Was 2018 a crazy roller coaster ride for you? Smooth sailing? Milestone events?
My writerly pals and I are remembering the happy moments as well as lessons we learned from challenges this past year in our blog hop: My Ups, Downs, and In Betweens on the 2018 Writing Road.
Check out our personal reveals, then visit the other #Gr8Blogs linked at the end of the post for more shared recollections and lessons learned along the way. We hope you'll be inspired to dive into your own special memories of 2018!
Attitude of Gratitude
The instructor closed our killer-pilates/yoga workout with words that wouldn't leave me: "The things you take for granted are the things others are praying for."
Her benediction underscored the attitude of gratitude I want to keep in my heart, especially during this wild year of rightsizing and writer's block.
The things you take for granted are the things others are praying for.
Having struggled and reconciled with my new status as a baby boomer orphan last year, 2018 still loomed large with challenges. Leaving our cherished home and neighbors of 20 years to preemptively transition to first-floor living was one of the toughest things I've done. Right up there after death, divorce and job loss.
Waves of sadness kept me tossing at night as Harsh Critic Me hammered away:
What a first-world problem.
You're lucky to build a beautiful new home.
Some people don’t even have a roof over their heads.
Get over it!
If JM and I had children and our families lived closer, we’d have anchors in a sea of chaos. However, we do not. It's a reality that gets harder as we get older.
BUT we have each other,
AND long-time friends who are like family,
PLUS more friends to discover and new neighbors to meet.
Instead of feeling upside down, I want to reframe our transition as a lucky adventure.
View change as a gain instead of a take away.
I’m getting there. But some days I raise the white flag.
Swinging between sadness and buoyancy, this new order is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. It still spins me around, though less often as the year winds down.
Father Knows Best
Dad was the happiest person I knew. He saw only life’s goodness. An ah-ha moment came as I remembered finding a list he scribbled on a crinkled sheet of paper, its contents: wife, children, job, church, house, etc. – totally unlike what he scratched out when running to Safeway for mama When I asked him about it, he told me it was his list of blessings. He liked writing them down because they helped him see how lucky he was.
btw....Dad's life was not one of entitlement or luxury. Coming from a blue-collar background, he served in WWII and Korea, held down two jobs while attending night school for his teaching degree, and was first in his family to go to college.
Teenager that I was then, I didn’t understand his wisdom.
Today, I treasure my father’s practice, but I put my own spin on it.
My list has two columns. One side shows fears/baggage/things that hold me back. The second marks my blessings. Almost always, that second column is longer.
BINGO! Life IS good. Thanks, Dad!
Upside on the Writing Road
Spread Your Wings and TRY
Maybe it was my Puritan roots and strong work ethic from a New England childhood, but I've been down on myself as an author in 2018. Mind-maxed from rightsizing, my brain shut down when I thought about writing, let alone publish another book in 2018.
I felt wretched, and Harsh Critic Me took over:
You don't have anything for your readers.
There's nothing to keep your hard-won forward momentum.
No new tales to enter in 2018 writing contests.
Another loss! Can't you do anything?
But Cheerleader Me countered with a proper pep talk:
You're plugging away on your blog and newsletter.
Keeping fresh with your SCBWI critique group.
Hey, some writing contests take year-old content. Can't hurt to try a submission.
So, I sent 2017’s Sweet T and the Turtle Team to two children’s book writing contests.
And I was gobsmacked!
In May, Turtle Team won TWO Purple Dragonfly awards for excellence in children’s literature: first place -chapter book AND honorable mention - environment.
Talk about a needed confidence boost. Over the moon!
More good news arrived in November.
Sweet T and the Turtle Team scored GOLD in the Literary Classics International Book Awards' best in children’s literature - environment. Their book review of Sweet T and the Turtle Team just blew me away.
I am beyond grateful and proud! Cannot wait to attend the Writers' Conference and Great American Book Festival that are part of the Literary Classics Awards Ceremony this spring in the City of Presidents, Rapid City, South Dakota.
Next Chapter, PLEASE!
I struggle still deciding what genre and content to write next since my decision to end Sweet T Tales due to its high cost of printing color illustrations. A teeny space for ideas is slowly clearing in my brain. Maybe a feel-good family story for adults? MG tale with twist of fantasy? YA series that is not about zombies, vampires or dystopia, but what????
I'm on a roller coaster about my next book ...
More confident I’ll find my way but still biting fingernails.
PSSSST!!!!!! Breaking News
A story idea niggling at me for years moved center stage last night during our 105-singer-strong community choir's 48th annual performance of Handel's "Messiah."
Mercy, if I post it here, does it mean I'm committed to writing this tale?!?!?!
Stay tuned -:D!)
Thanks for stopping by and HUGE thanks for keeping me company on this writing road! How was your year? What was your biggest accomplishment, event, or lesson learned? Please share in the comment section.
For more inspirational recollections and lessons learned, visit more #Gr8blogs below.
And if you blog and want to join us on this hop, just add the family-friendly link to your blog post in the comment section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love-:D
btw....I'm taking time away from blogging to finish unpacking and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Cat's Corner returns in January with a follow up to this post, and -fingers crossed- a solid update on my writing direction. Sending wishes for the peace and joy of this holiday season to you and yours. Catch you in 2019!
