After months of lock down and more pandemic days looming, Hub and I longed for somewhere to escape. But the destination had to be affordable, Covid-safe and within a 3-hour drive from our North Carolina home.
Could such a place exist? YES!
Join me on a photo walk of my safe-distancing expedition to an old-timey fishing cabin near the small coastal town of Shallotte, NC.
1. The Hunt
I search online for places outside populated areas
but close enough to fun spots to explore.
(tbh...browsing vacation rentals
has been one of my greatest, safest Covid escapes.)
I book only with super hosts,
who receive stellar reviews for their communication and housekeeping.
Oh yeah, and provide strong wifi, too,
so I can continue writing my stories.
We visit around holidays and other off-peak times to keep costs down. Many hosts offer discounts for weekly rentals, so we discover lovely homes we couldn’t afford otherwise.
Traveling with travel kids?
Many homes have kid-friendly amenities,
like bikes, board games and corn holes. A few even allow pets for a small fee.
2. Bring EVERYTHING
Thanks to Covid, our trip requires a trunkload of supplies.
Our gracious host assures us of a stringent cleaning regimen, but Hub and I carry our own wipes, linen, towels and pillows.
The cabin is sparkling clean when we arrive, but we open windows, make the bed with our linen and wipe down surfaces just the same.
3. Room with a View
We're desperate for a change from looking at the same four walls
during months of lock-down.
We seek places off the beaten path
with amazing views.
Our cozy Shallotte cabin along Sauce Pan Creek
belonged to the owner’s great-grandfather.
It was his fishing cabin back in the day
before Brunswick County was “discovered”
and developed as a coastal paradise.
Located off a dead-end country lane and down a dirt road,
we’re surrounded by trees and the salt water creek.
We don't see a soul during our stay.
4. Have Food, Will Travel!
A fully-stocked kitchen is another must for our Covid escape.
Our cabin is fab for cooking meals and dining in.
Only a few miles from groceries and restaurants,
we still pack the cooler from home with breakfast, lunch, and dinner staples.
But we can't pass up a few take-home meals from amazing local seafood places.
We feast in picnic splendor on the deck.
Plus, we want to support small businesses and restaurant workers.
6. Keepin’ it Safe
We stay out of the action during Covid, though not too far.
A pleasant 10-minute drive down country roads deposits us by the nearest beach,
Ocean Isle Beach (or OBI, as locals call it).
The it's just a breath-taking jaunt over the bridge
and across the Intercoastal Waterway to this barrier island,
Signs posted all around before we hit the sand
remind us to be cautious.
We visit during off-peak times.
Arrive by 10 am or early evening
to avoid crowds and blazing heat.
We have the place to ourselves.
Sea breezes cooling
Shore birds scampering
Shrimp boats catching
Hub and I splash in warm waves
and walk for miles on sugary, hard-packed sand.
Growing up along the Connecticut coast,
I have salt water in my blood.
The ocean is my happy place.
7. Delight in the Unexpected
The best part of a Covid escape is wandering into
that come from being in the moment
and discovering the wonder of every day things.
I collect shells for my fairy garden.
Hub shows me a starfish before waves claim it.
sea turtle nests!!!!!
One of these days,
I'll get lucky
and time my beach excursion with seeing a sea turtle's nest boil.
I long to watch the babies flipper over the sand
along a sea turtle highway to the ocean.
We miss this hatch by just one night.
Maybe next time.
I don’t realize how stressed I am
until this ocean escape
brings me back to
I finally relax.
for our world.
With so many people
out of work
or battling Covid and its fall out,
for this getaway.
this photo walk
a slice of calm
in this turbulent world.
Photos: Cat Michaels
Illustration: Irene A. Jahns from "Sweet T and the Turtle Team"
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time when adults and children from across the nation—and around the world—come together with the powerful message that bullying should never be a part of childhood.
Today's post highlights five ways you can stop bullying and includes...
My Family's Experience with Bullying
I was in the pit of despair.
My sweet 8-year-old niecelette, B, had been bullied at school by two girls in her third-grade class. She cried continually and was anxious just thinking about school. My heart sank. I wanted to support her, but I didn't know what to do, feeling powerless living 500 miles away.
Fortunately, her teacher and parents stepped in immediately to stop the bullying. I still wanted to learn more about how I might help as a writer. I turned to research and asked friends to share their experiences and wisdom. And soon a book idea was born.
I share my five biggest take-aways from that research.
five ways you can stop bullying now
1. Be Persistent
High school teacher T advises being relentless:
Keep asking questions to the school, to the parents. Don’t let this slip through the cracks.
