When Art Imitates Life

Not infrequently, the hard stuff in life is what pushes me to write. Sometimes what I write ends up on my blog, in an article, or in one of my stories. Sometimes it only ends up in my journals because it’s much too personal for me to discuss publically. Over the past few weeks, writing has been falling into the second category.

Re-writes have ground to a halt because a sub-plot in Starry-Eyed Dreamers is hitting a little too close to home. My main character, Tess, had given up hope on a particular thing ever being resolved. Yet at the very end of her story, when she’d just given up on it for the last time, there was a glimmer of hope. It didn’t fix everything overnight, but it was just enough to show her that there might be something there worth salvaging after all. (Forgive my vagueness; I don’t want to give the whole story away!) Tess gets the scene that I’ve always hoped would play out in my own life someday. In this moment though, I’ve given up hope. I don’t think I’ll get that scene after all. Facing that hurts, and it makes me angry. You can see why I haven’t been able to bury myself in re-writes…

Ernest Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Easier said than done Mr. Hemingway!

NaNoWriMo is the reason why I finished the first draft of Starry-Eyed Dreamers in the first place. Camp NaNoWriMo takes place during the month of April, and I find myself toying with the idea of diving into writing another story for Camp NaNo. I still want to finish the re-write/edit with my first novel, don’t get me wrong! On the other hand, maybe taking a month to go through the writing process with a new story will get me back into the habit of regular writing time. 50,000 words worth of writing practice can’t hurt either. Tackling another project of this magnitude is definitely crazy, but maybe it’s the kind of crazy that I need right now. In any case, I’ll be pondering the idea over the next couple of weeks…

Anyone else out there struggling through writing or edits?

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Musings on Stories

There are jokes about the self-doubt that plagues writers. There’s more than a bit of truth to them though! I found myself in the middle of it once again last weekend. Going back and forth about whether to burn everything you’ve ever written and just give up on the whole writing thing is not exactly a fun way to spend your day.

It all came back to why I write stories in the first place. If I only wanted to get published and sell a lot of books, then I’d pick a genre other than science fiction. At the very least, I’d write YA dystopian science fiction, never mind that it’s not the type of thing I like to read. I write weird stuff. I write stuff that most people would have no interest in reading. So… why do I write it?

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I write the stories that I like to read. This is not to say that I’m unwilling to listen to advice and criticism when it comes to my writing. On the contrary, I value the feedback of people who are far more experienced than I am! I want to keep chipping away at and polishing my stories until they are the best that I can make them. Publishing is still definitely my big goal, but it’s not enough for me to publish just anything. I would not be happy publishing a book if it wasn’t the kind of story that I’d enjoy reading over and over.

Where does that leave me? Well, I’m going to keep writing, and I won’t be burning my notebooks anytime soon! I’ll keep working at making my stories better. I’ll keep writing the ones that I want to read. I’ve written a lot of stuff that will never see the light of day, and I’m sure I’ll write plenty of new things that no one but me will ever read. Maybe if I keep at it though, I’ll eventually end up with something that someone else might want to read too…

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NaNoWriMo Recap

So… I wrote a novel last month.

It’s just a first draft, but it’s the first project longer than an article or short story that I’ve finished a first draft for. I’m calling that a decent accomplishment. I’m officially ignoring my book until after New Year. Then I’ll start editing and re-writing like mad. For now, I’m enjoying a little break for Christmas!

What do I think of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) now that I’m on the other side of it? I’ve got to admit that it was just the shove I needed to get that draft done. I loved having a clearly set goal, and tracking my word count helped tremendously! Knowing that I was in this thing with other writers was fun too. Will I try again in November of 2017? Can’t say for sure, but I’m not opposed to the idea.

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Going forward, I think that having a clearly defined timeline for goal would be helpful for me. Having a way to track my progress is going to be a must. I’ve got a couple of ideas for things to try, and I’m hoping to figure that out in time to start off 2017 on the right track. I’m tossing around ideas and goals that I want to pursue, and figuring out what’s worth going for.