#MoreGr8Blogs and Inspiration
Julie Gorge - celebrating family; reconciling a parent's passing
Rosie Russell - overcoming tech pain from crashed website to publishing first hardback for libraries
Rebecca Lindsey - busy teacher finds time to publish; brings illustrating into her classroom
Camela Dutra - don't be afraid of change
Sandra Bennett - a first grand and breaking out of the comfort zone to learn new things
Auden Johnson - no matter how bad things look, Auden finds some good
Corrina Holyoake - brave new world of a full-time artist, Corrina transforms her career direction, inner soul
Marble: by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash
Back Flip: by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash
Notebook: by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash
Join Cat’s Tribe of Readers Here
When you were a kid, didn’t it seem like it took forever for holiday festivities to start?
Now as a grownup, the season comes charging in, don’t you think? I'm getting ready for it! Read on for Thanksgiving traditions new and old, plus a 30-second holiday video from 'Lil Cat and an EZ-PZ pumpkin dessert you and the kids can whip up.
Here in central North Carolina, I'm watching trees flaunt autumn tints and madly searching for turkey day recipes I cannot find since we moved.
(Yes, I still have the old traditional faves on 3x5 cards from those days before internet and online recipe searches. -:D.)
Even though I come from a long line of great cooks, I’m baking challenged. Never contribute homemade desserts to our turkey day feast BUT … this year I discovered a recipe from Publix that even I cannot mess up! It ticked all my boxes....yummy, easy and quick to assemble. To die for, especially with a dollop of ice cream -:D.
I call it a Good and Gooey Pumpkin Dump Cake. All you have to do is throw ingredients into a slow cooker and forget about them until aromas fill the kitchen and beckon every sweet tooth in a 10 mile radius <wink>.
Best, with help chopping nuts (or not if someone is allergic) and measuring, this delicious autumn treat is fun to make with your kids. You can find the recipe HERE. Hey, please let me know how it turns out if you try it?
While I plug in the slow cooker and start a batch of gooey pumpkin cake to share virtually with you, my ‘Lil Cat avatar has a seasonal message for ya that's from the bottom of both our hearts.
Whoa, if you live near Kinston, NC, we can greet each other in person, thanks to the Neuse Library and an Icelandic tradition called Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood, when books are given as presents during holidays.
btw....Please be sure to watch for my next blog that's posting after Thanksgiving. I have some golden news I’m beyond excited to tell you!
And as Lil Cat says ...
Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate
a sweet November's end to all!
Thanks for letting us into your home
at this busy time of year -:D.
If you observe Thanksgiving, what's the one thing you gotta have/do to make it the best day ever? What favorite foods do you crave at this time of year? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
“On behalf of myself and my veteran friends…” Dad’s letter to 2nd graders on the meaning of Veterans Day
Sharing a very personal blog today .... Dad's 2002 letter written to his then 7-yo grand daughter about the meaning of Veterans Day (that I cannot today still read without goosebumps and sniff-sniffs). His post script demonstrates why his was called The Greatest Generation.
"After being discharged from the Service in l945, I married a girl (USO Queen), whom I met in the service in Seattle, Washington. I continued my Education, obtaining a B. S. & M.A. in Education, and becoming a science teacher in the Middle Schools in Norwalk, Ct., for 31 years. I am now approaching 78 years of age, and enjoying my family - 4 children, their spouses, and 8 wonderful grandchildren.
Every day is exciting!"
Thanks to all who served.
What special memories do you have of Veterans Day? How do you mark this occasion? Please share in the comment section.
November marks the one-year anniversary of the roller coaster I call rightsizing: spouse JM and I left our beloved home of two decades to build a cozy craftsman cottage. Other than divorce, downsizing and death, rightsizing has been the most chaotic event in my life.
Still, I remind myself daily how blessed we’ve been to undertake this change. With apologies to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, read on to learn how I survived and hope to thrive during this time of upheaval.
Basic Needs, Security
There's nothing like the excitement of having your life turned upside down ... not! Those two weeks of closing on two homes and living in a hotel in the interim were a blur. I’d wake at night, not knowing where I was. I gained new understanding for people who don’t have a permanent roof over their head, and every night for them is another stab of uncertainty.
TBH, I get squirrelly when there's extended periods of chaos like this in my physical space. Once we moved into the cottage, I attacked the unpacking, de-cluttering and recycling of a gazillion moving boxes. (It didn’t help that I was fighting an allergic reaction to a wasp sting. Prednisone dispensed to manage localized swelling had me madly organizing our new kitchen until 3 a.m.)
I looked to little things, like locating our winter clothes and discovering cherished pieces from Mama made the move intact, to lift my spirits and fight that feeling of being overwhelmed.
I’m big on feathering the nest, too. My surroundings are my security blanket and creative outlet, so I beavered away to make our cottage feel like a home. Furniture happily placed. Curtains I sewed for the former homestead draped perfectly on new windows. Pretties from the old garden nestled about, waiting for their new beds and soil amendments in spring.
Best, four months and two evil hurricanes later, the new space was finally where I hoped it would be. Then I kept my promise of christening its first "company" meal with our BFF former next-door neighbors and their daughters. We watched those two sweet girls grow from infants to amazing teens and were over the moon the family wanted to share this milestone with us.
Hey, you’re virtually invited to check the new digs, too, in a 60-second Before and After video from my You-Tube channel below.