2. Intervene Immediately
R observes from her years as a substitute teacher in elementary school:
It takes the students, school, counselors, teachers, and parents to nip it in the bud as fast as they can. The longer it goes on, the worse it will be for all of them. I'm sure you are reassuring B. That's what she needs the most right now.
3. Show Zero Tolerance
As an auntie, I didn't want my niecelette or any child to be the target of bullying.
As an author, I dreamed of writing a story for tweens that a delivered strong message – bullying in any form is never ok.
Just Between Sam and Me centers on shy 11-year-old Olivia, who only wants to read her books and tend to her farm animals. But Olivia feels like a social outcast when mean girl Candace turns on her.
Olivia starts believing the cruel taunts about her are true, so she is ashamed to tell anyone about the harassment. Small, constant jabs, like those in the excerpt below, erode Olivia's confidence and self-esteem.
4. Look for the Upstanders
Rosie and I sprinkle elements of mischief to lighten our content for kids and bring hope. Olivia’s bestie, Isabella, often takes on this role as she demonstrates how to be an upstander and stop bullying in its tracks, as in the following excerpt:
5. Talk with Your Child
Pacer.org – founder of the National Bullying Prevention Month movement – offers guidance for parents in opening a conversation if they suspect their child is being bullied.
Acknowledge your own feelings first:
Parents may feel a range of emotions, from anger to fear and sadness. These reactions are natural for parents who want their child to feel valued, protected, and loved. To be an effective advocate for your child, it's important to work through your emotions before developing an intervention plan.
When you’re ready and have your emotions in check:
Listen without judgment and remember that children may not be ready to open up right away. They, too, are dealing with the emotional effects of bullying and may feel insecure, frightened, vulnerable, angry, or sad.
When children begin to tell their story:
Listen and avoid judgmental comments. Learn as much as possible about the situation, such as how long the behavior has been happening, who has been involved, and what steps have been taken.
Encourage your child to talk:
Let them know they are not alone and emphasize....
since partnering with Rosie Russell on our tale for tweens,
Just Between Sam and Me, shameless plug for our new book [wink]
I picked up tons of cowriting tips that helped
Rosie and I succeed.
I share our learnings
in a conversation about
with fellow Tar Heel blogger Carol Baldwin.
Rosie and I used a Statement of Work (SOW), a road map to hash out our writing roles, royalty distributions, taxes, and other potential bumps
on the cowriting road
before we wrote a jot.
Plus, when you click over to Carol's blog,
you can enter a giveaway.
One lucky winner
will receive a FREE advance copy of
Just Between Sam and Me.
Book giveaway ends 21 September
btw.... Miss part 1 of our co-authoring convo with Carol Baldwin?
Visit my YouTube channel to catch us in a video convo
about how Rosie and I began our writing partnership.
| || |
Start your journey in Carolina with me to fetch the perfect cover art for my newest tale for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me, launching 2 December 2020.
Then click over to Midwestern countryside for cowriter Rosie Russell's blog at the end of this post. She's got a sweet cover reveal video just for YOU.
btw...more book cover art fun for you with links at the end
... animated book cover vid from Auden Johnson in the Big Apple
... slow build reveals using images from Sandra Bennet from Down Under.
Cowriter Rosie Russell and I
virtual-brainstorm cover concepts for weeks
for our new book for 8 to 12-year olds.
We want the perfect image
to engage young readers.
We nail our back cover quickly ...
the front image remains elusive.
We finally find that consummate image!
Artist Irene A. Jahns is on it.
until it's time for me to fetch Irene's cover rendering
at her family’s farm
30 miles from my North Carolina home.
Blazing heat and stifling humidity
on this summer morning.
AC cranked high in the car,
I speed along the highway
until it siphons off onto two-lane roads
snaking between towering stands of kudzu that blot the sky.
Despite my trusty GPS,
I miss the turn.
I circle back
and bounce down the dirt lane
to Irene in the farmhouse ahead.
We agree on a Covid safe-distancing spot
to talk and exchange the cover.
We sit opposite each other on pool chairs.
A third chair between us keeps us 6 feet apart.
Irene spreads her drawing pencils and canvas
on the empty place between us.
Two black farm cats nose around to see what’s up.
After all, our titular SAM is an orange tabby.
Maybe those real cats sense a kindred spirit
with our fictional feline [wink].
As Irene and I discuss finishing touches,
art-challenged me watches
as she adds her last strokes.
I’m fascinated by the textured canvas.
It lovingly laps up Irene's watercolors.
Dabs of color here.
