Attention All Junior Writers!

Since it’s summer vacation for students, this is a great time to enter THE READING ROAD SUMMER WRITING CONTEST. Go to the JUST FOR FUN page and click “Contests” to read all about it. The winner will be awarded a prize and be published here on The Reading Road where all your family and friends can see your entry.

While you are waiting to learn if you are the winner, you might want to try something I once did. During one summer vacation from elementary school, I made a neighborhood newspaper (which was a lot more work, but seemed like more fun than being in school). Since I was the roving reporter, columnist, editor, publisher, and then the delivery girl, it didn’t leave much time for getting into my usual mischief. The summer went really fast, and I loved writing about anything I thought would make a good story. Some of the neighbors weren’t too sure, but they seemed to be pleased to be featured, for the most part. They actually enjoyed my science column about birds, butterflies, and types of neighborhood pets. My cooking column was almost a disaster because I asked some of my mother’s friends for recipes. Some of them were ghastly, and I couldn’t be “choosy” without hurting feelings. I decided to share only my Mom’s and Grandmothers’ recipes because they were the best cooks. If you decide to try a newspaper or newsletter, you may want to include some friends and work together. A parent or neighbor would probably be happy to act as editor or type your stories and columns.

I’d love to hear about any reading or writing projects you do this summer, and I can’t wait to get your contest entries!

A Perfect Father’s Day Gift

On this Father’s Day, I’m thinking of a gift from rather than for my father. When I think about it, though, his gift to my brother, David, and me turned out to be something we continue to give in his memory. It’s a gift he would have loved most of all – the continuation of what he instilled through the daily exercise of his story-telling, his wit and humor, his great humanity toward everyone, and his uncommon bravery. We absorbed all this as a completely natural part of our days.

This was never more evident than on the June day that David was born. Mother was welcoming him on the maternity floor of the hospital while I recuperated from a tonsillectomy in a room on the ground floor. Daddy divided his time, and my grandmothers made sure I had a flower in my hair each day from the huge bouquet Daddy brought. At that time, hospitals were not air-conditioned, and rules limited the number of overnight family members. Daddy stood outside my window, open just enough for me to hear him, and told me Uncle Remus stories in the authentic voice of each character until I fell asleep. I made sure this took a long time. When it probably seemed like an endless “just one more” from me, he launched into my favorite horse stories about the adventures of a girl named Diane and her pony. Happy dreams for me! Before we left the hospital, Daddy told me he had a big surprise for me. That was the day he took me upstairs, threw open a door with a grand gesture, and we saw my smiling mother holding my new brother. Daddy knew how to create an unforgettable moment.

There were special times with Daddy for David and me. We built homemade kites from newspaper comics, and learned to love the ocean. Whether shopping for groceries with him, making homemade ice cream, or doing anything, we had fun. He always shared food with family and neighbors, and always knew exactly how to make them laugh and feel loved. This, and a keen business sense, are traits that David, now a father, mirrors from Dad.

It’s remarkable that, though he didn’t live to see us grown, he was able to give us what every father strives to give his children. He gave us the gift of appreciation for each day, the confidence to believe in ourselves, and the strength that comes from strong family love. These are the building blocks of any life. We are so lucky!




Go To Your Oracle


Recently, I watched Stephen King on YouTube during an interview about his writing. Writers’ ears always perk up at the sharing of thoughts and methods, ways to balance life with writing, what makes other writers “tick,” – things of that sort. I envy Mr. King’s ability to turn his nightmares into megabucks. He has obviously found the how-to’s, and although he didn’t say it, something important came to me while watching his body language and listening to him talk.

King seems to have overcome a kind of self-consciousness which undermines the best writing. We can lose ourselves in an inspiration, we can be transported by an experience or a sight; but the moment that we become aware of it and begin to judge it, doubt the reaction, edit it, we lose the magic. At ease with himself and very forthcoming, King offered his own very simple writing prescription without seeming to be aware of it. He began to relate how he prepares himself for his writing day by describing his home environment. To paraphrase, he said something close to this, “I have a little cabin on my property, away from the house. It is reached by a path through some trees. I take something, maybe some coffee, and slowly walk toward it, relaxing. Then I sit down and take my time.” That’s where thoughts come to him. That uncomplicated place is the oracle that he associates with his flow of creativity.

Those of us who are afflicted understand. Some must have a particular type of music (Stephen King does and it’s surprisingly modern and loud). Others must have utter silence, or at least music which is soft, without distracting. I enjoy the sound of birds or ocean to embrace that primal state which allows me to express free thought. It’s just as necessary to write from this perspective in children’s stories as it is for adults. It might be described as feeling a bit like time travel originating in the right brain.

I’m writing when I’m doing anything else – listening to conversations, digging in the dirt, cooking for family and friends. EVERYTHING goes into the gumbo of story. Every memory, everything I do, seasons everything else. Since I often get “flashes” of beginnings, middles, and endings, or something I feel compelled to express, I’m rarely without pen, paper, and camera – tools which can then be translated to computer when I get to my “oracle” place. Many people and places are inspiring, and they become part of a particular tapestry once I get back home. My study/office has a necessary messiness, with favorite aphorisms taped to my workspace, stacks of research, folders of ongoing work, papers to file, photos to sort, people to call, and endless to-do lists. It changes every day, but here it is today – I tried to tidy up just a little. Not many are invited to share this space, but you reading here, are welcome.

Doors to my Study


My desk


Library steps on right side of bookcases

Easel to the left of bookcases


My watercolor sketches of Max, the lovebird I raised from a featherless chick

Nature walk discoveries which inspire me

A modern use for my great-grandmother’s cream pitcher


Photo of the boys watching a pigeon, on a day that makes me smile to remember


My photo gallery always plays on my Mac when I’m not writing

Mother’s tea cart holds cards and treasures. Windowsill stores family baby shoes.


A hummingbird nest sits atop a mini-pitcher from grandmother’s collection, held by great-grandmother’s teacup and saucer.

Reference Corner


My clipboard beneath Bobby’s first-place watercolor, painted at the age of five


Seats for visitors

Favored wren nest box just outside my window. Jeannette painted a house for each of the front porch columns.

View from my window. Now it’s time to get back to work!