Saga

“In the Carnival of the Animals, Varadan takes us through a colorful world of animal stories that will entertain readers of any age. Her whimsical style and effortless storytelling allows her three-dimensional characters to leap off the pages, causing the reader to feel for and love the characters she’s created. These stories beg to be read aloud to children again and again. The subtle morals of her tales give hints of fables while introducing young readers to well-known characters like Don Quixote and Shakespeare’s Puck. Since Carnival’s characters are from all over the world, these stories will spark discussions with young children about cultures, languages, and even animal habitats. Truly a wonderful work of art.” –JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Imani’s Moon

“The stories in Elizabeth Varadan’s The Carnival of the Animals are a wonderful tribute to Camille Saint-Saëns’ musical suite. Children will be drawn to the clever, charming narratives and come away with a real appreciation for both the stories and the music that inspired them.” –Steve Richardson, author of Canlandia and Lavender Blue and the Faeries of Galtee Wood.

“A beautifully penned tale inspired by the musical suite The Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saëns. The story and its settings will delight children of all ages. Varadan’s magical menagerie is marvelous!” –Victoria Lindstrom, author of The Tale of Willaby Creek

Read an Additional Interview with Elizabeth:

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Links to Elizabeth's Books: