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Eric’s giving me the day off today. Enjoy Eric’s take on Father’s Day. ~Krista (KDRausin)

I remember kicking back one evening in the small apartment I shared with my father watching a movie. I had recently graduated high school and was working while taking a few classes at college. I had the night off and we had rented a flick (VHS – very high tech) to watch together.

The movie was called Target and it starred Gene Hackman as a father that was far too cautious and boring for his eighteen year old son to bond with in any way. When his wife is kidnapped, however, the son soon learns that there is a lot more to his dad as they set off to rescue her. As the movie unfolds it becomes obvious that Gene is an extremely capable government agent and has been hiding this fact the whole time to protect his family. Now I don’t want to wreck the movie for you but it should not come as a big surprise that by the end he rescues his wife and gains the respect and admiration of his son.

As the credits rolled I looked over as was surprised to see my father’s eyes watering up. Concerned, I asked what was wrong. Apparently the movie had resonated strongly with him and he confessed that he wished he had some power or talent that would make my sister and I look up to him the same way.

I was blown away. This was the man that was always there for me. He was the living embodiment of kindness, tolerance and generosity. To hear that he thought he needed to do something else to make us proud of him shook me to the core. We ended up talking long into the night as we reconciled his perceived parental failings with my outright hero worship of this incredible man.

We never mentioned it again after that night but I’d like to think that was because it wasn’t necessary. I was able to share many more fantastic years with him before he finally passed away.

Before he died, I was blessed to have my dad see me become a father. You have to understand, this was not something I wanted or expected. I was going to a famous rock star and parenting was not part of that plan. If anything I was going to be cool Uncle Eric who spoiled my sister’s kids rotten and then sent them back to their mother at the end of the day. Thankfully Krista had other ideas (and is quite possibly even more stubborn than me, if you can believe it). Now I have two fantastic kids and I couldn’t be happier.

So the other day as I was enjoying time with my wife, I happened to point out a particular beer making kit that I thought would make a great Father’s Day gift for me. Somehow this triggered the memory of that special night with my father. I wondered, how was it that I came to think that Father’s Day was about me?

If you’re a dad yourself, you have already been given an incredible gift. It is your responsibility to see those incredible children in your care grow and prosper. The best way to make your father proud is to show him that you learned from his example. Love your children and spend time with them listening to their hopes, encouraging their dreams and soothing their fears.

Now please excuse me as I must go hug my kids.

I am very excited to introduce to you, uTales and Joanna Marple, the author of SNOW GAMES. Meeting authors and illustrators online or in person is a thrill for me. Having them guest blog and share their art makes me feel as though I’m helping to spread joy around the world.

In this post Joanna Marple writes about the creative process in developing her characters for SNOW GAMES. I found it fascinating. It’s an excellent resource for teachers of young writers.

While this is Mouse’s story, SNOW GAMES really does in many ways have four protagonists. This was an issue I grappled with in writing this story. I knew that I needed a main character, which had a problem that he/she needed to resolve; yet I also felt like these four animals were almost a unit in themselves. As I ploughed through various
drafts, Mouse’s character and focus developed, but you know what? So did Bear’s, Squirrel’s and Owls. Mouse is our hero, we care about the fact that despite humongous attempts on his part, he can’t seem to win any of the winter games his friends suggest. However, I wanted the reader to care about each of the others, if to a lesser degree. So, I started to ask my character’s questions. How they would react in different scenarios, and their personalities began to develop.

Squirrel was the hardest personality to uncover. Well, this is due in part to the fact that firstly Squirrel was Badger, but I suddenly realized the characters too closely resembled another picture book, thus Squirrel was born and also became female. The gender was very important and she developed into this fidgety, speedy, flighty character. Bear’s personality was probably the most solid from the word go. I knew he would be the first one to bluster onto page one of the book. He charged into the first stanzas and didn’t really give me much choice. He really is a good-hearted kind of chap. Owl has more hidden depths to her, and I am not sure she is quite as confident and courageous as she makes out. I love Mouse. He doesn’t become full of self-pity or grumpy when his plans fail and he keeps being beaten, he just keeps searching for a way to show his strengths. But, I do think one of the strengths of this story is that they are also a cohesive band of friends, who, despite some competition are completely committed to one another. Thus I not only tried to show each individual’s character, but I also wanted to portray the group dynamic. I believe competition and solidarity are often at work in children’s group dynamics and I wanted to reveal this in SNOW GAMES.