A few drops of water there
from a kitchen water glass
swished onto her brush.
The cover comes to life before my life!
How does she do that?!?!?!?
Half hour later,
the completed canvas drying and protected in my car,
I’m speeding home.
Can’t wait to send Rosie a snapshot,
deliver the canvas to our graphic designer,
who will work her magic
turning Irene's watercolors into our cover.
to show that finished cover to
Meet Rosie Russell next in Missouri
and catch her cover reveal video for
Just Between Sam and Me
It will be a cool autumn afternoon when you arrive.
Rosie’s waiting for you on the front porch.
Rumor has it
she may serve up
her famous country-fried steak
if you want to stay supper.
(It's our main character's fave meal)
Hope you enjoy our cover
with Rosie Russell.
to continue your blog cruise.
My #Gr8Blogs writerly pals from around the globe have fab book cover stories, too. Check 'em out below!
... animated book cover creation vid from Auden Johnson in the Big Apple HERE
... book image series builds cover excitement from Sandra Bennet from Down Under HERE
Are you art-challenged like me? To be honest, I was terrified I’d smear Irene’s watercolors before our graphic designer, Kayte, could work her magic to convert the original canvas into a high-resolution jpg cover.
Or does drawing come naturally to you? Is painting or coloring-in a relaxing outlet for you, especially during Covid-19? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
I learned a ton since we began collaborating on our tale for tweens. Co-authoring can be an exciting adventure. It can also be a nightmare if you don’t find the perfect writing partner as I was lucky to do with Rosie.
Join Rosie and me as we kick off a four-part series about cowriting in conversation with my fellow Tar Heel author, Carol Baldwin. This week, Carol talks with us in a video segment about how we entered into our partnership ... a task more challenging because Rosie and I live 1,500 miles apart and met in person only once.
We also share tips o Carol's blog after the video to ensure your writing collaboration succeeds before you write a sentence.
Hey, if you post a comment and drop your email on Carol’s blog, Rosie and I will send you a link to a free download of the first chapter of our new tale for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me. How cool is that! (offer ends 9 September 2020)
Click below to Carol’s blog
for our convo about starting a co-authoring project.
P. S. Come back 17 September to explore more in part 2 of this conversation.
Rosie and I discuss how we manage nitty-gritty details of our collaboration
– from collecting royalty taxes from authors living in different states
to file-sharing and writing roles
– and navigating bumps on the co-authoring road.
Another giveaway for one lucky winner, too.
See you in September!
Lift Your Bibliophile Heart During COVID with a RAP, Really Awful Poem, to Celebrate Book Lovers’ Day
Have a read, maybe a giggle or two, but only if you dare. It's really awful!
Hey, please be sure to scroll to the end for more bookish fun:
- watch this RAP in my first narrated YouTube video
- find more ways to love books, from California to New Zealand and everywhere in between, with my awesome #Gr8Blog pals, who are also celebrating Book Lovers' Day
A Bibliophile's RAP (Really Awful Poem)
to Celebrate Book Lovers' Day
Covid 2020 Edition
by Cat Michaels
with deepest apologies to true poets everywhere
Covid’s got my head in a spin.
Makes me feel our world cannot win.
Everywhere I look –
Fright, anger and despair.
So I turn to books to escape outta there.
Only pure escape is what I keep
Beach reads ...
Or light fantasy.
Anything to make my heart
do a little dance-asy
Maybe even some happy-ending science-fiction!
Truly, anything gentle
to take my mind off our global affliction.
Sometimes I download digital
on my tablet to read.
But mostly its audiobooks
that fill my need,
So I turn up my buds
I’m spinning away.
Off to faraway places I'll play.
I might be on a sunny beach in Nantucket.
Or roaming English countryside,
picking wildflowers with a bucket.
Doesn’t matter where.
just places Covid-free, please
for breaths of sweet germ-free air!
How I yearn to stand close,
with ease and no resistance.
Out of time.
Can’t think of more to rhyme.
So I’ll close and just say,
"Wretched Corona Virus,
you GO AWAY!”
It comes with passion
and straight from my heart.
To everyone, I plea:
Let's stick together
and make this
wretched pandemic flee.
* Stay well
* Spread kindness
* Wear the mask
For more Book Love RAP,
check out my YouTube channel below
to hear me narrate my Really Awful Poem.
(Please be kind.
It's my first RAP recording,
but you already know it's really awful, right [wink])
Even more book love for you ...
