Laurie Halse Anderson and me!

Happy early birthday, Laurie Halse Anderson! Our friendship began by a random meeting when I was in second grade. This wonderful lady took the time to send handwritten letters to a little girl who aspired to be an author! Our friendship has stayed intact through technological advances and I never miss an opportunity to come to one of your book signing events! 

It is amazing how God brings special people into our lives when we least expect it. I hope someday that I will be able to impact the lives of young readers as you did for me and continue to do every day! 

I hope you have an amazing birthday tomorrow! And thank you for all you have done for me over the years!

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When characters become friends!

I wanted to take the time to reflect on two very special literary bears that have played a role in my life: Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh.

January 13th was Michael Bond’s 90th birthday. He is the author of the Paddington Bear series. I remember seeing the stop-motion cartoon shorts on the Disney Channel a lot, and I liked them. Eventually my mom got me the first book. I have a newer version now because of the movie that came out, but the stories are still special to me. I took a picture of my book and a special friend to wish Michael Bond a happy birthday.

 I found this little guy at an antique store in Maryland. I have him proudly on display in my London collection in my bedroom.

This past Monday was A. A. Milne’s birthday, and it was Winnie the Pooh Day too because that is what he is remembered for. I was exposed more to the Disney version of Pooh and his pals as a kid, but the literary versions and beautiful illustrations by E. H. Shepard hold a very special place in my heart. My mom and dad collected older copies of the books over the years for me. I still love to find Pooh books when I’m out and about. I love all the characters because they are different. I also have a lot of the original and Disney stuffed characters.
Both of these characters introduced me to elevenses, which I think the United States should have! I guess it is also brunch here, but the idea of elevenses continues to intrigue me today!

I want to close this entry with a passage I wrote in my journal on Monday night. It sums up why I wanted to become a writer in the first place, as well as why I love to read:

I believe that every character you meet in a book can become your friend. No matter if it’s you reading by yourself or someone reading it to you, you follow your friend into their world with the turn of each page, meet different characters, deal with conflicts, learn lessons, and close the book with a smile of satisfaction on your face. And if you really liked it, chances are that you’ll ask to hear it or decide to read it again! I know I always did!

Thank you to Michael Bond and A. A. Milne, as well as many other authors I love, for creating such memorable characters that are still my friends all these years later!


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Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

I wanted to take the time to share my views on a book I just finished this morning called Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.  I was looking for books about differently abled kids (the term I prefer to use instead of disabled), and it popped up when I was browsing on my Kindle.  I downloaded a sample, fell in love immediately, and bought the book with an Amazon gift card.

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I fell in love with the narrator and protagonist, Melody Brooks, right away! She is eleven years old, and while she has Cerebral Palsy, she is still normal. She wants a best friend and to wear cool clothes. I also found some similarities with me. We’re both wickedly smart and have photographic memories. But she is unable to walk or talk because she has CP. I did not talk until I was four because I was born premature. I couldn’t imagine being unable to express myself like Melody!

I liked Melody’s next door neighbor Mrs. Violet Valencia, or Mrs. V too because she challenged Melody from the first day she baby sat her. Instead of giving her a toy, she tells her to roll over and get it, which she does, even though it takes some effort. She talks to her, reads to her, and helps her develop a way of communicating with her family. I also liked how she became Melody’s friend and mentor.

I felt bad for Melody’s school situation due to her being bored in special education classes (which seemed more like preschool to me). But I did like that Ms. Shannon, the fifth grade teacher, raised the bar as my mom says and challenged her students to do more than the previous teachers did.

When the H-5 (the special education classroom) kids are integrated into some regular classes a few days a week, Melody begins to blossom. She meets a friend named Rose, gets an aide named Catherine, learns to use her new Medi-Talk, which is like a tablet that helps her communicate more effectively with her family and classmates, and tries out for the Whiz Kids team, which is like Quiz Bowl or Brain Busters.

Even though she does earn a spot on the team, the kids and somewhat the teacher don’t want her there. I felt bad because Melody was bullied. However at the district competition, the team accepts her only when they get interviewed on the news because of how extraordinary Melody is. The team also makes it to the final competition in Washington, D.C. But Melody is left behind due to the team taking an earlier flight due to inclement weather. Melody was hurt and angry, as was I. I wanted to see the team sweep the competition and get on Good Morning America with Melody. The team views her as a burden instead of an asset.