Social Needs and Self-Esteem
slowly getting there
In addition to months of hard labor with boxing, unpacking and organizing, I was unprepared for the emotional upheaval and feelings of loss from exiting a dear community where I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. I tossed countless nights in the wee hours, second-guessing our decision to leave.
It helped to replay a lightbulb moment from a change leadership workshop I took back in my days in the private sector. I remember having 5 minutes to find a partner and complete three rounds of guessing something the other changed in each round.
Nearly everyone, including moi, REMOVED items ... eyeglasses, notebooks, pencils, etc. Nobody ADDED anything to demonstrate change.
to staying on top of transition was to
thinking of change
as a subtraction or loss.
get down and
boogie with change
as an addition or enhancement to new situations.
Think of change as gain!
I focus on viewing our transition as a huge, lovely win. Less on feeling sad by the loss of what we had before.
I miss the old ‘hood and cherished friends there, so I seek out new neighbors. And oh, those marvelous miles of wooded walking trails! I find different trails for morning walks that keep me sane and where I burn up audio books as I move along. I ramp up Body Flow workouts at the gym to 6 days a week to exorcise rightsizing demons. Being more active with volunteering and community service helps tons, too.
(be all you can be)
The most precious piece still eludes me:
I haven't gotten back to writing and publishing. I stopped altogether during the move and recently started with blogging and social medial in moderation. But I never want to return to 10-hour days/7-days-a-week craziness of crafting blogs, newsletters, marketing strategies, book reviews, Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram posts, plus cranking out my WIP. Yikes! That was the road to burnout!
However, I don’t have a current work in progress. My kid lit writing is majorly stuck.
Zip. Zero. Goose Egg. Sigh.
After ending the Sweet T Series because of the expense to publish its color illustrations, I haven’t figured out which genre or content to tackle in its place. In fact, my brain shuts down whenever it wanders to the topic. I hope as life settles and the holidays pass, my brain will kick in, and I’ll be back at it by the first of the year.
In the meantime, I try not to fret and give myself permission to be on this transition roller coaster a bit longer. Your company on my writing road helps tons, too -:D. Cross your fingers for me?
How do you manage change? What strategies helped you master transitions? Please share in the comment section.
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I know about hurricanes from growing up along coastal Connecticut and existing 10 days without electricity or running water after Fran hit North Carolina in 1996. But Florence scared me.
I stressed when early reports predicted a direct hit to my central North Carolina community. When Flo's track shifted away at the last minute, I rested easier until forecasters warned even a slight turn would put us in danger again ... a dance with uncertainty that put everyone on edge.
The storm is gone now. We are okay, but people living along the coast and inland rivers face months of rebuilding. Here’s my Florence pictorial journal.
MONDAY- 4 days before Flo
Spouse JM and I keep a weather emergency kit, but dire warnings of a category 4 storm striking our home near Raleigh, NC, have us scrambling to assemble 3 days of water and non-perishable foods for each of us. I worry about being without power, especially in late-summer’s 90F/33C temps.
Images left/right: NOAA, WRAL Weather
No lines yet at the station when I top off the tank, but people already fill containers for generators and buy extra propane tanks for back-up power.
Abandoning my preferred reading mode of audio and e-books, I swing by the library for good ole print tales to help me escape during potential evenings lit by lanterns.
TUESDAY - 3 days before Flo
Officials predict catastrophic flooding in our area. Local TV and radio stations blast what-to-do-before-disaster-strikes segments that have everyone’s attention. Water, bread, and beer fly off grocery shelves. Hah ... Just try to find a generator!
Mandatory evacuations begin for coastal towns and even along nearby flood-prone creeks.
Our community's Facebook group kicks in. Neighbors asking questions. Others giving advice and reassurance to storm newbies. JM and I have been through storms but have no idea how our new home will stand up to bad weather. More worries.
WEDNESDAY - 2 days before Flo
Good news for us: Florence turns south overnight, sparing us from a direct strike. Still with five days of rain and 40 mph winds, JM and I pack the garage and screen porch with lawn furniture and my garden treasures. Don't want these items becoming lethal projectiles during the storm.
THURSDAY - 1 day before Flo
Sunny skies and summertime temps make warnings feel like fake news. Government officials persist, telling residents in evacuation areas they must leave NOW or they will be on their own if they stay. Schools in eastern and coastal NC close. Businesses let out early.
JM and I make one last trip to the grocery store for prepared salads and then to Subway .... our stash of no-cook dinners to toss in a cooler should we lose power (Yep, can't cook on an electric stove. Sigh.)
By evening, clouds move in. Winds pick up. We will not see the sun for the next six days. We pray those creaks and crashes we hear outside during the tempest are not falling trees or flying roof tiles.
FRIDAY - 14 September 2018: Flo, Day 1
At 2p.m., lights blink back on. And the internet is back!
Cannot believe our good fortune. Like winning the lottery! We hope power stays but still prepare for the worst. We let friends and family know we're okay.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY - Flo, Days 2 & 3
Florence is S*L*O*W in moving across our state and stays with us for five days. I hear one meteorologist say the storm travels at 2 mph, which is slower than most people walk.
JM and I hunker down and exist on TV news running non-stop with tales of devastation. Dams break. Roads wash away. Shelters thrum with evacuees, who have no idea when they might go home or IF they have a home to go to.