I know now that I can get through a first draft much faster than I dreamed possible. Realizing that has opened up a whole new set of possibilities for me. Instead of thinking that I’ll have to wait for the kids to be grown before I get serious about writing, now I know that it’s possible for me to fit writing in… As long as I make it a priority. Writing a little over 50,000 words during one month was a bit brutal at times. I would not be able to, or even necessarily want to maintain that sort of pace in the long run. My family was tremendously supportive while I was caught up in NaNoWriMo writing, but there were a lot of things that I had to let slide that month. I want to figure out a way to make writing a more consistent part of my life without sacrificing the things that are important to my family. This is going to take some planning, thinking, and changes. The point is… I can do this.

Anyone else thinking about plans and goals for 2017?

NaNoWriMo 2016: Let the Insanity Begin

An author friend of mine once told me, “I bleed on the page.”

I’ve got to admit that there’s something of me in everything I write, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Often, writing is what allows me to process something, and to refine my abstract and disconnected thoughts into something more concrete. There’s a reason why I’ve had scribbled-in notebooks and journals floating around my room since I was a teenager!

Blogging and having some of my articles appear in print magazines has been rewarding to say the least. There’s still something in me though that really wants to write a book. Seeing my friends publish their books is a wonderful thing, and I can only imagine what it would be like to hold a book that I had written in my hands.

Fiction was my first love. It’s what I scribbled the most of in those battered notebooks. (Let’s forget the bad poetry. Seriously.) More than anything, I want to tell a good story. Getting through a first draft has been my biggest issue. I’m a perfectionist who can’t seem to get past the idea that I should be constantly editing as I go. Consistently taking the time to write is a close second. When life is busy (and when is it not?), my writing is one of the first things I ignore. I’m hoping that the insanity I’m about to embark upon will force me to work past those two problems.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The goal is simple, write the first draft of your novel, at least 50,000 words, during the month of November. I can do as much plotting, outlining, and character sketching as I want to beforehand, but the writing can’t start until November 1st and has to be completed by the stroke of midnight on November 30th.

Am I crazy? That’s very likely. Will I have a lot written by the end of November? Yes. I’m certainly aiming for the full 50,000 words, but even if I don’t get that far I’ll have made progress. This is going to get me into the habit of prioritizing writing regularly. That will help my writing more than anything.

So, what am I writing? Science fiction of course! You can track my progress by checking out the word-count tracker on the sidebar of the blog here. I’ll be posting updates and photos on social media as well. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, look me up on the website –you’ll find me listed as TeishKnits.

The tea is brewed, the story is plotted, let the writing begin!

Short Story: Political Theater

It’s been far too long since I posted a story on Teish Knits, and I think we might all enjoy a little satire right about now…

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Political Theater

By: Teisha J. Priest

 

Maureen slipped into her seat and handed a bag of popcorn to the guy sitting next to her.

“Sorry I’m late Dan, parking today was insane,” she whispered.

He waved his hand, “You brought popcorn. I’m not going to complain.”

She handed her own bag of popcorn to him while she struggled out of her heavy jacket.

“What’d I miss?”

“The boring stuff mostly,” he shrugged, “It hasn’t been nearly as interesting as it was yesterday when they unseated the whole delegation from Pine Town!”

“Man, I can’t believe the people there managed to get all of the free thinkers on the delegation anyway. It’s usually just a bunch of party flunkies and yes-men. I bet it freaked out a few of the big wigs here!”

“Did you see the way the vein on the Director’s forehead stood out?”

“And then the Secretary looked like she swallowed a frog!”

Laughter got the best of them and they did their best to stifle it as the people surrounding them looked on with disapproval. They quieted down to the occasional giggle by the time the nominee vote was announced.

“Ohhhh, it’s getting good again,” Maureen nudged Dan and grabbed another handful of popcorn.

