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board books, Easter, kids' activities

BUNNY FINDS EASTER: Five IDEAS to Point Little Ones to JESUS at Easter

Last week Bunny (the sweet protagonist from Bunny Finds Easter) and I were invited to our first 2023 Easter Egg Hunt! On Palm Sunday, I’ll be reading Bunny’s story at this event that typically attracts several hundred people. Do you know what that means? It means it’s time to take out my Bunny-inspired Easter bonnet! It also means it’s time to share some ideas for how we as parents, teachers and the church can help our littlest ones understand what Easter is all about.

In Bunny Finds Easter (Zonderkidz, 2022), Bunny is on a quest to find out if Easter is all about chocolate eggs and jelly beans or if it might just be about a little bit more? As the story unfolds, Bunny encounters many of the fun traditions surrounding Easter but it’s not until she arrives and church and they sing an Easter song that she realizes JESUS is the reason we celebrate Easter. Indeed, amidst all the fun of jelly beans and Easter bunnies, it can be hard for little ones to understand that Easter is about Jesus. With that in mind, here are…

Five Fun Ideas to Point Little Ones to JESUS at Easter

Read some faith-filled Easter board books (and picture books too!) With simple text and engaging illustrations an Easter-themed board book that touches on the real meaning of Easter is a cozy, fun way to spark conversation with little ones that Easter is about Jesus and His great love for us – a love shown through the atoning grace of the cross, the joy of His resurrection, and the gift of new life we have in Him.  

Do some Easter baking. Little ones love baking and eating sweet treats. That’s why Bunny nibbles hot cross buns in Bunny Finds Easter.  According to tradition, hot cross buns were first baked by monks in the 12th century with a cross marked in the dough to commemorate Good Friday. They are relatively easy to make and a delicious reminder of Jesus and the cross. Resurrection rolls are another fun and meaningful baking option that can be used to point little ones to Jesus at Easter. You can find many recipes online for baking and enjoying either or both of these baked items with your little one.

Use jelly beans to point to Jesus.  As you and your little ones nibble Easter jelly beans, let them serve as a sweet reminder of Jesus’s love for them and the world. Before sampling each color, think about how it might remind us of Jesus.  For example, yellow can remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. Green can remind us of the new life we have in Him.  Purple, the color of royalty, can remind us that He is our loving King. Red can remind us that he died and rose again for us. And so on.

Include Jesus in the Easter basket.  Fill your children’s Easter baskets with colorful, engaging items that remind them of Jesus. Consider having a faith-based Easter board book serve as the centerpiece. Round it out with small items such as candies, stickers, and other little toys etc. that are in some way connected to Jesus and Easter.  Examples: a little lamb (we are His sheep), a glow-in-the-dark cross, chocolate hearts (because Jesus loves us), little chicks and bunnies (to represent new life in Christ) etc.

 

Sing some “Jesus loves you!” songs. Songs learned, even as young as toddler and preschool age, can have a lasting faith impact on the human soul. Just think of the songs you remember from your childhood and beyond.  Do any of them speak of Jesus? If so, they can be a special way to introduce Jesus to your little ones at Easter and throughout the year. Some Easter-y favorites that we love at our house (that are good for little ones too) include: He Lives, Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace and more.

OTHER IDEAS for using Bunny Finds Easter specifically:

Have a Bunny Finds Easter Book Walk. This fun intergenerational activity has the feel of an Easter Egg Hunt – and can even include jelly beans and other goodies – but the “hunt” is walking along a trail (outside or inside) to discover progressive spreads of the story BUNNY FINDS EASTER mounted on boards culminating in a craft or activity table at the end of the walk. Get all the details plus the FREE downloadable instruction sheet here.

Get FREE downloadable BUNNY FINDS EASTER activity kit designed especially for littlest ones. The six-page kit includes:

  • Decorate the Easter Egg
  • Help Bunny Find Her Way to Church on Easter Morning
  • How Many Eggs Can You Find?
  • Draw More Easter Lilies for Bunny
  • Send an Easter Card to Someone You Love ( foldable printable card)

Interested in ordering Bunny Finds Easter? It’s available wherever books are sold. Happy Monday, all!