There's kindness and bravery, too. We watch the Cajun Navy and others perform swift water rescues as inland rivers crest up to 30 feet above flood stage.
Monday - Flo, Day 4
As Florence dials down, I brave a walk around the 'hood.
Bah! Wind flips turns my umbrella inside out before I can shut the door. Determined, I tighten my slicker, avoiding towering pines that bow too close to the ground with each gust for my comfort.
Other than fallen limbs and rain-soaked leaves clinging everywhere, the 'hood looks ok. Our big spillway at the end of my street, normally a clay-shrouded pit that captures water run off, is holding as it should. Whew!
We dodged the bullet.
Photo right during Flo: Glenn G
Tuesday - Flo, Day 5
Finally peeks out.
Lives reset to normal.
And like Itsy Bitsy spider...
we start to
Looking Back - Flo by the Numbers*
Looking Back - Flo by the Heart
Driving on I-40 two weeks after the storm, I get goosebumps passing parades of line and bucket trucks from Ohio, Oklahoma, and Indiana returning home after traveling to restore power lines.
I'm beyond grateful for these and other first responders who helped clean up, staff shelters, hand out food, rescue stranded motorists, and more. So many doing kind work in times of great need.
Photos: Thanks to Jean Ann A.
I feel blessed to have dodged this Frankenstorm. But I feel guilty, too, knowing it caused catastrophic damage elsewhere to thousands. My hardship, 6 hours without power and minor inconveniences, is nothing in comparison. I feel compelled to help, donating to our church disaster service agency and assembling storm relief kits.
Want to help, too? Please consider contributing to rebuilding efforts through your favorite organization or a reputable relief service listed here by our charity navigator.org. (There's also a new link to help with the Indonesian disaster) Thanks!
If you were in Florence's crosshairs, my best and blessings to you! How are you faring?
What kind of evil weather event have you experienced? I am a wreck in storms! What coping strategies do you use to keep grounded, calm? Please share in the comments section.
* By the Numbers figures from The Raleigh News and Observer, 30 September 2018: "Florence brought relentless rain, epic flooding and an uncertain future to NC."
Photos by Cat Michaels except where noted
Two weeks after rightsizing into our cozy craftsman cottage, I gave up hope of finding space for seldom used dinnerware and goblets. I turned for help to Replacements, Ltd., the world’s largest supplier of vintage and current dinnerware, crystal, silver, and collectibles, with its 12-million-piece inventory from 425,000 patterns.
Join me at Replacements' ginormous 500,000-square-foot headquarters in Greensboro, NC. (Oh, and bring Fido. Replacements is pet-friendly, too. Not as much fun for young children, though.)
Replacements, Ltd., serves 8 million customers in 171 countries and territories. Attracting ordinary folk like me selling a few unused treasures, it's also a magnet for Hollywood producers buying authentic items for film shoots or customers searching for lost pieces of china remembered at Grandma’s Sunday suppers.
I felt the company would offer a fair price for my beloved pieces to ease the pain of parting with them.
The quest started with a sellers’ inquiry form completed on Replacements' website (which gets 2-million visitors monthly) and photos of my stash. I knew the names of most of my patterns, and Replacement’s Free Pattern Identification Service named the ones I didn’t by scouring its database and matching its inventory to my photos. (btw...you can use the free pattern ID service even if you aren't selling to Replacements. It's awesome!)
Within 24 hours, I received an offer to purchase that included a range of prices contingent on inspecting each piece’s condition.
While the company runs a worldwide mail order business, spouse JM and I opted for an in-person appointment, driving an hour from our new home to Replacement’s operations near Greensboro, NC. And that’s where the fun began.
The firm’s sprawling complex, the size of eight football fields, perches at the end of a winding country road off I-40.
Gently carrying our boxes of treasures, we checked in at the sellers’ entrance. It sits at one end of a space so cavernous that Rand Mc Nally once picked Replacements as one of its top 25 free attractions in the US (free tours still offered every hour).
Inspection can take up to an hour as experts scrutinize every miliimeter of potential merchandise to reject or write offers to purchase. We were invited to pass time in the waiting area, complete with comfy seating, snack bar, and free Wi-Fi. Instead. we opted to follow the long corridor through the warehouse to the 12,000-square-foot showroom and museum.
It's hard to prepare for seeing rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves jammed with beauties and running tall along both sides of the immense warehouse!
We gawked, walked, and waved to some of the retailer’s 500 employees in the large center work area, who were cleaning and restoring items mailed in by customers. The warehouse corridor funneled into another long hallway ringed by scores of glass display cabinets .... a preview of what was ahead in the showroom.
Looking for dinnerware?
Check out a great wall of china containing only 500 of the most popular patterns from Replacement’s 280,000 discontinued and active china patterns created by over 5,000 manufacturers. It's a walk down memory lane as you spot pieces used at family dinners in years gone by.
How about silver patterns?
Ooooo and ahhhh over more display cabinets filled with just 150 of Replacements' most popular silver patterns out of the 56,000 discontinued and active patterns it carries from 3,000 manufacturers.
Crystal suit your fancy?
I see you squinting to locate family stemware in the top 150 crystal patterns stocked from 75,000 discontinued and active patterns from more than 1,000 manufacturers!
Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be more,
the hallway spills into the
Rooms of display cases
filled with collectibles
like the ones
you and your Aunt Tilly adore ..