After the team comes home from getting ninth place without her there, they apologize and try to give her the small trophy as a peace offering, but Melody knocks it off of her wheelchair tray, and it breaks.  She tells the team off and leaves the room.  I did one of those slow claps like you see a lot in the movies after the nice person tells off the villain for Melody.

While I was reading, I thought that Melody was like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She goes on a journey into an unknown land (regular classes), but she has a newfound appreciation for her special education classes and her friends there like Dorothy when she comes home from Oz.

I cried when I finished the book because of how extraordinary the story was. I did some research and found out that Sharon M. Draper has a daughter with CP too. Thank you, Sharon, for this story!

Not Fade Away: Meeting Rebecca Alexander

Before I tell you about this special event, I have to go back a bit.

Last year, I was watching The Meredith Vieira Show and there was a segment with Rebecca Alexander. Meredith is friends with her brother Peter Alexander, and both Peter and Rebecca appeared on the show to talk about Rebecca’s book Not Fade Away and the obstacles she has overcome. Rebecca has Usher syndrome, but she does not let that stop her from living life. I enjoyed the segment and her positive outlook on life, and I used a birthday gift card from my aunt to buy her book for my Kindle.

I was so inspired by Rebecca’s story and I posted on Twitter that I would be honored to meet her someday. Well, “someday” became Saturday September 26th! She had an event at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, and she invited me there! It was so windy in Inner Harbor, but it was worth it. Rebecca told a few stories from her life and took questions from the audience. I related to her a lot, particularly with the cane issues. I know how to use one, but I do not want to be labeled. I use sighted guide. But I know I should start using the cane more because it will keep me safe. 

After her speech, Rebecca met with people and signed books. I met her dad, who was so kind. He gave my mom water bottles with Rebecca’s book cover on them for Amy and me, as well as a t-shirt with Rebecca’s mantra on it (“breathe in peace, breathe out fear”). I met a new friend named Angel, who also has usher syndrome, and her mom. They are both really nice! I’m looking forward to getting to know Angel better through Facebook and hopefully meeting up again sometime.

Finally, it was time to meet Rebecca! I went up and said hi and thanked her for inviting me. She responded with the biggest hug, and I knew we would get along instantly! We talked about our stories and she signed books for Amy, my eye doctor, and me. She talked to Angel too. She was floored to hear about Amy being a journalist like Peter, as was her father. I enjoyed being around them and was sad to leave. I will always treasure their kindness and cannot wait to get together again sometime! 

I’m glad I was able to make some new friends this weekend! Thank you, Rebecca and Mr. Alexander for everything yesterday! Good luck with the rest of your book tour, Rebecca! See you again sometime soon!

   
    
    
    
 

Meeting Literary Royalty: Judy Blume and Meg Wolitzer

Hi!  Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  I was busy with a new semester of grad school, and now it is over for the summer.  I’m thankful I don’t take summer classes because I can focus on my writing while working part-time at the summer camp, which is part of the daycare center/after-school program I work for.  On the writing front, I submitted a short story for We Need Diverse Books, and I’m working on a few more to submit to some magazines.  I’m really enjoying what I am working on, and I am excited to be able to share it with everyone soon!

Anyway I wanted to blog about a fun event I went to on June 4th.  The Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA sponsored an event at Lenape Middle School where Meg Wolitzer interviewed Judy Blume about her writing, life, and new book In the Unlikely Event.  My mom took me there, and we sat in the back, which was a good thing, but I’ll explain about that in a minute.  I enjoyed the whole interview, and Judy gave a lot of great advice to help my own writing career.  I related to her so much.

After the interview was the book signing, which started with the back rows.  I was so happy we sat in the back!  The line to see Judy was so long though.  I’m sure she felt overwhelmed at all those people.  I felt overwhelmed just standing in that line!  I had brought a bag full of her books with me in the hope that she would sign them, but she only signed copies of her new book.  I was just so honored that I was getting a book signed by literary royalty!  While we waited, we talked to some people in line who noticed my Superfudge t-shirt.