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Inspiration, Life

JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS:  The Tale of a Sparkly Purse

Last Friday my husband, daughter and I attended a gala to celebrate the eight year anniversary of the founding of the dance company my daughter attends. The event was lovely and served as fundraiser for scholarships. There was music, food, drink, and wonderful conversation. It felt so good be socializing in person! 

The attire was semi-formal and I managed to put together a nice outfit – black velvet pants and a dressy cranberry blouse. I put on my favorite white enamel necklace and pearl earrings. But something was still missing. I needed a purse to hold my lipstick and phone. Something small and easy to carry with a short strap so it could dangle daintily over my forearm as we chatted, sipped wine and nibbled appetizers. And elegant. I wanted it to be elegant.

None of my purses fit that description, but I nonetheless opened the closet in the hopes that something would strike my fancy. It’s not a big collection and as I suspected, nothing was just right. Then at the very back, behind a basket of my scarves, I spotted this:

White and sparkly, and safely wrapped in a plastic bag, it beckoned me to investigate. It was an evening purse. Poking out of the side was the edge of a note. I could just make out the word: LAURA.

That LAURA was written by my mother! She passed away in 2013 and sometime before then, she must have given me this special sparkly purse – perhaps as part of downsizing her own purse collection. I could tell by the handwriting that she wrote the note before she got sick because the lettering is strong and sure. 

Full of loving memories of her, I gently removed the purse from the bag and read the note. This is what it said:

Laura – I bought this in Spain about 1968 to use at a New Year’s Eve party at the Royal Automobile Club of Espagne. For the very formal dinner and dance, I had an emerald green silk long dress made, and wore long, white leather gloves. At midnight, with each stroke of 12, we had to pop a grape into our mouths (pretty dangerous when you think about it!)”

I smiled reading it because it was so like my mother, first to be thoughtful enough to tell me the special story behind the purse, but also, in typical fashion, to include a little life lesson – i.e. don’t put too many grapes in your mouth at once!

I showed the note and purse to Miss A and we both laughed and teared up a bit. “That sounds like her,” she said. Then we both decided my mother would have loved knowing that I was taking her purse to Miss A’s gala! 

Just before we headed out for the evening, I unlatched the purse so I could put in my cell phone and lipstick. And guess what my mom left me there?  SIXTY dollars!  Abigail and I agreed that that was most certainly a special sign that she was with us in spirit and that the purse discovery was meant to be. 

Here is the purse at the party with lipstick, phone and that special $60 tucked safely inside:

And, after the gala, what did we do with that little bit of fun money? A few nights later, we ordered sushi- something Miss A, my mom and I used to love to order and eat together. And, in keeping with my mother’s grape advice, we popped only one piece into our mouths at a time.

As we head into our weekends, may this serve as a sparkly reminder not to forget to look for the joy in the little things – like finding a long-forgotten purse — and savoring the sweet memories those little things spark. 

Happy Friday, all!

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author spotlight, Picture Books, STEM

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about YOSHI’S BIG SWIM with Author Mary Wagley Copp

 

Today I’m delighted to have picture book author Mary Wagley Copp as my guest sharing five fun facts about her latest picture book YOSHI’S BIG SWIM: ONE TURTLE’S EPIC JOURNEY HOME, illustrated by Kaja Kajfež and published by Capstone. Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

“Yoshi’s Big Swim chronicles the impressive true story of Yoshi, a loggerhead turtle who was rescued by fishermen, then rehabilitated and cared for by scientists for many years. The scientists adored her, and Yoshi was happy in her aquarium home. But then, many years later, Yoshi let them know that it was time for her to move on. Would Yoshi be safe? Would she know what to do? After lots of preparation—and plenty of friendly back scratches for Yoshi—the determined loggerhead set off on her journey. Discover an amazing story celebrating teamwork, science, and an animal hero who swam more than 22,000 miles to her true home—the longest journey of any animal ever tracked. In addition to being awe-inspiring, Yoshi’s story underlines the importance of wildlife conservation and the power of one animal to unite people around the world for a common cause.