Tables filled with
selling at discounted prices
you may not be able to resist ...
Funky, fun pices
for every occasion...
The show-stopping museum
stretching along one end of the retail space
housed spectacular collections of…
A text arrived to signal inspection was complete. The only way to escape buying any showroom beauties was to hustle back to the sellers' entrance to learn the results.
There, the inspector accepted nearly all my pieces except for one wine glass that had a teeny chip (Mercy, our eagle-eyed inspector was good. I never noticed that crack until she pointed it out!) and a lonely saucer, whose cup I forgot to pack and left at home. My bad!
I accepted the purchase offer, and Replacements cut a check on the spot. With a final look at my pretties, I left smiling with money in my pocket and visions of new owners making their happy memories with my treasures.
How would you ease the pain of parting with sentimental items? Might you use a service like Replacements? Post online? What treasures would you absolutely want to virtual purchase from your trip to Replacements? Please share in the comment section...love to hear your thoughts! And thanks for joining me on another North Carolina virtual excursion.
I am not in any way associated with Replacements, Ltd. My opinions are my own, and I received no compensation for writing this blog.
by Cat Michaels except where noted
Maybe it’s the serenity of our mountains. The beauty of our coast. Or the vibrant flatlands in between. I don’t know which, but my home state has a deep history of authors (many of them Tar Heels, too) writing tales set in North Carolina (NC). One of the most well-known, Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 classic, Look Homeward, Angel, is drawn from childhood at his family's Asheville boarding house.
To celebrate National Book Lover's Day on August 9, I sussed out 12 NC-based stories that I finished or have on my TBR queue. It was hard to skinny down to a dozen, so you’ll find an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction for adults, plus a few bonus kid lit tales.
Read on to find awesome books that will have you humming along with Sweet Baby James and going to Carolina in your mind -:D.
1. Stephanie Powell Watts:
No One is Coming to Save Us
Named a best book of 2017 by The Washington Post, Jay Gatsby is transported to a contemporary North Carolina town ground down by factory closings. WOW! And Watta recasts the Great Gatsby classic with a black family at its center. On my to-read list.
2. Margaret Maron:
Deborah Knott Series
These gentle mysteries featuring a bootlegger’s-daughter-turned-judge are set in the fictional version of the county that’s south of mine. Love when Maron references real places I know, such as Wake Tech and Belk department store. Plus, you'll learn a bit about NC's moonshining heritage from back in the day.
3. Nicholas Sparks:
Nights in Rodanthe
She: flees to the serenity of the remote village of Rodanthe on NC’s Outer Banks after a bad divorce. He: sells his medical practice and also retreats there to re-examine his life. And you know they’re destined to meet! A storm approaches one fateful weekend, setting the stage for life-changing events that ripple long after the tempest passes. Yummy film version with Diane Lane and Richard Gere. Hey, if you visit Rodanthe, you can see the house where the film was shot.
4. Jan Karon:
The Mitford Years Series
These cozy slices of Mitford life are based on the quaint Blue Ridge Mountain village of Blowing Rock and follow the ups and downs of sexagenarian Episcopalian rector, Father Tim, and his flock. Their stone church is modeled after a stunning Blowing Rock edifice constructed from 1000s of small stones washed round and smooth by nearby mountain steams. Karon’s books bring a few tears, but they’re truly uplifting. Her Mitford also morphed into a Hallmark movie, but imho, the film didn’t live up to the books.
5. Ann B. Ross:
Miss Julia Weathers the Storm
My sweet Mama Marg adored reading about Miss Julia, a feisty southern lady from another fictional mountain village. In this 19th novel of Ross’ feel-good series, Miss Julia and friends take a beach trip that’s interrupted by a hurricane, and trouble follows everyone home. As always, Miss Julia must rely on her quick wit and strong will to protect her friends and save the day.
6. Mary Kay Andrews:
Inspired hearing Mary Kay Andrews speak at Quail Ridge Books about writing The Weekenders staying on her fictional Belle Island, my friends and I brainstormed names for my beachy Turtle Team setting afterward on the ride home. Yep. That’s how I found on Gull Island. Andrew’s beach read immerses you on the Carolina coast as her protagonist investigates secrets of a summer that might change everything for her family who weekends on Belle Island.
7. Lee Smith:
On Agate Hill
I loved Smith’s use of letters and diaries about Agate Hill plantation to see-saw between centuries that span Reconstruction years to 1927 and into the present. Both 19th- and 21st-ccentury female protagonists are spunky and determined as their stories unfurl to reveal authentic struggles of their era. Smith injects whip-smart humor, too.
8. Wiley Cash:
The Last Ballad
Another on my to-read list: Set in the Appalachian foothills in 1929 and inspired by actual events, Ballad chronicles an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights during a textile mill strike. In addition to the protagonist, Ella, “...the story is told from alternating perspectives, including that of a black train porter, a mill owner and a mill owner’s wife.... In the only contemporary and first-person passages, Ella’s now elderly daughter fills in her nephew, and the novel’s readers, on the tragic details of her mother’s life” [The New York Times].
9. Jonathan Frazier:
Frazier follows a wounded Civil War soldier making the long journey home from his Raleigh hospital bed, while his faraway love in the Blue Ridge Mountains fights for survival on her deceased father's farm.
Did you catch the film with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman? Awesome!
