Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bonus Tuesday-Book Review


Gold by Chris Cleve, Simon and Schuster, $27 hardback

Reviewed by Joan Leotta


Cleve is a powerful writer who pulled me kicking and screaming to the finish page, loving every moment of his prose, despite disliking his characters and the subject matter. How did the man get so deeply into the head of the two lead women, Zoe and Kate? How could he understand the dreams of a sick child, Sophie, so well? And Jack and Tom, the main male characters? Strong yet not dominating?  What would you sacrifice for the people you love? That is the tagline on the inside cover. It’s what made me pick up this story of Olympic bound super athletes (cycling) and at the same time what made me want to put it down. I am about as athletic as limp toast. I am competitive in my field, but not cut throat (ever understood the value of climbing over someone else to get where you want to go.) So, at various times I put this book down in disgust. Yet, from my nightstand, or the end table, this novel kept softly whispering to me. Cleve’s incisive prose is a clarion call to anyone who loves language. Yet, at the same time, like watching a great magician, his secrets are not readily apparent.  I can say characterization and dialogue, etc, but I cannot point you to particular elements as I can in other books. The whole is what works here and it is what pushed me to careen on to the finish line–just as his cyclists do in their races; sometimes panting at the effort it cost me because I really disliked the main women. For me, the answer to the question of what comes first is easier –family first. But I was taught that by word and example from childhood. These folks did not have that benefit and Cleve broadened my understanding, made me finally sympathetic toward these women and at the end did not leave me despairing as I thought he would. I would not say they turned out to have hearts of gold after all, but I was pleased that after pushing me to the finish against all odds, Cleve did let up the pressure with a happily unexpected end. Good, but hard (emotional) read.


Monday -School Supplies

There is secret creative power in school supplies. They are a blank slate waiting to receive the creative input of you and your child. If you were to ask me to name my favorite perfumes, I would name, natural lavender, rose, and Crayola Crayons (other brands do not smell quite the same). Of coures your child is not viewing them as creative forces right now. At present, they are simply “school stuff”. Nostalgia makes them desirable even in September. No, for true creative impact, you need to put some away for later.

It seems daunting to gather all of the supplies on a child’s list, I know. Each teacher seems to want so many items.

But if your family budget can take it, purchase a few extra things–crayons, paints, markers and nice plain paper and construction paper. Put these away for Christmas. Good quality supplies are at their cheapest in the next few weeks. When you pull out your extras at Christmas time you can divide them for each child and make this pack of creative wonder a present under the tree. Suddenly, these are no longer school supples. They are a creative force–they are the way your child will self amuse during the holidays, make cards for relatives, draw pictures to amuse, start books, cut up colored shapes to use as collage (be sure to purchase an extra bottle fo school glue/paste too).

What seemed like a burden place on them by the teacher, mere tools for the classroom in September are a creative release at Christmas. This was a tradition at our house. Some years, the children requested a specific type of art supply–pastels, gel pens, special papers, and one year, clay. Always did our best to purchase the best quality available of the requested supply and then had the joy of watching them experiment. Our daughter became quite an accomplished sculptor of miniatures and that spring her items went on display at the local library (which regularly showed work by local children)..

Sick last week. Please forgive

Sorry that I missed posting on Wednesday and Friday. Was very sick from a migraine that continued for several days. Although many of my migraine triggers are food-related, this one was brought on by the heat and compounded by our air conditioning going out on Wednesday. Since I have severe nausea with mine, this left me dehydrated and so I was sick until yesterday–the first day I could drink more than a few sips of water without throwing up. TMI? Sorry about that. But in side the house things are great although weather is still very hot outside of my window. Had to bring in my mint to save it.


Reading with Hands

Reading with your Hands


Story and craft are a great way to help your little ones learn sequencing, story development, and how to develop an understanding of story. The simplest craft idea to help children understand the meaning of a story is puppetry. You don’t need fancy things. Paper bags, or craft sticks make wonderful puppets.


Why the craft? To engage the child on many levels–visually, and with hands. Then, when retelling the story using the puppets, you have movement. They can dance, sing, tumble–whatever.

Key to letting this unleash their creativity is to be unspecific about what the puppets should look like and how to construct them.


To help the younger child it is good to set some parameters, but allow freedom within. Let’s say you are doing the three bears. (And it is good to start with a very familiar story)Tell the child that they definitely need  one puppet for each bear and one for Goldilocks,. Anything else is up to them. Don’t tell the child how to make the bears or what color the bears should be. Let the child drive the creation. Then, be a good audience, responsive and appreciative when the child performs the story for you.


There may be deviations from the tale as you know it. That is good.  




Somehow being turned down for a gig, either in a showcase or from my own solicitation

does not carry the same sting as a form letter rejection of a writing piece.


Even after 35 years of professional writing, (mostly non-fiction), my fiction and poetry, plays and creative non-fiction are rejected and it hurts. The sting to pride is great–they didn’t like me or the pen I rode in on. Logically, having been an editor myself at various points in time, I know that rejection does not always mean they do not :”like” you. A magazine or online source is not a friendship group. Sometimes a good piece is simply the wrong fit for the upcoming issues or for that publication entirely.