Beautifully crafted, both in word and illustration, this book is a wonderful addition to any school, town, or home library. Now enjoy this special post as Mary shares five fun facts about the book and writing. Thank you, Mary!

Fun Fact #1:

Like Yoshi, I love to swim! My mother used to recount the first time I saw a pool, I leaped in – no floaties, no life preserver – I just jumped! I couldn’t swim (I think I was about 2 ½ years old) but that didn’t stop me! Of course, I was quickly rescued feet first. My mother said I coughed up some water but wanted to jump in again! And, to this day, if I see water I usually jump in! I love to swim! I think that is one reason I was so excited to learn about Yoshi, the amazing loggerhead turtle who swam 22,000 miles to her natal beach! 

Here I am swimming across Buzzards Bay:

 Fun Fact #2:

After I read many articles about Yoshi and watched television clips about her, I reached out to the aquarium where she was cared for for 20 years. I was able to interview the director – which was such an honor for me. I had seen her on TV, listened to her on podcasts and here I was talking to her about her most famous resident – Yoshi! She reaffirmed the fact that Yoshi was a magnificent turtle but also that there was such a large community of people who loved her and cared for her – throughout her life.

 Fun Fact #3:

I have been working and re-working some picture manuscripts for a few years. I love revising and I love the challenge of really getting a story the best it can be. It is such a joyful feeling to polish a story and push ‘send’ in hopes that it turns into a book. However, unlike the other manuscript, YOSHI’S BIG SWIM seemed to almost write itself! After the bulk of research, I wrote the entire manuscript in a day and then spent a few weeks pondering it, changing some words and deleting an extraneous scene – or two. But, really, Yoshi told her own story and I just typed away. It was a very cool experience – one that is very atypical for me as a writer!

 Fun Fact #4:

I now follow a lot of turtles online! They have satellite tags affixed to their shells so interested people around the world can track their migrations. It is fascinating AND you can get very attached to these wonderful creatures as you witness their journeys.

 Fun Fact #5:

Every spring, I watch nesting peregrine falcons through my local Audubon Society’s webcam that is placed on an office building where the pair lives. I love wacthing their journey as parents. From the time the pair makes their nest until the last fledgling leaves, I am hooked! I have seen the parents bring back a lot of birds, which is hard to watch – but it is also so neat to see the hatchlings grow, learn from their parents and then learn to fly. Animals are amazing!! 

BIO: Mary graduated from Smith College and earned an MPH from UNC – Chapel Hill. Her career has been primarily focused on strengthening non-profit, social justice organizations – both as a management consultant as well as an executive director. Mary also spent several years in the filmmaking world. For one documentary, Mary and her team followed a family in an Ethiopian refugee camp to their new home in Providence, RI. This film – and the people featured – was the inspiration for her debut picture book, Wherever I Go (Atheneum/S&S, 2020)illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed. Mary is also author of the nonfiction picture book, Yoshi’s Big Swim: One Turtle’s Epic journey Home, illustrated by Kaja Kajfez (Capstone, 2023). Yoshi is a record-breaking magnificent creature and her long journey back to her natal beach.As well as writing for children, Mary teaches ESL to newcomers in her area. Mary loves to swim and garden. She lives in Westport, MA with her husband, Allyn. They have 3 grown children.

Connect with Mary on the web: marywagleycopp.com
Twitter @Maryfkwc
Instagram @marywcopp
FB Mary Wagley Copp

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Bible, board books, Book Launch

The COUNTDOWN for MY TENDER HEART BIBLE is on!