As things progressed though, she started to look puzzled.

“Wait a minute, are they really going to give the nomination to the second guy? He’s the least liked out of all four of them!”

Dan nodded, “It’s looking that way.”

“But… most of the people here don’t like him. At least half outright hate him! How can they nominate him?”

“Easy, the powers that be in the party want him to win the nomination. He’s part of the club.”

“They can pick a guy that practically no one supports though? I thought the delegates at least had a say.”

He smirked, “It’s the Preservation Party. They’ll lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and pull the omniscient tally screen out of storage just to get their guy nominated.”

She folded her arms and raised an eyebrow at the outrageous statement.

“Omniscient tally screen? Really Dan? Now you’re making things up.”

Another snicker escaped him, “I swear it’s true! You weren’t here last year. See that tablet that the Director is holding up on stage?”

“Yeah, so?”

“It’s his script. He just reads the lines, and pauses for applause or remarks when noted. Last year, they were voting on a rule change, when someone threw the tablet feed up on the big tally screen behind the Director. There were a few weak ‘aye’ votes called out, and a thunderous chorus of ‘no’ votes. But even before the vote was called, his line was up on the screen for everyone to read.”

“And?”

“He said, ‘The aye’s have it.'”

They dissolved into laughter again. Their fellow spectators shushed them, and one called for security to escort them out. They managed to get themselves under control before anyone from security ever arrived.

“How many of the people here today were around for last year’s event?”

Dan scanned the crowd of delegates thoughtfully before answering, “A lot of them are back again this year. At least half I’d say.”

“They came back?!” she squeaked.

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“Oh, I don’t know, blatant corruption at the highest level of the party? Why support a party that doesn’t represent you?”

“Easy,” he shook his head, “They’re more scared of someone from the Progression Party getting elected. So, they’ll vote for whatever crappy choice the Preservation Party puts in front of them.”

“That’s pathetic.”

“But not surprising, Maureen. The free thinkers will end up running a write-in campaign. They’ll have a guy who’s better for everyone than either of the big party guys are, and hardly anyone will vote for him. They’re so scared that the other guy will be worse, that they’ll completely ignore just how bad the guy they are voting for is.”

Neither said anything for a long time, munching popcorn and observing the circus unfolding down on the floor.

“So why do you come, Dan?”

“Back in the day, I used to think I could make a difference. Now? None of the films out at the moment are worth watching, so I turn to political theater for my amusement. Besides, I figure someone will have to tell the kids and grandkids what happened. Who knows what it will all look like by then.”

“Here’s hoping the Preservationists and Progressionists will have closed up shop at that point!”

“Maybe. But something will replace them… Always does eventually.”

She sighed, “As they say, ‘If you don’t learn from history you’ll make the same stupid mistakes. If you do learn from it, you’ll get to watch other people make the same stupid mistakes.'”

Dan raised his popcorn bag, “Here’s to watching the stupid mistakes!”

Maureen tapped his bag with her own, “To political theater!”

This time, security really did throw them out, and the pair trudged through the parking lot to their cars.

“I can’t believe we were thrown out. I’ve never been thrown out of anywhere in my life, Dan!”

“You get used to it,” he reassured her, “The Progression Party is holding their event next week. One year, they created a whole new city in the middle of the desert just to win an election! You up for another dog and pony show?”

“I’m in,” she declared, “But this time you’re bringing the popcorn!”

I hope that you at least got a smile out of Political Theater. Though it is a work of fiction, a number of elements were based upon real events!

At the 2012 Republican national convention, the delegates appointed at the state convention were stripped of their status as delegates and replaced with alternates chosen by party leadership. (Remember Maine!)

In 2012, both the Republican and Democrat parties had “omniscient teleprompters” at their conventions. Videos released by attendees at each convention showed results of votes being listed on the teleprompter used by the speaker… before the vote was even taken.