Non-congruent fits with the publication mean your (my ) research has been thorough. Wrong for upcoming issues or not quite right mean that you (I) have not hit the mark with that story , even tho it is the type of story that magazine uses.


But form letters still hurt. There is no escaping them. Editors cannot respond to the volume of manuscripts they receive using personal notes. SO, when we get a personal note as I did a few months ago from one of the magazines that I am targeting, it was a joyous rejection. Yep, she rejected my work, but said she could not wait to see the next piece. Unfortunately, earlier this week I received a form rejection of that next submission. Instead of stepping up, I took a step back on the rejection scale.




So, what to do? Cry? Withdraw? Sulk? Self-publish? No. I will wait a few days, and then give the story a cold hard look. Deep in my heart, I knew I was taking a chance on sending in this one because the protagonist is twelve years old. Even though I am aiming at an adult audience, I think most will view it as a YA.  Now I need to do another market search and see if I need to adjust the length to meet the needs of a YA market.


Rejection means revision to me. A wake-up call on where I market an item and a time to give my literary gem a bit more polish before sending it off on its way to an audience of readers.


So, to all those out there who fear rejection, I say–it’s a paper monster. When you get one, make it into an origami crane. Send the email ones back into cyberspace and go back to work. Work is the cure for rejection. Persistence, work, a stamp, work, an email and work.!


 Question: Wht would you think of Tuesday-Thrusday guest blogs? A lagniappe of sorts?




Wednesday–Food, not only for thought

Today, my article on eating ice cream, specifically, going out to eat ice cream in Myrtle Beach, ran in the Sun News. I tried to find it online jsut now to give you a link, but there was none! Only hard copy for now. Should a link appear, I wil lpost it.

Meantime, if you are going to go out after dinner for ice cream, you might want to eat light at the table if you are goign to splurge calories on dessert.

Caprese Salad is a great summer meal–tomatoes are tasty, mozzarella is light and there is plenty of basil in the garden.

1 tomato per person

enough mozzarella (fresh!) to provide one slice for each slice of tomato

1 basil leaf for each slice

also oregano (optional) to sprinkle on when you lay the basil leaf on.

salt, pepper, the best olive oil you have, to taste


Sprinkle each slice of tomato with a tiny bit of salt.

Lay on the slice of cheese.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay on the basil leaf, Drizzle with olive oil

Eat with crusty Italian bread.

Go out for ice cream and enjoy! Meal time is about more than eating. It is a time to share the love of family and friends.

If you are eating dinner alone tonight, eat, call a friend, one who needs encouraging, and invite that friend to go out for ice cream–either that night or soon.


Monday Recipe for Success-Guest Post from Patty


Ok, So I am supposed to be giving parenting advice on Mondays. But in this case, let me give the advice–keep your promises–short and sweet. Before I changed the days of my blog to segment it into various elements, I had already promised to trade blogs with fellow Desert Breeze Publishing author, Patty Froese. So, today I am posting for the July 16 post, Patty’s take on writing. And, if my tech skills are working, also a photo of the cover of her latest! Patty is hosting my musings on characterization and how I do it. I did not put in any links to my site. I am new to this blogging stuff.

From Patty to all of you

                Today, my son broke my tea cup. I liked that one–it was new! I found it at a second hand store, and it was in perfect condition, so I was a little heartbroken that now it is only a saucer… no cup.

                Saucers have a life of their own around here. They might hold a candle, or become a soap dish in the bathroom. Saucers are still pretty, but when you have a four year old, expect your pretty things to get broken, drawn on or otherwise altered. An item in perfect condition might be a source a pride, considering that keeping it that way is a herculean effort, but a damaged item turns into a conversation piece.

                A perfect tea cup doesn’t have much of a story. “Oh, I picked that one up at ________.” But a broken tea cup has a story. “I turned my back for one minute to flip the pancakes, and I heard this tinkling sound and when I turned around, there was my son with only the handle in his hand. So now the saucer holds the soap.”

                As a novelist, I’m always on the lookout for a story, and I’ve noticed that stories are found in the pieces. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tragedy or a comedy, if things don’t break apart, there’s no story. A story happens when things fall apart, when things go wrong, when favorite tea cups get broken and when people who are meant to be together have mountains thrown up between them.

 Inspiration happens in the pieces, too. When I browse through an antique shop, I always feel drawn to the chipped pitcher or the wooden chair with a deep scratch from long, long ago. Something happened, and I want to know what. Who knocked the pitcher over? What stole her attention and sent it clattering to the ground?

                In my book Perfect on Paper [   ], Anne Stanborough is searching through the random pieces of her late aunt’s life, looking for the story. Something happened, but she doesn’t know what. Someone loved her, but Anne doesn’t know who. Love, like cracks in china and scratches in wood, leaves a lasting mark.

                Something happened.


Patty Froese is an author and blogger. You can find her at her blog,, or on Facebook. (





Friday PS

If you want a copy of the MP3 file with my WHQR interview, please email me at


Friday PS

If you want a copy of the MP3 file with my WHQR interview, please email me at