With less than three weeks to go until MY TENDER HEART BIBLE officially releases, I’ve been busy getting ready. In anticipation, here are just a few of the things I’ve had on my to-do list:

1. Training Teddy, who has been my special bear since I was two, to be my storytime companion. He’s holding a tooth brush because the theme of our visits will be establishing cozy bedtime routines that include brushing teeth, getting in jammies, praying and snuggling up with a favorite stuffy to read books like MY TENDER HEART BIBLE!

2. Scheduling school, library, and bookstore events for the winter and spring. If you would like me to visit your school, library or bookstore, please reach out to me via my contact page.  I’m also offering a handful of free 20-minute virtual visits, so reach out to me there as well if that is of interest.  Check out the visits I have set up so far on my Upcoming Events page.

3. Setting up a small, but enthusiastic, book launch team to do things like share the book in their communities, recommend the book for purchase at their local schools and libraries, share about the book on social media etc. 

4. Arranging and then preparing for a virtual book tour that includes stops at blogs, podcasts and more. Let me know if you’d like to be one of the stops.

5. Creating extension activities and crafts for teachers/parents to use after reading MY TENDER HEART BIBLE.

6. Being intentional about connecting and engaging daily on my various social media feeds. I hope you’ll join me there. There are buttons in the header and footer here for easy connecting.

7. Updating my author bio info on various book-related websites. 

8. Preserving daily time in the midst of all this to write new stories, poem, and picture books. (I have several in progress.)

9. Remembering to BREATHE and ENJOY the process…  

LEARN MORE about the book, including links for where to purchase, on my website’s dedicated MY TENDER HEART BIBLE book page.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with book news, inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

Edible delights, time management

TIME MANAGEMENT TIP from my Plate to Yours: EAT YOUR PEAS!

As a wife, mom, author, speaker, event coordinator (I set up and manage all my own events), volunteer for several organizations and more, I continually feel like I have a lot on my plate. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful for the plate set before me. I rejoice that I have the honor of receiving this plate so full of blessing and purpose. Still, managing everything on the plate sometimes feels like a lot. That’s why I’ve made a practice of beginning each day by lifting that plate up in prayer.

My prayer each morning is that each portion I’ve been given gets its proper amount of attention and that I don’t avoid the peas! Peas are my least favorite vegetable and on a real plate, especially as a kid, they were the portion that I always pushed aside. On my symbolic daily plate, the peas are those tasks and to-dos that, for whatever reason, I avoid. But, boy oh boy,  does it feel good when I actually eat those peas instead of mushing them under the potatoes or squeezing them off to one side.

Indeed, something wonderful happens when I eat those peas. First, I usually discover that they don’t taste as bad as I thought they would. Second, without the peas, my daily plate is suddenly less cluttered which means I have more room to tend to the other portions – including my writing.  And writing, for me, is portion of the plate that keeps everything else in balance. Third, removing those peas opens up space on the plate for the unexpected – like the surprise asparagus or spinach I spotted at the farmer’s market… i.e. the spur of the moment invitation to grab a cup of coffee with an old friend or opportunity help a neighbor (or stranger) in need.

So, what about you? What peas have you been pushing around on your plate? Wouldn’t it feel great if today you just ate them so that your plate could open up for the other good portions you’ve been given this day?  Try it… I think you’ll find it tastes good

Happy Monday, all!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

Inspiration, parenting

PARENTING REMINDER… from a TEEN!

Yesterday, as I was sorting through old school papers and notebooks in the basement (part of my new year’s resolution to thoughtfully thin and tidy), I came across this gem. Last year, Miss A took a childhood development course and, apparently, our family dynamics provided lots of material! 

Case in point: Check out this cartoon describing a terrible case of failed launching practices. Launching, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is the term used to describe the role parents play in the period of their child’s transition from youth to adulthood.

LOL, the cartoon speaks for itself, but I thought you might enjoy a little play-by-play commentary as well. Here goes:

Panel One:  

This panel shows two parents not trusting their daughter is doing her work. They are calling her cell phone and acting all exasperated. Meanwhile, the pooch, who is most definitely our sweet Sophie, asks, “When are they going to feed me?” I love the how stylish (or not) the parents look. My husband’s shorts are hilarious and check out my hair!