How a chance encounter with a mystery novel
turns a book-hating teen into a bookworm
Three paradoxical takeaways
from Brene Brown’s self-help books
Characters in a book are like friends
Best horror tropes in books and movies
Fun facts, quiz and book giveaway
It's hard to stay upbeat in this marathon pandemic that's been going on for far to long.
How are you staying positive during Covid? Are you reading more or less these days? What genre/kind of books do you prefer? How might books help you cope? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Join the Fun * Join Cat's Readers' Room Team
Be first to know with What's Up,
Cat's e-newsletter just for her Team
Previews * Special Offers * Freebies & Fun
btw...We NEVER share email addresses,
and we despise Spam. We only reach out
when there's cool news to share.
You can unsubscribe any time.
Hey, New Team Members!
Receive a FREE ebook when you join Cat's Team:
Sweet T and the North Wind
a fantasy about family
and the power of imagination
for grades 1-4
to join Cat's Team
and download your free e-book today!
Video and Chapter Preview of Children’s Book Title Reveal Characters, Add Hint of Mystery for 8 to 12-yo Kids
Plus, we have a bonus for you at the end of this post ...your exclusive FREE preview of our first chapter. It’s our way of saying THANKS for your company!
My co-author Rosie Russell and I wanted something catchy to attract young readers in grades 4-6. The title also had to hint at our story and characters without giving away too much.
It was hard to move forward some days as the crush of pandemic fears blocked my creative mojo, but Rosie and I kept working in lockdown. As we polished our manuscript, we bounced titles back and forth in our respective writers’ rooms near Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina, from 1,500 miles/2,400 kilometers apart.
Our first choices were already used in other books or song titles. We kept searching. Brainstormed a list of nearly 100 possibilities. Used an online title generator. Asked our critique group and beta readers for suggestions.
After two months, we finally have a title that hits our sweet spots.
Rosie and I reveal our title in a 4-minute video. (Yep, I'm in my glam shaggy quarantine hairstyle, so please be kind about my Covid styling -:D.)
Rosie and I are offering our readers an exclusive *free* preview of the first chapter of our book.
You'll meet our characters named in the title (they might not be who you expect!) and explore their surroundings in Rosie’s corner of the world … the American Midwest.
To get your complimentary Chapter 1 sneak peek, click the link below for your pdf download on ProlificWorks.
Preview available only through 15 July 2020
Stop reading this section and skip to the end if you want to be surprised
about the title and Chapter 1
- What do you think of the title? (Feel free to nom us for an Oscar for first film by clueless vid production authors <wink>).
- Did you suspect the identify of the titular Sam?
- Was Sam who you imagined?
- What do you think about what's going on just between Sam and the unidentified Me?
- How was it for you exploring the book's settings in Rosie Russell's corner of the world? It's quite a change from mySweet T settings on the North Carolina shore.
- Do you think the first chapter is enough of a hook to keep kids' turning the pages?
SPOILERS END HERE
I’m glued to the headlines these days but step away when the news gets too intense, which is every day. My family, faith and writing keep me grounded. And connecting with readers like YOU fuels my writing journey. Beyond grateful!
I'd love to know your reaction to the title and first chapter. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Escape with me on a photo walk around beautiful Symphony Lake, home of the North Carolina Symphony's summer concerts. Some people have a higher risk tolerance for venturing into a pandemic. Not me. I share five ways to stay safe as you enjoy outdoor public spaces during Covid.
1. Know Before You Go
so I review recommended health precautions and scout nearby locations.
with a greenway that wraps around Symphony Lake.
It's just a 10-minute drive away.
The park's 1.5-mi/2.4km greenway
passes Covid-deserted office parks
and the outdoor amphitheater
where the North Carolina Symphony
normally performs its outdoor summer concerts.
But not this pandemic season.
how do you like my
Covid Chic style <wink>?
We prepare for our trek with ...
comfy walking shoes
a dab of sunscreen
we leave early on a weekday morning
to avoid crowds and ensure 6 feet of separation.
If the parking lot is jumping,
we’ll head home.
Just a few other walkers, moms with kids in strollers and a sole fisherman.
2. Get Lost in the Moments
to walk outside once more in warm sunshine
on a beautiful summer day!
of those dainty white Silverberry (Elaeagnus) blooms?
miss seeing their humans.
Watch your step!
I don’t mind it today.
Reminds me of when I yelped a few naughty words
and hopped around droppings
back in olden days BC - Before Corona.
but my sweet introverted Hub
needs some quiet time.
I don't mind.
Stopping to capture moments of this glorious day with my phone.
Tuning in to sights and sounds of the natural world.
Yep, I still hear everything
plugged into my John Grisham audiobook.