A rule change was proposed at the 2012 Republican convention. According to video of the vote and eye-witnesses reports from attendees, the delegates overwhelmingly voted against the rule change. Inexplicably, House Speaker John Boehner still declared, “The ayes have it.”

Perhaps the wildest thing of all though, is this: Nevada’s statehood was rushed through congress for a number of reasons, even though they did not actually meet the eligibility requirements for statehood. There were a few reasons behind this, but one of them was so that there would be another state to support the Republican incumbent (Abraham Lincoln) in the next presidential election.

Call of the Stars

There’s just something about poetry. Unlike prose, the meaning behind the words is not always immediately apparent, but the emotions behind it… The ability of poetry to evoke deep feelings is almost music-like. John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever has been a favorite of mine for many years. His poem in part was my inspiration for this little story…

——————–

Call of the Stars

“What are you looking for that you have to go out there to find it?”

I could never give her an answer when she asked me that question. Dozens of times over the course of many years, Sari had asked me that question. No matter how many times those brown eyes pleaded with me to give her some kind of answer, I never did. Not that I didn’t want to answer, rather, I couldn’t answer. How could I explain something that I couldn’t quite figure out myself?

I ran my fingers through the black hair that I’d recently decided to cut short for a change. She recognized the nearly automatic gesture as the play for time that it was. Growing up with someone acquaints you pretty well with their “tells” and Sari knew that giving me a minute to think would yield better results than pushing for an immediate answer.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I sighed heavily, “I can’t really explain it any better than to say that I have to go.”

Sari rolled her eyes and blew out a breath in a huff. It was my standard reply to her query, and I couldn’t exactly blame her for being tired of the same answer. But, I reasoned, she couldn’t expect anything different after all of this time. If she didn’t want to hear the spiel then she should let it be. But little sisters didn’t tend to just let anything be… at least mine didn’t.

“It’s just,” the petite woman began and hesitated before continuing on, “It’s just that the last few trips you’ve been gone for so long. I know that you’d never be able to keep your feet on the ground, not for long anyway, but I worry about you.”

I opened my mouth to chide her for her worrying, but she stopped me with a raised hand and continued on, “I worry that I’ll never hear from you again. I worry that something will happen and I’ll never know about it. That you’ll just disappear… like…”

She stared down at the toes of her red shoes peeking out from beneath the hem of her brown dress. I had just teased her about those shoes three days ago, telling her that they couldn’t possibly be practical for a farmer’s wife. She waved off my comments and insisted that wearing red shoes made her smile. It was so like Sari to find joy in small things. Maybe that’s why she gave the impression of being at peace most of the time. That may seem an incongruous thing to say considering her admission of worrying about me. But she had reason to carry that nagging doubt in the back of her mind. I spoke of that reason in a hushed voice.

“Like Dad did.”

“We never found out what happened to him, and I know that we probably never will. It’s just… it’s the not knowing that’s the hardest part,” she admitted. The regret in her eyes was clear, and truth be told, I wrestled with the same feelings about Dad’s disappearance more than 20 years prior.

I tipped my head to look up at the deep purple horizon and the rising twin moons. It had been Dad that had given me my first flying lesson around those very moons. Looking past the two cratered companions I mentally counted off constellations as my eyes roamed the early evening sky. How many times as a child had I stared up into the night sky, dreaming? I could tell her that it was just because of the adventure, the chance to go places and see things that no one else had. I could tell her that I couldn’t help but follow in Dad’s footsteps. Maybe that was part of it… but it wasn’t the real reason.

I had read about archaic sailing ships from centuries past, and how men would brave tremendous dangers when they went to sea. Few ever became wealthy or well-known because of it. They went to sea because standing on the deck of that wooden ship, they knew deep down that it was where they belonged. I suppose it’s sort of a romantic notion, but I understood it in a way that I just couldn’t put into words. An ancient poem that had been written by a man who had lived in an entirely different corner of the galaxy, before anyone had traveled amongst the stars, had said it best. John Masefield spoke of the sea, but the sentiment carried through to the vast ocean of space as well.