Panel Two: 

Meanwhile, seated her desk in her room (this, apparently, takes place during the pandemic when school was virtual), Miss A is focused the task at hand – her education. Ignored on the bedside table (as it should be) lies her cell phone which is ringing because her mother (me) is checking in to see if she is doing what she’s supposed to be doing – which she is!  There’s so much humor in this little vignette. And the message is pretty clear – as parents we have trained our children to be responsible, independent human beings and we must trust them to be just that without micromanaging or hovering too much.

Miss A’s Caption:

But just in case that isn’t clear enough, Miss A has written a thorough caption. Let’s zoom in so you are sure to catch the takeaway.

And what is that takeaway for us mamas and papas? Let your children launch. Let them be responsible. Let them make mistakes and learn and grow. In other words, hard as it might be sometimes, step back and let them take flight! Thank you, Miss A, for this reminder (and for letting me share it today.)

Happy soaring, all!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

Bible, Book Launch

Pre-Order SIGNED Copies of MY TENDER HEART BIBLE

Will you help my new bible story book make a BIG SPLASH when it releases next month by pre-ordering your copy today? Published by Paraclete Press, MY TENDER HEART BIBLE is a collection of 12 of my favorite bible stories, retold in rhyme with a simple prayer “heart moment” for each. Presented in 24-page board book format, it’s perfect for birth through about age 6. The publisher’s website offers a great description of the book as well as a sneak peek at three of the spreads which give a very good sense of the book. Here’s the link for that: https://paracletepress.com/products/my-tender-heart-bible

I didn’t realize with my first two books just how important pre-orders can be in capturing the attention of readers, booksellers, reviewers and more. As I have now learned, those pre-order sales get included in the sales numbers for the first week of the book’s release. High numbers can influence how many runs a book has, whether it makes a best-selling list and more. All good and fun stuff!

So, if you are thinking of purchasing MY TENDER HEART BIBLE (perfect for Easter, birthdays, baptisms, baby showers etc), I would be delighted if you would consider pre-ordering it from Paraclete Press, Amazon, Christian Book or your favorite vendor.

Or. if you want SIGNED copies, my local book store has a special deal for you! If you PRE-ORDER my new book from The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ, any time between NOW and February 7th (the book’s release day), owner Anne Laird is offering a 10% discount off the retail price. Simply mention that you want the “MY TENDER HEART BIBLE DISCOUNT”.

If this interests you, please call the store. Be sure to explain that you would like to have the book signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Depending on where you live, you can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

You can reach The Town Book Store at (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com. Either way, remember to ask for the MY TENDER HEART BIBLE discount.

Thank you, The Town Book Store, for making this possible and thank you, readers, for supporting my books!

NOTE: If you are long-distance and prefer to order from the vendor of your choice, I’m also happy to make arrangements for a signed book plate to be sent to you by sending me a SASE. Just let me know and we can make that happen.

author spotlight, Interview, Picture Books

LITTLE LOVEDOG’S LONG WALK HOME: An Interview with Barbara Valenza

One morning in early September, I noticed that I had a new follower on Instagram. Her name was Barbara and she was a a storyteller. I took a closer look at her profile picture and realized that I knew her in a completely different context… and that I had no idea that she was a writer! I immediately scrolled through all her posts. Yes, it was true! I was delighted. After following her back, I messaged her to see if she’d like to meet me for lunch and asked if she would bring along her new book LITTLE LOVEDOG’S LONG WALK HOME.

A few weeks later, on a crisp October day, we met for lunch. I loved her sweet book about a little dachshund who’s having a part that no one wants to come to, or so it seems. Delightfully written and illustrated by Barbara, it warmed my heart with messages of hope and kindness. My kind of book for sure!