Because I've missed being in nature during quarantine ..
Everything is louder.
Everything looks more vibrant.
See (and hear) for yourself
in my Symphony Stroll video
We finish the greenway loop! in no time.
Tempted to stay longer, but we want to keep our visit short.
Hop into the car and take off your gear.
There's hand sani in the unlikely event we touched anything evil.
Aren't you more energized? A wee bit lighter in your soul?
Feeling like I can return to my writer's den
and polish the final manuscript
of my middle-grade tale in a heart-beat -:D.
Thanks for your company.
I'm ready to stroll again soon!
I cannot wait
for the day we can be in our fave outdoor places
without fretting about Covid.
Have you ventured out of your Coronaville boundaries?
Where have you gone?
What tips can you offer to make an adventure safe and fun?
Please share in the comment section.
But I was wrong.
These past weeks have been a continuous loop playing out of horrific killings of black men in violent take-downs. I am shaken to the core. How many times do we have to say Enough!
I don’t want a world of hate and injustice.
I am not proud of a nation where peaceful protesters are pummeled by tear gas and rubber bullets.
And I struggle … Me. A middle-aged, white women from a middle-class family. Part of the #MeToo movement, so I know about harassment and abuse of power. But I have never been denied or threatened because of the color of my skin.
How can I make a difference? What if I speak out and say something wrong?
My super power since fourth grade has been writing. So, I write.
Sending my words into cyberspace that express my frustration and wish for a better tomorrow.
Sharing wisdom from one of my favorite American history teachers, my brother, Coach Steve.
Praying our words are a first step for listening, understanding and joining with others to create a powerhouse for change.
by Cat Michaels
There is good in our world.
There is hope in our world.
There is kindness in our world.
But there also must be
justice and dignity
for everyone in our world.
Let's keep looking up to find that goodness.
Stamp out hatred. Together.
Stop senseless violence against people
whose eyes have different shapes,
whose skin has darker hues. Together.
No blame game.
Work to change a nation. Together.
Now, please. Together!
Gotta be NOW!
A White Person's Promise
by Coach Steve
What can you do in your circle of influence to start the change?
Please share your positive thoughts for looking up in the comments.
Deserted schools and highways. Shuttered stores. Empty grocery shelves. An invisible enemy threatening millions across the globe.
We want to the film to end and reset to normal. But the nightmare doesn’t go away after the credits roll.
Fortunately, communities are joining together to find creative ways to support each other during this worldwide health crisis. Ways we couldn’t even imagine BC (before Corona).
Ways like a Neighborhood Chalk Walk.
Come along with me on a springtime photo walk through my ‘hood in central North Carolina. See how Socially Distant Sidewalk Art delivers hope and smiles to a quarantined community.
Hey, be sure to click through to the YouTube link at the end of this post for more sights and sounds of a Neighborhood Chalk Walk that will lift your spirits.
in our upside-down world?
I do my best to maintain balance and health. Geez, I lost 3 pounds. Time to indulge in more stress eating!?!
I stick to a daily routine. Seek creative outlets. Find gratitude in small things (like toilet paper and cleaning supplies - enough for us but not hoarding). Reach out to family and friends on Zoom and social media virtually or wave to neighbors over the fence.
but my worries spin out at night.
keep me tossing and turning,
waking up tired and drained.
My suburban neighborhood near Raleigh, North Carolina, came up with a brilliant solution for coming together during our state-wide Stay at Home Order. Our social team, via private Facebook group, asked residents to chalk sidewalks in front of their homes with encouraging messages and images for everyone to enjoy.
sharing our creations with a stroll in the 'hood
at safe distances from each other.
A sunny spring day.
Gentle temps and breezes tickling your face.
Carolina-blue skies warming your heart.
Cherry and redbud trees blooming their sweet buds off.
(We also have pesky yellow pine pollen everywhere,
but we ignore it
in the glory of being outside and together, even from 6-fee away.)
We'll find ...
(there's always a joker in the crowd -:D)
Thanks for walking with me!
That was just a taste of our chalking the walk.
To continue your happy escape ...
please click over to my YouTube video below.
Find more sights and sounds
on your Chalk Walk
as a neighborhood
brings hope, smiles, and more
to you and our quarantined community.
In the meantime ...
We're gonna get through this together!
for more sights and sounds from a neighborhood Chalk Walk.
I hope you’ll be inspired to find ways to bring your community together from safe distances, too. Hang signs off the balcony or in windows. Leave luminary or holiday lights glowing at night. Please share your ideas in our comment section. We need them!
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