“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” was the only reply that I could give to my sister.

She shook her head and laughed, “That old poem? It can’t be that simple.”

My gaze wandered back to the ever-darkening sky once again, “Never said it was simple little sister. But ‘the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied…'”

I looked back at her and smiled before dropping a kiss on her forehead, “I’ll be back before you know it.”

Sari stood on her toes and threw her arms around me, “Be careful. Love you big brother.”

“Love you too,” I said quietly, hoping that she wouldn’t notice the slight catch in my voice. I had to go, but that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t miss her.

I gave her one final hug before striding off in the direction of my ship. I let my fingers glide across her smooth hull as I ran through the pre-flight checklist. After boarding and strapping myself into the pilot’s seat I spared a moment to look again at the night sky. Once again the stars called to me. Maybe someday that call would grow dim enough for me to settle down on the ground for the long haul… but not today.

——————–

In case you have never read Sea Fever:

“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

 

By John Masefield (1878-1967)

 

 

Table Talk

Last night at the dinner table, the kids and I took turns coming up with a sentence for a story. My IT staff acted as scribe, but declined to participate in the actual storytelling. This is what we ended up with…

“Once upon a time… there lived a purple turtle. He ate a rock. A shark bit his leg. A doctor came and helped him. The rock he ate was a magic rock. He turned into a Star Wars ship. The ship crashed into a cup. The mechanic fixed the ship. So they flew to Jupiter. A shark chomped them up. Luke Skywalker saved the day.”

–The End

Concerning Babies…

They are like Hobbits.

Short and slightly chubby like Hobbits. Preferring not to wear shoes like Hobbits. (Have you ever tried to keep shoes and socks on a baby?) They love to laugh and make merry like Hobbits. And they love to eat… often.

Hobbits enjoy breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. Sounds like my Little Guy! He thinks that supper is at 10 PM and breakfast at 3AM. (I’m pretty sure that Hobbits sleep longer than that though.)

Sneak Peek…

Remember the photo shoot a while back? I mentioned a project that I was very excited about. At last I can tell you about it!

I know that I’ve talked about Home Educating Family Magazine and The Well Planned Day planner. The folks at Home Educating Family, who publish both of those fantastic products, have some tremendous projects in the works! Some of it won’t be revealed until next year, but their fabulous new review site is in beta testing right now! Want a sneak peek? You know you do. Take a look here.

This review site is easy to navigate and search! All of the products reviewed have been thoroughly tested by home educating families. These are not “I took a look through the teacher’s manual and it looks pretty good” reviews, but an in-depth look at the product written by someone who has used it! Reviews list both the positives and the negatives of the product, so you get the whole story. These are honest reviews, not just marketing puff pieces.

New reviews will be posted weekly, so this is one website that you will want to bookmark and visit often! There is also a section specifically for products for special needs children. There are so many things that make this site a fresh addition to the online home education community!

I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of their review team!

I hope that you will take a look at the site. If you do, then let me know what you think of it!

Author Interview: Karen Andreola

I recently had the opportunity to interview author Karen Andreola. She’s the author of several homeschooling books and two novels. Karen’s books helped to introduce me to Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. I know that some of my fellow homeschool moms have been looking forward to this interview!

This was originally posted on the Christian Fiction Book Reviews blog.

Interview with author and homeschool mom, Karen Andreola:

Christian Fiction Book Reviews: Prior to writing Pocketful of Pinecones, you had done some non-fiction writing. What led you to write a novel?

Karen Andreola: It’s strange. I’ve never been the sort to tell anyone what I’ve dreamed the night before, or make up stories to tell by the fireside or fill notebooks with stories. I concentrated on non-fiction for a good many years in my efforts to share the educational principles of Miss Charlotte Mason. The thought of fiction crossed my mind because I wanted to convey the wonder of nature study through the experience of a family who took part in it. Realistic fiction seemed a good way to illustrate a “how-to” I had previously written about in my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.