But the best part of our lunch was getting to know each other in this new context. How wonderful to discover that we share a passion for instilling themes of kindness, acceptance and love in the next generation. Pictured above is a snapshot we took that day holding our books. Afterwards, I asked if she’d be up for an interview on my blog. She said yes! So now, without further ado, here it is with my questions bolded. I hope you find her as inspiring as I do.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into picture book writing and illustrating.

Barbara: Sharing stories through children’s picture books has been a dream of mine since I was seven years old when my best friend and I would sit under a cherry tree, writing and drawing stories about a very busy bunny family. I pursued art and writing in college, and not long after I graduated, I landed a job in the art department of Jim Henson Productions (The Muppets) in New York City. I was over the moon! It was such an exciting time working with incredible artists and storytellers. I went on to work for a number of years in educational publishing at a graphic design firm. We had wonderful clients like Scholastic, the Museum of Natural History, and many others. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a nerd, I spent a bunch of my free time checking out children’s books from local libraries. I drew and drew and drew and wrote and wrote and wrote. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing about and drawing little characters.

What inspired you to write Little Lovedog’s Long Walk Home?

Barbara: One of the things that makes me mad is bullying, especially when someone is made fun of for being seen as a bit different from others. Different is what makes life interesting! It’s so hard not to want to fight back when you get bullied, but sometimes, the best thing to do is walk away and remember that being kind is always the better path. And, hey, you never know what bright spot may be just ahead.

As a fellow champion of kindness, your story really resonates with me.  I’m also charmed by your skilled use of both text and image to tell the story. Which came first in your creative process — the theme, the written story or the illustrations?

Barbara: As an illustrator and writer, the process is super interwoven. That said, I’d have to say that the theme bubbles up first. I’m always playing around with stories about feeling left out, or being different, or not quite fitting in with the crowd. It’s so easy, at any age, to get discouraged and feel like you don’t quite stack up to everyone else. I was working on a completely different story called The School for Cats and Dogs about a dog who just didn’t fit in. As I began to sketch dogs and cats while I thought about the story and the school and what it all looked and felt like, I sketched a dachshund…with very short legs and a very long back. I fell in love with him because I knew, the moment I saw him, that he was the one excluded by the other dogs.

He spoke to me because he was so full of love with no one to share it with. I thought, what are some of the worst feelings, especially when you’re little? Two biggies: Being laughed at and having a lonely birthday because no one wants to come to your party! And so, Little Lovedog’s story began. It built from there—sketching, getting to know the characters, their personalities and the unfolding of the story. I asked myself questions: Where does he go after being laughed at? What happens on his way home? Does he encounter more foes? New friends? Is everyone a bully or just some dogs? I wanted the story to speak to how important it is to keep treating others the way you want to be treated, no matter what. Once I had a bunch of character sketches and a sense of what happens, I wrote the manuscript. Then it was a back-and-forth process of working through editing text as the images emerged.

In addition to Little Lovedog, there’s a sweet little dog who trails behind as Little Lovedog heads home for his birthday seemingly without any party companions. (SPOILER ALERT: He’s holding a string.)   How did he come to be part of the story and what do you hope kids will notice/learn from him?

Barbara: I love that you ask that! At the start of the story, he’s part of the crowd of other dogs, yet he stands apart, not laughing. I think he too has been bullied for being small, being a little Chihauhau (the number one smallest dog breed). He thinks for himself and does the right thing—he’s nice to someone who needs a friend. He even brings a balloon, since Little Lovedog’s balloon burst.

Tell us the story behind Potato Publishing and how it came to be.

Barbara: Why Potato Publishing? Every so often while I was growing up, my dad would tell me the story of the mysterious potato bag. It was the early 1930s and the Great Depression raged on. My dad’s family was pretty darn poor. They were good-hearted people who worked hard, but finding enough food every day to feed their family of seven wasn’t easy. One day, my dad walked into the kitchen and saw my grandmother–who was a strong and faith-filled woman–crying quietly. When he asked her what was wrong, she said she didn’t have anything to feed them for dinner. But, true to her spirit of positivity, she lifted her chin, squeezed his hand, and said not to worry, all would be well. Sure enough, a short while later, my dad thought he heard a noise at the screen door. When he went to look, he saw no one, but he found a big bag of potatoes on the step. That night they had the most delicious potato soup ever.