10. Diane Chamberlain:
So many levels of dark, twisty fate and injustice here had my heart lurching. Set against unimaginable truths in the segregated south of the 1960s, the author introduces a young girl working on a tobacco farm to support her family and “…an idealistic North Carolina social worker [who] defies her employers to save impoverished children from overzealous social engineering in Chamberlain's well-researched page-turner” [Kirkus Reviews].
11. Chef Vivian Howard:
Deep Run Roots
Fans of PBS’s award-winning reality series, A Chef’s Life, and foodies, who flock to rural eastern North Carolina to savor regional fare at The Chef and the Farmer, are lining up for Vivian Howard’s beautifully photographed book. Part recipes and part stories from eastern NC, Howard “…Sandwiched amid the fine culinary writing many delicious recipes" [The Washington Post]. I’m not a cook, but I appreciate Howard’s humor in a recipe like Hoarded Corn that require an afternoon, trash bags, the biggest pot you have, and at least 200 ears of sweet corn to yield 20 quarts of corn kernels to have on hand for winter.
12. David Sedaris:
Me Talk Pretty One Day
This two-part collection of essays by humorist David Sedaris first portrays a young Sedaris and his boyhood days in Raleigh before living in New York City. The second section, "Deux," tells of moving to Normandy and the author's outlandish efforts to live in France without speaking the French language. Sedaris’ narration of his audiobook is pure aural pleasure.
bonus section: children's books
Sweet T and the Turtle Team
Yep. Mine. The third book in my Sweet T Tales Series for early and reluctant readers is set on Gull Island, a joyful mishmash of my fave North Carolina beaches. Turtle Team spins a kid-sized yarn of friendship, acceptance and courage, with subtle messages about marine conservation. Over the moon it scored two awards in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Award for children's books: first place for eBooks AND honorable mention for environmental print books.
Serafina and the Black Cloak
For older kids, this thriller about supernatural evil takes place in 1899 at Asheville’s historic Biltmore House. Beatty introduces the titular spunky heroine, Serafina, who secretly lives in the bowels of the estate with her father, where she specializes in catching rats roaming dark corridors at night. History mixes with mystery but definitely scary for sensitive readers …. especially the Man in the Black Cloak, who steals children away in the dead of night by catching them in his coat with “decaying, blood-dripping hands.”
Jim the Boy
This gentle read for adults and spot-on coming of age tale for middle graders takes you on a sweet journey to a year in the life of 10-year old Jim Glass, who lives with his mother and three uncles in a rural mountain village. There is not one whit of dysfunction, scandal or evil doing, yet Earley’s powerful descriptions of everyday life and beautifully crafted characters will hold your attention on every page.
Doonsey's Beach Adventure: the Great Rescue
For youngest readers by a former kindergarten teacher, the author takes children to the shore to meet Doonsey, a talking crab, and his mysterious Beach Buddies. Inspired after exploring Kure Beach with her grandchildren, Paglia offers whimsy. learning and extension activities that will keep keep your young ones engaged.
Any of my fave NC books strike your fancy? What favorite books, of any setting, would you share for National Book Lover’s Day? Please join the conversation in the comment section ...
...find more book love and great bookish ideas for National Book Lover’s day from my writerly pals:
4 Ways to Celebrate NBLD with your Kids
Fun New Ways to Celebrate NBLD
Thanks for your company on National Book Lover's Day and every day!
Join Me on a road trip to My Corner of North Carolina AND find Insider Tips to Make You Feel like a local
My once quiet corner has morphed into a bustling metro area after topping many “best” lists. Best place to live. Best area to retire. Be single. Start a business. Ride a bike. Etc.! With more than 2,156,253 people (and my Apex home town identified by Realtor.com as the fastest-growing town in America, with 307% growth in new construction!), something is always jumping.
Read on for my top five family-friendly stops AND find insider tips from me and my NC pals to have you living like a local.
Then discover more summer road trip fun from the US coast to coast and Australia as you join my #Gr8Blogs pals linked at the bottom of this page.
welcome to North carolina!
This summer, JM and I moved to Apex, NC, a suburb of 51,000. We decided to RIGHTsize to first-floor living living there, moving just three miles down the road from our beloved home of 20 years in Cary and another great place to live.
Central North Carolina is defined by three unique cities nestled in the corner of that triangle you imagined. Each boasts a major university, which further defines who are (especially during fevered college basketball tournaments!): Raleigh and NC State University; Durham with Duke University; and the University of NC flagship’s campus at Chapel Hill.
Don't be startled when strangers smile at you and passers-by toss a cheery, "Hey!" your way. We're friendly here -:D.
YOUR TOP 5 ROAD TRIP STOPS
Hit the Greenways (all over the Triangle)
Head for one of the 80 greenways (walking trails) linking neighborhood and parks in Cary alone.
Jog for miles,
or take short strolls.
Ride your bike.
Leash up Rover or....
pamper your pooch at one of our dog parks.
Woodland trails in this park’s 140 acres and 3,700 square foot nature center make you forget you’re in a metro area. North-facing bluffs produce a cooler microclimate, allowing tall mountainous evergreen Hemlocks to thrive in our hot summer flatlands. The park's environmental, nature, and children's programs will have you and the kids going green.
Bring bug spray for spring and summer walks across the marshland. Free park admission.