My first attempt was a disaster. My editor/friend was honest. “This isn’t working,” she gently told me. Months of work were cast aside. I lay on the floor by the wood-stove that gray winter afternoon, heavy with disappointment. But the next day I got up and tried again. I decided to put the story in first person. Months later when my editor/friend received again a first set of chapters, she said, “This works.”

CFBR: You chose New England during the depression as a setting for the books, why then and there?

KA: Our family lived in Maine at the time I wrote Pocketful of Pinecones. Therefore, I made the nature we observed month by month to be the same nature that my characters observe. New England is a beautiful region of America and ideal for its four distinct and picturesque seasons. I spent my girlhood a little further south in New Jersey and loved being outdoors. In autumn I’d crunch upon fallen leaves to walk to the school bus stop wearing one of my mother’s hand knit sweaters and the traditional red plaid skirt. Winter had us bundled up and booted for sledding in snow. Spring brought welcomed rays of the sun, red tulips and yellow daffodils, caterpillars and inchworms. Summer gave us a neighborhood of thick green grass to run on top of, noisy birds, orange butterflies, and the rhythmic evening serenade of crickets.

Although chores were constant the 1930s seem to be a time of simplicity. I wanted a story free of television and computer. We had neither in the house when I taught our girls to read in the 1980s. We listened to some audio and music daily. Comparatively my fictional family listens to the radio.

The 1930s were a time when to be a stay-at-home mom (which is what I’ve been) was normal. She dutifully and lovingly contributed to the economy of the home with non-income work from sun up to sun down. This is something I could relate to and I knew my fellow home teachers could, too. My main character, Carol, hasn’t a car but walks to destinations with her children. Sometimes nature observation is accomplished along the way. Her husband Michael takes the family car to work. This is reminiscent to our year in England where I walked daily to the park and green grocer with my children or took the red bus to the library. Today walking to destinations is only doable in the oldest of neighborhoods in America where blocks of houses are connected by sidewalks to Main Street. In the 1930s Main Street filled the needs of the community.

CFBR: Was much of your material drawn from your own experiences as a homeschooling mother?

KA: Yes, very much so, but fact and fiction have a way of intermingling. It would be difficult for me to accurately distinguish between what has its source in pure imagination and what comes closer to fact. The kinds of things I did with my children my character Carol does with hers. When my son read portions the sequel while he was illustrating it he said, “Mom you’ve made the kids too good.”

“But you were pretty well-behaved children for the most part,” I tell them. “And so my fictional children are, too.”

I did use my imagination, for instance, to create a Carol’s brother Bob and her sweet sister-in-law Dora. But I incorporated the qualities of people I’ve known into the domestically enterprising Bob and Dora. I created these book friends for myself as much as for my readers. I know that a kindred spirit can be a rare find in the life of a homemaker/home teacher. We had recently moved from Maine to Pennsylvania, away from our friends. I understand that household relocations mean finding new friends because I’d been in this situation often. But with little time to spare in one’s day this isn’t so easy. Book friends are a consolation.

CFBR: I think it’s pretty common for many of us to fall into thinking that only non-fiction books can be educational. What are your thoughts on this?

KA: Good Fiction engenders in the reader a “moral imagination” which enables you “to put yourself in his place.” It shows cause and affect. It reveals what is in the heart of man and how he responds to conflict. In this way it gloriously brings to our notice intangibles. A bold example is the plays of William Shakespeare. Courage, faithfulness, pity, mercy, self-sacrifice, dedication, hope, patience, truthfulness, perseverance, and their opposites are demonstrated through the lives of characters. We can all do with a dose of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott. I think it was Queen Victoria who claimed that Dickens did more for social awareness (and consequently social reform) in London than any institution in the 19th century. Jane Austen’s morals and manners are a refreshing oasis in our modern day culture of coarseness and indecency. I am happy that Jane Austen’s stories and the films based on her writings are so popular. It means that someone is giving the message besides the preacher – and in a way that people are open to hearing it.