It is my hope that the books from Potato Publishing will bring smiles, inspire positive thinking, and remind us all that our world is a brighter, happier place when we are kind to each other.

My books are dedicated to my family, especially my encouraging husband Mark and two amazing grown kids, Laura and Nat, and to my friends and colleagues who have helped me on a difficult journey. My books are also dedicated to my doctor and the caring nurses and staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering. They are truly a silver lining on this journey I can honestly say I didn’t want to take. My doctor advised me to do what makes me happy. And so began Potato Publishing.

(Potato Publishing supports MSK Kids and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because cancer is rough enough on adults, let alone kids!)

Finally, where can readers find your books?

Barbara: Little Lovedog’s Long Walk Home is available on Amazon, on potato-publishing.com, and at the beautiful little shop in Hopewell, New Jersey, called twine. And, it’s available at the Hopewell Public Library, where I’ll be holding a story time reading in February. Potato Publishing is a new little spud but growing every day. I am grateful for this opportunity to talk about Little Lovedog!

And if you follow me on Instagram at @barbara.valenza.storyteller, you’ll meet plush Little Lovedog who is often out and about in Hopewell having his photo taken.

Thank you so much, Barbara, for taking the time to share Little Lovedog’s and YOUR story with us today. I wish you the very best. And, let’s have lunch again soon, eh?

Creativity, Inspiration, Writing

Letting our Stories Take Flight: FOUR Writerly Thoughts Inspired by THE LITTLE PRINCE Exhibits at the Morgan Library 

One of my favorite books as a child was LE PETIT PRINCE which I read in French because we were living in Paris at the time. My teacher, Mme. Lucas, chose it for our class because it was relatively simple in terms of word choice and sentence length, which was perfect for intermediate level students (and foreigners) like me.  But even as an eleven year old, I understood that there was more to the story than the relatively simple word choice and plot structure.  THE LITTLE PRINCE, I soon discovered, had the magic ability to touch readers on different levels.  It was my first exposure to allegory and symbolism and reading it brought storytelling to life for me in a new way that still resonates with the reader and writer in me.

Imagine my delight, then, to discover that the Morgan Library in New York City has put together an exhibit of original manuscript pages, watercolor sketches, photographs and personal effects to explore, not only Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s creative process, but also to shed light on how his experience as a pilot, an exile and love-torn human influenced this now classic tale.

This is not the first field trip I’ve taken to the Morgan Library to visit with the Little Prince.  Eight years ago, I also visited the Morgan to see a wonderful exhibit they put together in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the book’s release. Now, basking in the experience of both visits, I’d like to share with you FOUR writerly principles sparked by the exhibits.

Write the story YOU want to tell.  Now a classic, THE LITTLE PRINCE had a slow start because the publisher wasn’t sure whether to promote it for children or for adults. Thank goodness Antoine de Saint-Exupéry didn’t worry about how to categorize it. He just wrote the story he wanted to tell. And, as it turns out, it was the very story readers of all ages (and cultures) wanted to hear. Indeed, as I learned at the exhibit, THE LITTLE PRINCE  has been translated into more languages than any other work of fiction. So, take heart and write from the heart!

Revise, revise, revise! The early manuscript of THE LITTLE PRINCE was more than twice as long as the final published version. The framed pages on display at both exhibits are lightly scrawled in pencil and/or ink and show clear signs of intense revision – not only at the sentence level, but at the story level too. Big cross outs show where entire sections were deleted. Simple lines through phrases and words show how the author’s wording evolved. Revising can be long and painstaking, but also rewarding as you see the story emerge and transform on the page. So take out that pen and let the words overflow.  Then, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry revise your text to perfection.