Finally, I was almost up next.  But first I talked to George Cooper, Judy’s husband.  He was really nice, and he let me take a picture with him!  (Thanks, Judy!)  Then it was my turn to meet Judy.  I handed her my book and while she signed it, I thanked her for inspiring my own writing career and said I was honored to meet her.  She thanked me for my kind words.  I couldn’t get a real picture with her, but my mom took a picture of me standing there talking to her.  And I reached out and touched her hand.  She squeezed it, and I felt like she was passing on good luck vibes to me for my own writing.  I was on cloud nine after that!

Then it was time to meet Meg Wolitzer, who I had never heard of before, except on Twitter here and there.  I was able to take a picture with her, and she signed my book and drew a cartoon for me!  I mentioned that I knew Laurie Halse Anderson and asked if she knew her.  She said no, but she wanted to meet her someday!  She wished me good luck with my writing career as well!  I thanked her.  Then we left and got Chick-fil-A on the way home.

So thank you, Judy and Meg, for a wonderful evening that night!  I’m reading ITUE now, and I can’t put it down!  Next up is Meg’s book!  I am still on cloud nine now after all this time, and I still can’t believe I met literary royalty.  I do hope Judy does tour again, but if she doesn’t, then I’m glad I got to meet her now.  Thanks for everything!

Pictures from the event:   Interview

Judy’s husband George and me! 🙂

  Meeting Judy Blume !!!!!! 🙂 Meg Wolitzer and me 🙂

Mockingbird Memories and Go Set a Watchman

I read online a few days ago that Harper Lee is publishing another book this summer.  In fact, it is being published eleven days before my birthday!  I am really ecstatic that Go Set a Watchman is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird because I wanted to know what happened to Scout Finch.  It was interesting to learn that the new book was written before …Mockingbird.

I thought back to my own memories of reading the novel.  When I was in seventh grade in 2002, it was put on as a play at the Carlisle Theatre.  I was not in it, but I did go to see it with my grandparents.  I watched in awe as the story was brought to life by the actors and actresses onstage.  But I finally read the book in eighth grade for my English class.  It was unlike anything I had ever read before.  Harper Lee brought the story to life through her wonderful writing.  I wanted to know what happened next to the characters.  I also learned a lot about not judging other people.  One of my favorite quotations in the book is where Atticus tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  I try to live by this statement like Scout did.  In addition to reading the novel that spring, we reenacted the trial during class.  I knew that I didn’t want to play Scout, so I volunteered to play Mayella Ewell.  I rehearsed my lines in the chapters and made sure I was ready.  It was fun to play out the trial scenes because it brought them to life and helped us understand it better.  My teacher told me later that she would never forget my performance of Mayella.  After we finished reading the book, I felt like it had a big impact on me.  It teaches you valuable lessons and introduces you to memorable characters.  I read it again in a college English class, and it taught me even more lessons than it did in middle school.  I will definitely be reading it this summer to refresh my memory before Go Set a Watchman is published.  I am excited to return to the town of Maycomb, Alabama and go on a tour with Scout as my literary guide, as well as learn valuable lessons.  Thank you, Harper Lee, for your wonderful writing.

Authors I Admire

First I would like to say thank you for reading my blog and visiting my website!  I am really looking forward to sharing my journey with you!

And second, I wanted to thank many of the authors who I have admired and whose books have influenced my life and writing over the years.  I, as an aspiring author, have read a lot of books throughout my childhood and in school.  I still enjoy reading.  To me, a good story draws you in from the first page, and you get lost in the character’s world as you keep reading until you turn to the last page.  Here is a list of the authors I admire, and this list keeps growing each year!

  • Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Judy Blume
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Harper Lee
  • Johanna Hurwitz
  • Gayle Forman
  • Lois Lowry
  • Roald Dahl
  • Lisa Grunwald
  • Janis Ian
  • Emma Donoghue
  • Shel SIlverstein
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Stan and Jan Bernstein
  • Mercer Mayer
  • and many more

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p>There are many more than I could ever fit on this list, but I wanted to thank each of them for writing the books that they have and for having an influence on me as an author.

I’ve also been busy working on a new novel idea, and I have been doing a lot of research on it.  I’ll post more about it when I can.  More later!