Ride a Train and Old-Timey Carousel at Pullen Park (Raleigh)
NC Pal Thu W. and her three kids adore historic Pullen Park. This 66-acre gem was the first public park in North Carolina, 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US, and 16th oldest in the world. Its grassy spaces, swings, picnic shelters, and rental pedal boats for the lake are devine. But the real draw is riding the park’s stunning old-timey carousel and kid train.
- Great kid zone in Waverly Place Park: Tucked behind the lower level of this shopping center, you can join the fun or watch from nearby benches. Waverly also offers places for good eats and cool drinks. Arrive on a Wednesday evening to catch Wind Down Wednesday, a free family-friendly outdoor concert series.
Discover a 10-acre gem at the NC State University’s JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. As an arb volunteer, it's been a joy leading tours through the 18 display gardens and 6,000 unique plants collected from all over the world.
I also LOVE its adult workshops and children’s programs (nature, arts and crafts, interactive learning stations for school tours, junior chef cooking classes in a yurt, and more). If you're lucky, you'll spot a glowing bride and groom at an outdoor wedding ceremony in the White Garden gazebo.
The JCRA is open to the public and free, except for special events, and operates free Sunday afternoon tours.
- NC Pal Sam I. suggests the 19th-century kitchen garden behind Raleigh’s oldest home, the Mordecai House. Built in 1785, the garden is based on memoir and letters left by former occupant Ellen Mordecai. Some say ghosts haunt here at night, but I'm sure they're friendly southern spirits -:D.
- NC Pal Jane T. gives a shout out to Duke Gardens on the university’s campus in Durham. Small admission fee, but worth it to see its stunning display gardens.
- Plants Delight at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens operates as a garden catalogue company, specializing in exotic perennials that grow in our zone 7 climate. However, its amazing 28-acre display garden and 21,600 unique plants open to the public several times yearly.
We love summertime concerts, Headliners, like Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and the Pentatonix, perform at large venues like Raleigh's Walnut Creek and Red Hat Amphitheaters.
North Carolina Symphony Summerfest at Booth Amphitheater (Cary)
Classical, jazz, or pop float your boat? NC Symphony's Summerfest, a 6-week concert series offers fantastic music, contests, instrument zoos, and more. Bring lawn chairs and goodies to picnic under the stars. Kids under 12 get free admission with lawn seating.
- Cary Town Band offers rousing-good free concerts for the whole family to have you marching and clapping along.
We’re all about fried everything.
And ‘cue - barbeque that is.
Pork laced with vinegar in eastern NC
Whatever you decide,
Insider tip: Sound like a native!
Specify 'sweet' or 'unsweet' iced tea when ordering.
This farm-to-table restaurant rotates seasonal fare, like buttermilk-fried green tomatoes, pulled pork with voodoo sauce, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with pig and whistle sauce. Its patio seating is yummy, too.
Salem Street Pub (SSP) (Apex)
A laid-back eatery in an 1800s brick building in downtown historic Apex, SSP offers good food and family fun. Grab the chalk provided at every table to write or draw on the blackboard-like tablecloth. I have not tried it, but Spouse JM gives thumbs up to My Wife Said It Would Never Sell, the house specialty featuring a beef burger topped with peanut butter, honey, cheddar cheese, and bacon. Somehow, it works! Grownups, try local brews on tap.
- Road-side stands and farmer’s markets are everywhere, but the 75-acre indoor/outdoor State Farmers Market in Raleigh is easiest to find. Try free samples and talk directly with the people who grow your food. They’ll explain, in the most authentic southern accent you'll hear, the best way to fry okra or store fresh peaches. In addition to produce, vendors offer NC products like plants, honey, and sides of pork; crafters sell NC-made wares.
- Give our food trucks a try. NC Pal Donna B., originally from New Orleans, got me hooked on Mr. A's beignets.
Yippy! My new home mixes a traditional southern barbecue cook-off with free music and fun. (Locals know Apex got its name in the mid 1800s by being a water stop for the railroad and highest point, or apex, along a 30-mile stretch of the Chatham Railroad.)
As a longtime Cary resident, Lazy Daze tops my list of summertime fun.
- NC Pal Benita B. takes in the NC Japan Festival with her daughter to experience Japanese culture, music, art, and dance.
Before you go, I’m blogging more about North Carolina over the next weeks. For National Book Lovers’ Day on 9 August, I’m featuring my pick of books for adults and kids that are set in North Carolina and written by NC authors. Y’all come back!
Don't go yet .....
There's more tons of fun ahead with the #Gr8blogs Summer Road Trips! Click over to your next destination and join my pals below. (And if you blog and want to hop with us, add a live hyperlink to your family-friendly road trip post in the comment section. My #Gr8blog pals and I will swing by and give you some blog love!)
Thanks a ton! Beyond grateful for your company.
Photos: by Cat Michaels unless credited
Visit More #Gr8Blogs
Summer Road Trips
Rebecca Lindsey -
Check your tire pressure and take off on a virtual road trip through West Virginia .
Rosie Russell -
Dust off your maps as Rosie guides you through her home home town,
Kansas City, Missouri
Rhonda Paglia - Power up your GPS as Rhonda rocks you around Western Pennsylvania.
Sandra Bennett -
Transfer to a sea plane to find Sandra Down Under in Canberra. Hey, it's winter in Australia, so bring cold-weather clothes!