There is a danger in having too many characters in a picture book. If your story warrants it, which I felt mine did, we need to pay as much attention to the subsidiary characters as to the main one. If you know what your main character’s favorite color is, and strongest flaw, you should know the same for each. If you are struggling with these I highly recommend interviewing each one – random questions that you might ask a kid: What pet would you like? How do you like to celebrate your birthday? What’s your favorite breakfast? Without any stereotyping the gender of your animals will, of course, also be very important. I can tell you what each of mine eat for breakfast and much more; facts which seem irrelevant to the story yet help me know and show each one more effectively.

One of the dangers of anthropomorphic characters is distancing them from their true animal identities. About half the stories I write have animal characters and I
personally feel most comfortable placing them in natural settings. I intentionally had them create their sleds, though not purely from vegetative things, but from items they might find lying around in the forest. I actually pictured them without clothing, but loved the small additional items that Maja added when she illustrated them, which certainly added to their individuality.

In 500+/- words, a typical picture book length, I think we can be tempted to see the secondary characters as very peripheral. My encouragement here is to pay attention to every character in your story and the book’s impact will be the richer for it. In my
sequel to SNOW GAMES, these four personalities are developed further, as some
midsummer mischief leads them into a serious pickle!

Krista, thank you so much for allowing me to guest post on your blog.

If you would like to hear more from Joanna, follow her BLOG TOUR.

Wednesday, May 16th – Darshana’s blog,
Flowering Minds – Interview

Tuesday, May 29th – Sharon Stanley’s
blog, Sharon Stanley Writes
– Interview

Monday, June 4th – Clarike
Bo Jahn, Clarbojahn’s Blog –
The Story Behind the Story

Wednesday, June 6th – Diane Tulloch’s
blog, The Patient Dreamer – Book Review and mini
Interview

Monday, June 18th – Susanna Leonard
Hill’s Blog – The Process of Submitting a
Story to uTales

June Date TBD – Julie Hedlund’s Blog – Anthropomorphism in picture books

July Date TBD – Patricia Tilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, Book Review –
mini Interview

I’d like to introduce Ms. Anne Hambleton and a brilliant new website called FacingDisability.com. I remember right after Arielle’s accident I felt completely lost. I didn’t know what a spinal cord injury was or how it was going to affect our lives. A resource like this would have been extremely helpful eight years ago. Please add this post to your favorites or share it on Facebook. The more people that know help is out there – the better. – KD Rausin

A spinal cord injury affects the entire family.  It can seem like no one understands their new situation and the path of recovery that lies ahead. That’s why the Hill Foundation of Chicago created FacingDisability.com, a website designed to connect families facing spinal cord injuries (SCI) with others who have been there before them.

The website has over 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with SCI, their families, caregivers and experts.  People with spinal cord injuries, their parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends were asked the same 48 spinalcord injury questions, on topics such as, “First Days after SCI” “SCI Rehabilitation” and, “Going Home After SCI.”  Questions include: “What was your greatest fear at first? Where did you get the best financial help and information? How has the injury affected your family relationship,” and, “how do you see your future?” Here’s what a few had to say.

Michelle, who became quadriplegic at 21 said, “I wish I would have automatically known that I was always going to be myself. I don’t know what I thought the wheels were dramatically going to do to me, but I wish that I would have known that the things I enjoyed before, and the way I was before, was all going to be the same. I would just
have to go about things in a different way.”

Mary Ellen, whose daughter became quadriplegic at age 15, was surprised about how normal her life has become. “To a large extent, we’re in many respects to where we were before the accident, and I never in the early years thought for a moment that we would reach that point. Certainly, we have to do things differently; family vacations are different and there are some things we can do, some things we can’t do. But we’re still able to pretty much do all the things as a family we did before. And instead of her disability being front and center, it’s become sort of a sideline.”

Darren, who became quadriplegic at age 20, said, “I wish that I knew that what other people think doesn’t matter as much.  People look at you—so you’re different or they may have to make accommodations for you to get into something.  I used to be so self-conscious of that.  I wish I knew that it doesn’t matter.  I could have gotten over this a lot quicker.”

In the FacingDisability “Experts” section, you can see and hear answers from top spinal cord injury professionals, on subjects most people want to know about right away.  Expert topics include: Spinal Cord Injury 101, Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury, Preventing Pressure Sores and, Coping with a New Spinal Cord Injury.

Connecting with someone who has “been there” is one of the best ways to deal with a new injury.  FacingDisability.com has a Peer Counseling service, made for people who want to connect one-to-one through an anonymous email system. There is also a Forum section where you can ask questions, or share answers.

Finally, FacingDisability.com has over 300 of the best resource on the Internet in the
Resources section.

The mission of FacingDisability.com is to provide Internet-based information and
support for people with spinal cord injuries and the members of their families.
Connecting with the life experiences of others who have been there before often
helps people find the strength and support to face their new lives ahead.  For more information, please contact FacingDisability at info@FacingDisability.com.