CFBR: When did you decide to write the sequel Lessons at Blackberry Inn?

KA: Just after our two daughters were married – months apart from each other – and it was the year our son – our last student – graduated from home school, I gathered notes for a sequel. It kept my mind occupied. I missed my girls and was going through a transition in my life.

CFBR: What are some favorite books that you recommend to parents for reading with their children?

KA: Perhaps giving you sampling of the books I know our children have enjoyed will be of interest – some of these they have read again after graduating from home school. I place them in order for young readers to mature readers.

Frog and Toad (series) by Arnold Lobel

My Father’s Dragon (series) by Ruth S. Gannett

The Adventures of Tintin (series) by Herge

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Gentle Ben, but especially Walt Morey’s other stories.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (series) by C. S. Lewis

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (trilogy) by J. R. R. Tolkien

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The stories by James Herriot

Son of Tarzan (and series) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sherlock Holmes (short stories) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My son enjoyed biographies of scientists. I un-ostentatiously curtailed my girls’ reading of modern romance novels by keeping an array of good books on hand. All my children are reading adults and to this day their taste is varied.

CFBR: Do you have any upcoming books projects?

KA: It encourages me to receive letters from my readers requesting that my stories continue. It is heartwarming to hear that they are ministering and soothing to home teachers, that they are valued for their practical ideas on home education. But because paper books have become a more risky investment these days it is debatable whether I will write another. While my supportive husband Dean, who is my publisher, is weighing things out I need to rebuild our websites. I’d like to take advantage of the help of our web-designer son while still lives with us. It’s my writing of the text “just so” that is holding up the works.

CFBR: When you write, do you prefer to have music playing or quiet?

KA: Generally I like absolute quiet. I can’t have any music playing. When my children were little I was used to writing while hearing the sounds of their playing in the background. This didn’t distract me at all. I only wrote an hour a day. Much more recently, I didn’t mind the tweeting of a pair of cardinals, which kept me company daily while I wrote Lessons at Blackberry Inn. They were comforting companions – sort of like little children playing in the background – now that I think of it.

CFBR: Do you have any particular words of wisdom for homeschooling moms?

KA: Yes. I think I have something important to say as an “older woman.”

The home teachers I’ve meet over the years are exceptionally dedicated. They are self-sacrificing and conscientious to a T. I admire them for it. The love a home teacher has for her children is expressed in the day-to-day activities of chores and lessons. She needs to be aware, however, of her enemies. Fatigue is one. It will drag her down. All work and no play is another. It can cause her to become disheartened, disinterested or after an extended period – depressed. Here is my remedy:

Mix some of what you “have” to teach with some of what you “like” to teach, each day.

Mix the business of bringing up children with pleasure. This helps to retain needed enthusiasm for the work required. This “enthusiasm” is why I invite the home teacher to take part in what I call, “Mother Culture,” for moments of recreation and refreshment. Perhaps she desires to knit that red yarn that had been pushed to the back of a closet. She may wish to listen to “Mommy’s music” for a change, or read a book just for Mommy so she can explore her own avenue of stimulating thought. I found that taking a solitary walk after my husband came home was a good time for me to pray, reflect or sometimes to toss pent up emotion to the wind. The important thing to remember is that the homeschool mom is a person. Her small moments taken for Mother Culture are necessary for her to not stop growing into the person God is creating her to be. The advantages of growing and of being refreshed with a little Mother Culture will fill her cup. And her cup will runneth
over into the family circle – which includes her husband. So you see, this is not a selfish thing to do.

CFBR: It’s been lovely talking to you Karen! Thank you!

KA: Thank you for inviting me for a chat. I hope that I’ve shared not just bits about myself but some hopeful and curious ideas for readers to ponder.

Visit Karen Andreola’s blog Moments With Mother Culture!

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