Mother, son writing team show what life is like for kids with sensory sensitivities in Bash and Lucy: Fetch Team Vera and the Dream Beasts
I've worked with many children and parents to address this unique style, so I'm over the moon to see more authors tackle the issue. tbh, I only had time to skim the book as I'm consumed with RIGHTsizing, but I loved my first glimpse. With its kid-friendly layout and font (no visual distractions here!) and bright pictures providing context clues for each chapter, it's perfect for beginning readers or reading aloud. Plus, Bash and Lucy offer tons of discussion possibilities about inclusion and bullying.
Please read on to:
- Meet the authors, an award-winning mom/young son duo
- Watch a video interview with sensory sensitive kids
- Preview the Cohn's book
- Enter to win a $25 gift card/Pay Pal cash giveaway (details at the end)
The Book Blast runs May 21 - May 23, 2018.
Giveaway ends 4 June.
Happy tales and good luck!
About the BookTitle: Bash and Lucy Fetch Team Vera and the Dream Beasts Authors: Lisa and Michael Cohn Genre: Children's Book Number of Pages: 86 Publisher: Canines and Kids Publishing Publication Date: May 15, 2018 Summary: Sensitive Bash gets grumpy and disruptive when his life is too bright, too loud, too smelly, or too busy. He counts on his dog, Lucy, to help keep him calm. But Paula, Bash's girl-power cousin, is causing all sorts of trouble. Paula says her soccer team has the right to take Lucy away from Bash because girls deserve the very best canine coaches. And superstar Lucy is the most successful coach around! How can Bash show he respects the girls' rights while keeping dear Lucy by his side? Award-winning mom-son authors Lisa and Michael Cohn have appeared on the Today Show, AM Northwest, and SiriusXM Radio, and in Disney's Babble, as well as other media.
About the AuthorAward-winning mom-son authors Lisa and Michael Cohn have appeared on the Today Show, SiriusXM Radio, AM Northwest, and in Disney's Babble, the Oregonian, and other media outlets. They are founders of the Roving Reader Leaders. Michael and Lisa have "traveled" 540,000 miles and visited students in 15 countries around the world via Skype in the classroom to discuss their books.
Book Blast GiveawayPrize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 PayPal cash prize, winner's choice Giveaway ends: June 4, 11:59 pm, 2018 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Lisa Cohn and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.
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Author Michael Sullivan solves this mystery (Hint: time travel!) in his delightful picture book series, The SockKids. His books and merch also support the non-profit Friends of Kids with Cancer. Meet Michael and his gang of hose, PLUS enter for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card or Pay Pal cash OR a pair of SockKids socks. Offer ends on 14 May, 2018. Good luck!
About the Book
Do you know where your socks go when they go missing in the washing machine? Well, the SockKids know! The SockKids are a mismatched family of socks that sometimes time travel through the spin cycle, teaching universal lessons of love and kindness, and focusing on creating a greater awareness of the many social issues that children are faced with today. The SockKids help to educate and encourage children from 2 to 92 to find solutions in helping to make this a better world.
In this story, Sudsy and Wooly discover their human is being bullied at school and team up against bullies with Ethan’s newest friend, Olivia. They discover bullying hurts everyone and staying silent is not an option.
More Inside! Children’s counselor and licensed therapist, Jamie Ross, gives adults and children guidelines on how to handle bullies.
About the Author
Michael eventually returned to his subway notes in 2007 and began writing Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness (Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books imprint). Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreakone of the year’s best in 2010. His second novel, Everybody’s Daughter (Fiction Studio Books, 2012) was named one of the best books of 2012 by TheExaminer.com. He completed the trilogy by having The Greatest Gift published by The Story Plant in 2015.
Michael has written articles about the plight of homelessness for CNN.com, The Washington Post.com, Beliefnet.com, the Huffington Post, and America Online’s Patch.com service. He is a former board member of the Long Island Coalition For the Homeless.
About the Illustrators
She loves that children and their parents are drawn to the diversity of the SockKids family and the universal and timeless lessons they teach: don’t be afraid of new experiences; treat others as you would like to be treated, and of course, beware of the spin cycle! In addition, she is dedicated to finding the right soap for Sudsy.
Shelley is also a passionate child advocate, working with a variety of cause-driven organizations such as Destination Imagination, Up & At It!, Child Abuse Prevention Council, 3 Strands, the International Bullying Prevention Center, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters Youth Organization. Shelley has developed a keen sense of awareness of what children experience today in dealing with such important issues including bullying and recognizes the importance of putting into place the type of value-added programs that will effectively strike a nerve in preventing our youth from losing their way to a safe and productive future.
In her spare time, she is an event planner and resides in California.
Alexandra /SugarSnail dreamed of becoming an illustrator since childhood, even though she didn’t know the profession actually existed. She later graduated from college with an MFA in graphic design.
She never gave up on her dream, so she decided to do what she loved best – become a children’s illustrator. SugarSnail’s beautiful artwork can be seen in many children’s books.
To reach Alexandra Gold/SugarSnail, follow her on Facebook.
Book Blast GiveawaysPrize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or $50 PayPal cash prize, winner's choice and a second winner will receive One pair of SockKids Socks
Giveaway ends: May 14, 11:59 pm, 2018
Open to: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Michael John Sullivan and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.
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Sweet T and the North Wind