Save your doodles. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a doodler and for years sketched a little “bonhomme” in the margins of his notebooks. Something about that doodle, in particular, captivated his imagination and ultimately gave birth to the little fellow readers now know and love as the Little Prince. I, too, am a doodler, but my doodles take the form of words and phrases – little bursts of inspiration.  Some of those word-doodles go nowhere, but like that little “bonhomme” some keep reappearing in my pages.  I’ve even developed some of the peskiest ones into stories and poems.  So save your doodles, for they might be just the spark you need to write your next piece.

Write from the heart. Do you remember the Little Prince’s cherished rose? The one he was so love-torn over?  Even reading the story as I child, I felt there was an intensity and complexity of emotions in their relationship. Well, at the “Taking Flight” exhibit, I learned that their relationship was most likely inspired by the author’s turbulent marriage to Consuelo Suncin Sandoval de Gómez. They loved each other deeply but struggled as well. I’m so appreciative that Saint-Exupéry found a creative way to weave those struggles into his story so that others can take heart and learn and grow as they navigate their own life struggles. That is one of the gifts an author gives his/her readers and one that we, as writers, should be open to as we write. 

The Morgan Library and Museum Exhibition: “The Little Prince: Taking Flight” runs through February 5, 2023. I highly recommend it, if you happen to be traveling in these parts. For more details check here: https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/little-prince-taking-flight

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Reading, Writing

COUNT DOWN TO THE NEW YEAR: Top FIVE BLOG POSTS Published in 2022

I thought it would be fun to kick off the new year with a countdown-style look back at my top five blog posts published in 2022. But first some fun facts. In 2022, my website had close to 14,000 views and over 7,600 visitors. Most of these were from the United States followed by Canada, the UK and Australia. I posted a total of 116 posts which was up 18 from the year before, and my yearly record so far. Posts topics included author interviews, writerly reflections, life lessons, tips and more. And now, without further ado, the top five!

#5 MONDAY REFLECTIONS: THOUGHTS ON RETIRING A BELOVED BANNER After 10 years, and because I knew I needed to update my website, I made the sentimentally difficult decision to retire the banner my mother created when I launched the blog in 2012 -difficult because she passed away in 2013 and she was an inspiration to me. Thank you to all who took the time to read this heart-felt post. I also figured out a way to keep the banner in a special spot here on the website. Can you spot it? (Hint: Check the footer.)

#4 FUN NEWS: TWO BOOK DEAL This post clicked in at #4 and I’m so grateful for all of you who helped celebrate with me how a one-book pitch turned into a two-book deal! Both projects release in 2023. Can you guess what they are?

#3 SISTER MICHELE AND THE CANDLE: A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS COUNTING MEMORY If you have followed my writing journey at all, you know that most of my books have in some way been inspired by my childhood or my children’s childhoods. Thank you for reading this one about my third grade teacher and a special Christmas tradition she introduced me to. This post had lots of traffic and my prayer when I wrote it was that Sister Michelle would somehow see it. That prayer, I’m happy to report was answered! Even better, I may get to visit with her in person this summer. Wouldn’t that be neat?

#2 COVER REVEAL: ROSANNE L. KURSTEDT’S AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (PLUS AN INTERVIEW This post from May celebrated the upcoming release of my long-time critique partner and friend’s delightful new book celebrating the special bond between a working mama bear and her cub. I love how you all joined me in celebrating with her!

#1 THE DAY QUEEN ELIZABETH PASSED THROUGH CRANFORD: A SPECIAL MEMORY FROM 1957 Written just after Queen Elizabeth passed away (and upon learning that she rolled through Cranford on a train in 1957 and that my mother-in-law hoped she would stop in for tea), this post was a big hit! It struck with many of you and I loved all the comments and memories it sparked which many of you shared both here and on my social media feeds.

So there you have it! Thank you all for reading my blog. Now I have a favor to ask. What kinds of posts would you like to see in 2023? I’m all ears (and I have my pen ready.) Happy New Year!